Rogers’ Discount Double-Check

Scott Chu covers the most interesting hitters from Sunday.

Jake Rogers (DET): 1-2, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that over the next few days that you HAVE to consider adding Tigers’ co-catcher Jake Rogers to your fantasy team. I mean, if you’re in a two-catcher league, his 1-2 performance that included a grand slam, 2 runs scored, and two walks would have been pretty sweet in your batting line, and it’s worth mentioning that over his last 15 games he has a .292/.370/.604 line with two doubles, two triples, and three home runs. That said, he’s still striking out over 30% of the time and bats ninth for a bad offense, so single-catcher players don’t have a ton of upside to work with here. If your league gives points for strong mustaches, which it should, Rogers is a top catcher. That thing is gorgeous.

Still, with it being the All-Star Break, now is an excellent opportunity to poke around your league and see which players you like that are available for a discount. It’s a common strategy this time of year, and to that point, I wanted to add a few comments about how I go about this during the quiet times:

  • First and foremost, if you’re targeting a player, do not attempt to bash that player to the other manager. It’s a very transparent tactic that will almost certainly backfire. These kinds of things might work for some in certain leagues, but in competitive leagues or leagues with friends/colleagues that I am in, this is almost universally seen as distasteful. In fact, don’t try to “trick” someone at all. They’re likely to see through it and think less of you for it. Honestly, I would too.
  • When it comes to targeting players to trade for, I really want to encourage you to do more than just look at the expected stat leaderboards on Statcast. It’s a perfectly acceptable starting point, but it is not a perfectly acceptable ending point. Expected stats help us identify if a player has been crushed by bad luck or boosted by good luck, but it’s not a projection of things to come. Predicting second-half breakouts is essentially fortune-telling, and while Statcast is useful in that endeavor, most players need more than just good luck to turn things around.
  • As I mentioned in the last episode of Hacks & Jacks, which will be back next Monday, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. The internet is full of rankings and projections, and you may like certain players more than the majority of analysts or other managers. Just because a Facebook group, Discord server, or Batter’s Box comments section won’t love your trade doesn’t mean you should scrap it. Hopefully, the detractors provide insight and suggestions, but at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to manage that team. I’m not afraid to “lose” a trade via popular opinion if I truly believe it will give me a better chance to win.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, figure out what it is you need. This is actually a bit more nuanced than it sounds.  For example, just because you’re last in steals doesn’t mean you actually need steals—if you’re insanely behind in steals even to the second-to-last place team, it’s possibly time to just punt them and target other categories. Also, you may be near the top in home runs, but it might be a tight race between four or five teams, all of who are within striking distance. This kind of context should be heavily impacting your midseason analysis of what you need. You need to solidify leads in categories while also targeting categories where you can make up the most ground with the least amount of work (generally, this is tightly-packed bunches, usually near the middle of the rankings).

I know this is all sort of anecdotal stuff, but the reality of trading in fantasy baseball is that it’s a human experience. You can offer a manager a slam dunk on paper that the math says they MUST accept, just to see it declined immediately. You might send out a feeler that you’re sure will be denied only for it to be quickly accepted. Above all, be kind out there and have fun. Trading can be a lot of fun and very exciting, but only if you’re not being a jerk.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday

 

Jorge Polanco (MIN): 3-6, HR, R, 5 RBI, SB.

Polanco has been heating up, and over his last eight games, he has three home runs and 11 RBI with a .273 batting average. It’s been a bit of a sluggish first half for him in terms of batting average, but the 27-year-old infielder could very well get to 20 home runs and double-digit stolen bases by the time 2021 is over and be a top-20 shortstop and top-16 second baseman for the rest of the season.

Akil Baddoo (DET): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

This was Baddoo’s first home run since May 31 and just his second since April 13, but his athleticism and contact skills have earned him a start in 13 of his team’s last 15 games. Baddoo remains available in roughly 70% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, and his speed and power potential would be a boon to anyone looking for another outfielder.

Alex Kirilloff (MIN): 2-5, R, 2 RBI, BB.

Kiriloff has been in the lineup every day this month and has rewarded the Twins with a .289/.372/.500 line for their confidence. The plate discipline remains strong for the young lefty, and if he can maintain a full-time role for the rest of the season (which is a big “if”), he could push to be a top-15 to 20 option.

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

Kepler has been much improved since his return from the IL in mid-June, with five home runs, two steals, and an .863 OPS. He’s not hitting as high up in the order as he used to, but the power is encouraging. If there’s one thing that has me nervous, it’s the 29.3% strikeout rate since his return, which is a far cry from the excellent 18.4% it was prior to missing time. Keep an eye on the strikeout rate, but for now, he’s a serviceable back-end outfielder.

Abraham Toro (HOU): 1-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB, SB.

There isn’t much left to learn for Toro in the minors—he’s had an OPS over 1.000 across double-A and triple-A since the start of 2019—but he’s struggled to put all of his tools together at the major league level. What’s unusual for Toro in his small sample with the Astros is that it isn’t the breaking stuff that is giving him issues—in fact, he hits that stuff better than anything else! Fastballs are the problem, as he’s been unable to muster any kind of power against heaters, and while the game has shifted towards fewer fastballs, it’s still going to be tough for anyone to succeed if they struggle with them. His overall skill set is still intriguing from a dynasty perspective, but I don’t think he can be considered in all but the deepest of redraft formats.

Max Muncy (LAD): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Muncy is on pace to have his best season yet—he’s walking more than he strikes out, he’s hitting for a ton of power (this was his 19th home run), and most surprisingly, he’s hitting .270. He’s a clear-cut top-five option at any base, and a top-30 hitter for me the rest of the way.

Mookie Betts (LAD): 3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB.

In his last 15 starts (16 appearances), he’s hitting .290/.371/.548 with now four home runs (thanks to three in his last five games), 15 runs scored (seven in his last two games), and 10 RBI (six over the weekend). The plate discipline has been strong, and all we’ve really been dealing with here is a slump. I think he’s definitely going to get to 25 home runs and 15 stolen bases, and while that may be a disappointment based on his draft day projections, he’s still a top-10 player for the rest of the season in my eyes.

C.J. Cron (COL): 3-4, 2 2B, HR, R, RBI.

Cron has been and perhaps always will be a 25-home run bat who hits .250 when he plays 120 games or more (which to be fair, has only happened twice). I had hoped that the giant outfield in Coors would boost his batting average a bit, but his .254 average on the season is right in line with his career mark of .257. The OBP boost has been nice, which is a result of him nearly doubling his walk rate, but this is a fringey top-15 to top-20 first baseman for fantasy purposes who will be frustrating to manage due to the home/road splits that come with being a Rockies hitter.

David Fletcher (LAA): 4-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

Fletcher extended his incredible hitting streak to 24 games yesterday. In those 24 games, he’s hitting a cool .439 with two home runs, a steal, and 34 combined runs and RBI. Fletcher doesn’t bring a lot of home runs or steals to the table, but when he’s locked in, few players can match his ability to put the ball in play. The return of Justin Upton may complicate the lineup a bit, but Fletcher should be rostered and started in all formats when baseball comes back on Friday.

Kyle Tucker (HOU): 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB, 2 SB.

While I wish they had Tucker running more, his 15 home runs, seven steals, and .271/.330/.503 line is what I had had in mind for coming into the season. He has been fantasy’s 14th best outfielder according to the Fangraphs Auction Calculator, and I think there’s a very good chance he can be inside the top-10 for the rest of the season and be a top-25 overall hitter.

Jesús Aguilar (MIA): 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.

The bat has definitely perked up in July, as he already has three home runs, 11 RBI, and a pristine 12.2% walk rate to a 14.6% strikeout rate in 41 plate appearances. He’s been much better than expected, though it’s fair to point out that very little was expected, and he’s a hot name in trade talks. While other ballparks would be a lot easier to hit home runs in, I doubt any other team is all that interested in batting Aguilar third most days, so a trade is more likely to be neutral (or worse) to his fantasy outlook than it is to be positive.

Rodolfo Castro (PIT): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.

Castro now has three hits as a major leaguer, and each of them has cleared the fence. The 22-year-old is a switch-hitting infield prospect with a nice swing and solid power, but plate discipline has been a bit of an issue. His strong start to the season in Double-A turned a few heads, though, and Dynasty and NL-only managers may want to keep an eye on Castro, who could see a larger role if he continues to hit well or if teammate Adam Frazier is traded at the deadline.

Michael Conforto (NYM): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

The hits remain few and far between for Conforto, though it was nice to see his first home run since May 1st. The plate discipline is still very strong, and it’s not as though his quality of contact metrics on Statcast are alarmingly different than what he’s done in the past. If I was struggling badly in power, this is the type of player I would target. While most players don’t wish to trade at a player’s lowest point, there’s a very good chance that the manager who rosters Conforto has been considering dropping him. I think Conforto can be a top-50 outfielder the rest of the way. You can’t wait for him to start showing too many signs that he’s waking up, though—that will be too late.

Francisco Lindor (NYM): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.

In his last 10 games, he has 18 combined runs and RBI, two home runs, a steal, and a .355/.500/.548 line. While the two homers are his only extra-base hits in that stretch, at least this small sample somewhat resembles the Lindor we’ve been waiting for. He’s been roughly a top-20 shortstop so far on the season, and with any luck, he can be a top-10 shortstop the rest of the way. I probably wouldn’t hope for much more than that.

Andrew Vaughn (CWS): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

Vaughn had an excellent weekend in Baltimore, spreading six hits out over three games with two walks and just one strikeout. After hitting .290 with five home runs in his last 100 plate appearances, it’s frustrating to see how often he’s hitting seventh (or worse) in the lineup, but at least he’s in the lineup nearly every day. Vaughn has been handling left-handed pitching as well as anyone in the league, but he’s still adjusting to right-handers. I’m still a bit down on him compared to others, but I do think he can be a top-20 first baseman and top-70 outfielder for the rest of the season, with maybe top-12 to top-15 and top-50 upside if he can find a groove against righties and get out of the bottom of the order.

Dansby Swanson (ATL): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Well, Swanson is hot again. He’s been running hot and cold all season, and after a rough stretch at the end of June, he’s put together four straight multi-hit games. While the strikeout rate will likely keep his batting average a bit lower (.240ish), he should manage to roller coaster his way to 25 home runs and 10 steals and end up as a top-15 fantasy shortstop.

Matt Olson (OAK): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Olson is on pace for a 40-home run season after knocking his 22nd and 23rd out of the park on Sunday. The dramatic strikeout rate reduction—currently at 16.5%, which is about eight points lower than his career numbers—has led to a big boost in batting average as well. It’s hard not to love what 2021’s best first baseman not named Vladimir Gurrero Jr. has done, and I doubt I’d do anything but hold him if you’ve been lucky enough to roster him in fantasy.

Ronald Torreyes (PHI): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.

Have a day, Ronald! The return of Didi Gregorius has relegated Torreyes to a bench role, but that didn’t stop him from having back-to-back three-hit performances for the Phillies. The 28-year-old infielder has a .277 batting average in 772 career plate appearances thanks to his contact-heavy profile, but he has only seven home runs and six stolen bases in that stretch, which roughly projects to about five of each if he played a full season. The batting average makes him mildly useful in NL-only formats when he’s filling in for an injured player.

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 Orange WHIPs says:

    Is Kiriloff’s plate discipline strong? I’m seeing a 6.5% walk rate and Baseball Savant has his Chase Rate, Whiff%, and Walk% all well below average.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hey Orange Whips —

      Since the start of June, he has a 7.8% walk rate and a very nice 18.8% strikeout rate. So far in July (43 PA), it’s a 9.3% walk rate and a 20.9% strikeout rate. I’d say that’s pretty darn good for a rookie.

      It’s also worth noting that the SwStr% has been improving all season (check out the rolling chart on FanGraphs to see it — I also just tweeted it) and over the last month or so it’s been about 11%, which is league average.

      I suppose someone could say more average than strong, but I guess I’m using “strong” in the context of rookies, and while he does chase a bit more than usual, he’s able to make contact on a lot of those pitches.

  • Avatar larry womack says:

    Hi Scott,

    Who do you like better at SS for ROS-Polanco or Didi.

    Is Conforto a solid pickup for the remaining season?

    Thanks for fielding all the questions.

    • Avatar Scott Chu says:

      Hey Larry —

      1) Polanco. I just think he’ll be as good or better in nearly every category (well, Didi will have more RBI by 7-10 and Polanco will probably have 7-10 more runs).

      2) Do you have an open space? I think his upside for ROS is excellent, though it’s worth noting that the stats do pretty ugly right now.

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