Paul DeJong (SS, STL): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, BB.
It was a rough night for anyone who decided to start their week off by throwing out Joe Ross against the Cardinals. St. Louis managed eight hits and three walks off Ross’s 4.1 innings, culminating in an 11-2 lead by the time the fifth inning finally ended. The biggest beneficiary? Shortstop Paul DeJong, who smacked a pair of homers off the right hander, finishing 2-4 with two homers, three runs, five RBI, and a walk. Not too shabby.
As we enter the third week of the season, DeJong was able to raise his wRC+ from a paltry 85 up to a much more respectable 119 thanks to his strong performance yesterday. And while that’s largely because he was able to boost his SLG by over a hundred points, he’s still slashing just .189/.317/.472 on the season. After smashing two other homers in just the second game of the season, DeJong has cooled off considerably, adding just one more long ball as the season has progressed. While he’s capable of nights like this, his overall offensive output has gradually declined since debuting in 2017. Even so, we’d expect more from DeJong, and this might be the spark he needed to get going.
DeJong’s strikeout rate has always been one of his biggest issues, and so far this season he’s striking out at a brutal 33% clip, worse even than his rough 2020 season. That said, he’s also consistently improved his walk rate each season in the majors, and there are some other interesting points to like about DeJong’s profile—notably, he’s making some very good contact. Through the first three weeks of the season, DeJong has a Barrel rate of 21.9%, good for the top third percentile in the league. When you’re barrelling the ball over a fifth of the time you make contact (which admittedly is limited by his strikeouts and walks), good things are bound to happen. His .189 batting average will come up as those barrels start to drop. Strikeouts will probably always be a problem for DeJong, but you can do a lot worse than a guy who hits the ball as hard as he does and walks as much as he is. He should get considerable RBI opportunities batting behind teammates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, as well.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Chris Taylor (2B, LAD): 0-2, BB, SB.
Not the most thrilling line, but Taylor reached twice thanks to a walk and HBP and stole his first base of the season. Taylor will never exactly “wow” you but he’s gradually improved his walk rate over his seven-year career and has the potential to repeat his 20 HR/15 SB 2017 campaign. He’s already playing pretty much every day which has been the biggest knock against him, and if Mookie’s injury is serious that will only further solidify his role in a loaded Dodgers lineup. You could do a lot worse, especially with his positional flexibility.
Willy Adames (SS, TB): 2-4, 2 R, SB.
The Rays’ everyday shortstop smacked a pair of hits and swiped a bag, his first of the season. Adames is more of a glove-first guy, but he did put up a 126 wRC+ in last year’s shortened season. He’s got 15-HR potential along with a handful of stolen bases, but not a whole lot else. If you’re desperate he can serve as a temporary fill-in (his defense should keep him in an everyday role) but unless he can improve his strikeout rate his ceiling is fairly limited.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, STL): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
This guy is pretty good, huh? The 33-year-old hasn’t quite gotten going yet this season, slashing just .266/.309/.391 through the first three weeks of the season. Still, that’s not a bad floor, and there’s no reason to think he doesn’t have another .300/30 HR season ahead of him. His walk rate is considerably low but I’m chalking that up to a small sample size. With Arenado as lineup protection, Goldschmidt should be the fantasy workhorse he always is, even if he doesn’t steal anymore.
Adam Eaton (OF, CWS): 2-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI.
Eaton is boring-yet-productive from a fantasy standpoint. He’s basically the fantasy equivalent of spinach. He has 15/15 potential, though I kinda doubt he’s going to be that aggressive on the basepaths. He’ll provide a solid average and a low strikeout rate, which means in a Tony La Russa-led White Sox team he’ll be playing every day and likely accruing some solid counting stats. Eat(on) your vegetables.
Tim Anderson (SS, CWS): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 SB.
This game was over pretty early but nobody told Tim Anderson, who got three hits and swiped two bags. Aside from a 26-bag season in 2018, Anderson has never quite stolen as much as he’s capable of, but he’s delivering offensively for the Sox with a .364 AVG and .576 SLG so far. He should finish the season near the top of the league in runs scored, probably with an average over .300. If he could just start taking walks…
Alex Verdugo (OF, BOS): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.
This could be Verdugo’s first full MLB season and I think we’re all waiting to see what he can really do. The only game-ready piece of the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo has gotten off to a nice start in 2021, slashing .295/.357/.525 in what has been a surprisingly potent Red Sox lineup. As long as he stays hitting second for Boston, he’ll have a solid season.
Bryce Harper (OF, PHI): 3-4, SB.
Bryce Harper constantly seems to oscillate between overrated and underrated in MLB’s psyche, but even if he never repeats 2015 he’s still really good. He’s off to a torrid start in 2021, slashing .327/.459/.571 through the first 15 games of the season. This is his 10th season so it feels like he’s been around forever, but Harper is only 28 and one of the best hitters in the game. Once the Phillies’ offense gets going, the counting stats will come.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)