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.
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).