Bobby Witt Jr. (KC): 3-5, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.
The Royals shortstop was sensational last night and turned in his best performance to date, going 3-5, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB. In his first at-bat, he singled to center off Bailey Ober and swiped second base. Leading off the top of the seventh, he launched his sixth home run, a 406-foot blast to left-center off Joe Smith. In between, he also hit a triple and finished a double short of the cycle.
Billed as baseball’s top prospect coming into the season, expectations were sky high, especially when the Royals announced that he would start the season on the big league roster. He started off slowly, but as a 21-year-old rookie, you know that’s not surprising in the least bit. Whiffs were a thing early on with Witt as he was striking out a 30% rate, but he’s since dropped that to 23.8%, an indication that he’s figuring things out.
Rookies can be a tough sell as the majority tend to disappoint, but we’re starting to see what all the fuss was about. Now up to seven steals and six home runs, Witt brings an alluring blend of power and speed. But considering how rookies tend to perform as a whole, I do wonder if this might be a potential sell-high moment in redrafts if you’re a manager who likes to wheel and deal. At the very least, I’d be interested in gauging interest as there could be some FOMO brewing. Managers of Witt in dynasty leagues, though, that’s another story. How are you all feeling now? Oh, so pretty.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
Luke Voit (SD): 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
The former Yankee tied the game in the home half of the sixth on a slider from Will Crowe that caught too much of the plate. Voit has been off to a rough start striking out at a 35.8% clip so far with the Padres, which might be a little worrisome considering he was trending in the wrong direction with whiffs last year, although that may have been a product of playing through injuries. Voit carries 30 home run upside, although projections have him as a part-time player the rest of the way.
Kyle Lewis (SEA): 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Lewis returned from his lengthy rehab assignment (right meniscus surgery) a few days ago. The Mariners have been very cautious with Lewis, so he’s been playing as the DH. Last night he blasted one of the Mariners’ four home runs hit off Justin Verlander. His coming courtesy of a hanging slider hit some 440 feet to left center. If you’re looking for an upside bat in the outfield, don’t overlook the 2020 Rookie of the Year. Ty France had another excellent night at the plate, collecting three hits, including his seventh dinger of the year, raising his OPS to .924 and his batting average to .341. He’s lowered his K rate to just 10.6% so far this year.
Ramón Laureano (OAK): 1-3, R, RBI, BB, SB.
Laureano totaled 14 home runs and 12 steals in 88 games last year before being suspended for PED use. He also had core surgery this past offseason. He made his return from suspension on May 8th, so we don’t really have much to look at yet. But he’s someone who could potentially approach 15 steals, and 15 home runs the rest of the way, a useful player for sure in most formats. Also, for the A’s, Sean Murphy hit his fifth last night to straightaway center on a middle-middle 96-mile-per-hour fastball from Jon Gray in the third. He’s in the middle of an eight-game hit streak and has turned into one of the better options at catcher this year.
Marcus Semien (TEX): 3-5, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Regression was a popular refrain for Semien coming into this season. He almost certainly over-achieved last year, but that’s hardly a revelation considering the season he had. What is surprising is that here we are just past a quarter of the way through the season, and he is dead last in OPS among qualified hitters at .497 with not one home run to his name after hitting 45 last year. There’s regression, bad variance, and then there’s whatever this is. That’s baseball, Suzyn. His expected stats don’t paint a pretty picture, and it almost makes you wonder if maybe he’s playing through something? Regardless, most projections more or less have him approaching what he did with the A’s in 2018, about 18 home runs with a .250 average. But that is not close to what anyone paid for in drafts this past season. At least he’s got a few steals.
Luis Arraez (MIN): 2-5, R, RBI, BB.
Arraez hit leadoff last night for the Twins, with Byron Buxton getting a night off. He might not get as much attention as the big guys with power, but Arraez is an extraordinary player. Among qualified hitters since 2019, he’s first in K rate at 8.9%, second in batting average at .318 (Tim Anderson leads at .327), and tied for eighth in OBP at .384. The dude can hit.
Edwin Ríos (LAD): 1-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
The lefty slugger has now started six games in a row for the Dodgers, this one coming against a southpaw in Madison Bumgarner, whom he victimized in his first at-bat with a three-run shot to right. It was a nice piece of hitting, too, on a high and tight fastball from the former Giant. Ríos has light-tower power but brings a ton of strikeouts to the table, similar to Joey Gallo, although he has never shown the propensity for walks like Gallo has. He’s an interesting player to keep an eye on, especially with Max Muncy possibly headed to the IL with a sore elbow.
Austin Hays (BAL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
The Orioles outlasted the Red Sox in a slugfest at Fenway. Trailing 8-5 in the eighth, Hays unloaded on a 2-1 hanging slider from sidewinder John Schreiber for a two-run shot high over the Monster. Just 51% rostered on Yahoo, the 26-year-old is in the middle of an excellent season, slashing .295/ .362/ .462. The O’s switch-hitting cleanup man Anthony Santander was also in the thick of things last night and kicked off the scoring for Baltimore with a three-run home run in the fourth off Garret Whitlock.
Rafael Devers (BOS): 3-5, 2B, 3 R.
On the other side, Devers just keeps plugging away for Boston. Three more hits for the third baseman has his average up to .342, sixth among qualifiers and just behind Paul Goldschmidt, who banged out his ninth last night, at .345. Teammate J.D. Martinez owns the best average in baseball at .379.
Brandon Drury (CIN): 1-5, HR, R, RBI.
You have to figure that the Reds will be eager to flip Drury for a young player at the deadline. In the meantime, he continues to be a fixture in the two-hole and hit his eighth last night courtesy of a 3-0 fastball from Carlos Rodón. Drury is a career .248 hitter with a .718 OPS across 1848 PA, so expectations are modest, but, hey, he’s got a role right now, and he’s making the most of it. Nick Senzel hit leadoff again for the Reds. The results haven’t been there, but as a former top prospect whose career has been set back by injuries, he could be a potential post-hype player to at least be aware of.
MJ Melendez (KC): 1-4, HR, R, RBI, BB.
The 23-year-old rookie backstop continues to fill in admirably for Salvador Pérez and connected for his fourth home run since debuting on the 17th. If you’re hurting at catcher, he’s definitely worth a look for as long as Pérez is on the shelf. Last year with Triple-A Omaha, Melendez cranked out a .327 ISO across 44 games. His power is real and spectacular.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)