Nico Hoerner (CHC): 3-3, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB.
When we say “he’s a better real-life prospect than a fantasy one”, we are talking directly about Nico Hoerner. Despite the very solid line on Saturday, it’s hard to get overly excited about Hoerner as a fantasy prospect due to the limited power and speed. He’s a solid defender who can do a little bit of everything for a major league club, but for fantasy, he’s less useful.
If I had to make a comp for Hoerner, which I don’t but I will anyway, it’d probably be something like David Fletcher, who cobbles together fantasy relevance from a mix of batting average, a couple of home runs and steals, and a bit of versatility, and plenty of runs scored. While I think Hoerner can do a lot of those things right now, there’s one thing he lacks—runs scored.
While I think he can be very useful for fantasy in short stretches, his upside is severely capped by his usual spot at the bottom of the Cubs order. Hitting right in front of the pitcher is not the way to accumulate stats, and until he can be more consistently near the top of the lineup, it’s hard to recommend him as more than just a fantasy fill-in.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Willie Calhoun (TEX): 3-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Calhoun extended his hitting streak to eight games while also flashing the power that made him a once-heralded prospect for the Rangers. His plate discipline has been excellent but we’ll need to see more of this power, which had been largely absent until now before we can say that Calhoun is a strong add in 10- or 12-team formats.
George Springer (TOR): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Welcome back, George! After missing almost a month of action, he already has two home runs and a stolen base in three games. I ranked Springer as the 11th-best outfielder in the preseason, and this quick start is why I was still so confident despite the oblique injury. He can definitely finish as a top-15 outfielder in most formats despite missing that month, and if you don’t believe me, look at what he did in 2017, 2019, and to a slightly lesser extent, 2020.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX): 3-5, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
It may not be very flashy, but the versatile infielder (who still has catcher eligibility in some formats) continues to contribute in several categories. In fact, he already has four home runs and four steals on the season, and while I don’t expect him to finish with more than about 15 in either stat, that makes for one heckuva catcher in all formats where he can be utilized there and a decent (if unexciting) infielder in deeper leagues.
Tommy Edman (STL): 4-6, 1 2B, 1 R.
The contact skills look great, but I’m a bit worried about the lack of power we’ve seen since the start of 2020. Below is the rolling chart of his 50-game expected slugging (rolling charts remain one of my favorite analysis tools—here’s a video I did during PitchCon if you want to learn more):
After that spike in late 2019, the power has been below average from Edman, and there’s not much to suggest that there’s a new spike coming. His versatility, speed, and batting average will make him useful as a back-end piece in a lot of formats, but it’s starting to look like 10-15 home runs would be the cap for Edman, as opposed to 15-20. Playing time shouldn’t be an issue, though, due to his excellent defense.
Nolan Arenado (STL): 3-4, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.
Leaving Coors means he probably doesn’t have any .295 seasons left in his bat, but he can still threaten 30 home runs with a .270 batting average and 90-100 RBI as part of the Cardinals’ lineup. Derek Carty’s THE BAT projections actually think he could eclipse 30 home runs, and while I’m not quite so rosy, it sort of looks like those who believed in his abilities during the preseason will be rewarded for their faith.
Bryan Reynolds (PIT): 2-4, 1 2B, 2 R, 1 RBI.
It feels like I write about him every time it’s my turn to contribute, EVEN WHEN I’M FILLING IN. While he still only has two home runs on the season, his .285 batting average and his .295 expected batting average suggest he’s much more like the 2019 version of himself than the 2020 version, and that means there’s some usefulness here in 12-team and deeper five outfield formats.
Christian Vázquez (BOS): 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB.
It’s been a really rough 15-game stretch for Boston’s backstop, evidenced by the painful .167/.207/.185 line with zero home runs and just one double. On the bright side, the plate discipline looks fine, but he’ll need to right the ship with respect to breaking and offspeed stuff to get back on track, as he’s hitting under .100 against both pitch types so far. He hasn’t struggled like this against them before, so it should just be a matter of time before he’s back to normal.
Travis Shaw (MIL): 2-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB.
It was the fifth home run of the season for the Mayor of Ding Dong City and his second in three games, though perhaps more surprising was the stolen base, which was his first since 2018. As long as he continues to bat in the heart of the Brewers’ lineup, he’s a passable fill-in in your corner infield spot—but you may want to sit him against lefties if you can.
Avisaíl García (MIL): 2-4, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 SB.
He swings and misses a lot, but the hard-hitting outfielder continues to sting balls to the pull field. Statcast suggests his .209 batting average and .337 slugging are products of very bad luck, as his expected batting average is a solid .280 and his expected slugging sits at .521. In leagues requiring five outfielders, García is an easy-to-acquire back-end outfielder who can provide a bit of pop and speed.
Jared Walsh (LAA): 4-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.
After an ugly debut in 2019 where he struck out over 40% of the time, Walsh has absolutely raked, posting a 1.017 OPS in his last 51 games between 2020 and 2021 with just a 16.5% strikeout rate. So far in 2021, there appear to be very few holes in his game as he has an expected slugging of at least .504 against all three major pitch types and he certainly looks like he could be a 30 home run player for the Angels if he can continue to play every day.
Anthony Rendon (LAA): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
While Rendon does have a strong hard-hit rate of 53.5%, the rest of his Statcast metrics are notably down compared to his last four seasons. While he is whiffing just a bit more and making a little bit less contact in the zone, I don’t think this is anything more than a normal slump for the extremely consistent third baseman. He did miss two weeks with a groin strain, so I think the bat should heat up soon as he continues to feel stronger at the plate.
Ryan McMahon (COL): 2-4, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 1 BB.
While I realize that Statcast loves what McMahon is doing so far, and also that he’s done well to bring the strikeout rate down considerably in 2021, I was thinking this was just a blip on the radar until I took my own advice and went to the rolling charts. While I still don’t think McMahon is more than an OK middle infielder long term, I have to respect that since mid-2020, he’s reached new peaks in performance:
I’ll be even more intrigued if he can make these spikes last a little bit longer than he has so far, but in the meantime, he’s either a hold or a sell high, if you think you can land a legit top-10 second baseman.
Dom Nuñez (COL): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
While new leadership in Colorado gives me slight hope that they can stop ruining their young players, I’m afraid I’ll have to believe it when I see it. Until then, these are deep league streamers.
Alec Bohm (PHI): 3-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The final line is still ugly, but he has two multi-hit games in his last three starts and has brought the strikeout rate down over the last week or two. I still believe in the talent and pedigree, so unless you’re in a 10-team league with no corner infield, I think you’ve got to keep running him out there.
Andrew Benintendi (KC): 3-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
The Boston transplant has done well so far as a member of the Royals, and at this rate, a 15 home run, 15 stolen base season looks to be definitely in the works. The power may be less guaranteed than the steals, especially in cavernous Kauffman Stadium, but regardless, this is definitely a step in the right direction for Benintendi.
Josh Bell (WSH): 2-4, 1 2B, 4 RBI.
With six RBI in his last three games and zero strikeouts, there seem to be faint signs of life coming from the former Pirate. He’s not walking nearly as much as we hoped, and he has just five extra-base hits in 64 plate appearances, but there are faint signs of life. That said, I’ve already moved on in 10- and 12-team formats and am close to ready to do so in 15-teamers that don’t have a corner infield slot.
Josh Harrison (WSH): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI.
He’s got a new grip on the bat and yet another new lease on life in the Nation’s Capital. While the final season numbers would look unimpressive if I projected them here, he’s a capable streamer as a middle infielder in deeper formats.
Aaron Judge (NYY): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 R, 3 RBI.
A couple of dates with Detroit pitching can cure almost any hitting ailment, and in just two games Judge has tallied five hits and eight RBI. Prior to the series with Baltimore and Detroit, Judge was slashing .246/.366/.449. Five games later, his line has been boosted to .291/.396/.581. We’re still at the stage of the season where one week can change everything, folks.
Jeimer Candelario (DET): 3-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.
It was just his second home run of the season, but the Candy Man (not to be confused with the Grandy Man) has done well to maintain strong plate discipline and a solid batting average. It’s hard to say whether the power will break out much, as his history suggests he’s closer to a .400 slugger than a .500 one over an extended period, but he should be able to get to about 20 home runs by the end of the season, and if he can do that with a .275 batting average, Detroit (and deep league fantasy managers) will probably be happy.
Niko Goodrum (DET): 2-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB.
He’s settled in as the everyday shortstop for Detroit for the time being, and while I wish I could recommend him for his pop and speed, the 41% strikeout rate is hardly a mirage. He’s more of an AL-only play than anything else, even with his versatility.
Nick Maton (PHI): 2-3, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 BB.
He’s probably more of a doubles guy than a home run guy, but I could see him cracking double-digit stolen bases and home runs if he got a full season of playing time. That said, I don’t think he will, so he’s just a streamer in most formats.
Mark Canha (OAK): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB.
There are a lot of things to be surprised about with Canha, but to me, the biggest shock is the speed. Saturday was his fifth swipe of the season. He’s only two steals shy of his career high of seven, which he set back in 2015 as a 26-year-old rookie. Not a lot of guys set their personal record for steals at age 32, but at this rate, Canha could get to 15 by season’s end—and that’s being quite conservative based on his current pace.
Michael Conforto (NYM): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
After the extremely slow start, Conforto has picked things up. Since April 17, he’s slashing .289/.360/.533, which is right in line with what we expected coming into the season. While he only has two home runs to his name, I expect those to start falling as the season progresses. While the slow start makes 30 for the year a bit of a stretch, something between 25 and 30 seems about right now.
Raimel Tapia (COL): 4-6, 3 R, 1 RBI.
While new leadership in Colorado gives me slight hope that they can stop ruining their young players, I’m afraid I’ll have to believe it when I see it. Until then, these are deep league streamers. (Yes, I intended that to be identical to Dom’s entry.)
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)