Byron Buxton (MIN): 2-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
Seven games in June and six home runs. The Byron Buxton show continued last night in Minny. He cut at the second pitch from Drew Rasmussen and sent it 387 feet over the wall in left for his opening act. The next one, though, has me flummoxed. It was actually a well-located, two-strike slider from Rasmussen but the nutty thing was his swing. It was an awkward-looking, almost-check swing and yet the ball flew 394 feet and over the fence for his second of the night. Two nights ago, the Twins unleashed a barrage of home runs against Gerrit Cole, with one from Luis Arráez no less. It all has me wondering what is going on? Have the bouncy balls returned? Who knows, but my eyes are narrowed and I’m now thoroughly suspicious.
Anyways, that makes 17 home runs for Buxton. In June (33 PA), he’s slashing .393/ .485/ 1.107. Oddly enough, his xSLG of .611 and barrel rate of 17.9% are exactly identical to last year’s marks. Regardless, you don’t need me to tell you he’s pulverizing baseballs and terrorizing pitchers. He’s hitting just .236 right now, which seems low, considering he’s also sporting a BABIP of .220. However, his flyball rate has skyrocketed this year, jumping to 40.2% from 31.8% last year. That’s brought a corresponding bump in pull rate to 53.8% from 47.4% last year. So the dip in his average might not be entirely unwarranted. Still, a reasonable rebound there is what most projections expect; the BAT X has him at .269 the rest of the way.
But if you were hoping for some steals, you might be out of luck. 43 games in and he has just one stolen base on one attempt. You’d figure that might be a conscious decision to keep him healthy over the long haul. One of my favorite things is when players who are deemed injury-prone are able to buck that label. In which case, if fewer stolen bases mean we get a better chance at finally seeing close to a full season from Buxton, then I’m all for it. How can you not be? Here’s to hoping for an exciting summer where we all get to watch him make a run at the AL MVP.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
MJ Melendez (KC): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Number six for the rookie. In his third at-bat, Bruce Zimmermann floated a slider middle up and the lefty redirected it 425 feet over the wall in right-center. With Salvador Pérez back, Melendez has been playing in right. As an everyday player hitting in the middle of the order at a shallow position who has shown excellent power, and a K rate of 23.1% he should probably be on more than 43% of rosters on Yahoo.
Michael Harris II (ATL): 2-3, 2B, 2 R, BB, SB.
His first stolen base (he had 11 in 43 games with Double-A Mississippi this season) and he’s starting to string some hits together too. As a 21-year-old rookie straight out of Double-A, he’s been fantastic. I’m not sure there’s enough power here yet for him to be a standard league option and most projections are, as you’d guess, pretty tepid the rest of the way. But he’s an extraordinary talent well worth taking a chance on to see where it goes.
Darin Ruf (SF): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Brandon Belt is on the verge of returning, which should take away some playing time for Ruf. He has the reputation of being a lefty masher, but he took Walker Buehler deep for his fourth home run of the year, before hitting his fifth, a shot to straightaway center off David Price in the eighth. Over his past three seasons (603 PA) he’s slashed .253/ .367/ .452 with 24 home runs. The power is legit, but given the playing time uncertainty, he’s best suited for daily leagues, particularly OBP formats.
Alejandro Kirk (TOR): 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
How about Kirk? The Jays’ hard-hitting backstop has firmly established him as a key bat in the middle of the Jays order. In June (33 PA) he’s slashing .429/ .515/ .714 with two home runs. The Jays teed off on Elvin Rodriguez last night and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. got in on the action too as he launched a towering shot to left-center in the second for his third home run of the year. He’s starting to produce a little bit more of late, slashing .345/ .387/ .483 in the month of June (31 PA).
Lane Thomas (WSH): 3-5, 3 R.
The Nationals banged out 13 hits off Aaron Ashby last night. Thomas has started each of the Nationals’ last seven games hitting either leadoff or second. During that span, he’s slashing .438/ .471/ .813 with three home runs. He had been a late-round target in deep drafts this year, after hitting seven home runs with six steals in 77 games (264 PA) last year. He’s there if you need an OF in deep leagues.
Adolis García (TEX): 2-4, HR, R, RBI, SB.
A combo meal last night for the Rangers’ number three hitter. His home run to straightaway center on a changeup from Davis Martin gave the Rangers the lead in the sixth. García is tough to roster in OBP formats (.268 OBP) but he’s now up to 11 home runs and eight steals on the year and that certainly plays.
Christopher Morel (CHC): 2-5, 2B, BB.
Two more hits for the Cubs’ leadoff hitter. It’s hard not to be impressed with Morel, who’s now hitting above .300 with six steals in 103 PA. He’s also cut down his K rate to 21.4% after sitting at 24.6% in Triple-A this year.
Rhys Hoskins (PHI): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot to hit than in front of Bryce Harper. That’s where Hoskins has found himself lately. In his first at-bat, he redirected a center-cut 95 MPH fastball from Zac Gallen to straightaway center. In the seventh, he teed off on a hanging slider from right-handed reliever Sean Poppen, sending it 383 feet over the wall in left. The .230 batting average isn’t a surprise considering his pulled flyball approach, but his OBP has been a little disappointing at .314 considering he’s at .355 for his career. Regardless, he should continue to be a great power source, especially as things heat up this summer at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Brandon Marsh (LAA): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Alas, there goes the Angels’ win streak. But Marsh kept their hopes alive, at least. He hit his fifth home run of the year on a 3-2 changeup from Tylor Megill that caught too much of the plate. In the sixth, he worked the count full against the southpaw David Peterson before lifting a hanging slider 363 feet to right for his second of the night. His career splits against lefties are pretty rough (36.8% K rate, .567 OPS) so the last one was certainly a surprise. He has power and can steal a few bags too, but he’ll probably lose time against lefties making him more of a play in deep, daily formats. And he’s also a low OBP hitter with a 31.1% K rate so he’ll probably stick toward the bottom of the order too which caps his upside a bit.
Jake Cronenworth (SD): 1-4, 2B, R, 3 RBI.
He’s alive! That’s 17 RBI in nine games in June while slashing .314/ .415/ .657.
Oscar Gonzalez (CLE): 1-4, 2B, R.
We’re 14 games in and all this guy does is hit. He’s an extremely aggressive hitter who has just one walk so far, so keep that in mind. But that has always been his approach; he’s never carried a walk rate above 6% since rookie ball. The over-the-fence power hasn’t shown itself yet, but there’s reason to believe he’s got some lurking in his bat considering he knocked out nine home runs in 41 games with Triple-A Columbus this year. If you could use a batting average boost, he’s someone to consider and the Guardians have a series coming up in Colorado too.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Hmm. A few hours after Ben Pernick wrote, “Maybe we need to replace him with Randy Marsh,” Brandon Marsh hit 2 HR. Coincidence? Or is Ben actually a master motivator?