Thursday’s set of games can be interesting to recap as it is usually a get away day. That means only six games yesterday. Who knows if there will be enough decent hitters to spend quality time with? But there were six teams that scored eight plus runs! Plenty to go around. Not only were there some outstanding team performances but none other than Tomás Nido (C, New York Mets) had a career day. He had his first professional multi-homer game including a grand slam (2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI).
Why feature Nido though? He’s a backup catcher that has never hit at a big league level. First and certainly most importantly, I could not pass up the opportunity at a title like this one. Second, in his few opportunities this season, he is hitting and Wilson Ramos is not. Ramos has struggled mightily to start the year. In 62 plate appearances, he’s sporting a .196 average while striking out over 20% of the time. His K% last year was 13.2%. He’s essentially swinging more while making less contact. Not a good combo. So the Mets must decide, to we keep playing the struggling hitter who is usually decent at the plate or put in the hot hitter that isn’t.
Let’s talk about what Nido can actually do while at bat. Last season, he came to the plate 144 times and slashed .191/.231/.316. That looks like pitcher’s batting line. He was always a bit below average at the plate in the minors but never awful. Given some time now taking a bit more of Ramos’ playing time and he might get back there. In the 19 plate appearances he’s had so far, he’s hit far better than usual. His 44.4% hard hit rate is up ten percentage points, yet most of that contact is a ground ball (88%). Additionally he is swinging much less at pitches out of the zone while making more contact if he does.
Again, those numbers are all from a limited few at bats and those opportunities may stay low. But if Ramos keeps struggling and Nido shows some glimpses of improvement, I would like to keep an eye on what is possible here.
Let’s look around the league out how the rest of Thursday’s hitters played:
Dominic Smith (1B/OF, New York Mets) – 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI. Smith has made room in the Mets lineup after a few injuries and Cespedes opting out. With that playing time, he is proving he belongs. In both of his last two games he has doubled and homered, striking out once. He now has eight extra base hits in his last seven games and has been barreling the heck out of the ball (17.9% barrel rate).
Brandon Lowe (1B/2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – 2-5, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB. Lowe (pronounced like ‘how’) was pretty far down that draft board in the offseason. But he put up numbers in his rookie year very comparable to an early round second baseman. In 82 games, Lowe hit 17 homers with five steals and a 125 wRC+. In 84 games, Keston Hiura 19 homers with nine steals and a 139 wRC+. Lowe even had more barrels than Hiura last year. So far Lowe’s 186 wRC+ this season is plenty reason he should be in your starting lineup, especially with that position eligibility.
Hunter Renfroe (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – 3-6, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI. I had the undocumented bold prediction that Renfroe would hit 40+ homers last season and he had the pace down with 27 in his first 80 games. 27! That is pace for over 50! Sadly, he experienced nagging ankle and elbow problems that led to only six dingers in the second half. Tampa still saw something in him and scooped him up so he could hit two homers in a game once every other week. He is certainly struggling early this season but his approach has changed quite a bit. He is swinging way less at both strikes and balls and making contact more often when he does. Yet, that contact is not good. His hard hit rate is down eight percentage points and has a fly ball rate of 11.4% (32.9% last year).
Nick Senzel (OF, Cincinnati Reds) – 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI. There were lots of high expectations for this second overall pick in his rookie season in 2019. It was fine and he showed that there is 20/20 plus potential for the future. So far in these first few games, Senzel has started breaking out. His hard hit rate is nearly 50%. He is hitting line drives all the time. And he’s cut his strikeouts down while upping his walk rate a few ticks.
Colin Moran (2B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Moran has been discussed at length early this year. His first week was strong out the gate, yet the next week he fizzled a bit. Three hits in seven games were not what fantasy owners wanted after nabbing Moran off waivers. Yet, even with that rough week Moran is sitting with a 18.9% barrel rate and a .420 xwOBA versus his .344 wOBA. Don’t be disheartened. He is still hitting the ball well.
J.T. Realmuto (C, Philadelphia Phillies) – 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. This feels like déjà vu. Once again I am writing to you about a big game from Realmuto, however, now it is after his sixth and seventh homers of the year. He continues to show you why despite being a catcher that drafting him in the early rounds is a smart thing to do. He’s not a classicaly good hitting catcher. He’s a great hitter.
Pedro Severino (C, Baltimore Orioles) – 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. Every time I’m back here writing Batter’s Box I see another Oriole. A different one from last time. I’m looking at the standings and see this team at 10 wins already! These wins have been on the backs of some excellent early season hitting by a whole cast of characters and yesterday’s star was catcher Pedro Severino. He is slashing .333/.407/.625 through 15 games adding his fourth homer yesterday. Buyer beware though. This all comes with a 25.7% hard hit rate and a slew of xstats well below his actual performance.
Justin Smoak (1B, Milwaukee Brewers) – 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI. After a start to the season leaving much to be desired, Smoak has picked things up with seven hits in the last four games including four extra base hits. That rough start has been deserved though. He’s been striking out nearly 40% of the time and is popping up 20% of his batted balls. His xBA even sits below .200. There seems to be plenty he still needs to figure out.
Mookie Betts (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 4-4, 3 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI. Isn’t it great when a star puts on a star performance? That is one of the best reasons to watch sports; the best of the best being the best. And this was Betts at his best. Say that ten times fast. This was his sixth three homer game of his career.
AJ Pollock (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB. I wrote about Pollock a couple weeks back stating that if he’s playing he should be on your fantasy team. He has been playing and he’s been playing well. Through 62 plate appearances, he is slashing .286/.355/.643 with a 168 wRC+. He is pretty much in line this season with his standard production but the key here is that he’s actually playing.
(Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire)