Everyone has those players that they irrationally root for. For some reason over the years for me, one of those players has always been Nick Markakis. I’ve always enjoyed his game and pulled for him throughout the years, dating back to when he played for the Orioles. So it was really exciting when it started to look like somehow in his 13th season he had found another gear, hitting .297 with 93 RBI and 14 home runs in 2018, and was looking to improve on those numbers in 2019 when injuries cut his season short. Then, when he opted out at the beginning of 2020, I had simply assumed that was probably the end of his career. Guys at his age don’t simply take a year off and come back strong. I’m here to tell you I was wrong.
On July 29th, Markakis opted back in for the season. Since his return he has been hitting lights out for the Braves, including the three hits he recorded on Sunday (3 for 5, 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB). In the 17 games since he’s come back, he has hit in either the fifth or sixth spot in the stacked Braves lineup and that has led to him hitting a shocking .340/.397/.566 with a .408 wOBA, .963 OPS, and a 157 wRC+. Of his 18 hits on the season, 10 of them have gone for extra bases and he is posting the highest ISO of his career. He is also posting the highest barrel rate and launch angle of his career and his launch angle chart (per Baseball Savant) is a thing of pure beauty.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. He’s hitting baseballs in the exact spots we want him to and it’s leading to a ton of success. It’s also worth noting that while his BABIP is very high, his xBA of .330 actually supports his current output as does his .478 xSLG and .375 xwOBA. The man is on fire and in that lineup, he should have plenty of opportunities for RBI as well. While he won’t do much for you in the power or steals department, if you’re looking to try and fill a hole in your outfield right now Markakis could be a really nice pickup to contribute to your lineups.
Let’s see how the other hitters did on Sunday:
Ian Happ (OF, CHC) – 2 for 5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. With a two-homer day on Sunday, I think it’s safe to say the breakout is Happ-ening (I’m not sorry) for Ian Happ as he’s now hitting .294 with nine HRs, 17 runs, and 20 RBI out of the leadoff spot in Chicago. It’s possible an emphasis on pulling the ball and hitting it to center field has helped Happ start hitting the ball with more authority. Combine that with significant improvement in his plate discipline and it’s easy to see how the breakout is Happ-ening (can’t stop, won’t stop).
Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) – 3 for 9, 3 RBI. It has flown mostly under the radar but Conforto is finally having the season we’ve been waiting for as he’s hitting .320 with five HRs (25-30 HR pace in a full season) with 22 runs and 17 RBI all of which adds up to a .924 OPS and a 159 wRC+. Unfortunately though, when you look at his approach stats, plate discipline, and xStat numbers, all of them seem to indicate nothing has changed for Conforto. Taken in the context of his .405 BABIP, I expect some regression is coming.
Robinson Canó (2B, NYM) – 3 for 7, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. Canó continues to turn back the clock with his fifth home run on Sunday for the Mets. There will always be injury risk for a player his age but right now Cano is absolutely smoking the ball, hitting .369 on the season with a career-high slugging percentage and the highest ISO he’s had since his Yankee days, all of which are supported by his stellar xStat numbers. He’s available in a ton of leagues still and so long as he’s healthy you should want him on your roster.
Jason Heyward – (OF, CHC) – 2 for 3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. With two home runs on Sunday, Jason Heyward now has five on the season to go along 16 runs and 16 RBI. His .961 OPS and 156 wRC+ blow away his previous career bests but what appears to be a new, pull heavy approach might help explain the massive leap for the 31-year-old’s power output. I wouldn’t expect it to last all season but xStats says it’s legit and so long as he’s hitting towards the middle of that Cubs lineup he should be a valuable fantasy outfielder despite barely being rostered in most leagues.
Jonathan Schoop (2B, DET) – 2 for 4, HR, R, RBI. Our featured hitter from yesterday’s Batter’s Box, Schoop made me look good by following up with his eighth homer on Sunday. Check out yesterday’s article for my take on Schoop but in the meantime, you should be scooping him up if he’s still out there in your leagues.
Andrew McCutchen (OF, PHI ) – 2 for 5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Speaking of hitters I’ve featured making me look good, Cutch just keeps hitting. His solo shot on Sunday makes two in the last three games and gives him 13 hits and nine runs in his last seven games. If he is still out there on the wire, I don’t think you can afford to wait any longer to roster him.
Willy Adames (SS, TB) – 2 for 5, R, 4 RBI. Adames’ Sunday grand slam gives him four home runs on the season with 20 RBIs. Now that Adames has seemingly cemented his position as the number #5 hitter in the Rays lineup, he certainly has some value. He’s posting a career high walk rate but he’s also striking out at an alarming 31.7%. If you need an injury replacement I totally get it, but if you’re in a league that docks you for strikeouts I’d still stay away.
Trea Turner (SS, WSH) – 3 for 5, R. I just wanted to point out that after getting three hits on Sunday, Turner now has a 15-game hitting streak going. Over that streak he has 30 hits and scored 17 runs. To quote the boss man, Turner is dope and you should feel dope for having him on your team.
Josh Bell (1B, PIT) – 1 for 4, HR, R, 2 RBI. Bell’s home run on Sunday gives him back-to-back games with a home run and six hits over the last five games. Perhaps more importantly he also put up a 15.8 BB% which might be a good indicator that he is finally seeing the ball well again. With half the season still left, Bell might be worth a buy-low bid in case he is righting the ship.
Dexter Fowler (OF, STL) – 2 for 3, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. Fowler had a big Sunday with a home run and a double along with three RBI and two runs scored. This is the best he’s looked since coming to the Cardinals but I don’t think it’s enough for him to be fantasy relevant, unfortunately, if he isn’t stealing bases anymore.
Will Smith (C, LAD) – 1 for 3, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB. With his fourth home run on Sunday, Smith inserts himself into the catcher conversation. It’s likely in standard roto his average will hurt your team too much, but in points leagues and OBP leagues his wild 21.0 BB% turns him into an elite contributor when he’s behind the dish.
Ryan Mountcastle (SS/OF, BAL) – 3 for 4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. It’s hard to imagine getting a big-league career off to a better start than Ryan Mountcastle has. After hitting his first multi-homer game on Sunday with two long balls he is hitting a blistering .393 with a 1.147 OPS over his first eight games. His Statcast numbers and .450 BABIP point to some obvious regression but it might not be as harsh as expected considering the elite numbers he put up in the minors.
Eric Hosmer (1B, SD) – 2 for 5, HR, R, 3 RBI. With his seventh homer on Sunday, Eric Hosmer continues to show this season that you can teach an old dog new tricks. He’s pulled the ball at a career high rate and the results are clear as he’s also setting career marks in barrel rate, exit velocity, launch angle and hard hit rate. This seems to be a deliberate change in his approach at long last and I am here for it.
Marcell Ozuna (OF, ATL) – 3 for 5, 1 R, 2 RBI). I just wanted to stop by and use Ozuna’s three hit, two RBI Sunday to point out that Ozuna is having his best season since 2017 when he hit .312 with 37 HRs. With eight HRs on the season, he’s currently hitting at a 35-40 HR pace again and it is awesome to see.
Didi Gregorius (SS, PHI) – 2 for 5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. Didi Gregorius quietly hit his fifth home run on Sunday and while it’s gone mostly unnoticed by the industry at large, Gregorious is currently hitting for his best AVG since 2017 while putting up the best OBP, SLG, wOBA, and wRC+ of his career. He might be worth keeping an eye on and picking up if you suffer an injury at SS.
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)