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House of Pena

Josh Thusat breaks down last night's hitting performances.

Jeremy Peña (HOU): 1-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI

Batting seventh last night, Jeremy Peña hit his sixth home run off Tarik Skubal in the fifth inning. It was a long 426-foot bomb to left-center field on a 73.7 mph knuckle curveball on the outside part of the plate. It’s his third home run in his last six games.

There were many great hitting performances last night, but it seems necessary to point out Peña’s work early in the season. Despite his .233 AVG, he has 15 R and 15 RBI to go along with his six long balls in the first month of play. Coming into the 2022 season, the two most popular prospects were Bobby Witt Jr. and Julio Rodríguez. Here are their batted ball profiles in Baseball Savant.

Bobby Witt Jr. Julio Rodriguez

There are some similarities here in terms of xBA and xSLG. They share an impressive Max Exit Velocity above the 90th percentile. Rodríguez owns the stronger HardHit%.

Now, look at what Jeremy Peña has managed in his first month.

Jeremy Pena

 

The barrels are near the 95 percentile and the xSLG is above the 90th percentile. We should also take note that his low batting average is accompanied by an xBA of .261, which is Trea Turner’s batting average right now. He didn’t show much power in his short time in the minor league system, but it started to emerge in 133 plate appearances last year in Triple-A. He hit 10 home runs in that span with a slash line of .287/.346/.598.

I know it’s still early and baseball has a cruel ecology. Teams will learn your weaknesses and exploit them, and young players (heck, any player!) must adapt. But I think Pena is doing enough to turn our eyes westward, toward the Texan sun, in hopes of another 5-tool player.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday

Starling Marte (NYM): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI

It got ugly last night in Philly. The home team owned a 7-1 lead in the ninth, and it was completely erased by the thumping Mets. The culminating game-winner was Marte’s double, which looked like it was going to go out before bouncing off the left-centerfield wall. Many fantasy baseball managers are pointing to Marte’s start as a disappointment, but he’s going to be fine. Even with a slower start, in the last two weeks, he’s batting .286 with a home run and a stolen base. This sounds very Marte-ish.

Mike Zunino (TB): 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI

Sometimes it’s bittersweet to homer against a former team, and that’s just what Zunino did yesterday against the Mariners in a 4-3 victory for Tampa Bay. He can also say that he hit the home run off last year’s AL Cy Young Winner, Robbie Ray. Zunino was dealing with a left biceps strain last week, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting his power. He’s now hit three home runs in his last six games.

Jesse Winker (SEA) 1-4, HR, R, RBI

His average sits below the Mendoza Line at .189. But last night, Winker hit his first home run of the season. We can hope this gets his bat going. He hit the home run off Shane McClanahan, a very tough pitcher to square up, so that’s a good sign as well. He’s got some compelling differences between his numbers and expected stats. His xBA is .322 and his xSLG is .478.

Jorge Mateo  (BAL): 2-3, HR, R, RBI

Mateo debuted in 2020, and he’s starting to make a name for himself as a base stealer. He’s got seven of them and is second in that category behind Julio Rodríguez. Last night’s homer was the first of the season for him, and he’s just not known for that part of the game. He hit four last year. But it is a welcome surprise of course, and fantasy managers who are playing him for steals will take the added benefit.

Jeimer Candelario (DET) 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI

Returning from the IL, Ryan Pressly blew his first save opportunity, thanks largely to the two-run home run to Candelario. It was a slow curveball that dropped right down the middle of the plate. It was Candelario’s second home run in his last 15 at-bats. He only has a .288 SLG to start the season but owned a .443 SLG for his body of work in 2021. He owns one of the bigger differences between SLG (.288) and xSLG (.437). In the past week, his AVG has been .381. If you’re looking for a 3B, now might be a good time to ride the hot hand.

Manny Machado (SD): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB

It was Manny being Manny yesterday. He’s the top player in baseball right now, and last night he showed off, hitting two home runs against the Guardians and leading the Padres to victory. He’s now batting .380/.448/.620 for the season. Don’t trade him. Never trade him.

Kyle Tucker (HOU): 1-3, RBI, BB

It wasn’t a home run, but it was a resounding single in the ninth inning that led the Astros to victory. Gregory Soto got himself into trouble after giving up a long single to Yordan Alvarez, who failed to run out of the box because he thought it was gone. Regretting the mistake and apologizing to Dusty Baker after being removed from the game for a pinch-runner, Tucker saved him and walked it off. Tucker is now batting .250/.320/.424

Adam Frazier (SEA): 1-3, HR, R, RBI

Frazier is not known for his power-hitting but got a hold of one last night. Colin Poche threw a high fastball out of the zone, making me think of Crash Davis saying “Quick hands, quick hands” as Frazier masterfully tucked the ball 352 feet down the right-field line (barely fair). Frazier has 41 home runs in 2,313 at-bats. So this was a sight! Frazier is a contact hitter, and even though his average is .230 so far this season, he hit .305 in 2021 and had a contact rate of 88%.

Tyler Stephenson (CIN): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB

Batting fifth in yesterday’s contest, Stephenson filled the stat sheet for fantasy managers by going .500 and getting a homer AND a stolen base. We probably don’t want to get used to the stolen bags, as this was his first and only one in his career, so it was really the element of surprise. It’s nice to see that he’s back from the concussion injury and contributing right away.

Francisco Lindor (NYM): 1-5, HR, 2 RBI, R

Unlike his colleague Marte, who has seen his batting average climb in the last two weeks, Lindor’s batting average in the same time has been .179. So it must have felt good last night when he led the rallying cry in the ninth inning 7-1 deficit against the Phillies. He hit a 421-foot shot, and it sparked an inspiring comeback. The Mets would go on to win that game.

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Josh Thusat

Joshua is a professor of English, but he's also an avid baseball fan who puts his research skills to work for fantasy baseball gamers. In addition to Pitcher List, Josh writes for FantasyPros. He teaches in the Chicagoland area.

  • Joe Montanya (The Receiver) says:

    Ryan Mountcastle – 2-4, 2HR, 2 R, 2 RBI

    • Josh Thusat says:

      I know Joe. And I should have Urias in here to point out that he led off last night and hit one out. And I wanted to point out Hampson’s night. Deadline issues arose and I take responsibility. No offense to the Castle Mount. Or you.

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