Ty France (SEA): 5-6, HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
To be fair, a lot of scouts, fantasy baseball managers, and baseball fans have not “seen” France as an impact player for most of his career.
France was a 34th-round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2015 MLB Draft. He was selected after a solid, but not spectacular, campaign at San Diego State University, the alma mater of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Due to the new structures of the MLB Draft post-pandemic, France would have gone undrafted if he entered the draft under the current circumstances (only 20 rounds now).
As a prospect, France was never highly heralded in the Padres or Mariners organizations.
The best ranking he ever had as a prospect came in 2019 when he was rated as the Padres’ 29th-best prospect, according to Baseball America. When he was traded to San Diego for Austin Nola, Dan Altavilla, and Austin Adams, many experts felt that Taylor Trammell, Andrés Muñoz, and Luis Torrens were the more “prized” players in the package for Seattle.
It hasn’t been easy for France to stand out throughout his career.
And yet, France just continues to hit and produce, even if he doesn’t quite have a set position in the field with the Mariners or a toolset that is eye-popping to most fantasy baseball managers or baseball fans.
In his first full season in 2021, the 27-year-old posted a triple slash of .291/.368/.445 in 650 plate appearances. That included 18 home runs, 85 runs scored, 73 RBI, and a wRC+ of 129. While his defense left some to be desired (he ranked in the 17th percentile in Outs Above Average, according to Baseball Savant), he still generated a 3.1 fWAR, which was the second-best mark for Mariners hitters a season ago (behind only J.P. Crawford).
It’s not a surprise that he was a hot commodity in drafts this past offseason, as evidenced by his 156 ADP in Yahoo leagues and 141 ADP in ESPN leagues. Fantasy managers saw France as a dark horse who could produce at both the first-base and second-base positions (where he has eligibility).
This season, he has delivered on that hype. He is currently posting a triple slash of .356/.441/.610. He also has hit four home runs, scored 10 runs, and accumulated 17 RBI in 68 plate appearances.
Against the Royals on Saturday night, France was the primary offensive catalyst in a 13-7 win, as he hit a three-run home run that effectively sealed the game in the bottom of the eighth. His +35.6 win probability added mark also led all players in the game as well.
It’s going to be hard for baseball fans and fantasy baseball managers to continue to not see France’s value going forward, especially after his hot start to the 2022 season.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (MIA): 4-6, 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB.
It was another banner day for Chisholm, as he accumulated four hits, three runs, and two stolen bases in a 9-7 win over Atlanta. Chisholm also wowed the visiting crowd with a home run on the first pitch of the game from Ian Anderson. Since moving to the top of the lineup, the 24-year-old shortstop is hitting .385 with five RBI, two home runs, and four runs scored in 13 plate appearances. He still isn’t walking (zero walks to five strikeouts), but it is obvious that Chisholm hitting in the leadoff spot has given the Marlins offense a jolt of energy after a slow start to the season.
Geraldo Perdomo (ARI): 2-4, 3B, R.
The Diamondbacks are struggling at 6-9 this year, which puts them in the basement of the NL West division currently. That being said, most baseball fans knew it was going to be a tough year for Arizona, especially with a roster that screams “rebuild” and a division that boasts three of the best teams in the National League (Giants, Dodgers, and Padres). A surprise addition to the 40-man roster was Perdomo, who captured the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day shortstop position due to Nick Ahmed being injured. Ahmed has returned, and Perdomo is only hitting .172 with a .661 OPS in 39 plate appearances. However, he had a solid two-hit night against the scorching New York Mets, which included a triple and a run scored.
If Perdomo wants to stay in Arizona and avoid being sent down to Triple-A, he’s going to need to have more offensive nights like Saturday.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (NYY): 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
It hasn’t quite been smooth sailing for Kiner-Falefa, who came over to the Yankees from the Twins this offseason. Even though it has been a lifelong dream for Kiner-Falefa to wear the pinstripes and play shortstop (his favorite player growing up was Derek Jeter), he has struggled to be fully embraced by the Bronx faithful, especially as they sit 9-6 this season, behind only the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. After a slow start though, he is currently posting a .298/.340/.383 slash with seven runs scored, four RBI, and two stolen bases in 50 plate appearances. Additionally, his double tied the game against Cleveland Saturday afternoon, and he scored the winning run as well, courtesy of a Gleyber Torres base hit.
Yankee fans are a fickle bunch, and yesterday’s shenanigans with things being thrown on the field demonstrated that. Yet it seems like Kiner-Falefa is getting fully settled now in New York as their everyday shortstop.
Josh Naylor (CLE): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Guardians fell short and were the center of an ugly moment with Yankees fans after a walk-off Yankee victory (no excuse for what those Yankee fans did). However, a key player for the Guardians’ offense was Naylor, who garnered two hits, two RBI, and scored two runs. Naylor also got the offense going in the top of the fifth, as he hit a two-run home run off of Nestor Cortes.
It’s been a tough transition for Naylor since he was acquired by the Guardians in 2020, as he only hit .230 in 22 games with Cleveland in 2020, and only played in 69 games last season due to injury. This season though, he is hitting .476 with a 1.214 OPS in 22 plate appearances.
Naylor is rostered in only 2 percent of Yahoo leagues and 1 percent of ESPN leagues, so he is worth a flier for managers looking for outfield help on the waiver wire.
Hunter Renfroe (MIL): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Despite the new surroundings, Renfroe has transitioned his trademark hitting style to the land of beer and bratwurst. He is currently posting a triple slash of .260/.309/.460 which includes two home runs and five RBI in 55 plate appearances. The average exit velocity is a bit down so far this year (86.9 MPH), as is the hard-hit rate (35.3 percent), but he is still posting a barrel rate of 10.9 percent, which is actually 0.9 percent better than a year ago.
The strikeouts will always be a problem for Renfroe (30.9 percent K rate). On the other hand, he’s going to provide those three-hit days like Saturday, which should comfort Brewers fans and fantasy baseball managers who roster him.
Mike Trout (LAA): 3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
With all Shohei Ohtani hype, it can be easy to forget about Trout, who is still proving that he’s not done by any stretch of the imagination. Trout has been the Angels’ best hitter so far this year, as he is posting a slash of .316/.435/.711 which includes 11 runs scored, five RBI, and four home runs in 46 plate appearances. Against Baltimore, Trout carried the offense, as he hit two home runs and accumulated three hits in the Angels’ 5-4 loss to the Orioles.
At 30-years-old, it can be tempting for baseball fans to think “less” of Trout as if he is on the downswing of his career. If he continues at this current pace though, he could be back in the MVP discussion by the end of the season.
Byron Buxton (MIN): 4-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
The Twins gave Buxton a generous extension this offseason. It was a sign of faith in their special player who is sensational at the plate, in the field, and on the basepaths, but has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Already, Buxton has missed some games due to injury, as he has only accumulated 35 plate appearances this year.
When he is on the field this yeaar, he has arguably been the Twins’ best hitter, which is evidenced by his .344 average, 1.244 OPS, and four home runs. Yesterday against the White Sox, Buxton not only had four hits and two RBI, but he also hit a solo home run off of White Sox starter Vince Velasquez.
It’ll be difficult to tell how this season injury-wise will be for Buxton, especially since he’s missed a handful of games already (though no IL stint, which is positive). But when he’s healthy, he’ll be a delight for Twins fans and managers who roster him on their teams.
Jake Cronenworth (SD): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
Cronenworth has become a bit of a darling with fantasy baseball managers in the past couple of years due to his positional flexibility. However, he is off to a slow start, as he is only hitting .189 with a .645 OPS in 53 at-bats this season. Granted, Cronenworth is still showing a great eye at the plate, as he is boasting a 16.4 percent walk rate which has fueled his .343 OBP. Unfortunately, unless one is playing in an OBP league, that hasn’t been helpful for fantasy managers who have Cronenworth in their respective lineups. That being said, Cronenworth went 2-for-3 against the rival Dodgers on Saturday, as he hit a solo home run off of Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson.
The plate discipline has been there for Cronenworth through 16 games, which makes Padres fans and managers who roster Cronenworth hopeful. Now, let’s see if the hits start to fall in the coming weeks as well.
Anthony Bemboom (BAL): 2-4, 2B, R.
Other than a great last name, Bemboom has not really provided much for the Orioles as their backup catcher behind Robinson Chirinos. He is only hitting .150 with a .461 OPS in 23 plate appearances this season. Most of Bemboom’s value comes from the defensive end, as his framing ranks in the 63rd percentile, according to Savant. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really carry over for fantasy purposes (or at least not in formats I am aware of).
Bemboom did have two hits yesterday, including a double, in the Orioles’ 5-4 win over the Angels. In all honesty, he’s a placeholder until Baltimore’s top prospect Adley Rutschman is ready for his MLB debut. For now, though, we can say “Bemboom Brings the Boom” after performances like the one he had on Saturday in Anaheim.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)