Reynolds’ Rap

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

Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT): 2-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB.

After coming out of seemingly nowhere and having a nice little breakout where he his .314 and slugged .503 for the Pirates in 2019, outfielder Bryan Reynolds crashed in 2020. His 72 wRC+ was the ninth-worst mark in the major leagues and he feel short of both 25 runs scored and 20 RBI.

Understandably, the poor 2020 tanked Reynolds’ draft stock as he went off the board at pick 308 according to the ADP data from FantasyPros in 2021 drafts. Batting average-first bats tend to get pushed down in drafts, especially when they play for an awful team, so it was hard to be too excited about Reynolds coming into the season.

At this moment, Reynolds is hitting a cool .317 and his two home runs (including a 436-foot bomb off of Brad Boxberger in the seventh inning on Sunday) already match his total from 2020. Reynolds finished the day 2-3 with a 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, and a BB. While plenty of players are off to a hot start in 2021, it’s nice to see Reynolds looking more like the 2019 version of himself as opposed to the 2020 version.

You might be wondering how it is anyone can make a whole lot of 68 plate appearances, and you’re right to be suspicious. It is absolutely a mistake to look at these 68 plate appearances on their own and assume a change has been made.

For example, I was at first excited about his excellent 45.5 Sweet Spot % (the percent of balls in play that leave the bat at an ideal launch angle), but then I took a peak at his rolling chart and realized that this looks to be a normal upswing for him:

I bring this up because this is an excellent way to get better context than merely looking at season-ending stats. The chart above simply tells a much better story than something like this:

Both are entirely accurate, but one doesn’t show you how that final number was made. Players are never just a final number—and the path to that final number is just as important as the number itself.

As far as Reynolds is concerned, the 2019 version of him was a fine fourth or fifth outfielder in 12-team formats, and probably ought to be rostered in more than the 13% of Yahoo leagues and 38% of ESPN leagues he’s claimed in as of right now (the disparity is likely due to ESPN’s standard format being five outfielders, while Yahoo’s is three). The power won’t usually wow you like it did on Sunday, but he’s otherwise a solid contributor in most categories.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday:

Josh Rojas (2B, ARI): 2-4, 1 HR, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB.

His stock was rising towards the end of the Spring Training, but it sunk right back down after starting 2-31 coming into Sunday’s action. There’s a little bit of pop and speed here and he could, in theory, get close to 15 home runs and 15 steals if he was given 140 games, but that last little detail currently looks like a pipedream in Arizona. The Diamondbacks have a lot of players they can move around the infield, including Wyatt Mathisen and Josh VanMeter, so it’s hard to imagine Rojas getting enough playing time to be relevant in all but the deepest of formats.

Michael Conforto (OF, NYM): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 R.

The somewhat notorious slow starter started slow again in 2020, but now has multiple hits in two of his last three (granted, they were up in Coors). Perhaps the mountain air will travel with him to the Mets’ next series, but even if it doesn’t I’m still not cutting or getting rid of Conforto right now.

Colin Moran (1B, PIT): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI.

This was his second home run in three days, which is impressive, and his quality of contact metrics are strong, but we’ve watched this movie before and it always ends with Moran being a platoon bat for fantasy purposes. Virtually all of the damage has been against righties, and he’s a serviceable player in DFS or deep leagues when facing a bunch of weaker ones, but otherwise there’s not much to see here.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, MIL): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 R.

JBJ extended his hitting streak to eight games with back-to-back multiple hit performances, and due to injuries, finds himself as an everyday player and in the leadoff spot. He’s not hitting the ball especially hard, though, and he somehow has yet to take a walk in 55 plate appearances. I’m not buying that this is some kind of new and improved JBJ, but we’ve seen him go on hot streaks before that were at least mildly relevant in 12-team and deeper formats, and I wouldn’t be shocked if this is simply one of those. Once Cain and Yelich return to the lineup, he’ll likely return to a platoon role.

Avisaíl García (OF, MIL): 2-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.

The Brewers have been crushed by injuries so far in 2021, and while that’s a major bummer for baseball fans, it has presented an opportunity for the leaner, meaner Avisaíl García to hit some baseballs really hard. He has a hit in eight of his last nine starts and just one strikeout in his last six, and he should be a capable outfield fill-in or flier for the time being as he occupies the Brewers’ clean up spot.

Daniel Vogelbach (1B, MIL): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Vogelbach’s 2021 has been very on brand for him. He’s got 30-home run power in his bat, evidenced by the two rockets he hit Sunday, but also very little contact ability, evidenced by the career .205 batting average. Injuries have opened up playing time at first base for Vogelbach, but this isn’t a play I recommend outside of NL-only or 20-team and deeper formats.

Ty France (3B, SEA): 2-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.

It was a great series for France as he extended his hitting streak to four games, and that kind of success should keep him locked into the second spot in the lineup for the Mariners for the foreseeable future. Statcast wholly supports the early results we’ve seen so far based on quality of contact and France is looking like a useful option as a back-end second baseman or decent middle infielder in many formats.

Travis d’Arnaud (C, ATL): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

It’s been a rather slow start for the veteran catcher, as this is just his second multi-hit performance of the season. While the actual results have been poor, Statcast gives him a .263 expected batting average and .499 expected slugging, so there’s at least some evidence to suggest that d’Arnaud is more unlucky than he is bad here in the early goings of 2021. I personally pegged d’Arnaud as the sixth-best catcher back in draft season, and I haven’t seen anything worrisome enough to consider changing my mind quite yet.

Mitch Haniger (OF, SEA): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Despite the lack of walks (which I am wholly unconcerned about), Haniger looks like the 2017-18 version of himself, and that’s a great thing to see. While leading off would be more exciting if it wasn’t for the Mariners, he’ll still be a solid runs and power contributor and should continue to be a factor in most leagues.

Ehire Adrianza (2B/OF, ATL): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI.

The uptick in playing time and the move up into the sixth spot in the order largely stems from injuries as opposed to talent, but the scrappy switch hitter should be an OK bit player for Atlanta throughout the season due to his versatility. For fantasy purposes though, he should be largely ignored.

Joc Pederson (OF, CHC): 2-3, 1 3B, 1 R, 1 BB.

The Cubbies have been rough to watch so far, and Pederson is no exception. This was just his second extra base knock of the season, and while the plate discipline looks normal, he’s just been unable to make quality contact. I do expect him to turn things around, as these sorts of slumps are simply part of his profile, but it’s OK to cringe and/or bench him if you need to.

Javier Báez (SS, CHC): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB.

The power has been there, even if the plate discipline has been atrocious—even for him. A 1.7% walk rate and 45% strikeout rate is simply not a recipe for success, but with four home runs and five steals, at least you’re getting something. No one is likely to offer you anything close to what you paid to acquire his services, so my advice is to simply hold and leave him in. If anything, it’s amazing he’s hitting .214 and not worse than that with that kind of strikeout rate.

Anthony Rizzo (1B, CHC): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

He has a hit in five straight starts and multiple hits in three of those games, so while things look bleak for the Cubs as a whole, things seem to be looking up for Rizzo.

Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB.

The batting average is low, but the OBP is spectacular and this was already his fifth home run, so don’t even think about doing anything rash.

Marcell Ozuna (OF, ATL): 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB.

He has nine hits and seven RBI in his last six games, so hopefully people stop worrying about Ozuna. Starting cold is no different than being cold in the middle of the season—the early cold streaks are just more visible.

Guillermo Heredia (OF, ATL): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI, 1 BB.

With Ender Inciarte and Cristian Pache both dealing with injuries, Heredia made the most of this opportunity and then some. While history suggests that this may not be an actionable performance in fantasy due to Heredia’s very limited power and the lack of quality contact we’ve seen in over 1000 major league plate appearances, it’s still fun to see an unheralded journeyman have this kind of performance.

Carson Kelly (C, ARI): 1-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB.

Three home runs in four games to go with improved plate discipline make him a viable streaming catcher candidate. I’d be fine swapping out Wilson Ramos or James McCann or Buster Posey for Kelly in a single catcher league if you want a hot bat.

Bryce Harper (OF, PHI): 3-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB.

This kind of performance is exactly what you signed up for. He’s walking a ton and hitting it hard, so while the counting numbers are a little behind the other elite guys, they’ll come.

Trea Turner (SS, WSH): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

He’s really good. Yup. Really good.

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 walktall says:

    I appreciate your guidance on how to approach hitters going forward. A lot of the Batter’s Box writers don’t do this, so thanks for taking that step!

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Glad you find it helpful, walktall!

      One thing I’ll say,l is that at this stage of the season, it’s hard to add a lot of long-term context that we didn’t cover ad-nauseum a month ago. I try to make it a point to cover my current going-forward thoughts, but this early on it’s not easy.

      That said, we’ll be sure to include it when we can!

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