Juan Soto (WSH): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, BB.
Sure seems like the post-Home Run Derby hangover is real.
And by that, I mean Juan Soto has apparently decided to keep binging in an effort to ward off any ill effects, and it’s working. In his four games back, Soto has gone 10-17 with a whopping five home runs and two doubles, driving in 11 runs while scoring eight himself. He led the way last night in the Nationals’ 18-1 rout of Miami, finishing the day 3-4 with a double and two homers, three runs, five RBI, and a walk. Wow.
Soto, for his part, argues the Derby actually fixed his swing, and quite frankly who are we to argue against him? Heading into the All-Star Break, Soto was slashing .283/.407/.445 with just 11 home runs and a rather meager .162 ISO, denoting that his power stroke was lacking through the first half of the season. While the .344 ISO Soto put up in 2020 seemed a bit too good to be true, the .251 career ISO mark hinted that he was underperforming in the power department. And while Soto’s first half wasn’t bad by any means, it certainly didn’t feel up to the standard he had set for himself.
Well, apparently Juan Soto agreed and through just four games back has raised his season ISO to .211, bringing his respectable 130 wRC+ up to an elite 148. Even with a lacking power stroke, Soto had an elite OBP in the first half (walking more than he struck out), but adding on the extra power that I can only assume one naturally gets from beating Shohei Ohtani in a home run faceoff brings Soto back into the top tier of fantasy players on the season. I don’t think anyone was too worried, but in just 20 plate appearances Soto has silenced any doubters. There’s not much else to contribute in the analysis department—this guy seems to have fixed the one thing he was struggling with this season. What a difference four games make.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Michael Conforto (NYM): 3-6, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Speaking of disappointing power numbers, Michael Conforto has posted a career-low ISO this season, hitting just three home runs before the All-Star Break. Taking a page out of Soto’s book, Conforto has smashed three homers in the past two games including two last night. His power numbers are still woefully low (he’s slugging just .367) but a nice walk rate keeps his OBP high. If this is the start of a power surge, we could be getting a glimpse of the Conforto that stirred fantasy managers’ hearts. If you’ve held, this is what you’ve been holding for.
Tyler Naquin (CIN): 5-6, 2B, 4 RBI.
Now eclipsing the highest PA count since his rookie season, Naquin has remained unable to match his performance from his 133 wRC+ debut season back in 2016, probably in large part due to the inflated .411 BABIP from 2016. After a scorching start to the season, Naquin has settled back to slightly below-average offensive numbers. Despite starting the second half with a .500/.529/.625 slash line through four games, I’m not hugely interested. He could be a good injury fill-in if this is a legitimate hot streak, but he doesn’t seem to have a high enough ceiling to be too concerned in fantasy.
Dylan Carlson (STL): 2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB.
It hasn’t quite been the season many hoped for Dylan Carlson, who has posted a rather underwhelming .254/.338/.392 slash line in 2021, good for a just-above-average 103 wRC+ on the season. Still, we occasionally get glimpses of his fantasy potential with nights like these. Carlson started off with an RBI single in the third, drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth to score another, and then capped the night off with a two-run homer off Keegan Thompson in the sixth. At the moment, Carlson doesn’t hurt you, but he hasn’t really contributed a lot to your fantasy roster. I think that will change, but I’m not convinced it’ll be this season that it does.
Patrick Wisdom (CHC): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
After a wild power surge to start the season, Wisdom has settled down considerably but has remained a surprisingly solid fantasy contributor. The power—while not at the astronomical levels we saw in May/June—has remained, and while the strikeouts and lack of walks are still killer, his hit tool seems to be making up for it. Since June 22, Wisdom has a brutal 1.6% BB rate to a 41.0% K rate. Yet in that same stretch, he’s slashing .271/.295/.559, which is good for a 127 wRC+. I’m not convinced he isn’t going to hit a wall at some point and go through a big slump, but he’s exceeded my expectations and has made a solid argument to being rosterable long-term—as long as you aren’t in an OBP league.
Trea Turner (WSH): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
On a night when the Nats piled on 18 runs in support of Jon Lester, this seems almost a pedestrian line for Turner, but keep in mind he was pulled in the seventh. While he hasn’t quite hit the peaks of last season, he’s still rocking an elite 140 wRC+ on the year. He’s awesome, and he’s worth his ADP.
Jorge Polanco (MIN): 2-4, RBI, SB.
Despite a ton of offense on the evening, we didn’t see a lot of aggression on the basepaths leaguewide. Polanco hasn’t been able to replicate the success of his 2019 season, and instead settled into an acceptable average-or-better offensive profile. Stolen bases like this help considerably with his fantasy value, but considering the Twins’ season hasn’t gone like many thought, his fantasy value has been rather limited.
Akil Baddoo (DET): 2-5, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB.
It seemed like the classic scenario—a rookie has a dazzling start and then quickly peters out once major league pitching adjusts. But then Baddoo made some adjustments himself and figured out one of the hardest elements in all of sports—taking a walk. He’s still striking out a lot, of course, but with the ability to draw a walk and get on base, on top of that tantalizing power/speed combination—he’s blossomed into a legitimate fantasy stud. Just imagine if he were on a contender.
Mitch Garver (MIN): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
After sitting the first game of the doubleheader, Garver finally made his first start since June 1st in the second game and made it count, smashing a pair of solo homers and bringing him up to 10 on the year. He’s a streaky hitter by nature, but it seems last year’s shortened season (extra-shortened for Garver by injury) can be largely discounted. He’s up to 144 wRC+ on the season, and is a great fantasy option at catcher as long as he stays healthy.
Enrique Hernández (BOS): 3-5, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Hernández started the game with a leadoff double, kicking off a Sox run that would chase Blue Jays starter Ross Stripling with just one out and six earned runs. He kept it up, going yard twice as Boston coasted to a win over Toronto. Hernández has enjoyed an everyday role in Boston, primarily in the leadoff spot, but still has the dramatic splits we’ve seen for his entire career—mashing lefties and struggling against righties. With positional flexibility and some of the best power numbers of his career, he’s likely worth rostering but not worth getting excited about. He’s a solid bench bat or injury replacement.
J.D. Martinez (BOS): 4-4, 2 2B, 2 R, BB.
Like many of us, J.D. has decided to pretend last year just never happened. And with that, he’s picked up right where he left off, posting yet another dominating offensive season. He’s at 150 wRC+ and 19 homers on the year, on a Red Sox offense that has overperformed most initial expectations.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)