It certainly takes a musician a lot of practice to get to Carnegie Hall; it also takes a ballplayer plenty of practice to get to the Show.
Darick Hall, the 26-year-old designated hitter who has been batting cleanup for his first seven games for the Phillies, was drafted in the 14th round of the Amateur Draft in 2016. In 315 plate appearances for Triple-A this year, he slashed .269/.346/.548 with 20 HR, 67 RBI, and 5 SB.
In an interview with David Laurila for Fangraphs, Hall discussed just how disciplined a well-practiced minor-league hitter can become. On low pitches, Hall has learned to move his knees down before turning his body to hit the ball. It’s subtle. Barely noticeable. On inside pitches, he has taught himself to shorten his swing so that he can handle the pitch without driving it into the ground.
All around, Darick Hall sounds like a player who continues to learn how to take what a pitcher gives him and do some damage, which is exactly what he did yesterday against the Nationals. In the seventh inning, he ripped a slider from Steve Cishek down the right-field line and bounced it off the foul pole. Hall finished the day going 2-for-4 with a double, a HR, 2 R, and 2 RBI.
Hall considers himself a power hitter, and he is showcasing that ‘oomph’ early with four home runs in 31 plate appearances already.
And did I mention that he’s an excellent bass fisherman? Yup. Matt Gelb of the Athletic reports that he spent part of the canceled 2020 minor league season winning money in a fishing tournament.
So even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it at least can make you a big-league hitter and feed you for a lifetime.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday.
Rafael Devers (BOS): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB.
The 25-year-old slugger missed a couple of games due to a sore back and hamstring. But when he returned to the lineup yesterday, he seemed just fine, walloping two home runs off Gerrit Cole. It was a two-run home run in the third inning (18th of the year) and a three-run home run in the fifth inning (19th of the year). Both were off-speed pitches, lower in the zone. Devers is now batting .330/.387/.598. His ISO is higher than its ever been, at .268. His K% is 17.4% and is noticeably down from last year’s 21.5%. He’s a good hitter.
J.D. Davis (NYM): 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
Davis is largely platooning against lefties, which is unfortunate (perhaps) because he has some strong batted-ball metrics this year. His Hard Hit% is in the 100th percentile, according to Baseball Savant! It paid off finally in yesterday’s matchup against the Marlins when he hit a grand slam off Jimmy Yacabonis in the fifth inning of this 10-0 rout. His xBA is .279 and his xSLG is .491. If he could get regular playing time, he might be worth tracking in fantasy leagues, but as it stands, he rides the pine too much.
Mookie Betts (LAD): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
What does a top-tier hitter do after returning from a rib injury? Well, he hits three home runs in nearly 19 at-bats. And last night he hit two of those bombs against the Cubs, one off Mark Leiter Jr. in the first inning and another off reliever Michael Rucker in the eighth inning. The 29-year-old now has 20 home runs on the season (he had 23 in the entire 2021 season), and he’s batting a crisp .277/.354/.561. He too is a good hitter.
Eugenio Suárez (SEA): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Suarez has been somewhat forgotten after moving to the Northwest Passage (Seattle). He’s having a moderate bounce-back season. Remember that he was hitting .198 last year. Currently, he sits at .240. The 30-year-old has been a little more patient at the dish as well, getting his OBP closer to his career number of .334. His Barrel% is in the 91st percentile. In the past, we might be cautious with such a low batting average for fantasy baseball purposes, but considering the league-wide average hovers around .242, Suarez is right there. It’s worth considering him as a fill-in if you’re struggling with power and could use a third baseman for a time. In his last 49 at-bats, he’s batting .327. Last night he clobbered a solo shot off Max Castillo‘s sinker in the fifth inning.
Jose Altuve (HOU): 1-2, HR, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB.
In the last month, Altuve is hitting .280 with 6 home runs, 18 runs, and 3 stolen bases. He has 17 homers and 6 stolen bases on the year. It’s safe to say that the years of stealing 30+ bases are behind the 32-year-old leadoff hitter, but definitely not the power. He hit 31 home runs in 2021 and could easily reach that number again this year. Noticeably, his BB% of 10.7% is higher than ever, as is his ISO of .260. His Barrel% of 9.1% is also higher than we’ve seen in the past. Last night he hit a game-tying home run off Kris Bubic‘s changeup. Middle and in. Long gone.
Josh Donaldson (NYY): 2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Donaldson hit a grand slam in the third inning yesterday off Josh Winckowski and is now hitting .231/.316/.402. This is still under par, considering his career line of .267/.365/.499. One culprit is the K%, which is up 5% on the season alongside a dip in patience (3% lower BB%). To be fair, some signs point to positive regression. Donaldson is lining the ball more than he has in his entire career, which also means that he’s hitting the ball on the ground less. His xBA is .254 and his xSLG is .463.
Aaron Hicks (NYY): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Following Donaldson’s grand slam (above), Hicks went yard. The back-to-back fun happened in the third inning and would give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. The game still ended up being very close, but New York pulled it out. Hicks is batting .253 in the last month. More telling is the .848 OPS in that time, which indicates that he’s picking it up at the plate. In the last week, he has an OPS of 1.474. Though he generally lacks power, Hicks will still be a solid catalyst for the Yankees lineup. For fantasy purposes, he may be –as they say–a better real-life player than a fantasy one.
Carson Kelly (ARI): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Kelly hit a home run off Austin Gomber in the second inning of this losing affair. It was a solid multi-hit game for Kelly, who has struggled at the plate this year. Still, there are signs of life. In the last two weeks, Kelly has an OPS of .967 with three home runs. He seems to play every two days, and then get a break. You hate to see a player struggle as much as this 27-year-old second-round pick, but we should remember that he was sidelined for a month with an oblique injury. It’s hard to tell if there are lingering effects, or if it’s taking time to get back in a groove. He’s only played about a month of baseball this year, and he’s historically capable of hitting double-digit home runs.
Cal Raleigh (SEA): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Raleigh is getting our attention. Isn’t he? Even before his two-run homer in the third inning against relief pitcher Casey Lawrence, the catcher is generally batting fifth or sixth in the lineup and he’s managed an .872 OPS in the last month. True, his batting average is .202, but in the last month, he has been hitting a .244 clip. That’s league average, so we can take it as a catcher. Raleigh could end up hitting 20-25 home runs this season.
Donovan Solano (CIN): 3-4, HR, R, RBI.
Solano has been a bright spot for the Reds this year, batting .273/.347/.455. He helped his ball club yesterday by ripping a solo shot off Roansy Contreras to tie the game in the fifth inning. The Reds would still go on to lose this game 2-4. He’s generally not considered a power hitter, only ever smacking seven home runs in a single season last year for the Giants. The 34-year-old second baseman is better-known for a career batting average of .276.
Gavin Lux (LAD): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Lux is not hitting for a lot of power this year, but he’s hitting. Last night’s home run off Mark Leiter Jr. in the second inning was only his third home run of the season. But at the bottom of a solid Dodgers lineup, he has been able to put up the numbers of a leadoff hitter, with 41 Runs and a slash line of .295/.365/.409. He’s also on pace to steal ten bags this year. Lux showcased some power between Double-A and Triple-A during the 2019 season, hitting 26 home runs across both levels. In Triple-A alone, he slugged .719 in 232 plate appearances that year. That power is continuing to develop at the big league level.
Javier Báez (DET): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
Baez lifted the Tigers to a 2-1 victory yesterday with a home run off Dylan Cease in the fourth inning. It was his eighth home run of 2022, which has been disappointing to many Detroit fans, who were probably hoping for twice that number by this point in the season. There are signs of improvement, but the .615 OPS is considerably lower than last year’s .813 OPS. In truth, the 29-year-old has been defying the underlying metrics for years, and with a slight bump in his GB% in addition to the corrosive 10% drop in Hard Hit%, it’s difficult to predict a complete return to that 30 home run plateau.
Adley Rutschman (BAL): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
Rutschman is dealing with predictable growing pains in the major leagues so far this season. The 24-year-old first overall pick in 2019 is batting .214 in 140 at-bats. In the last week, he’s 4-for-22. However, it’s worth noting that the previous month has seen some moderate improvements. In 85 at-bats, he’s hitting .259 with an OPS of .852. Last night he hit his fourth homer off Chase Silseth. Baltimore would go on to defeat the Angels in this one 4-1.
Michael Harris II (ATL): 1-5, HR, R, RBI.
Harris owns an impressive .307 batting average in the last month. This is alongside a .910 OPS, with six home runs and six stolen bases. He has struggled a bit in the last two weeks, but you wouldn’t guess it based solely on his solo shot in the seventh inning off Giovanny Gallegos. It was a bomb, traveling 439 feet to center field to tie the game. He’s only 21 years old, folks. In his most recent stop in Double-A, he hit .305/.372/.506 in 196 plate appearances. So far, at the major league level, he’s hitting .290/.324/.500 in 145 plate appearances.
Justin Turner (LAD): 1-3, HR, R, RBI.
Turner now has eight home runs on the season, and he’s hit four of those home runs in the last 44 at-bats. That’s a week’s worth of fun right there. The 37-year-old is batting .386 during that span and may be heating up for the second half. The solo shot last night came off Mark Leiter Jr. in the fourth inning.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Correction on Gavin Lux – he hit 26 home runs in 2019 in the minors (13 in AA and 13 in AAA), which is why he was graded out as 70 in power.
You’re the best. Thank you. Sorry I misread his stat line for 2019!