As Josiah DeBoer covered on this site previously, the advanced metrics loved Howie Kendrick in 2019. According to Statcast, the 37-year-old Kendrick was in the top 2% of the league in expected batting average, expected slugging, and expected wOBA, and that kind of thing just can’t happen by accident. By finding a way to get the ball in the air more consistently and striking out significantly less, he was able to make much better outcomes from his hard contact. Coming into 2020, there were plenty of reasons to be excited about his prospective season—he was going to see more playing time due to the NL DH rule, he was going to hit right behind of what should be a fairly productive top of the order in Trea Turner and Adam Eaton, and of course, he had absolutely demolished baseballs in 2019.
Unfortunately, 2020 had no intention of cooperating. While he did manage to get into the lineup on a full-time basis, Kendrick started the season on a 2-16 skid. In late 2019, teams had started to throw more breaking balls at Kendrick to keep him off balance, and sure enough, 42.3% of the pitches he saw in his first five games were breaking balls. The slow start led to instant action by fantasy managers, and at time of this writing, Howie Kendrick is the most dropped hitter in ESPN leagues apart from Yoenis Cespedes and Lorenzo Cain, each of whom opted out for the season. Kendrick hit the wire in 26% of leagues, and is now available on roughly 60% of waiver wires right now.
I know I talked about this yesterday, but I’m going to keep bringing it up—just because this season is a “sprint” does not mean five games is a sample size. In 10-team leagues with no corner or middle infield spot, sure, go ahead and cut a guy like Kendrick, who was probably on your bench anyway. I am OK with that. However, if you are in a league that is deeper than 12 teams or a league that does use CI and MI roster spots, I would implore you to be patient with hitters who showed the kind of skills Kendrick displayed in 2019.
While he was bad through five games, hitting just .125 with no home runs, one RBI, and one run scored, all it took was one night to turn it all around on the stat sheet. With a 4-4 performance, including a home run and two runs scored, his batting line is now .300/.364/.500.
So please, just try to be a little patient out there. It doesn’t have to be much, but every little bit helps. I just don’t want you to do something you’re going to regret later.
Let’s see how every other hitter did Tuesday:
Jon Berti (SS/3B/OF, Miami Marlins)—2-4, R, RBI, SB. His overall production looks bad, but you have to remember that this was only the Marlins’ fourth game of the season. To Berti’s credit, he’s now started in three of those four games and has now batted second twice in a row. There’s not much power here and the batting average won’t blow you away, but Berti stole 17 bases in 73 games last season, and could pile them up again this season. He’s worth a look in deep leagues, particularly if you’ve lost a couple players to the IL.
Austin Nola (C/1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-3, 3B, 2 RBI, BB. While a .796 OPS in half a season wouldn’t normally put a hitter on the fantasy radar, it does when they’re a catcher! Nola should have picked up his catcher eligibility in most leagues by now after starting the season as just a first baseman, and has just enough power and plate discipline to be a capable fantasy catcher in most leagues, especially while his teammate Tom Murphy is out of the lineup due to a broken foot.
Dylan Moore (SS/OF, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI. This is already Moore’s third two-hit game of the season, and he continues to find playing time in both the infield and outfield for the Mariners. He did manage to hit nine home runs and swipe 11 bags in 113 games last season, though he only slashed .206/.302/.389. If he can continue to keep the strikeouts at bay, managers in 15-team and deeper formats might be able to pick up Moore as an injury replacement.
Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, R, SB. The Braves best defensive center fielder continues to see plenty of playing time, and is finally starting to make the most of his. He now has a stolen base in three of his last four starts and is hitting .308 in that short stretch. His speed is his main fantasy contribution, and he averaged over 21 steals a year between 2014 and 2018. Despite hitting at the bottom of the order, Inciarte could be a useful fifth outfielder for those in need of speed and a little bit of batting average.
Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 BB, SB. There, he stole a base. Now we can stop talking about how he hadn’t stolen a base and start talking about his five game hitting streak where he has five extra base hits, five runs scored, four RBI, and four walks.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. Injuries ruined his 2019, but 2020 is a new year and Piscotty is on a three-game multi-hit streak. As recently as 2018, Piscotty was a good fantasy outfielder, and while expectations are much lower in 2020, there are plenty of reasons to believe that he can provide enough pop and contact to be a fourth or fifth outfielder in 12-teamers.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. It has been a mildly slow start, and the fact he’s walking less and striking out more is pretty concerning, but like with Kendrick, it wouldn’t take long for Chapman to turn all of this around in a hurry. He isn’t swinging more or chasing more pitches out of the zone, which means he’s just missing. That sounds really scary, but to me it’s almost reassuring because once he gets back in sync, he’ll be back to being the Matt Chapman we know and love.
Luis Robert (OF, Chicago White Sox)—2-4, BB, SB. He can’t stop and he won’t stop. In four games as the leadoff hitter, he’s slashing .471/.571/.765 with two doubles, a home run, five runs scored, two RBI, and three stolen bases with four walks to five strikeouts. That is everything we could have dreamed of for Robert, so sit back and enjoy it while you can.
Josh Harrison (2B, Washington Nationals)—1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. He went from free agent to National to hitting sixth, which is quite the journey to say the least. He’s more of an NL-only play than anything else and was pretty disappointing in his time with the Tigers, but he did get a combo meal so I felt compelled to bring him up.
AJ Pollock (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-2, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. While he isn’t quite playing every day, he’s getting into plenty of games and is hitting well when he’s in. He’s available in about 50% of fantasy leagues and should be on your radar if you’ve lost a few outfielders recently (and many of us have).
Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—0-0, 2 R, RBI, 4 BB, SB. What a great stat line. A shining example of why walks matter.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-3, R, 2 2B, BB. Another slow starter that I want to tell you not to panic about. He has crushed the balls he’s made contact with—he just needs to get them off the ground.
David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Angels)—1-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Still out here trying to make Fletch happen. He looks like the locked-in leadoff man for the Angels. He’s out there in a third of Yahoo leagues and I won’t stop until he’s added in even more of them. You ESPN leaguers seem to get it, as he’s owned in 91% of leagues there (likely due to the standard ESPN roster requiring a corner and middle infielder, unlike Yahoo, which only has one spot for each infield position).
Carlos Correa (SS, Houston Astros)—3-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. He’s healthy right now, and a healthy Correa is a dangerous Correa. He’s still not even 26 years old and has 2,405 quality plate appearances to his name and a career .279/.358/.492 line. If he could only stay healthy, we’d get to really see what this kid can do.
Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)—2-5, R, RBI. The results aren’t there yet, but he’s playing more and I’ve liked the at bats I’ve seen so far. If you have any bench capacity to stash him, you should (but I get it if you don’t).
Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—0-3, BB, 3 K. Seriously, don’t panic. You can be mad, sure. Be mad. But don’t panic.
Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire