Nolan Jones (CLE): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB.
Nolan Jones made his long-awaited debut on Friday, and so far has gotten off to a scorching start in his first two MLB games.
In nine plate appearances over two games, the 24-year-old corner infielder is posting a slash of .571/.667/1.143 with an OPS of 1.810. In the Guardians’ 13-1 win over the Royals, he not only had two hits and two walks, but also blasted his first MLB home run, a 457-foot shot that splashed into Kauffman Stadium’s signature fountains.
It’s only two games, and it’s coming against one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball. And yet, this hot start to the season comes not only at a needed time for this Guardians squad but is a nice sign for a prospect who has gone through his share of ups and downs over his Minor League career.
The Guardians are in a tight race in the AL Central with the Minnesota Twins, as Cleveland is 3.5 games behind Minnesota as of Sunday. After beating the Twins on June 22nd to bring their record to 36-28, the Guardians have gone 5-13 since. This included a four-game sweep by the Tigers, as they were outscored 28-10 in Detroit.
Jones brings a strong offensive profile, which is needed for a club that ranks 18th in the league in OPS and 28th in home runs. That being said, he has been plagued by injuries the past couple of years, as his season ended last August due to a high-ankle sprain, and he has only played in 23 games this season in Triple-A Columbus due to ankle and back issues.
When he has been healthy, Jones has produced. He slashed .311/.417/.500 with the Clippers before his call-up on Friday, and his first two games demonstrate the upside he brings to the Guardians lineup.
There still is a lot of baseball games to be played this year, and one has to wonder how healthy Jones will stay this year (or how the Guardians will manage his playing time due to his health history).
Nonetheless, he is only rostered in three percent of Yahoo leagues and less than one percent of ESPN leagues. He could be a boost not only for this Guardians lineup but for fantasy ones as well.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Marcus Semien (TEX): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.
Remember how Semien was looking like a bust in May? Well as the weather has heated up, so has Semien, as evidenced by OPS marks of .850 in June and .951 in July. The power has been particularly on display the past two months, as he has 10 home runs combined in June and July, which is nine more than he had in April and May combined. Semien continued his onslaught on Saturday against the Twins, as he not only hit his 11th home run but had a triple and four RBI to boot.
Corey Seager (TEX): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, 2 BB.
Seager and Semien were expected to be a potent offensive and defensive combo in Texas for years to come (they certainly were paid to do so, anyway). Unfortunately, it looked like in April that the pair would be a tremendous disappointment. Seager bounced back quicker than Semien, as Seager is hitting .241 with a .759 OPS for the year. But after a subpar June in which he posted a .222 average and .698 OPS, Seager has been at his best in July. He is hitting .355 this month with an OPS of 1.074 and on Saturday, hit his 18th home run for the year.
Gavin Sheets (CWS): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
The White Sox got a much-needed 8-0 win over the Tigers on Saturday, as momentum in the standings and among the fanbase is waning quickly (do NOT go to White Sox Twitter if you’re seeking positive vibes). The offense was primarily jolted by Sheets, who hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning off Tigers starter Garrett Hill. Sheets is a tough fantasy play as he pretty much is a platoon bat, and is only hitting .235 for the year. He does have power upside though and is hitting .333 with a .956 so far in July. He’s worth a play for fantasy managers (rostered in one percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues), especially if it may be for a temporary basis while another regular player is on the IL.
Harold Ramírez (TB): 3-5, 3 2B, 3 RBI.
Ramirez has long been the king of “high exit velocity; low launch angle” hitters and this year has been no exception. He ranks in the 92nd percentile in max exit velocity, but his launch angle of 4.7 is 7.4 degrees below league average. And yet, Ramirez is having his best season yet, as he is slashing .321/.369/.447 with an OPS of .816 over 236 plate appearances. Against the Reds on Saturday, he garnered three hits, all of them doubles and added three RBI for good measure (though the Rays still lost 5-4). Ramirez is still available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues and 90 percent of ESPN leagues. As a three-hole hitter in Tampa, Ramirez should be a priority for fantasy managers looking for offensive help.
Josh Rojas (ARI): 3-5, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI.
After missing all of April due to injury, Rojas has truly been an “under-the-radar” talent this year. Maybe it was the late start to 2022 or the fact that he plays for the Diamondbacks, who just get lost in the NL West shuffle. And yet, Rojas is slashing .284/.349/.438 for the year, has five home runs and seven stolen bases, and plays nearly every position in the field, making him a valuable weapon for fantasy managers. Rojas is only rostered in 34 percent of Yahoo leagues and 31 percent of ESPN leagues, which just feels low, especially for a guy who can ply multiple infield and outfield positions. He is currently hitting .483 with a 1.407 OPS so far in July, so Rojas won’t be available for long.
Juan Soto (WSH): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.
At 30-57, the Nationals are one of the worst teams in baseball, and it seems to be affecting their star player. He is only hitting .242 this year, and though he has a .869 OPS and continues to rank in the upper percentiles in most Statcast metrics, his name has been pretty absent from the MVP talk this year. On Saturday he hit his 17th home run, and yet, it was not enough for the Nationals to beat Atlanta. It may be hard for the Nationals to trade Soto, especially considering his postseason heroics in 2019 and two years of arbitration remaining. Nonetheless, this year may prompt the Nationals to start a full rebuild sooner rather than later, and trading Soto would be the first step.
Brandon Drury (CIN): 4-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI.
The Reds aren’t good (31-54), but the hitter-friendly dimensions of Great America Ballpark can certainly revitalize hitters looking for second chances, which is at least fun to watch. Drury is the latest beneficiary of GAB’s hitter paradise, as he is slashing .278/.335/.542 which includes a .877 OPS and 18 home runs over 310 plate appearances. Drury is decent on the road, as he is posting .787 OPS away from GAB. At GAB though? His OPS is .947, and he is hitting .313 when playing games in Cincinnati, which is much greater than his average on the road (.231).
Rob Refsnyder (BOS): 2-5, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Refsnyder absolutely tattooed a home run over the monster on Saturday night, as it actually went through the window of a car parked on the roof of a garage across the street (though fans didn’t seem to mind much). Refsnyder led off for the Red Sox last night, and for good reason, as he is hitting .344 with a .968 OPS over 74 plate appearances this year. Refsnyder is a career .237 hitter, and he only hit .245 in 51 games for the Twins in 2021. That being said, he’s been a hot play as of late, and it seems like the Red Sox don’t have a whole lot of options in the outfield for now (though that could change by the Trade Deadline).
Carlos Santana (SEA): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Santana hit a go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the seventh off of Toronto’s Alek Manoah, who had limited the Mariners to only three hits in 7.1 innings of work (he took the loss in a 2-1 game). Santana is hitting .296 with a .850 OPS so far in July, and he’s coming off a June in which he hit .323 and posted a .942 OPS in his last full month with Kansas City. In 11 games with the Mariners, Santana is hitting .250 with an OPS of .733. He’s a possible play in non-average leagues, but it’ll be interesting to see how his power (which was suppressed in Kansas City) will fare in his new surroundings in the Pacific Northwest.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)