Springer “Springing” Into 2022

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday’s games.

George Springer (TOR): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB.

 

It wasn’t exactly a great first season in Toronto for George Springer in 2021.

His numbers were fine. After all, he did post a triple slash of .264/.352/.555 as well as mash 22 home runs while generating a 2.1 fWAR for the Blue Jays.

However, the issues weren’t with him when he was on the field. It was just getting on the field in the first place that was problematic.

Springer dealt with nagging injuries all year, as he only played in 78 games and accumulated 342 plate appearances for the Blue Jays in 2021. That was only 120 more plate appearances than his number in 2020, his last season in Houston which was cut short by the pandemic. For a player being paid to be a “premium” contributor, appearing in less than 80 games isn’t going to suffice, especially with the deal going until 2026.

The injuries mostly had an effect on Springer at the start of the season. He not only played in just 11 games during the first three months of 2021 but he also just hit .194 in 20 games prior to the All-Star Break.

Springer and Blue Jays fans (as well as fantasy managers who roster him) needed a different start in 2022.

Thankfully, the 32-year-old outfielder has delivered.

Springer has already played in more games in April (21) than he did in the first half of 2021. And not only is he playing, but he’s mashing at an incredible clip so far and is a prime reason why the Blue Jays are in second place of a tough AL East division.

Over 89 plate appearances, Springer is posting a triple slash of .300/.360/.588. He has hit six home runs and scored 15 runs as the Jays’ primary leadoff hitter. And according to ZiPS rest-of-season projections, he’s expected to finish in the four range in fWAR, which would be his best mark since 2019, when he posted a career-best fWAR of 6.3.

On Saturday, he also showed why he is perhaps a dark-horse MVP candidate, as he produced the only two runs for the Blue Jays against his former team (Houston), which came via solo home runs off of Luis Garcia.

April was certainly a month to remember for Spring, Blue Jays fans, and fantasy managers who decided to invest in him this year, despite his injury-plagued 2021.

Let’s see if Springer will transition this hot Spring performance into the Summer months.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Kyle Garlick (MIN): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

 

The Twins’ journeyman outfielder, who made his debut with the Dodgers when he was 27, had a banner day on Saturday against Tampa Bay. Garlick hit two home runs off of Rays’ starting pitcher Shane McClanahan, both of which produced exit velocities of 110.2 and 109.3 MPH, respectively. He also generated three RBI and is currently sporting an OPS of .983 for the season.

With the return of Max Kepler from injury, Garlick is kind of a platoon bat in Minnesota. He got the start against the left-handed McClanahan but was pulled once the lefty came out of the game. However, Garlick is a patient hitter (16.7 percent walk rate) who can produce some pop, even if he may not be an everyday player for the Twins.

Mookie Betts (LAD): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

 

While it wasn’t a great day for Dodgers fans, as Los Angeles lost to the Tigers 5-1, Betts had a solid day at the plate. Not only did he garner two hits, a run scored, and an RBI, but he also hit a solo blast, which accounted for the Dodgers’ only run off of Detroit’s Beau Briske (not to be confused with Bill Brasky).

It hasn’t been a great start for Betts, as he is producing a slash of .230/.352/.378. Betts has hit some tough BABIP luck (.255 in April), but his Statcast data also signal some concerns. His 89.3 MPH exit velocity is the first time it’s been under 90 since 2017, and his 3.4 barrel rate is his lowest rate in this category since 2017 as well (when it was 4.2). It’s only one month, but how Betts’ power fares going forward in 2022 will be something for Dodgers fans and fantasy managers to pay attention to.

Nick Ahmed (ARI): 2-3, HR, R, RBI.

 

Since returning from injury, Ahmed has been off to a scorching start in his first six games in 2022. He’s posting a triple slash of .368/.368/.789 and he has already hit two home runs in 19 plate appearances. For context, he hit five home runs in 473 plate appearances in 2021! On Saturday, his home run was a bit lucky of Miles Mikolas, as it only had an expected batting average of .280 on it, according to Statcast. However, Ahmed will take it, especially considering the injury issues and struggles he’s dealt with the past couple of seasons.

Ahmed did hit 16 home runs in 2018 and 19 home runs in 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see if that power will return in 2022, which could boost rosters looking for waiver wire middle infield help.

Jason Vosler (SF): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.

 

Vosler is a prime example of the Giants’ player development and scouting perhaps finding another diamond in the rough. A longtime Minor League journeyman in the Cubs system, Vosler was acquired by the Giants in 2021. His debut didn’t go as planned, as he only hit .178 in 41 games. That being said, 2022 has been a much different story, which is much-needed for a Giants team that is seeing a slew of key players missing time due to injury or COVID.

Through eight games and 29 plate appearances, the 28-year-0ld utility player is slashing .292/.379/.583 with two home runs and five RBI. On Saturday, not only did he generate two hits and two RBI, but he also hit a solo home run off of Nationals reliever Erasmo Ramirez in a 9-3 Giants win.

The Giants have had success tapping into players who were buried in other organizations over the past few seasons, such as Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf. Perhaps Vosler will be 2022’s breakout candidate for the Giants.

Michael Chavis (PIT): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

 

Chavis was kind of an afterthought going into 2022, as the former Red Sox slugger was traded midseason last year by Boston to Pittsburgh for reliever Austin Davis.  Chavis flashed some potential with the Red Sox in 2019, as he hit 18 home runs and produced an OPS of .766 in 95 games and 382 plate appearances. However, strikeouts have always been an issue for the 26-year-old, which is demonstrated in his 32.2 percent career strikeout rate.

This year in Pittsburgh, as the regular second baseman, Chavis is mashing, as he is producing an OPS of .835 and three home runs and 11 RBI in 17 games and 60 plate appearances. The K rate is also slightly down at 23.9 percent, though the 0.21 BB/K ratio could still stand some improvement. The expectations for Chavis and his team are a lot lower in Pittsburgh than in Boston, and it seems like he has thrived in that environment.

He is only rostered in five percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, so he may be worth a flier for fantasy managers looking for help, especially at the keystone position.

Christian Yelich (MIL): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

 

After producing All-Star campaigns in 2018 and 2019 with the Brewers, it’s been a tough stretch since for Milwaukee’s franchise player. He’s only accumulated a 2.5 fWAR total from 2019 to 2022, which is down from the 15 fWAR he produced in 2018 and 2019 combined.  After hitting .248 with an OPS of .736 in 2021, which was a career-worst, there was some hope that Yelich could rebound in 2022 and be the “star” that he once was when he first arrived in Milwaukee.

Unfortunately, it’s been closer to 2019 through 2022 for Yelich this year than 2018 and 2019.

Yelich is only hitting .230 with an OPS of .727 in 21 games and 74 plate appearances. The barrel rate is up at 9.2 percent, which is roughly double his 2021 rate, and his .275 BABIP does hint at some rough batted ball luck. His performance against the Cubs was a step in the right direction, as he not only accumulated three hits, but he also hit a two-run bomb off of Cubs reliever Locke St. John.

It hasn’t been a great first month for the Brewers star. Hopefully, his last performance in April can build into a much better May and the remainder of 2022 for Brewers fans and managers who roster him in their leagues.

Darin Ruf (SF): 3-5, R, SB.

 

Ruf is living up to his namesake by having a “rough” start to the 2022 season. He is only hitting .177 with an OPS of .488 over 21 games and 79 plate appearances. Ruf was expected to benefit from the DH being permanently implemented in 2022, but unfortunately, it will be hard for him to get at-bats in that spot if he’s not hitting (especially with the depth of bench bats on the San Francisco active roster).

The former KBO star did have a much better day against the Nationals, as he garnered three hits and a stolen base, which was a bit of a surprise since he is not typically known for his speed (two stolen bases a year ago). The Giants currently have Brandon Belt, Mike Yastrzemski, Evan Longoria, and Steven Duggar on the shelf so Ruf will get some plate appearances in the coming week.

If he can turn it around, he could get back into consideration as the Giants’ regular DH going forward, which could make him an enticing waiver wire pickup (rostered in two percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues).

 

Victor Robles (WSH): 2-3, R, RBI, BB.

 

Every year, fantasy managers are tempted by Robles, and every year, he seems to let them down. Robles’ line is still not good, as he is slashing .241/.293/.333 in 20 games and 61 plate appearances. That being said, he is still just 24-years-old, and he seems to be entrenched as the Nationals’ everyday centerfielder. So at the very least, he’s the kind of hitter who will get plate appearances, even if they will be empty more often than not.

Robles had a fine day at the plate against San Francisco, as he went two-for-three with a run, RBI, and walk. Robles is probably at the end of the day “Michael A. Taylor 2.0″ for Washington. And yet, in deep leagues, he could be a cheap FAAB pickup, especially if he can have more performances like his one on Saturday.

Ryan McMahon (COL): 2-3, 3B, 2 RBI.

 

At 12-9, the Rockies are a refreshing surprise in the NL West. Even though their ownership group, led by Dick Monfort, was the subject of a lot of vitriol during the lockout (Monfort was the lead for the owners), Colorado actually has put a pretty good product on the field in 2022. Connor Joe has been a revelation at the top of the lineup, C.J. Cron has been Andrés Galarraga 2.0, and McMahon has also produced in the middle of the order, as he is hitting .261 with an OPS of .834 over 81 plate appearances.

Against the Reds on Saturday, McMahon fueled a Rockies comeback that included four runs in the bottom of the sixth. McMahon drove in two Rockies runs on a key triple off of Reds reliever Art Warren that effectively gave the Rockies the lead for good. McMahon’s +28 WPA was also the highest mark in that category for any Red or Rockie player in Saturday’s game.

McMahon is mashing the ball more than ever, as evidenced by his 17.8 percent barrel rate and .501 expected weighted on-base average on contact (xwOBACon). He was on the All-Star radar in 2021. If he continues to hit the ball into May and June as he did in April, it isn’t out of the question to think that he could finally make his first All-Star team in July.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien is a high school educator and baseball blogger based in the Kansas City metro area. In addition to writing for Pitcher List, he writes about the Kansas City Royals at his own blog, the Royals Reporter, which can be found at royalsreporter.com.

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