Juan Soto (WSH): 3-4, HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, BB.
A 22-year-old doesn’t have a wRC+ over 140 and just hit his fifth home run in 41 games played, and we’re trying to figure out what’s wrong. Juan Soto has three remarkable seasons under his belt, and he is only 22 years old. In the short 2020 season, he finished with a BB rate over 20% and a wRC+ over 200. I know it wasn’t even 200 plate appearances, but that is Bondsian. An absolute force at the plate, and he could just have his first legal drink in the states. Well, he’s an easy lock to keep this going. What’s going to stop him? His slash so far this season is .284/.407/.418. Before yesterday’s stellar performance of 3-4, HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, BB, he was slashing .270/.395/.387. That is what one great game can do to your stats this early in the year. That is a 14 point average jump and a 31 point jump for slugging.
Soto hasn’t been playing as well as Soto usually does, yet he’s still having a fabulous year. His BB rate is still near 20%, and his K rate is even lower than last year at 13.2%. His hard-hit rate is 51.3% which is nearly identical to last year. However, his ground ball rate is still up in the 50s. Rarely hitting fly balls makes it difficult to barrel the ball and produce those extra-base hits Soto is so used to. Even though he is still hitting the ball hard, Soto’s barrel rate has fallen from 18% last season to 10% so far this year. There is reason to believe he’s been underperforming, though, as his xStats are quite a bit below his real stats. And his BABIP is below .300 for the first time in his career, which makes some sense with more ground balls.
Looking at the rolling hard-hit average of his last 50 batted balls, he had a stretch in mid-May where it dropped to around 40%. It has been climbing in the past week back to the mid-50s, and Soto showed that power with a 409 foot home run last night. If you are looking to buy low (for whatever low for Soto means), it may be too late now, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Tuesday:
Salvador Perez (KC): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Ever since he came back from his injury that kept him out of the 2019 season, Perez has been unstoppable. His excellent 2020 has continued into 2021 as he is slashing .280/.309/.507 with a 124 wRC+ and 12 home runs. He is tied with Mike Zunino for the lead in home runs by a catcher. But the thing about Perez that makes him so valuable in fantasy is his playing time. He is the only catcher with over 200 plate appearances so far this season, so he has many more opportunities than the standard catcher. Plus, he’s very good.
Anthony Rendon (LAA): 3-5, 2B, 5 RBI.
Mired by injuries this early season, Rendon hasn’t had a chance to settle in with his bat. He is struggling, hitting only .228 with an 86 wRC+. It is easy to say, “be patient, it’s Rendon.” However, there are some interesting differences with this start. His walks are down and strikeouts up. He is swinging nearly 50% of the time when usually his swing rate is closer to 40%. He is also not making as much contact on pitches in the zone (down to 88.1% from 93.7% last year). It’s something to keep an eye on, but he’s been one of the most consistently elite hitters these past few seasons. I struggle to imagine him not charging back.
Kolten Wong (MIL): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Wong is not much of a power hitter, but he was able to pop a couple of homers last night. He’s hitting out of the leadoff spot for the Brewers, so he’s been scoring plenty of runs. He’s also performing great with his average, hitting .279 on the year. For the most part, Wong will provide some steals, a good average, and enough runs. He’s probably available in your league, so if those are needs of yours, he may be worthy of a scoop.
Tyrone Taylor (MIL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Last night’s two homers were Taylor’s first hits not pinch-hitting since May 11th. Both homers were 100+ MPH, with one traveling 430 feet. Taylor had been optioned on May 25th, but since Cain just hit the IL, Taylor was recalled and will be getting plenty of playing time. He definitely has some pop, but I don’t think he’s a worthwhile waiver wire pick up.
Eric Haase (DET): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
With Wilson Ramos on the IL, Haase has taken over the spot behind the plate for the Tigers. He does not have much MLB experience, but in this short season so far, he’s knocked a pair of home runs twice. There seems to be some pop in his bat, as he hit over 20 home runs in the minors each season from 2017 to 2019. However, his extremely low BB rate does not help his 30% K rate. He’s also getting some time in the outfield, and if he adds OF eligibility down the line and is still playing regularly, then it would be time to check if he’s worth an add.
Tony Kemp (OAK): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 5 RBI.
Kemp has been used as an extreme utility player, starting in the outfield or second base or coming in to pinch-hit or pinch-run as needed. With his limited time at the dish, he is performing mostly behind his 14.4% BB rate and .280 average leading to a solid 134 wRC+. He doesn’t hit the ball hard, and his xBA is close to .200, but he’s hitting plenty of line drives getting him on base. He isn’t much of a base stealer though, so the only positive factor here would be the average, especially without much playing time.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR): 4-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
I feel like it’s cheating writing up Vlad… again. He’s one of those players this season where he’ll do something like this nearly every game. A 412-foot homer at 110 MPH off the bat, adding a double and two singles. I guess it has been five games since his last home run, but still, it’s a lot. His walk rate is way up, mostly because he’s taking more pitches. He is also making much less contact on pitches out of the zone, yet still lowering his K rate from the previous two seasons. Most importantly, though, he’s hitting fly balls and hitting them hard. He puts on quite a show.
Jonathan Schoop (DET): 3-5, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
What is that now? Four players from that Detroit Milwaukee game with two home runs? Wow. And all unlikely guys. I guess any player on the Tigers would be unlikely, but Schoop added a couple of his own that made it out. Those two were his sixth and seventh of the year, and he has hit four in the last six games. Even better, Schoop has two or more hits in his last four games and is hitting .345 since May 11th. Schoop always seems to have a decent average and hits 20 plus dingers a year. It’s nothing flashy, but it is productive and can be a solid add in deeper leagues, especially with his 1B and 2B eligibility.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL): 3-4, 2B, HR, 4 R, 2 RBI, BB, 2 SB.
What more do I need to say? A home run and two steals? That is a monster night for a monster player.
Andrew McCutchen (PHI): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB.
Another two-homer game for another player last night. McCutchen helped wrack up the 17 runs scored against the Reds. He has been a bit questionable with an average close to .200, which has been dragged down with a 26.5% K rate. He is still walking at a rate of 15.3%, which is boosting his productivity lost to his strikeouts. Another primary reason for the average struggles is his 50% ground ball rate, by far the highest of his career. Couple that with his aging legs, and you have yourself a problem. At least he’s walking some and has some power left.
Odúbel Herrera (PHI): 3-6, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Yet another two-homer night! Herrera crushed the ball last night with four hard-hit balls, with only two of them going for hits. He has cut back on his K significantly as he’s being more patient at the plate. A lower swing rate plus much better O-Contact has led to more balls in play and a nice .276 average. He has moved to the lead-off spot recently, so we’ll see if hitting at the top of the order can boost his value. He’s not a bad speculative pick up here.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)