Purple Hays

Scott Chu breaks down Sunday's most interesting hitting performances.

Austin Hays (OF, BAL): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.

After the hot start by Cedric Mullins, I was legitimately worried about what it meant for Austin Hays, who I drafted in a surprising number of leagues due to how well he projected in 2021. I really liked the power in his home ballpark and felt he could continue to drive the ball and avoid strikeouts on his way to a 25+ home run season with a batting average north of .270.

To do that, though, he’d need full playing time, and that was looking like a potential hurdle with the number of outfield bats the O’s wanted to get into the mix and with Mullins becoming a force on the left side. After Sunday’s performance where he went 2-3 with a pair of home runs, three runs, three RBI, and a walk, Hays has calmed my nerves for at least the next few days.

As we head into the end of the first month of action, we’re all coming to the stage where we are forced to take our heads out of the sand and take closer looks at some of the draft-day dreams we had and see whether there is any hope left to cling to. Performances like this one by Hays, coupled with his .513 expected slugging, offer just enough promise for me to ignore the spike in strikeout rate (which I think will settle down significantly) and keep him on most rosters that require five outfielders.

Unfortunately, though, it’s also getting to the point that we can’t spend valuable roster spots on every single ray of hope we find. If you’re stuck on a player who you just can’t seem to make a decision on, please drop a line in the comments and we’ll do our best to help you out. You can also, of course, join us on Discord as a PL+ member for 24/7 access to the thoughts of our entire staff—most of whom are much brighter than I.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday:

Omar Narváez (C, MIL): 2-3, 2 BB.

It’s hard not to love what we’ve seen from Narváez, especially after such a miserable 2020. This was his third multi-hit game in his last four outings, and Statcast seems to fully support the results we’ve seen so far. While that doesn’t necessarily mean those results are here to stay, he seems well on his way to repeating his magical 2019 to some degree. On yet another positive note, he also hit second for the third time in five contests and has a non-zero chance of staying there if he continues to walk more than he strikes out as he has so far. If he does that, then he’s easily a top-ten catcher and a guy you can lock into your catcher spot in all formats.

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

Wong must be feeling fully healthy after his stint on the IL, as he has seven hits in his three starts since returning—four of which have been for extra bases. It has been a long time since Wong put up back-to-back seasons of fantasy goodness (2014-2015, to be precise), and while I don’t expect him to slug much better than .400 for the season, his double-digit home runs and steals along with his solid batting average could make him a top-20 option at second base and a very suitable middle infielder in formats that use that position.

Zack Collins (C, CWS): 3-3, R, BB.

As a prospect, Collins was mostly on the radar as a guy who could take a lot of walks, hit for some power, and hopefully catch just enough to be usable there for fantasy purposes. With there being little hope of Collins getting his gear on enough to earn eligibility at catcher and with his disappointing strikeout rates and lack of power, he’s probably not worth a roster spot in anything but very deep AL-only dynasties.

José Abreu (1B, CWS): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Anything I say about “making decisions on players” does not apply to top-50 picks—at least, not yet it doesn’t. In his last four starts, Abreu has six hits, three home runs, six RBI, and just one strikeout. Those four games alone dropped his strikeout rate by over five points and raised his slugging by over 100 points. Keep starting him.

Nick Madrigal (2B, CWS): 2-4, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Nicky Two-Strikes continues to absolutely and utterly refuse to strike out. In fact, he’s struck out just twice so far on the season. His elite bat-to-ball skills should help him continue to pile up the multi-hit games and keep that batting average close to .300 all season, though the lack of power is probably just as real as the contact ability. He’s pretty tough to justify as a starting second baseman in 10- and 12-team leagues that don’t utilize a middle infield spot due to the low upside for counting numbers, but the elite batting average and 15-20 stolen bases make him very useful in anything deeper than that.

Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.

I thought about doing a deeper dive, but I’m going to spare both of us the effort. Polanco is just a guy for fantasy purposes. He should be entirely off your radar in anything shallower than a 15-team league, and even in those, he will probably not be your best option on the wire.

Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT): 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB.

Everything I said about him last week still holds true. He’s a solid fourth or fifth outfielder in most formats who can still be scooped up in about half of Yahoo leagues and a quarter of ESPN leagues.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (SS, TEX): 3-5, R, SB.

The speed is enough to let him threaten 15 steals for the season, but he’ll struggle to get to 10 home runs or a .265 batting average, meaning his value remains limited to formats where he can be slotted in at catcher. He’s a borderline top-10 option as a backstop in those leagues, though, and probably just active and productive enough to keep you from needing to worry about streaming the position for the time being.

Austin Slater (OF, SF): 0-3, BB, 2 SB.

While there’s not much to look at from a full-season projection perspective, it’s worth noting that Slater is very effective against left-handed pitching and occasionally leads off for the Giants. That little combo ought to be just enough to make him worth remembering when setting DFS lineups, as he can often be a very appealing play when punting an outfield spot.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, SD): 2-4, HR, 4 R, RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB.

Baseball is awesome, isn’t it? And for the record, no—I’m not “selling high.”

Max Muncy (1B, LAD): 0-1, 2 R, 5 BB.

I don’t have much analysis here other than that he has seven walks in two games. It’s not helping much in batting average leagues, especially with him having just one hit in his last seven games, but at least he’s still walking a whole lot.

Trent Grisham (OF, SD): 1-5, RBI, BB, SB.

I ranked Grisham pretty well in the preseason, and I gotta tell ya, I’m feeling pretty good about it. The five steals already is a very pleasant surprise, and while he’s outperforming his Statcast metrics with respect to batting average by a little bit, I am still loving the walks and power to go along with that speed. While the counting stats leave a lot to be desired, that’s more a product of the strangely slow start the Padres have gotten off to. That will change sooner rather than later, and you’ll see Grisham’s runs and RBI jump in short order.

Chris Taylor (2B/OF, LAD): 2-5, 3B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

Taylor has hit the ball surprisingly well this season and has so far flashed the same power and plate discipline he showcased in his surprising 2020. The insane depth of the Dodgers’ lineup makes it tough to know exactly when he might sit or start in any given week, but his combination of power, speed, batting average, and versatility make him a potentially valuable piece in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Jake Cronenworth (2B, SD): 2-5, R, BB, SB.

If I have one preseason ranking regret, it was worrying about middle infield playing time in San Diego. While it’s true that, in general, opportunity trumps talent more often than it should, Cronenworth has done nothing but give the Padres a reason to put him in the lineup. That being said, I’m still not sure there’s enough upside here to make him a lock on 10- and 12-team rosters that don’t use MI and CI positions due to the limited power and speed. He’s almost looking like a slightly more-versatile Jean Segura, from a production standpoint, and that’s much more valuable in deep leagues than it is in shallow ones.

Bryce Harper (OF, PHI): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

He’s been a top-three hitter in OBP leagues so far using Fangraphs’ Auction Calculator and that’s exactly what his upside is—an elite fantasy contributor. Any suggestion to the contrary is blasphemy.

Dom Nuñez (C, COL): 2-4, 3B, 2 R, RBI, BB.

I understand why you might want to try and talk yourself into a catcher who plays in Coors, but let me save you some heartache and just advise you to move on. There’s just not enough here between his low batting average, very high strikeout rates, and unimpressive power.

C.J. Cron (1B, COL): 4-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

He’s available in over half of ESPN and Yahoo leagues despite being such a preseason darling, and over his last five games, he’s slashing .450/.476/.950 with three home runs and eight RBI. If you’ve got a whole at first base or could use an extra power bat, why not Cron?

Trevor Story (SS, COL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

This was just his second home run of the year, however, that is in large part due to bad luck. Looking at Statcast’s expected home runs metrics, Story should have seven or eight of them, though the expansive outfield in Coors has robbed him of several (including more than one that have been off the highest part of the walls in the outfield). While the expected home runs metrics don’t consider atmospheric conditions, it’s still safe to say that there’s nothing wrong under the hood here and that the home runs will start coming.

Ryan Mountcastle (1B, BAL): 0-3, 2 R, BB, SB.

Ok, look—I still believe in this bat and hit tool long term, and I still think he can be a top-20 option at first base for 2021. That said, he is not that right now and he’s not so talented that you need to wait for the numbers to catch up to the talent. Unless it’s a 15-team league, you can move on for now.

J.D. Davis (3B, NYM): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

If you listen to the Hacks & Jacks podcast we released this morning, you’ll learn that I like his teammate a lot more than I like him, but he’s hit well when he’s been in the lineup and he’s been in the lineup quite a bit lately. I’m pleased by the zero strikeouts over the last two games, but I’m still not interested in 12-team leagues.

Tyler O’Neill (OF, STL): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Until something else happens, he will still look to me like a low batting average guy with 25-HR upside if he plays a full season (which I’m not sure he ever will). This is a deep league-only play, and not a particularly enjoyable one.

Franmil Reyes (DH, CLE): 3-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.

In addition to stealing the first bag of his major league career, Reyes continued to scorch every baseball he can get his bat on. The plate discipline may leave something to be desired, but the prodigious power is very legitimate and he looks more and more like a 40-home run bat with each hard-hit ball.

 

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 Mike Honcho says:

    Missing from your comments is the nice Sunday performance of Pavin Smith. I understand…it’s the snakess so who cares.
    Leading off and playing everyday batting .357 over the last 7 days.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I almost did include Pavin, Mike, but realized I already had selected a LOT of batters. Pavin has a decent hit tool, which is neat, and is streamable in deep leagues—it’ll get ugly for playing time when Walker and Marte return (and to a lesser extent, Locastro). It’s a short term play regardless of format unless he stays very hot for quite a while.

  • Avatar larry womack says:

    Hi Scott,

    I have Gimenez on several teams. Do you feel he is worth a hold or time to move on. I mainly picked him up for Avg and steals-but as they say you can’t steal first base. I can pickup Berti, Wong, or Senzel as a replacement on one team. Other teams there are a variety of players that offer steals.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I think that’s going to be pretty dependent on format, Larry, but in a normal 10- or 12-teamer you can move on. He’s not particularly more enticing than Berti/Wong and they aren’t terrible right now.

    • Avatar theKraken says:

      I would hold. I expect it won’t be long before he is the everyday guy in CLE at SS and he has good eligibility. IMO, only Berti is worth the comp and I do think that they might be similar. I think Wong is a garbage option in fantasy and Senzel is always hurt and not hitting at all.

      • Avatar Scott Chu says:

        I think in a 10-or 12-teamer, these are all back-end options and you’ll be streaming them regardless.

        If you want the long term hold, it might very well be Gimenez, but I’d be flipping quite a bit until I found something that stuck, and I wouldn’t be terribly patient about it.

  • Avatar Stan says:

    What are your thoughts on Dansby Swanson? He’s been STRUGGLING – any chance he rebounds to his 2020 levels?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      I ranked Swanson 13th in the preseason, so I was already low on him anyway compared to some of my peers. The xSLG still looks OK (.453), but everything else is not good. The strikeouts are gross, but he’s been bringing that under control as of late (22.5 K% since April 14). He’s shaping up a little like the 2018/2019 versions of himself, which is neither terrible nor terribly exciting.

      I doubt you can trade him, but in a 10- or 12-teamer, he’s looking like a mid-level MI or worse. I’m not sure I’d cut him right now, though, unless there’s a top-15 SS out there to grab. In a 10-teamer with no MI or where I have another very strong MI, I might cut bait for a streaming SP or to fill another weaker spot in my lineup, though.

    • Avatar theKrakens says:

      Nope. He is Addison Russell from 5 years ago. I’ll explain what that means. Handed a starting job with a good lineup spot in a great lineup. These pedestrian offensive players will have their moments as having an absolute lock on a position helps a lot. I have always though that he is mediocre for many reasons. As Scott said, there is nothing exciting here other than counting stats and ABs which have some value.

  • Avatar JR says:

    So you prefer Bryan Reynolds over JD Davis?

  • Avatar Maher Salfiti says:

    Jeff McNeil is killing me. I have Lowrie and Cronenworth at 2B until (IF) Marte ever returns from the mysterious hammy injury, but will McNeil ever get it going? He’s been available, but I don’t have bench room, nor do I want to lose grabbing him if he comes around. 12 team HTD league

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      McNeil is probably right on the border of easy to drop/easy to hold, ya know? The ray of hope right now is that he has an xBA/xSLG of .264/.442, which suggests better days are ahead. Also, it does sound like Marte is taking batting practice, so his return is on the horizon.

      FWIW, I’d much rather have McNeil ROS than Lowrie, who is hitting just .160/.192/.360 over his last 6 games.

    • Avatar theKraken says:

      I always figured he might be a juiced ball regression candidate. I think he is a nice sleeper at this point as he can’t do much worse but he could also be cuttable. Its a tough one.

  • Avatar larry womack says:

    Hi Scott

    One extra questions-what are your thoughts on Yonathan Daza-worht while pickup for extra OF.

    Thanks

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      The first question is free and I charge double for each additional question.

      I’d have to be a pretty darn deep league before I consider Daza. When was the last time the Rockies didn’t screw up a young hitter? Daza has less pedigree than Dahl/Tapia/Hilliard and the OF is as crowded now as it ever was. I think the best hitter they’ve had in ages was Roberto Ramos, who they let go after a strong AAA season and now he’s an absolute force in the KBO.

      Call it bias, but I bet against the Rockies developing a player properly.

  • Avatar Pops says:

    How much longer are we holding Andrew McCutchen shares in a five outfield roto league?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      The plate discipline is still good — it’s just the quality of contact that’s awful. Just 1 barrel and dismal expected stats to go along with the dismal real ones.

      Number of teams matters, of course, as does OBP vs AVG, but in most 10-12 teamers, I’m fine with moving on. I’d take Hays, Winker, Reynolds, Upton, Avi Garcia, Adolis Garcia, or really any of those guys.

      At the end of the day, you drafted McCutchen to be your 4th or 5th OF, right? Well, burning and churning those guys is normal and viable. Wait around for guys like Pham, who you took in as a 2/3, but not the 4/5 guys.

  • Avatar J.C. Mosier says:

    Scott, great stuff, as always. One of my league-mates (12-team OBP) bailed on Dominic Smith. Thoughts?

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    I cut Hays a while back. I suspect that he is not rosterable like most of that BAL lineup.

    Isn’t Collins actually getting some starts at C? I think he is terrible there but I think the eligibility is legit. No, I am not rostering him either but he has 8 games there already.

    Why not sell high on Tatis? His value can’t get much higher. That is never a bad move as much as its not something that people ever want to pursue. He is a weird dude with 100% certainty and I would bet that it works against him in the long term. This is how dynasties are created.

    Insane depth in the Dodgers lineup lol. That was two years ago. They start 2 to 3 scrubs on a daily basis. Make no mistake about what LAD does – they have an elite core of like 5-6 guys and then they plug and play scrubs while mismanaging the staff in creative ways. They could put house-cats in jerseys and send them to the plate and win 60% of their games. LAD’s analytics department likes to get in the way and probably take credit for LAD success that they have nothing to do with. For those sociopaths, they try to play the worst players they can simply to try to create value for themselves. I imagine there is a lot of, look what we are getting out of these free players. In reality, those house-cats would have some success in that lineup. They are not deep offensively. They have given away a lot in recent years and done nothing to replace it. This is a team that would be a full-blown dynasty if they canned the analytics department, but they choose to make winning more difficult that it needs to be – not a deep offense, just moronic management. They win despite their decision making – they are thinner than they have been in a long time though.

    Want some Harper blashpemy? How often does he finish as an elite option? He is crazy streaky and that is a real problem in any H2H format – don’t get too excited about the ups because the downs are insane too. No obligation to overstate a player’s short-term performance – this seems like par for the course to me. Why not trade a guy on a heater for fear of the giant regression that has come every season?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      There you are, Kraken! We may not always agree (though we have a few times!), but I appreciate and respect the heck out of ya.

      In most 10-12 teamers, Hays is probably a 4th or 5th OF. I have cut him in some leagues, especially if I got hit by injuries and ran out of early IL spots, but I’ve tried to hold where I can.

      Collins is getting starts there and may pick up eligibility, but he’s just not very good. Even with the eligibility, he’s not even a C2 in a 15-teamer. He can’t really hit or field at a major league level.

      The issue with selling Tatis, especially in redraft, is all about who is buying? If someone is offering a top 15 player, sure! I mean, I wouldn’t, but I get it. Is that actually happening, though? In Dynasty, I’m just not doing it because I believe, but if you don’t and can get a top-5 overall player. Sure. Or even 2 top-10 to 15? Sure. I just don’t see it happening.

      Have to just agree to disagree on the Dodgers’ depth. Not sure how many teams can field the current lineup they have while having players the caliber of Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux on the IL AND be 15-7.

      We could probably legitimately haggle over the definition of elite, but in the last 6 seasons, Harper has finished as a top-25 hitter 5 times per the FG Auction Calculator (12 team, standard 5×5, 5 OF). It’s almost certainly closer to top 15-20 for OBP. That’s pretty remarkable consistency. Elite? Again, that’s a legitimate debate. If I hedged and said “really good”, I think it’d be accurate (and boring).

  • Avatar Willie S says:

    Okay, Scott, I’ll add some players that are giving me plenty of indigestion – Schwarber, B Lowe, and Robles (I’m not even going to talk about Matt Chapman). The Nats got off to a slow start because of the Covid outbreak, but Schwarber looks lost. Robles is my bad, I bought into the ST narrative and it looked like he fit my needs for Rs and SBs, but it’s same old, same old. Lowe is a frustrating hold every year. Thoughts on holding them?

    Thanks for the recaps, they help me keep track of potential pickups (okay, and often spur jealousy that I don’t have these guys on any of teams).

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      You’re very welcome, Willie! League format always matters, but in a lot of 10- and 12-teamers, I’m bailing on Schwarber (and while I don’t have Robles, I’d consider letting him go).

      Have to hold Lowe, though. The upside is too high.

      • Avatar Willie S says:

        Sorry, I should have specified format. 12t h2h, OBP instead of AVG. Keeper league, NA slots, so the wire is pretty limited. Margot, A Garcia, Duvall probably top OFs currently available.

        • Avatar Scott Chu says:

          Ah, Schwarbs, in theory, is a decent OBP play while my favorite of that lot (Avisail Garcia) is at a slight disadvantage. That said, it’s not a terrible move. More of a neutral one, at least with respect to the long term value. Pass on the other two.

          Robles is probably a hold for just a bit longer, if only to see if something better pops up.

          • Avatar Willie S says:

            I love Garcia’s power/speed upside, even if realistically the SBs are capped. I do worry about playing time once Yelich and Cain return (I think Cain is toast, but Milwaukee apparently disagrees).

            I picked up Profar to provide some of what I thought I was getting with Robles. That might not work, either, but I’m treading water for the time being.

            Thanks, Scott!

  • Avatar Ben says:

    What are your thoughts on Ian Happ and Lourdes Gurriel? I want to believe that both can turn it around, especially because Gurriel was ice cold last year before heating up mid-season, but I’m not sure if that’s just wishful thinking on my end.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hey Ben — Statcast doesn’t offer much hope, but both are fairly streaky. I’m more likely to wait on Gurriel if I can, but I’ve already started letting Happ go in leagues that use batting average. If there’s a bright side of Happ, it’s that they keep letting him lead off.

  • Avatar Chucky says:

    Two OFers who I like some input on. Kyle Lewis just got back a week and change and hasn’t done anything to show us why he was 20’s ROY and the newest shinny toy, the poor man’s Yasiel Puig….Adolis Garcia?

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Lewis has some good fortune and a late push to win the ROY, but I’m not overly excited about his 2021 prospects. In 10- and 12-teamers with less than 5 OF, he’s a borderline guy.

      Garcia is going to have plate discipline issues that will cause MAJOR slumps. He had K% issues even in AAA. I like the power speed, but he looks kinda similar to Lewis in terms of power+speed+low batting average on a bad team.

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