You’ve Got Naylor
Josh Naylor (CLE): 4-5, 2 2B, HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, SB.
After a solid breakout in 2022 with nearly 500 plate appearances for the Guardians, Josh Naylor has been given the chance to be a regular first baseman and DH. He is a lefty that cannot hit lefties and won’t see much of them with Josh Bell and others around.
With nearly identical rate stats to last season, Naylor has a 99 wRC+ compared to a 117 wRC+ from last year. His pop is still there with a 45.7% hard-hit rate (higher than last year by a few points) and a 40% flyball rate. He walks some but keeps his Ks below 20%. That’s all to say I can’t imagine a 99 wRC+ as his home for the rest of the season and I sense a trend upward with his bat skills.
Yesterday, he showed those bat skills, crushing Orioles pitching top to bottom. He had a 98.5 mph double in the third and added a 101 mph double in the fifth. But before that second double, he crushed a 401-foot blast for his eighth of the season. Lastly, he topped it off with a 103.5 mph single. And outside of the individual hits, the two-run homer in the fourth tied up the game, and the bases-clearing double in the fifth took the lead after the O’s had added a couple. After that double, he swiped third base and would later score on a homer.
Naylor was all over the place yesterday and that seems to be the trend. He’s either dominating or quiet resulting in an average hitter, but he still somehow has 40 RBI with only 16 runs scored, half of the runs coming from his own home runs. That is more of an indictment against the Guardians hitting behind him though. He’s putting up solid numbers and his peripherals show they should have room to improve.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday
Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB.
It’s hard to say anything here since he’s the fantasy king. But he had a day. He annihilated two baseballs, one 107 mph for 425 feet and one 112 mph for 459 feet. He also had a hard-hit fly-out and a walk. He is hitting well and has about the same power as last season but a slightly lower walk rate and drastically lower line drive rate has resulted in a 128 wRC+ (not including yesterday).
Keibert Ruiz (WSH): 3-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Washington scored 10 whole runs against the Dodgers and a lot of them were from the bat of Keibert Ruiz. He was known as a solid contact bat as a prospect but he hasn’t proved much in the majors. He still puts the ball in play with only a 7.6% K rate. And with a 23.3% line drive rate that should translate to a solid batting average. However, his BABIP is a minuscule .221. Watch that start to climb, especially when he has a game with two homers and three hits over 102 mph.
Mookie Betts (LAD): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Mookie added two homers himself to combat Ruiz, however, they were solo shots. Both solid hits at 105 and 108 mph, he crushed dingers 12 and 13 on the year. While keeping his power, he also has increased his walk rate by five and a half points from last season. He is swinging much less (from 44.2% down to 36.9% swing rate) and is spitting on everything out of the zone (18.6% O-Swing). He keeps being Mookie at the plate year in and year out. He just has only stolen two bags this year.
Jeimer Candelario (WSH): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, SB.
Candelario got on base four times and added a steal to complete the combo meal. It was his seventh homer and first steal of the season. 2023 has been a solid bounce back after a rough 2022 after his breakout in 2020/2021. He’s hitting the ball a bit harder and in the air more often (the classic combo). Otherwise, there hasn’t been anything flashy about his season and but he’s hitting third or fourth for the Nats on the regular.
Luis García (WSH): 2-5, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
After starting the game with two strikeouts and a ground out, García turned things around with a 362-foot, 103 mph double and a 370-foot dinger. His two-strike, two-out three-run homer put the Nats ahead in the eighth and they didn’t lose the lead after. Despite appearing in the majors in 2020, he still just turned 23. He is a contact first hitter with a 12.9% K rate and a .114 ISO. His ground ball rate has remained solidly in the 50s his whole pro career.
Mark Canha (NYM): 2-3, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Canha carried the Mets offensively against the Phillies, knocking in all four runs, including a 386-foot two-run homer for his fourth of the season. He later added a two-run single with the bases loaded, two strikes and two outs. It has been a difficult start for him with only a 101 wRC+. The only peripheral stat different from last season is a lower BABIP which is not grossly out of his standard range. My feeling is that this is who Canha is now as he reaches his mid-30s, and with some of the younger Mets talent knocking on the door there is little room for more playing time.
Connor Joe (PIT): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Joe had a brilliant start to the season but cooled off in May. In general, he has been crushing lefties but still struggles against righties, yet he got one hit off Alex Wood and added two more hard hits against righty relievers later. Joe added his third steal of the season as well on top of a hit by pitch. Ultimately the difference in April versus May has been hard hit rate. April was nearly 50% but May was 35%. He struck out a bit more as well and I don’t believe he’ll reclaim that early-season success.
Masataka Yoshida (BOS): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Yoshida was a hard-hit machine against the Reds yesterday. He started off with a 98 mph home run, then a 100 mph ground out, another 98 mph ground out, and finally a 102.6 mph double. He has been almost exactly what was expected. He is slashing .317/.391/.508 for a 145 wRC+. A strong contact guy with only a 10% K rate, finding holes with his 44.8% hard-hit rate and nearly 60% ground ball rate. I can’t imagine him sustaining a .327 BABIP with a 60% ground ball rate though.
Donovan Solano (MIN): 2-4, 2B, 4 RBI, BB.
Solano has been essentially an average hitter since getting more regular playing time with the Giants back in 2019. This season is more of the same with a 102 wRC+ in his new home with the Twins. He was crushing the ball last night with three balls in play over 101 mph. He crushed a double at 110 mph in the sixth inning knocking in two. This month has been a lot of pinch-hitting for Solano with a few starts here and there. He is a fine bat but he’ll never get the volume for a proper look on a fantasy squad.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)