Batter’s Box: Invader Zim
Photo credit: Keith Allison
Sometimes you believe so strongly that something will happen that it seems like a foregone conclusion. You do your research, everything checks out, and it seems like at any time what you are predicting will come to fruition. But then it doesn’t. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months. You still believe it’s bound to happen at any moment, but it never does. You begin to question everything, including yourself. How could you have been so wrong? What are you, some kind of dingus?
No, I’m not talking about my firm belief that bitcoin will eventually we worth $1 million (because it will, and then I’ll have the last laugh, you hear me?). I’m talking about Ryan Zimmerman. He scuffled badly early in the year, but so many of his peripherals were as good or better than they were in 2017, when he had arguably the best season of his career. I was incredibly confident that he would turn things around. And then he lost several months to various ailments, and all hope seemed lost. Well after his 2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB performance, I think he should be back on our radars. His main hurdle after returning from the DL seemed to be finding a way to wrest playing time from Matt Adams, but Zimmerman has now started in four of the last five games, and seems to be establishing himself as the regular first baseman again. And, again, the peripherals are great: career-high 42.1% hard contact, highest line drive rate (22.2%) since his rookie season, improved chase rate. He’s hitting .429 with three homers over the past week, and assuming his body stays in one piece, he could be in for a strong second half. I’d take a flier in deeper leagues if you have a need. And I’d also invest heavily in bitcoin while you’re at it. You’ll thank me later. Possibly much, much later. But you will thank me. Probably.
Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI – I just went down a long, dark hole trying to find a Pokemon that I could have sworn was named Semien. It turns out I was thinking of Mankey. Semien would make a great monkey Pokemon name though, due to its similarity to the word “simian.” Oh, right, this is a baseball website, not my Pokemon blogspot, sorry. These were Semien’s first home runs of the second half, and he seems to be heating up after hitting a bit of a lull, batting .310 over his last 15 games.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI – Bradley has been playing a bit better over the past month, but toilet paper tastes a bit better than paint chips, that doesn’t mean I suddenly want to eat it. His 37.7% hard contact rate is actually pretty impressive, but he hits the ball on the ground too much, and between that and his 25.4% strikeout rate he’s not creating enough opportunities for hits to fall.
J.D. Martinez (OF, Boston Red Sox): 2-6, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB – Just Dongs Martinez stayed true to his name and made sure all his batted balls on the day left the yard. With 37 homers and 104 RBI, Martinez has essentially banked an entire season of production, and we’re not even halfway through August. Everything he does from here is essentially gravy, and gravy is delicious.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers): 2-4, R, HR, RBI, SB – Puig should probably lay off the combo meals if he wants to maintain his figure. One every now and then isn’t so bad though. Puig’s dropped his pull rate from 46.5% to 38.9% and is sporting a career-high 38% hard contact rate and the lowest groundball rate of his career. The groundballs have always held his power back, so this is encouraging to see, and if he continues to spray the ball more to all fields he could begin to realize the all-around potential we’ve only seen flashes of to this point in his career.
Jose Martinez (1B, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB – The week that Jose Martinez was being routinely benched likely created some opportunities for wily owners to trade for him below value (or pick him up if he was dropped). Injuries to Cardinals outfielders have created some playing time (and newfound OF eligibility) for Martinez, and he’s taking advantage, hitting .385 over the past week. The 39.7% hard contact and 25.5% line drive rate bode really well for his batting average, and if he could just learn to elevate the ball more and up his lackluster 28.1% flyball rate, the home runs would come in droves too. Here’s hoping.
Ryan McMahon (1B, Colorado Rockies): 1-4, R, HR, 3 RBI – When Ryan McMahon is angrily ignoring somebody, is it referred to as a “McMahon shun”? Dad jokes aside, McMahon has homered in back-to-back games and is benefitting from the playing time that Nolan Arenado’s groin injury has opened up lately. He’ll likely return to the bench shortly when Arenado returns.
Billy Hamilton (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 2-4, R, RBI, 2 SB – Injuries to Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler and the trade of Adam Duvall have opened up oodles of playing time for Billy “Air Bud” Hamilton, and just like the movie Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch taught us, all it really takes to succeed in this world is an opportunity, even if you’re a dog that wants to play baseball. Hamilton’s hitting a solid .277 with 13 steals over the past month, though it appears as though he’ll fall short of the lofty stolen base totals that actually made him fantasy viable, as he has just 29 on the season to this point.
Jim Adduci (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, R, 3B – Hey everybody, want to learn a new word? Well here it is: avuncular. It’s an adjective that is used to describe something as “uncle-like.” Yeah, seriously, there’s a word for that. One way of using it in a sentence would be: Jim Adduci’s name and face are very avuncular. He sounds like an uncle, he looks like an uncle, and he’s as useful to your fantasy roster as your uncle. Boom, take that Uncle Jim.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates): 1-2, R, HR, 3 RBI – Bell was really turning around what looked to be a lost season before he hit the DL a few weeks back. He’s picked up right where he left off since returning, hitting .294 with two homers over his last four games. I still really don’t like his high groundball rates (48.8%) and lack of hard contact (30.6%) though, and am staying away in all but the deepest of formats, as he doesn’t seem to have a single standout skill.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox): 3-8, 2 R, 2B, SB – Bogaerts is hitting just .220 over his last 15 games, but Alex Cora reportedly said he thinks Bogaerts is primed to go on a long hot streak soon, so we’ll see whether Cora knows what he’s talking about or whether he’s a LIAR. I wouldn’t expect the average to creep too much higher than his current .272 mark, but the power he’s flashed is backed by a career-high 38.9% hard contact rate, and he’s been pulling the ball in the air more this season, so expect the homers to keep coming.
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles): 4-7, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB – Mancini has had a great couple of weeks, belting five homers while hitting .333 over his last 15 games. His season overall has been a disappointment though, and while some of that can be blamed on a .272 BABIP (down from .352 in 2017), a 55.2% groundball rate and middling 32.8% hard contact rate are not great recipes for success.
Michael Brantley (OF, Cleveland Indians): 3-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI – After a torrid start to the year that saw Brantley hit .338 with nine homers over his first 45 games, Brantley’s production has slowed to an absolute crawl. Over the past three months his average has hovered around .260, and he’s hit just four home runs over that span. I think Brantley’s true talent level lies pretty close to what he did in 2015, which is to say that he’s a batting average asset with mid-teens power and speed. Which is fine, but not the superstar many expected he would become after his breakout year in 2014.
Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, Washington Nationals): 3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – I think there may be one fully-functioning human body between Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, and Ryan Zimmerman, but they’re finding a way to make it work. I imagine them swapping out healthy body parts in the dugout whenever one of them needs to take the field. Hey I need a functioning knee, can either of you guys lend me one? I’ll give you my lower back later in the game when you pinch hit. Murphy has been absolutely on fire lately, hitting .385 over the past month with more walks (9) than strikeouts (8) over that span. The hit tool is obviously still there, but it’ll be interesting to see if his balky knees continue to hold up and help him generate some power going forward.
Ryon Healy (1B, Seattle Mariners): 3-4, 2 2B, RBI – It’s being reported that Robinson Cano will be getting reps at first base upon his activation this week, so this performance from Healy was the baseball equivalent of making yourself look really busy at work right as your boss walks into the office to give you your annual evaluation. It likely won’t be enough to save him, as Healy is hitting just .161 over his last 15 games with no home runs. Cash out now if you can.