No Rest for Contenders

Your daily recap of all of yesterday's most interesting hitters.

The Brewers winning 19-0 and the Braves plating 29 runs is a Batter’s Box dream scenario. Let’s, however, put aside the record-setting production and look a little more long-term.

When Milwaukee sets a franchise record for extra-base hits in a game, and Atlanta sets a National League record for runs in a single game, you know that there were a ton of outstanding performances. Yesterday’s tilt between the Brewers and the Tigers saw Milwaukee send 54 batters to the plate, scoring 19 runs on 21 hits, while taking seven walks. Atlanta had a stretch of 11-, 2-, 3-, 6-, 3-, and 4-run innings, going 23-for-47 as a team. Here are the stunning results the players put up:

Orlando Arcia (SS) — 4-for-6, 3 R, 2B.
Avisaíl García (OF) — 2-for-4, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 2B, 2 BB.
Jedd Gyorko (1B) — 2-for-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Ryan Braun (OF/DH) — 3-for-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Luis Urías (3B) — 3-for-6, 2 R, 5 RBI.
Tyrone Taylor (OF) — 4-for-5, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 2B.
Jacob Nottingham (C) — 1-for-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF) — 3-for-4, HR, 4 R, 5 RBI, 2B, 3 BB.
Freddie Freeman (1B) — 3-for-6, HR, 2 R, 6 RBI, 2B.
Travis d’Arnaud (C) — 2-for-7, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Dansby Swanson (SS) — 3-for-4, 5 R, BB, SB.
Austin Riley (3B) — 2-for-4, 5 R, RBI, 2 BB.
Adam Duvall (OF) — 3-for-4, 3 HR, 5 R, 9 RBI, 2 BB (his second three-homer game in eight days).
Ozzie Albies (2B) — 3-for-6, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB (in his first game back from the IL).
Ender Inciarte (OF) — 2-for-5, 2 R, RBI.

In a game that was in hand by the middle of the fourth inning, Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell did not give his everyday players a rest. With the win pushing the team to a 19-22 record, the Brewers have not lived up to their preseason expectations. Entering the shortened season, Fangraphs gave the Brewers a 66% chance of making the playoffs. As of this morning, that number is 45.3%.

What interests me, as a fantasy player, is how teams are playing and how MLB managers manage. Even though the Brewers pounded the Tigers for 19 runs, there was only one substitution for Milwaukee: Eric Sogard pinch hit for Keston Hiura in the seventh inning and played second base.

In Atlanta, the Braves scored 11 runs in the second inning, yet manager Brian Snitker made only one substitution: Adeiny Hechavarría came in for Freddie Freeman in the eighth inning.

The Brewers are opting for 14 pitchers and 14 hitters, and the Braves have 16 pitchers and 12 hitters on their active roster. With such short benches, hitters aren’t going to get very much rest, even in a rout. Beyond that, yesterday’s slugfest showed us a couple of things: one, the Brewers need to win games and, in order to do so, they feel like they need to play their best players as much as possible, even when they could provide them with some rest; and two, the players need to get reps at the plate in order to find their swings and get into a groove.

Teams that are comfortably in a playoff spot might decide to give their regulars more time off and more opportunities to rest considering the intensity of the short season, but teams that are currently on the bubble for the playoffs may not have the luxury of providing off-days to their best players.

This is potentially informative for fantasy players. Based on Fangraphs’ Postseason Projections, Tampa Bay, Oakland,  Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago (AL), Atlanta, San Diego, and Los Angeles (NL) presently have an above 99% chance of making the playoffs. These are teams, we must assume, who will sit players for rest in the final weeks, whereas the teams battling for playoff spots are more likely to have to play their top starters. Teams with a 25% to 98% chance, according to Fangraphs, of making the playoffs are New York (AL), Toronto, Houston, Miami, New York (NL), St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and San Francisco.

With just two FAAB periods remaining and the MLB in its stretch run, consider the postseason standings and the lessons the managerial decisions from yesterday’s blowouts. If the decision between two everyday players from the waiver wire is between a postseason favorite and a postseason contender, there may be more opportunities for at-bats that come from the teams battling to get into the expanded playoffs.

For contending teams, watch for roster moves and keep tabs on the hitter-pitcher split on the 28-man roster. For a team like the Braves choosing to have just three bench bats, it means that your rostered hitters are likely to stay in the game even though the game might be over early. In a season where every at-bat is important, it could make a difference to your fantasy production in the final few weeks of the season.

 

The rest of the league paled in comparison to the Brewers’ and Braves’ production, but here are the rest of the standout performances from Wednesday’s games:

James McCann (C, Chicago White Sox)—2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. It’s real shame for fantasy managers that James McCann is a backup catcher. In his limited opportunities (20 games, 79 plate appearances), McCann has five home runs thanks to Wednesday’s solo and two-run homers and boosted his slash line to .333/.392/.580 on the year. McCann will be a free agent at the end of the season and, depending on where he ends up, he could be a viable option as a fantasy catcher if he secures a regular starting role. In a two-catcher league, he is (and will be) must-roster.

Ryan Mountcastle (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—4-4, R, RBI. Last week, I wrote about Mountcastle, highlighting the first two home runs of his MLB career. Since then, Mountcastle has added two more home runs and has gone 10-for-22. The Orioles, surprisingly, are in the mix for the expanded playoffs, and Mountcastle should play every day as a part of his development, not to mention the fact that he is performing very well.

 

DJ Stewart (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—3-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB. Lightning in a bottle looks a lot like DJ Stewart. He was hitless in his first 10 games (0-for-28) and was demoted, but broke out of that slump on Saturday and now has hit five home runs in his last five games with eight hits in 15 plate appearances. As long as Stewart hits, he will play, so add him and hope that this hot streak continues beyond the Orioles’ games against New York teams. Also, be ready to drop him quickly; another hitless streak is possible at any time.

Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI. Alonso hit a go-ahead home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. He has a very respectable 11 home runs on the year but is well behind his 2019 pace. His .234/.339/.474 slash has been okay, but he needs to pick things up if he is to justify his third-round selection, especially since he does not provide any stolen bases.

 

Gleyber Torres (SS, New York Yankees)—2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI, 2B. Before we get too excited about Torres’ home run, consider the fact that he has now gone 5-for-7 in his career against Tanner Roark, with two home runs against him. This was just the second home run of the season for Torres, who has had a disappointing 2020 for the fantasy managers who drafted him in the first three rounds. He was hitting just 3-for-his-last-28 heading into yesterday’s game, so maybe a good day at the plate will lead to another and he can salvage his season from his .234/.345/.351.

Jazz Chisholm (2B, Miami Marlins)—2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, 3B. The Braves will take all the headlines for yesterday’s game, but we shouldn’t ignore Chisholm’s first MLB home run. He also hit the first triple of his MLB career. The 22-year-old’s power-speed combo should be on your radar for 2021, but he is still adjusting to MLB pitching slashing .150/.191/.400 in 7 games (21 plate appearances).

 

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/3B, Texas Rangers)—4-4, 2 R, 2B, SB. Kiner-Falefa has lived up to the hype that began to build in spring training. An off-season swing change has paid dividends to the tune of a .322/.368/.420 slash (up from .238/.299/.322 in 2019). As a catcher-eligible third baseman, IKF needs to be added if he is still available. His eight stolen bases are roto gold!

Mitch Moreland (1B, San Diego Padres)—1-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. Moreland is a must-add player. After arriving in San Diego from Boston, Moreland walked into everyday playing time when Eric Hosmer broke his finger on Monday. Moreland hasn’t gotten off to a great start in SD (5-for-28), but he does have nine home runs on the season and a very passable .287/.380/.628 slash.

 

Mike Moustakas (2B, Cincinnati Reds)—1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI. When he hasn’t missed time due to injury, Moustakas hasn’t really been as excellent as fantasy players may have hoped when he signed with the Reds in the off-season. Last night’s bomb was just his fourth of the year but it comes in just 104 plate appearances. It could be reasonable to assume that Moustakas hasn’t really found his timing after missing two weeks in the middle of the already-shortened season. If he can remain healthy, we can hope that he can find more consistent production.

George Springer (OF, Houston Astros)—2-4, HR, R, RBI. Springer’s 38th career lead-off home run gave the Astros the early lead, but Oakland was able to rally back to tie, thanks to a Tommy La Stella two-RBI double and a Ramon Laureano walk-off single into the left-centerfield gap. Springer was awful to start the season, hitting .185/.333/.370 until August 15th, but, from then, has hit .279.367/.544. He currently has a nine-game hitting streak.

 

Enrique Hernández (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI. We haven’t heard much from Hernández after his 4-hit, 5-RBI Opening Day, but he did pick up his fourth home run of the season last night. Best used in daily leagues where managers can deploy him when he faces a left-handed pitcher, there is still a lot of swing-and-miss in his game (22.8 K%, 3.5 BB%) and he is .232/.263/.407 on the season. Best to just leave him in the free-agent pool, except in the very deepest of leagues.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF, San Francisco)—2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. Will there be a Thursday Batter’s Box where I don’t have to write about Yastrzemski? He hit his ninth home run of the season and now has a .297/.402/.576 line. With every passing week, he is convincing me more and more that his breakout is real, and writing about him so much has really helped me master the spelling of his name.

 

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Mark McElroy

When I am not watching baseball or writing about fantasy baseball, I can usually be found cycling in and around Victoria, BC. I contribute at Pitcher List and Creative Sports and can be found on Twitter @markmcelroybb.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login