Tommy Pham (CIN): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI.
Tommy Pham’s first year in Cincinnati has not gotten off to a great start. Entering Monday’s game, the 34-year-old left fielder was hitting a measly .038 with zero extra-base hits. That’s not exactly the best way to endear yourself to a new team and fanbase.
A trip back to his old home ballpark on Monday may serve as the cure to Pham’s early-season woes. He went 3-for-4 at the plate, with a double, home run, RBI, and a run scored. Unfortunately for his team, that run was the only one the Reds could muster on the day. Their offensive struggles continued as they fell to an MLB-worst 2-9 to start the season.
Things in Cincinnati may not have gotten any brighter on Monday, but things for Pham certainly did. Totaling three hits in a game is always impressive, but the way he did it made them even more so. Pham collected all three base knocks off of Padres’ starter Sean Manaea, and all were hit at 104.5 mph or faster. His 424-foot home run was the fourth farthest hit ball of the day.
Pham signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Reds this offseason, and he’s looking to prove himself after a disappointing season in 2021. Although he was healthy for the full year, he totaled only 15 home runs, 14 steals, and hit .229/.340/.383. Those numbers translated to 1.5 fWAR and a 102 wRC+, so while he was still a fine player, it was a far cry from what Padres fans were expecting after three straight seasons of 3+ fWAR and a 120 wRC+ or better from 2017-19.
Now entering his mid-30s, Pham may no longer be a candidate for 25 home runs and 25 steals in a season, but he still carries solid fantasy upside for any manager willing to roster him. He’s started nine of the Reds’ first 11 games—only missing two games due to a hand injury suffered during an outfield collision—and he’s hit third in the lineup for each of them.
Last year’s mediocre showing seemingly represents more of an average outcome for Pham than it does his ceiling. The move to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and the guarantee of consistent middle-of-the-order plate appearances could be all it takes for Pham to get back to being a five-category fantasy threat.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday
Yordan Alvarez (HOU): 3-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.
After missing five straight games with a non-COVID illness, Alvarez returned to the Astros’ lineup with a bang on Monday, launching two balls out of the park in the Astros’ 8-3 win over the Angels. The left-handed slugger is now hitting .263/.364/.789 on the young season, picking up right where left off last year when he topped 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Alvarez is one of the game’s best pure hitters, and as long as he stays on the field, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the Astros lineup and on any fantasy team.
Christian Yelich (MIL): 2-3, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB.
Perhaps more than any other hitter, 2022 seems like a make-or-break year for Yelich. The former MVP is now three years removed from being an elite hitter as he looks to recapture his past form. His performance yesterday has to give Brewers fans and his fantasy managers some hope that he may be on the road to do just that, as he posted a double and his first home run of the season in Milwaukee’s win over the Pirates. Yelich is now hitting .242/.395/.455 through 43 plate appearances. His Statcast numbers look good so far, but they didn’t look particularly weak the past two years either. Perhaps the biggest number to watch is his strikeout rate. So far this year, it’s sitting at 28.2%. In 2020-21, the years he struggled, he struck out 26.2% of the time. The two years before that, his MVP and near-MVP season, he struck out just 20.6% of the time.
Sheldon Neuse (OAK): 2-3, R, RBI, BB.
Monday was Neuse’s eighth straight start for the Athletics as he’s cemented himself as a regular part of first-year manager Mark Kotsay’s lineup. Neuse has earned that playing time, hitting .292/.393/.417 thus far. While he doesn’t offer any elite tools that make him stand out, Neuse will wind up with valuable multi-positional eligibility. He’s already started three games at third base, three at second base, one at first base, and one as the designated hitter. With everyday playing time and positional flexibility, he could serve as a last-man-on-the-roster guy in fantasy, bouncing around to fill out a lineup in daily leagues or covering for injured players when he has nice matchups in weekly leagues.
Josh Lowe (TB): 2-4, R, RBI, SB.
Lowe’s rookie season has been slow going so far. Even after his two-hit game at Wrigley Field yesterday, the 24-year-old outfielder is still hitting just .182/.289/.242. Lowe’s started nine of the Rays’ first 11 games, so the team clearly believes he’s ready for MLB action. He was a hot fantasy waiver wire add when it was announced he would open the season with the team, but his slow start has some fantasy managers jumping ship already. Lowe is now owned in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues, and if you need some help with steals, he’s one of the more enticing players you could target.
Patrick Wisdom (CHC): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Wisdom continued to put his slow start to the season behind him in the Cubs’ win over the Rays on Monday, as he launched his first home run of the year against Shane McClanahan. After his first six games, Wisdom had just one hit in 23 plate appearances. Now, after four good games in a row, Wisdom’s batting line is up to a .242/.297/.485. The strikeout downside is still an issue with Wisdom, but for a fantasy team that needs home run and RBI help, you could do worse than the 30-year-old third baseman. Wisdom hits the ball incredibly hard and finished the 2021 season with 28 long balls in just 106 games.
Manny Machado (SD): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The injury to Fernando Tatis Jr. leaves a huge hole in the Padres’ lineup, and Machado is doing all he can to fill it by himself. The five-time All-Star is off to a blistering start to the 2022 campaign, slashing .354/.404/.583. He feasted off of the Reds’ pitching staff yesterday, notching three hits including a home run—the fourth hardest-hit ball of the day at 111.9 mph. The Padres have a huge series against the Dodgers looming this weekend. If Machado can keep his hot streak going, the Padres could steal some important early-season division games and grab the newly important season series edge over the Dodgers.
Freddie Freeman (LAD): 1-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB.
Revenge was on the menu in Los Angeles on Monday night. After the Braves chose to trade for and then extend new star first baseman Matt Olson instead of bringing back their homegrown MVP, Freeman let them know how he felt about that. He hit a first-inning home run against his former team, and just missed a second in his final at-bat of the night. To no one’s surprise, both Freeman and the Dodgers have gotten off to a great start to the year. Freeman has an OPS of .879 and the Dodgers’ win yesterday was their seventh in a row, moving them to an MLB best 8-2.
Max Stassi (LAA): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
Good hitting catchers are hard to come by, so any fantasy manager who waited in their draft to take a chance on Stassi is feeling pretty good. After taking Luis Garcia deep on Monday, the Angels’ backstop is hitting a cool .250/.357/.542 in the early going with hard hit and barrel rates in the 94th and 97th percentile, respectively. Stassi’s slotted in the middle of the Angels’ lineup when he starts, and if his strong production holds, he’ll likely move up a bit like he did yesterday when he hit fourth for the Halos. Health has always been a question mark for Stassi—he’s never played in more than 88 games in a season. If he can top that number this year, it looks like he could be one of the best catchers in fantasy.
Diego Castillo (PIT): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
Castillo hit the first home run of his career yesterday—a 96.7 mph fly ball that cleared the right-field fence at American Family Field in Milwaukee. The 24-year-old middle infielder is hitting .310 with a .448 slugging percentage through his first 29 career plate appearances. He’s not someone that jumps out of a box score begging to be rostered in a fantasy league, but yesterday marked his sixth start in the Pirates’ first 10 games. If he can keep hitting, the Pirates have ample playing time to hand out and he could be a decent middle infield option in deep leagues. Until his playing time becomes more consistent, he’s a guy to keep on your watch list.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)