Oh Jesse, You Can Always Sell Any Dream to Me

Scott Chu takes you through Sunday's top hitting performances.

Jesse Winker (CIN): 2-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.

Yup, Jesse Winker hit another. His two-hit night with a home run and two runs scored made it three straight games with a dinger. He’s one of baseball’s top hitters so far in 2021, and I bet a lot of you will be mad when I say he’s only ranked at about 30th for me in terms of outfielders going forward. Why? Because we’ve seen stretches like this before—in fact, he’s been even better for short spurts (see floating chart).

Inevitably, though, injuries and ineffectiveness have gotten in the way for extended periods as well. A top-30 outfielder is a heckuva player, though. Keep in mind that if he does start to slump (and I hope he doesn’t), the first thing the Reds will do is bench him against lefties and late in games, as he’s one of the worst regulars around in terms of outfield defense.

All of that is to say I like him a lot, but don’t confuse being a top-10 outfielder right now with being a top-10 outfielder going forward, and even if you believe that he can/will be, that doesn’t mean you should value him that way in trades or in anything else.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday:

Josh Fuentes (COL): 2-4, 2 2B, 1 RBI.

Simply spouting off home/road and lefty/righty splits is lazy, but I’m going to do it anyway: Fuentes has a 174 wRC+ against lefties and a 119 wRC+ in Coors, and a 36 wRC+ against righties and a 19 wRC+ on the road. His last 10 games have been other-worldly, with 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBI in that stretch, but I’m still extremely skeptical that this is anything more than a hot player with good matchups. The Rockies hit the road this week, so I’m probably hesitant to recommend Fuentes outside of his two matchups against lefty starters (David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi).

Jonathan Schoop (DET): 2-5, 1 2B.

The past four series have been a turning point for both the Tigers and for Schoop, who is slashing .294/.345/.451 in that stretch. The counting stats aren’t fantastic, but he’s making more contact and should be able to produce just enough pop to be a fill-in at either middle or corner infielder in a 15-team league.

Cesar Hernandez (CLE): 2-4, 1 2B, 3 R, 2 BB.

Hernandez has a strong 138 wRC+ so far during this month after his seventh multi-hit outing of May. The plate discipline is par for the course for him (roughly two walks per strikeout), though he hasn’t stolen a base since September 8, 2019, and that was a pretty meaningful piece of his fantasy value. Without the steals, it’s hard for him to achieve relevance in a 12-team league other than for short spurts as a replacement. He’s a bit more viable in OBP, but it’s still a stretch in shallow formats.

Amed Rosario (CLE): 4-5, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI.

He’s hitting .349 with two steals in his last 11 appearances, though he has only three runs and four RBI in that stretch and it’s been nearly a month since he hit a home run. He spends quite a bit of time at the bottom of the lineup, so the counting stats will be tough to come by on a weaker Cleveland offense, so it’s hard to recommend him outside of 15-team leagues.

Kyle Tucker (HOU): 1-3, 1 BB, 1 SB.

I love what Tucker is doing. The plate discipline in May has been outstanding (12.2% walk rate, 14.6% strikeout rate), he’s scored 19 runs, driven in 13 batters, smacked five home runs, and on Sunday stole his second base. He’s a top-10 fantasy outfielder going forward for me and I have him penciled in for 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases when all is said and done.

Matt Olson (OAK): 2-3, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB.

This was his 12th home run of the season (and fifth in his last 11 games), which has him within earshot of a 40-HR season if he can continue this pace. He’s cut his strikeout rate way down from years past and he’s a borderline top-five first baseman going forward.

Gavin Lux (LAD): 2-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI.

He has a .324/.375/.500 line so far in May thanks in part to nine multi-hit games this month. His improvements over the last few weeks led to him finally leading off for the first time in about six weeks, and he’s seeing more and more plate appearances outside of the bottom of the order. This is a loaded lineup that will be hard for the young second baseman to sit on the top of, but even if he can get out of the basement three or four times a week, it means good things for his fantasy outlook.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD): 3-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, 1 BB.

Fantasy’s top shortstop had some injury scares, but his last six games are evidence of exactly what he is capable of. Five home runs, five steals, nine runs scored, and 14 RBI in six games. Are you not entertained?

Teoscar Hernández (TOR): 3-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

The most promising thing that I see is the 21.4% strikeout rate, which is over six points better than his career average. Between the improved plate discipline and batting fourth for one of baseball’s most exciting young offenses, there’s a lot to be happy with here.

Randal Grichuk (TOR): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI.

The injury to George Springer has given Grichuk a lot more playing time than I ever expected through this point of the season, and he’s done well to hit eight home runs so far. I don’t expect him to play every day or bat fifth for the entire season, but for the time that he is doing this, he’s worth a look in most, if not all formats.

Josh Bell (WSH): 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI.

In his last 10 games, he has 13 hits and a 176 wRC+. It’s a tiny sample, but it’s a whole lot better than what we saw up until recently. If nothing else, it’s evidence that he could be a top-15 first baseman going forward.

Trey Mancini (BAL): 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB.

I could wax poetically about Mancini if I wanted, but really, all I want to say is that he looks like the Mancini we saw in 2019. I can see 30 home runs with 100 RBI in this bat with a .280 or better batting average. This is an awesome story that I can’t stop following.

Austin Riley (ATL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.

Can he hit 30 home runs? Yes. I don’t think this is particularly debatable, in terms of potential. The question now, as it has always been, is whether he can continue to make consistent contact and avoid strikeouts. He’s walking a lot more than he has in the past, but even in this 14-game stretch where he’s hitting .400 and slugging .800, he’s struck out 38.6% of the time. Until that strikeout rate is consistently under 30% or so, he’ll likely continue to be an exciting but streaky hitter with high highs and low lows.

Clint Frazier (NYY): 3-4, 1 R, 2 SB.

He stole two bases, which is cool and worthy of being mentioned, but he’s done very little else with the playing time granted by the Mike Tauchmann trade and is off my radar in most mixed leagues.

Max Kepler (MIN): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.

The plate discipline is good, and he’s surprisingly stolen five bags so far, and the power has come back in the month of May, but the significant struggles against lefties are capping his upside much as it did prior to 2019. As Minnesota’s outfield gets more and more crowded, it will amplify the pressure on Kepler to hit against lefties or hit the pine against them.

Gleyber Torres (NYY): 3-4, 2 RBI.

He’s hitting .333 over the last month and now has back-to-back three-hit games. That’s a big plus after such a slow start, and I still have him as a top-10 shortstop going forward.

Odúbel Herrera (PHI): 3-4, 2 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB.

Someone has to play center for the Phillies, and right now, that’s Herrera. Assuming he plays close to a full season, he could push for 20 home runs and 20 steals, though in reality, I’d project him for 15 and 15 and consider everything else a bonus.

Nick Castellanos (CIN): 3-4, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.

Well, I think this is it. I think this will be the year he finally hits 30 home runs. We’ve been waiting for this since 2017, and it’s finally happening.

Avisaíl García (MIL): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB.

A .328/.397/.574 line in May is the reason why he going to continue to play four or more times a week, even with a fully healthy outfield in Milwaukee. He’s running quite a bit now that he’s slimmed down from his 2020 form, and while he can be mindlessly aggressive at the plate at times, I think he’s valuable in all formats right now (except for maybe those 10-teamers that only use three outfielders, since those formats can’t tolerate players who sit more than once per week).

Christian Yelich (MIL): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB.

These two hits were his first since returning, but he also did steal a base in his second game. The whiffs are pretty alarming (42.1% strikeout rate in his last five appearances), but he’s walking a lot, at least. The back is likely going to be something they need to manage all season, but I think the way they’ll do that is simply giving him one or two games off per week until he’s consistently pain-free.

Kolten Wong (MIL): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI.

He’s still not running as much as I hoped, but the hits are falling for him again and he’s got seven runs scored in his last five starts as the locked-in leadoff man. My guess is that he finishes the season with just short of 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases, but he should have a .275 batting average or so with a .350 OBP. That’s not going to cut it in a 12-teamer (you’re probably better off streaming), but 15-team managers should be comfortable with him in their corner or middle infield slots.

 

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

  • Avatar Bench Bat Boys says:

    Scott – Always appreciate your stuff. I need an extra bench bat ROS. Kolten Wong, David Fletcher, or Odubel Herrera? 12T, H2H, 5 OF, AVG. Who’s your preference?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I appreciate it!

      So these are all Streamer types in your format. As none of the matchups are terribly enticing, I’d be going with Wong because he’s leading off unless you really need another person with OF eligiblity (most of my teams don’t).

  • Avatar larry womack says:

    Hey Scott,

    Always seem to ask my questions a day late. But I do value your imput.

    Currently have Carrasco on IL with T. Walker on bench. Would you drop Cassasco and move Walker to IL and pickup streamer or hold

    Another team-Reyes in IL spot and Moustakas on bench. Drop Reyes to move Moustskas to IL and pickup batter or hold.

    Last question-Romano over Trivino?

    Thanks

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hey Larry, thanks for the kind words!

      1) Not my forte, but I’d probably keep Carrasco.

      2) It’d have to be a pretty shallow league to cut Reyes. Like 10-team with a tiny bench and only 4 OF? 5-7 weeks is a while but he’s got plenty of upside.

      3) Also not my forte. Rich just published Closing a time and ranks Romano higher. I’d go with that.

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