It often feels like there are certain inevitabilities in fantasy baseball. The day you sit a struggling hitter he will have a big day or you ride that hot pitching streak one start too long and it will always blow up in your face. My personal favorite, though, is when you believe in a player breakout for years, and it is absolutely the year you give up on him that he will light it up and make you look like a dingus. It gets me at least once a year. This season’s serving of humble pie and crow may be coming in the form of Dominic Smith (2-4, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI).
Ever since his MLB debut in 2017 I have been all in on Dominic Smith. First, it was once he gets the playing time he’ll be a stud, then it was if he puts it all together he’ll be a star, but for years neither really happened, especially once Pete Alonso became a superstar and locked down the first base position for the foreseeable future. Then a glorious thing happened, the DH finally became universal this year. The job was given to Yoenis Cespedes, though, instead, and I was done. It seemed like Smith was never going to be what I wanted him to be, and so I left him off my draft lists. But then suddenly eight games into the season Cespedes opted out, leaving the Mets without a DH, and so they turned to Dominic Smith. After homering last night, he has now homered in four straight games, and is hitting .300/.383/1.163 with 6 HRs, 16 RBIs and 9 Runs in 16 games played. That’s incredible production in just 16 games.
The question of course is how legit is it? It’s obviously still a pretty small sample (the whole darn season is), but he’s hit the 60 plate appearance mark which is where numbers start to stabilize so we can begin to draw some conclusions. The biggest thing driving Smith’s results so far is that he is barreling the ball at an incredible rate (17.1%!), while the increased power output is likely the result of him increasing his pull rate to 47.4% and his FB% to an even 50.0%. Combine that with stellar Statcast numbers, and that’s a recipe for crushing dongs if he can keep it up. The best part is he’s barely rostered, as he’s available in nearly three quarters of leagues, so if nothing else, we should all pick him and ride the hot streak while it lasts. But hopefully, he can keep this up and continue to make me look like a doofus for giving up on him this season.
Here’s how the rest of the hitters fared on Saturday:
Nelson Cruz (DH, MIN) – 3-7, 2 HR, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI –
I will be long dead and gone and Nelson Cruz
will still be hitting home runs. Laid out in a line his two home runs on Saturday would stretch out to roughly 1/6th of a mile!
Alex Verdugo (OF, BOS) – 2-4, HR, R, RBI –
Already surpassing his preseason projections in just 19 games, Alex Verdugo
hit his 5th home run of the season on Saturday. If he continues to bat leadoff against right handed pitching, Verdugo could be a great source of runs and average even if it’s likely he won’t maintain his current home run rate and is available in a lot of leagues still.
Maikel Franco (3B, KC) – 2-6, HR, R, 2 RBI – Maikel Franco
is having his best season in years after hitting his 5th home run on Saturday. His Statcast numbers look fantastic and indicate he’s even been getting a bit unlucky so far. Hitting 6th in the Royals lineup, Franco could be a decent source of counting stats the rest of the season, and is barely being rostered at all.
Ian Happ (2B,OF, CHC) – 2-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI –
While Ian Happ
didn’t homer on Saturday, two doubles is still a heck of a day, and with each passing game we’re seeing more and more evidence that this might be the breakout we were promised. Hitting .309 on the season with a .273 ISO over 18 games, it’s perhaps even more impressive that he has nearly doubled last years walk rate, while drastically improving his plate discipline metrics as well.
Clint Frazier (OF, NYY) – 3-3, HR, 2B, R, 5 RBI, BB –
With Judge and Stanton on the DL, Frazier is going to get the opportunity to prove he belongs with the big league club and this is one heck of a start. The talent has always been there, but he’s never been able to put it all together, nor has he gotten the chance really to play everyday. It will be exciting over the next few days to see if he can make the most of it. Not recommending a pickup yet, but that could change.
Fernando Tatis Jr (SS, SD) – 2-4, HR, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB – Another day, another big game from Tatis Jr. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be slowing down anytime soon.
Whit Merrifield (OF, KC) – 3-7, HR, 2B, R, 4 RBI –
He’s not really stealing bases this year (no one really is honestly), but the power output has been fantastic. Hitting .305 on the season with five HRs he’s just three back from the league lead. The biggest change this year for Merrifield has been a 9.1% increase in his FB%. It will be fascinating to see if that continues throughout the season, as that would indicate a change in approach for Merrifield.
Mark Canha (OF, OAK) – 3-5, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI –
The power hasn’t quite come around this year yet for Canha, so this was a welcome sight. While his Pull% is down, not much else has changed from last year, so it shouldn’t be too long before the homers start coming.
Anthony Rizzo (1B, CHC) – 3-5, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI –
Nearly every statistic is setting off alarmbells for me right now regarding Rizzo, his Statcast numbers look terrible and his average is way down. The thing is, he’s been hitting for good power, and on Saturday he said alarm bells be darned, as he was great hitting a home run and a double.
Trea Turner (SS, WSH) – 3-4, HR, R, RBI –
We all were concerned when Turner got off to a slow start, but he has come back with a vengeance and picked up right where he left off last season hitting his fourth home run on Saturday. While he still hasn’t stolen a base this season, he is hitting the ball harder and in the air more often than ever this season, which could go a long way to explain the elevated power numbers.
Mookie Betts (OF, LAD) – 2-5, HR, R, 3 RBI –
This is the Mookie we know and love! Just a superstar doing what a superstar does with his fourth home run in three games.
Tyler O’Neill (OF, STL) – 3-7, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI – The Cardinals finally get to play a game again and O’Neill showed that he was chomping at the bit to get back to it. His season numbers are an even smaller sample size than the already small sample sizes we’re dealing with but O’Neill does have three HRs in just 25 PAs so he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)