Groundskeeper Willie

Chu covers all the best hitting performances from Wednesday.

Willie Calhoun (TEX): 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB.

I don’t actually have a ton to say about Willie Calhoun after his solid two-hit performance where he hit a double, drove in two runners, and took a walk. It’s cool, but I mostly just wanted to reference one of my favorite gingers on the small screen (for those who don’t know, I am also a ginger).

I suppose what I can say about Calhoun is that the idea of him being a 30 home run bat becomes more and more of a pipe dream for each month that goes by. While he does have four home runs on the month and is showing the best plate discipline and contact ability of his career, it’s hard to envision more than 18-20 home runs with his current pace.

Ultimately, even if he has an everyday role, an outfielder who hits .260 with 20 home runs on a bad offense just isn’t all that relevant in 10- or 12-team formats. He’s a fine fifth outfielder in 15-team formats, but that’s really all I am seeing right now.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday:

 

Jose Altuve (HOU): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Altuve’s pedestrian .273/.315/.364 line and his single home run in the month of April had lots of people worried that he was cooked, but it’s worth remembering that very good hitters can turn things around in a hurry. While anyone expecting meaningful speed will be disappointed (though with just 9 steals in his last 210 games, I’m not sure why anyone would expect double-digit steals), Altuve is in the top-five among second baseman in runs, home runs, RBI, batting average, OBP, and slugging for the month of May and is firmly in my top-five second baseman for the rest of the season.

Carlos Correa (HOU): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.

Correa now has a hit in 11 of his last 13 games, and other than a little five-game mini-slump at the start of the month, he’s been very consistent for the Astros and fantasy managers. While his good-not-great .770 OPS has moved him down to sixth in the batting order most nights, there’s still plenty of production to be found there for this offense. While we can always keep dreaming about the flashes we see from Correa (like his explosive 2019 where he hit 21 home runs in roughly half of a season), I think all of us would really be happy if he just played in more than 120 games (something he has only done once in his entire career, including in the minor leagues).

Tommy Pham (SD): 2-4, R, BB, SB.

It’s been a really disappointing campaign for Pham so far, but he’s been on a tear of late, scoring a run in six straight games with two triples, a home run, and three steals to go with them. The surge has gotten him back to the top of the order for the Friars, and also back on my radar in shallow mixed leagues (where I had either moved on or strongly considered it).

Jon Berti (MIA): 1-3, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.

This is now back-to-back games with a stolen base, which is the usual modus operandi for Berti—he gets steals in bunches when he’s hot, but he doesn’t even play when he’s not. Outside of very deep roto leagues where every stolen base is worth its weight in gold, there’s just no reason to have Berti anywhere but your watch list to potentially stream when he’s hot, playing, and has a favorable matchup for steals.

Pavin Smith (ARI): 3-4, R.

This was Smith’s first time outside of the top two spots in the lineup since May 7, and while he did his best to try and make it a short stay in the seventh spot, his teammate Josh Rojas made his own bid to hit at the top of the order more often. More on Rojas in a moment, but for fantasy purposes, Pavin’s relevance in 12-teamers is mostly connected to hitting at the top of the lineup and scoring runs, as his power and ratios aren’t really enough to drive value on their own. Christian Walker began his rehab assignment on Wednesday, and what happens with Smith on Walker’s return will be something we need to watch closely and see how playing time works out.

Josh Rojas (ARI): 3-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI.

As I mentioned earlier, Rojas has been swinging a hot bat, particularly in May. He has a 165 wRC+ on the month and 12 extra-base hits, and unlike Smith, Rojas isn’t showing any platoon splits at the moment. I like Rojas better than Smith due to his ability to swipe bags and having a bit more pop, but his playing time and lineup spot when Walker returns will also be worth watching.

William Contreras (ATL): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.

This was Contreras’s fifth home run on the season in just 19 games since taking over for the injured Travis d’Arnaud. The 25-year-old backstop actually ranks second in ISO (slugging minus batting average) among catchers with at least 50 plate appearances, and should one of the first names you think of when you need to replace or stream a catcher in most formats.

Hunter Renfroe (BOS): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.

Let’s start with the bad news—he’s slashing a dismal .225/.263/.394 in his first 152 plate appearances with the Red Sox and has walked only twice in his last 23 starts. The good news is that he has a respectable .268 batting average and .500 slugging in May. His volatility combined with the fact that he really only provides one category of above-average production (home runs) means his usefulness in fantasy is mostly limited to 15-team leagues that don’t use OBP as a replacement-level outfielder.

Tommy Edman (STL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

It had been over a month since he had hit a home run, so it was great to see him play a little catch-up on Wednesday against the White Sox. Edman has dramatically improved his plate discipline and already has nine stolen bases on the season, but has slugged below .400 since the start of 2020 with few signs of resurgence. Thanks to the improved ratios, his locked-in spot at the top of the Cardinals order, and his positional flexibility, he remains a top-15 second baseman for the foreseeable future even if he hits fewer than 15 home runs.

Nate Lowe (TEX): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

It’s been a rough two weeks for Lowe, as he’s slashed just .191/.316/.277, though he’s now logged a hit in five straight and might be turning a corner. It’s a bit of an oversimplification of the trend, but we see a lot of power-hitting players with elevated strikeout rates go through these exaggerated ups and downs over the course of a season. It’s just part of being a free-swinger. My advice would be to not dive too deeply into why a particular slump is happening unless the slump lasts an extended period of time (four or more weeks, I’d say), or if something notable has happened (recent injury or a dramatic change in plate discipline or batted ball profile). I’m not really seeing any of that with Lowe, apart from the lack of hitting in general, so at this point, I’m chalking it up as a regular ol’ slump.

Taylor Ward (LAA): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 5 RBI.

Ward is on fire, with eight hits and nine RBI over his last six starts. He’s carved out a mostly everyday role for the Halos while Trout is on the IL, and is a perfectly cromulent stop-gap in 15-teamers.

Jose Rojas (LAA): 2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB.

Rojas has a strong .982 OPS over the last week with seven runs scored. He’s also been hitting sixth in his last three starts. That’s pretty neat! Other than an impressive season in triple-A back in 2019 (where he was older than most of the competition), he’s relatively unheralded, and he’s not really on my radar outside of AL-only while the Angels need him.

Kris Bryant (CHC): 3-5, 2 RBI.

He only has two extra-base hits in his last 12 games, but he’s still hitting .341 in that stretch and continues to drive in runners. This is the good Bryant we saw in 2019, and I have no cold water to throw on it.

Trey Mancini (BAL): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.

I wrote him up on Monday too, and man, he keeps on hitting. I love the story, I love the power, I love the plate discipline, I love the home ballpark, and I love the outlook. He’s been fantasy’s third-best first baseman and is in my top eight or so going forward.

Nick Madrigal (CWS): 3-4, BB.

The contact ability and batting average have been as advertised from Madrigal, as he had his second three-hit game in a row. What made this one seem a bit more exciting than the last one, however, is that he did it at the top of the lineup. Don’t read too far into it, though—it was because they gave Tim Anderson a day off. While I’d love to see him batting second more over Adam Eaton, I doubt this will happen soon other than against certain lefties. If I have one concern, it’s that I really thought this could be a guy who stole 15-20 bases, but as of right now, he’s only attempted three steals and was caught twice. Without the steals, he loses a lot of appeal in roto and head-to-head category formats.

Miguel Sanó (MIN): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Remember when I said that power hitters who strike out a lot are streaky when I was discussing Lowe? Well, it applies to Sanó. On May 14, he had a batting line of .119/.280/.209 along and just two home runs. From May 15 to the present, he’s slashing .271/.340/.771 with seven home runs. This is just how it goes with Sanó, and while some people love the highs and lows, I prefer a player who is less volatile. I rank him somewhere in the low 20’s among first basemen going forward.

Austin Riley (ATL): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.

After hitting his seventh home run in nine games, Riley is a popular topic. Our own Jai Correa served up some fresh content in his Going Deep on Riley that I highly recommend if you’re wondering whether to believe in his performance.

 

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

 

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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