The McLain Train
Matt McLain (CIN): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB, SB.
Matt McLain stepped to the plate last night in the fifth with two outs and the bases juiced. The rookie then fell behind in the count 0-2 to righty reliever Justin Martinez, who reared back and fired his best heater: 101 mph at the letters. But McLain’s bat was too quick; He sliced a high drive over the wall in right for his first career grand salami. It wasn’t the biggest home run you’ll see at 366 feet, but the fact that it came on a 101-fastball is extraordinary. The grand slam proved the difference in a 9-6 slugfest over the D-Backs.
I suppose you could point to McLain being a rookie who has struck out a bit (40-contact ability on the 20-80 scale via PLV) as a reason to sell high. But where’s the fun in that? In all seriousness, what I really like about McLain is that he struggled with contact last season in Double-A (28.1% K rate) but battled back. This year, he struck out at just a 19.1% clip in 38 games with Triple-A Louisville, so we saw terrific growth. Plus, his upside is tremendous; He swiped 10 bases while hitting .301 with a .372 ISO in Triple-A.
For my money, the Reds have been the best story in baseball. Who would’ve guessed they’d be just two games back in the loss column in the NL Central 99 games into the season despite not getting much from either Hunter Greene or Nick Lodolo? McLain is a big reason behind it all and I’m very excited to see how he finishes the year.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
Michael Massey (KC): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
The Royals took the lead on Massey’s first home run, a three-run shot to the second deck in right off Clarke Schmidt with two down in the fourth. His second home run came off righty reliever Tommy Kahnle, a 377-foot line drive solo shot to right (101.8 EV). The 25-year-old rookie hadn’t shown much so far and came into last night’s game in the Bronx slashing .206/.264/.303. PLV has tracked him with about league-average power (50 on the 20-80 scale); However, Massey showed some pop in the minors last year with a .272 ISO in 33 games with Triple-A Omaha.
Ketel Marte (ARI): 3-5, 3B, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
I’m always giddy whenever Marte has a big game because he was one of the first players I wrote about here during the 2018 off-season. Anyway, the triple as you might’ve guessed, was the result of a misplay; A line drive that caromed off Will Benson’s glove in right. His first home run was a line drive that was probably a GABP special, a long line drive that just got over the right field wall. However, the second shot was a no-doubter and hit 425 feet to straightaway center (105.6 EV). Marte’s .877 OPS is just six points behind Luis Arraez for tops among all qualified second basemen. As Esteban Rivera on FanGraphs pointed out, Marte is showing significantly more pop as a lefty this year (he’s a natural right-handed hitter), and that has been the key to him having another big year.
Kyle Tucker (HOU): 3-4, 3 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.
Woah. This was a career night for Tucker. I won’t ramble too much but this first two home runs were off the lefty JP Sears, so that’s an interesting footnote. If you can believe it, hey, it’s Oakland after all, he actually came close to four home runs. In the fourth, he lifted a long flyout to straightaway center at 386 feet. If you’re wondering, the second one was the longest at 396 feet (100.3 EV). The huge night raises his OPS to .897, fourth among all qualified outfielders.
Byron Buxton (MIN): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Hopefully, you avoided starting Lance Lynn in your leagues. Ouch. Buxton entered last night’s affair hitting .193 with a .685 OPS but as it turns out all he needed was some batting practice courtesy of Lynn. The first shot was the big one, a three-run shot hammered to the bullpen in left-center (427 feet, 114.3 EV). Buxton has shown off very good decision value (60), SZ Judgement (60), and power (60) this season via PLV, so he might be a good bet to finish the season on a strong note. Lynn also served up dingers to Alex Kirilloff and Ryan Jeffers.
CJ Abrams (WSH): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB.
The 22-year-old is having a whale of a time in July, hitting .373 with a 1.015 OPS and ten steals. His ninth home run of the year was impressive because it came off a left-hander in Alex Wood, and it was crushed (414 feet, 103.7 EV). Abrams is every bit a free-swinger (3.9% BB rate) but his contact ability is exceptional (60 via PLV) and he’s shown a little more power this season (45 this year versus 40 last season.) so perhaps the former top prospect is growing right in front of our eyeballs. However, I do think his plate approach (40 SZ Judgement and 35 Decision Value) might make him susceptible, so he’s not a bad sell-high candidate if you’re eyeing a more proven player.
Lane Thomas hit his 16th and continues to be a stalwart hitting .292 with a .829 OPS.
Juan Soto (SD): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Lots of multi-dingers last night. Soto is a stud, so I’ll only say that he’s now third among qualified outfielders with a .927 OPS; The top two are Mookie Betts (.955) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (.987). Fourth is, of course, the aforementioned Tucker. Hey, at least this all makes sense.
Trey Cabbage (LAA): 1-3, HR, R, RBI.
I’ll be honest, that’s a pretty good name, so that caught my eye the most. I’m not sure how his playing time shakes out the rest of the way, but this was his first career home run and those are always fun. Cabbage struck out a ton in Triple-A (31.3%) but he also banged out 23 home runs and swiped 24 bases, so that might make him an interesting player to keep an eye on.
Henry Davis (PIT): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Speaking of rookies, Davis keeps on sizzling. Shohei Ohtani was cruising until the fourth when Davis went back-to-back with Ji Man Choi. His second one was absolutely crushed; A 410-foot shot the opposite way off a 97 mph from the 2021 AL MVP. It also came with a nice, little bat flip from the rookie. Why not? Two home runs off Ohtani. What a night. Davis showed off a .264 ISO in 41 games with Double-A Altoona this year, so the pop was there and now we’re seeing it in action with the Pirates.
Billy McKinney (NYY): 1-2, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
McKinney probably isn’t an option even in the deepest of leagues. But I think he serves to really illustrate how bad the Yankee offense has been; His .793 OPS is second on the team to Aaron Judge (minimum 30 games played).
Tyler O’Neill (STL): 1-4, R, BB, SB.
Just a reminder that O’Neill has been back for a couple of games now and has the power/speed combination to be a difference-maker down the stretch. He’s only 47% rostered on Yahoo, so there’s a chance he might be on your wire if you’re in a shallower league.
Cody Bellinger (CHC): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
This feels very much like Groundhog Day because I’m fairly certain we’ve talked about Bellinger at least three Fridays in a row. His 13th of the year wasn’t a moon shot by any means (399 feet, 103.7 EV). However, he’s in the middle of a pretty decent July: A .462 batting average, six home runs, six strikeouts, and a 1.293 OPS. There might be a few teams asking about him at the deadline.
Miles Mastrobuoni also hit one out for the Cubs, the first of his career. He seems more like a hit-over-power profile considering his numbers in the minor leagues.
Image courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis and Aaron Polcare