Charlie Blackmon (COL): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI, SB
Charlie Blackmon’s 2-5 performance on Sunday, which included a home run, two RBI, and a stolen base, felt a lot like vintage Blackmon. In fact, it was even his first stolen base of the season! We’ve seen only a precious few moments of the Charlie Blackmon we used to know, and the question on a lot of fantasy managers’ minds is how much more of that we will see this season.
First and foremost, forget about what pick you used to draft Charlie Blackmon—you can’t really get that back right now. At this point in the season, “draft capital” is long spent and gone, and clinging to it will do more harm than good. We have to focus on what we expect going forward.
It feels like a long time ago (though it’s only been less than a year), but at one point we were wondering if Blackmon could finish 2020 hitting .400. Believe it or not, he actually was slashing .446/.489/.663 as of August 16, 2020. It was arguably as good as he’d ever been. Then suddenly, without warning, he stopped.
In 125 games and 495 plate appearances beginning on August 17, 2020, Blackmon has just eight home runs with a paltry .252/.335/.358 line. His wRC+ in that stretch is just 76, meaning he’s roughly 24% worse than the average hitter (for what it’s worth, wRC+ is park-adjusted).
Perhaps the most obvious defect in his profile is that his 48.3% ground ball rate is a full 10 points higher than his career mark. While Coors is known to benefit hitters in a plethora of ways, a ground ball in Coors is as bad as a ground ball in any other park in the league. While Blackmon was never known for a gaudy launch angle, the drop we’ve seen since mid-2020 is quite alarming:
So in short, everything since August 17, 2020, has been basically bad news, except for his plate discipline, which has actually improved!
In many cases, we can point to a specific injury or event that creates these issues, but thus far I’ve been unable to identify anything that should cause this kind of drop. Absent any other explanation, I’m somewhat forced to project that this may just be who Blackmon is—a guy with a little bit of batting average in a good lineup spot on a bad team.
Honestly, I’m not sure I’d put Blackmon in my top-50 outfielders going forward. I think many projection models will have him ranked somewhere between 30 and 50, and it’s not as though I think he should be dropped. That said, if I could flip Blackmon for a top-200 player, I’d think very long and hard about it.
Let’s see how the other hitters did on Sunday:
Will Smith (LAD): 3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
Fantasy’s fourth-best catcher so far in 2021 continues to show off the strong plate discipline he displayed in 2021 (albeit a little less strong) and looks well on his way to a 20 home run season. Smith actually leads all catchers in wRC+ since the start of 2020 and is in the top-five in runs, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging (though he’s only 7th in home runs). It’d be awesome if he played just a little more, but the 26-year-old backstop looks like he’ll be a fantasy mainstay for years to come.
Rougned Odor (NYY): 2-3, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Since June 1, Odor is hitting .259 with a .501 slugging percentage and five home runs. His plate discipline is rough, with a below-average walk rate and above-average strikeout rate, and he usually hits at the bottom of the under-performing Yankees’ lineup, but those in extremely deep leagues might find a little power here. It’s hard to believe that as recently as 2019, this was a 30 home run, 10 stolen base guy (albeit with terrible ratios).
Bradley Zimmer (CLE): 3-5, HR, R, 3 RBI, SB.
It’s been a bumpy ride of Zimmer over his career but he remains one of the fastest players in Cleveland’s organization. While there’s little power to speak of in his bat, he does happen to have four extra-base hits and two steals over his last six games and hit at the top of the order on Sunday for just the second time this season. Zimmer isn’t a factor right now in 12-teamers, but those in deeper formats looking for a speed boost should keep their eye on Cleveland’s former first-rounder.
Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
Ohtani might hit 50 home runs. In fact, as of this moment, Steamer and THE BAT actually project more than 50 home runs. Oh, and also 20 steals. What a time to be alive.
José Iglesias (LAA): 3-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI, SB.
He’s been on an unbelievable tear over his last 15 games with a 1.021 OPS and 17 combined runs and RBI. Sure, there are only five extra-base hits in there, but the empty batting average is about all you can expect out of the slap-hitting Iglesias (with the occasional stolen base).
Ty France (SEA): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
It’s been a quietly solid season for the recently-turned 27-year-old infielder, which has basically been a continuation of his solid 2020 but with an improved strikeout rate and a little less good luck. The numbers aren’t going to blow you away—he’ll likely finish the season with something like 16-18 home runs, 70-75 RBI, and a .270-.280 batting average—but deep-league players have to be pretty happy with what they’ve seen so far.
Willy Adames (MIL): 2-2, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB.
Since joining the Brewers on May 22, Adames has been one of fantasy’s best shortstops, ranking in the top five at the position in home runs, runs scored, RBI, and batting average. With that kind of production, you’d assume that Adames was rostered in the vast majority of fantasy leagues, but he actually remains available in 36% of Yahoo leagues and 42% of ESPN leagues. If you’re in one of those leagues, use your first break of the day to pick him up, as he could be a top-12 to top-15 shortstop for the rest of the season.
Akil Baddoo (DET): 2-4, R, SB.
If you thought I was doing an article without Baddoo, you’re not giving me enough credit. He wasn’t the star of this show by any means, but it’s worth noting that he’s made some changes to his plate discipline since being moved to the leadoff role for the Tigers. On the surface, it’s not ideal—he’s walking less—but at least the change hasn’t impacted his strikeout rate. If this is what it takes to unlock some of Baddoo’s power (which was noticeably absent when he was walking 20% of the time), I’ll take it!
Jonathan Schoop (DET): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Schoop will draw a lot of trade rumors, considering that he’s on pace for a 30 home run season, but it’s worth noting that when he was a free agent after 2019, he drew little interest despite playing a more appealing position. His fantasy value might actually be best on a team like Detroit, where he has a home park that can boost batting average and a lineup where he can hit third or fourth.
Ryan LaMarre (NYY): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
LaMarre has been in and out of eight different organizations since he was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, and while his fantasy outlook is more or less non-existent, it’s cool to see him have a big day.
Jorge Mateo (SD): 0-0, R, 2 SB.
He’s one of the fastest, if not the fastest guy in the league. If any playing time opens up for him, he can steal a lot of bases. Heck, he’ll steal some without playing time, as you can see from Sunday.
Alcides Escobar (WSH): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
We hadn’t heard from Alcides since 2018, and here he is leading off for the Nationals! In his younger years, he was a fringey fantasy contributor due to his speed and contact skills, and at 34 years old, it might be more reasonable to only look for some batting average.
Daulton Varsho (ARI): 0-2, 2 BB, SB.
Varsho has found very little success with the bat at the major league level this season, but he’s improved his plate discipline in a big way and was tearing the cover off the ball in triple-A. As I discussed towards the end of the most recent Hacks & Jacks podcast, Varhso isn’t the kind of player I’m adding right now in single-catcher leagues, but his speed upside makes him very unique and interesting, especially if you’re looking to gain some ground in stolen bases. I mean, how many other catchers have 89th percentile Sprint Speed?!
Josh Rojas (ARI): 1-1, 2B, 2 R, 4 BB, SB.
While we haven’t seen the power that came with his early season success, the Diamondbacks’ lead-off man has made some major changes to his approach recently, with 13 walks to just 17 strikeouts in his last 70 plate appearances along with three stolen bases. Rojas is more of an injury fill-in for 10- and 12-team managers, but if he can continue to take walks, he should be able to make a push for a 15 home run, 15 stolen base season with a healthy number of runs scored.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter).