Mookie Betts (LAD): 3-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
This season is Mookie Betts first full year playing for the Dodgers after the trade from the Red Sox and the massive extension. By the end of May, many articles were being written about Mookie trying to end his slow start. Looking at his stats through the end of May, he had a 131 wRC+. Yes, he was batting .253, and he only has five home runs, but he had a 131 wRC+ and a walk rate nearly as high as his K rate, which was only 14.9%. If this is a slow start, I’ll take that every day. After last night’s late-game heroics for a 3-5, HR, R, 2 RBI line, Betts is on pace for about 21 homers, 105 runs, 65 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases while hitting only .258. That’s not quite the season we expect from a top-five draft pick.
Regardless of if he was actually off to a slow start, there are some concerns here. Why is his average in the .260s when he’s a career near .300 hitter? Why does he only have eight homers through 267 plate appearances? Let’s start with the average. His BABIP is not abnormally low, just .282, which is around his usual. His line-drive rate is down a bit, and his pop-up rate is nearly doubled. He’s not getting as much solid contact or as many barrels either. Additionally, his hard-hit rate is down slightly. His rolling 50 PA xBA has been staying between .240 and .300, nothing spiking into the mid .350s like usual. He is also swinging at way more pitches in the zone (64.8% this year versus a career 57.6%). Being less selective has not necessarily led to a change in walk or strikeout rates but might be a reason his balls in play are not as potent. His sprint speed looks to be down over a foot per second, which could contribute some as well.
So then, where is the power? Some of what I said prior contributes to power as well. Selection, quality of contact, barrel rates, hard-hit rates, etc. But he now has three homers in the last six games, two being solid homers and the other a liner down the right-field line just clearing the wall. I don’t doubt that Betts is the type of hitter that can flip the switch and get back to his power-hitting ways. To be a top fantasy player, he’ll need to find that again and swipe some more bases. He’s still one of the highest floor players, and that’s why you draft him so high. A ’slow’ start still leaves you with an excellent player.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Tuesday:
José Altuve (HOU): 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Altuve is back after that rough 2020 season. He’s doing Altuve things once again, and anyone that drafted him where he fell should be pleased. He now has 13 dingers with 46 runs and 34 RBIs, and a .290 average. He isn’t stealing anymore, which is why he used to be a first-rounder and won’t be any longer, but his bat is back. He has five homers in his last eight games as well, so he’s on a bit of a power surge recently. Overall, these improvements could be stemming from cutting his ground ball rate by 10 percentage points. He’s also pulling everything, and getting the ball in the air to left field at home gives a nice boost to his power, including walk-off grand slams.
Ryan McMahon (COL): 3-3, 3B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
McMahon’s hot start had slowed down a bit towards the end of May and into June. He hadn’t homered for a couple of weeks until June 11th, and now he’s hit three in his last four starts. It also helps when you are playing in Cincy and then back in Coors. His rolling averages for the last 50 plate appearances are at the lowest they’ve been this season, but he had a similar stretch at the end of April as well. He’s still hitting the ball hard and can still be an asset.
Ty France (SEA): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Ever since France returned from the IL with his wrist injury, he’s been excellent. While mostly playing first base, he’s slashing .301/.383/.422 since May 24th. That’s good for a 131 wRC+ over that time. Additionally, he struck out at a rate of 11.7%, wherein his first two seasons, he was in the mid-20s. This season he is swinging much more often but also making a ton more contact. He’s not hitting the ball particularly hard, however (36.3% hard-hit rate). France is a player that showed remarkable power in AAA in 2019, hitting 27 in only 76 games, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet in the majors. I have my doubts that will happen with how hard he’s hitting the ball consistently. But he’s still been an excellent hitter recently and could be worth a pickup.
J.P. Crawford (SEA): 3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI.
We all know the other Crawford on the Giants that is having a career year at the ripe age of 34. J.P. is still only 26 and is having his own career year as well. What stands out to me about him is his line once he moved into the lead-off spot for Seattle: .393/.455/.625 in 14 games. He has seven multi-hit games in that span with two homers and 10 runs. Notably, his rolling 50 batted ball hard-hit average is currently the highest of his career at 44%, way above his 33.7% season average. All of his other rolling stats are peaking now as well while he is keeping his K rate down, as it’s been all season. Something is happening with J.P., and it’s looking good. Consider a pickup if you are looking for a middle infielder.
Brandon Belt (SF): 3-3, 2B, 3B, 3 R, BB.
Speaking of aging Giants, here’s Brandon Belt. He has five hits in his last two games after a slump of no hits in 19 straight plate appearances over five games. His season overall has been an odd one. He’s walking at his usual rate of about 15% yet striking out a career-high 31.8% of the time. Despite this, he’s still sporting a 136 wRC+. The strikeout rate looks to be caused by his precipitously declining zone contact rate. It has dropped from its usual mid 80s rate to 76%, nearly 10 percentage points from the last two seasons. 76.5% would put him as the 10th lowest zone contact rate of all qualified hitters if qualified. He is only 21% rostered in Yahoo leagues and might be worth a look as long as the Giants are playing strong. However, there should be better options available in all but the deepest of leagues.
Mike Yastrzemski (SF): 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Yaz put together a season’s worth of excellent hitting before this year began. This year has still been good, but not quite how he started. Notably, his batting average is .229 instead of closer to .300 like it had been. However, that was on the back of a monstrous BABIP, which is now .273 this season (about 100 points lower than last year). He’s still keeping his strikeouts relatively down and has a solid walk rate. Unfortunately, he’s not hitting many line drives and can’t hit off-speed or breaking pitches this year. Last night’s go-ahead, eight-inning grand slam into the cove down three could help right the ship.
Amed Rosario (CLE): 3-5, R, RBI, SB.
Oh, look! Here he is again! Another steal and another multi-hit game for Rosario. He’s absolutely raking in the two-hole for Cleveland. He’s not going to be hitting for much power, but, boy, is he hitting. The stolen bases are starting to come too. He won’t swipe a ton, but there will be enough. He’s a great pickup if you need an average, steals, and runs boost.
Yan Gomes (WSH): 1-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.
Gomes has been the everyday catcher for the Nats this season, and he’s been fine. He’s not showing a ton of power, and his average is relatively low. But there are a few caveats. His xBA is over .300, and he isn’t striking out. He’s putting plenty of balls in play and is getting quite a bit unlucky. He isn’t a catcher I would make a move on now, especially if you are okay with the current situation, but if in a few weeks you are looking to nab one or are just streaming in general, Gomes could be a sleeper here.
Trea Turner (WSH): 4-5, 3B, R, RBI.
Turner’s got to be one of the best hitters in the league. He puts the ball in the play, uses his legs, and has some solid power. Yesterday was his second four-hit game of the year. Interestingly, his ground ball rate is quite a bit higher this year with a much lower line drive rate, but that doesn’t matter much with Turner’s elite speed. Just imagine, though, if he finds those liners again.
Bobby Bradley (CLE): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Bradley has popped up a few times already in Batter’s Box in his eight appearances since his call-up on June 5th. He’s hit safely in all but one game and already has three dingers. He is known for his power in the minors, with 33 dingers in 107 games in AAA in 2019. He seems to be similar to another Bobby (Dalbec) with his extreme power and extreme strikeout tendencies. However, he hasn’t been striking out much so far (just 14%). But it’s still early. He’s a solid speculative pick-up for some home runs.
Jonathan Schoop (DET): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Schoop is another player that just keeps appearing in these write-ups recently. He hasn’t just been very good recently. He’s been on fire since the start of May. I can pick really any date near the beginning of May to make it look a bit better as he’s improved, but since May 1, he is slashing .299/.362/.535 with a 145 wRC+. That’s remarkable. He’s hit nine homers over that span as well. He’s cut back his strikeouts as well, and his BABIP isn’t some astronomically unsustainable number either. It’s .319 in that span too. Solid player and should be rostered everywhere.
Rafael Devers (BOS): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Devers is still striking out a bit too much like last year, but he’s annihilating the ball like he did in 2019. Last night was his fourth multi-hit game in five days, and he added his 16th home run, a 435-foot bomb in the first inning. At age 24, he’s back to being one of the best hitters in the league and might be fighting for the AL MVP alongside Vlad Jr. only if Vlad can just cool it for a second.
Alex Verdugo (BOS): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
The common joke of this year is that the Red Sox won the Mookie trade. Mookie’s been ’struggling,’ but the other side of that coin is that Verdugo has put together a solid season so far in 2021. He’s sitting in that two-hole in the prodigious Red Sox lineup, so it should not come as a surprise he’s scored 40 runs so far this season and can easily eclipse the 100 mark for the year. What’s been great about Verdugo is his approach at the plate. He just doesn’t strike out in a season filled with them. From over 20% last season, he’s cut that K rate down to 12% so far this year. That is eighth in the league amongst qualified bats.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)