Stott, Drop, and Roll

Breaking down the best hitting performances from Monday's games.

Bryson Stott (PHI): 3-3, 2B, HR, R, RBI, BB.

Bryson Stott is on fire. Figuratively, that is. Philadelphia’s young shortstop has nine hits in the last five games, including four extra-base hits and three stolen bases.

The hot streak couldn’t have come at a better time for the Phillies as Stott’s 3-3, 2B, HR, R, RBI, BB line from last night’s 3-0 win in Houston punched the team’s playoff ticket for the first time since 2011. Stott’s biggest hit of the night added an all-important insurance run. With the Phillies leading 1-0 in the 8th, Stott got the better of José Urquidy, pulling a first-pitch fastball just over the right-field fence.

In a year full of rookie standouts, Stott’s first MLB campaign has flown well under the radar. In 461 plate appearances, he’s slashed .237/.298/.363 with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases. That’s not exactly an eye-popping line, but Stott’s shown improvement over the course of the year. Prior to last night’s game, he was hitting .272/.326/.387 in the second half and his big day only boosted those numbers.

Stott won’t be a “can’t miss” fantasy target in drafts come spring, but if he keeps improving next year the way he did in-season this year, there’s exciting potential in his profile. A 15/15 season in 2023 seems in reach, and there’s certainly room for growth beyond that. Stott’s 7.7% walk rate is considerably lower than he posted at any minor league stop, save for a 40 plate appearance sample in Triple-A this year. FanGraphs’ Prospect Report shows room for power growth as well, as he was given just a 30-present game power rate at the start of the season with an estimated 45-future game power potential.

Keep an eye on Stott at the end of your drafts next spring. He should be a fun middle infield option in 12-team and deeper leagues.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Kyle Schwarber (PHI): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.

Schwarber joined his teammate Stott in supplying all of the Phillies’ runs last night. The two blasts were the National League homerun leader’s 45th and 46th of the year. It’s easy to pick on Schwarber for his .219 batting average, but it’s only 24 points below the paltry .243 league average mark this year. The Phillies have to be ecstatic with how the first year of the four-year, $79 million deal that Schwarber signed this offseason played out. The lefty slugger’s batting line is at .219/.324/.506, and perhaps most importantly, Schwarber’s played in 154 games and held down the fort when the team was missing Bryce Harper for months.

Bryan De La Cruz (MIA): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

If you’re a regular Batter’s Box reader, you’ve seen a lot of De La Cruz lately. Last night was another big showing for the 25-year-old as he single-handedly put up more runs than the entire Braves lineup and kept them from clinching the NL East for at least one more day. He had Bryce Elder’s number all night, homering and doubling against him. The one out he made against the Braves’ starter was still laced with a 100.8 mph exit velocity. The Marlins’ young outfielder has been on a tear since being recalled to the big league club when rosters expanded in September, slashing .390/.417/.753 over 85 plate appearances. De La Cruz’s late-season surge goes a long way in masking a disappointing .581 OPS over the first 261 plate appearances of the season. Promisingly, De La Cruz has cut his strikeout rate over five points and increased his barrel rate over seven points from that initial poor MLB stint to his successful one at the end of the year.

Wander Franco (TB): 3-4, 3B, HR, R, RBI.

This was supposed to be the year that Franco took the league by storm, dominating in his first full season of MLB play. Unfortunately, injuries slowed him down and have held him to just 82 games so far. In limited action, he’s been good but hasn’t displayed the generational talent that he possesses — he’s posted a .278/.327/.419 batting line with six home runs and eight stolen bases. The biggest question mark I see in his batted ball profile is a disappointing amount of power. In 650 career plate appearances, Franco has a barrel and flyball rate of just 4.6% and 32.5%. I’d love to see those numbers tick up early next spring signaling a sign of growing power production. Scouts loved Franco’s prospect profile for years, and let’s be honest, they know more about this than I do. I’m in on Franco to have a big year in 2023 and think better power production comes with it.

Drew Waters (KC): 2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.

Waters accounted for four of the Royals’ five runs yesterday in their win over Cleveland, singling home a run against Triston McKenzie in the second before hitting a go-ahead three-run home run against Kirk McCarty in the tenth. The former second-round pick has performed better at the plate since his MLB debut than anyone would’ve ever guessed. He passed the 100 plate appearance threshold last night and has a .261/.350/.523 triple slash line. Power was never part of his prospect profile, so seeing him with five home runs this quickly is quite a surprise; it’s being boosted by an unsustainable 22.2% HR/FB rate, and that was before last night’s game raised it even further. Waters will likely be an Opening Day starter for the Royals next year and should be fun to follow to see if his offensive outburst is just small sample size shenanigans or meaningful change to his profile.

Christian Yelich (MIL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.

The Brewers’ playoff hopes came to an end last night, but not by any fault of Christian Yelich. Milwaukee’s left fielder launched his 14th home run of the campaign against Tommy Henry in the second inning, raising his season-long slash line to .252/.355/.384. Every time I see Yelich have a good offensive day, I wonder if he’s finally getting back to his former MVP level, but we’re now 1,385 plate appearances away from his last elite season, so I think it’s time to adjust my expectation and realize that this is just the player he is now.

Gio Urshela (MIN): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.

The Yankees are likely regretting their decision to ship Urshela to Minnesota last offseason, as he’s put up better numbers this year than Josh Donaldson has manning the hot corner in the Bronx. Urshela added to his strong season with a first-inning two-run bomb against Johnny Cueto. That big fly was his 13th of the campaign, raising his slash line to a strong .285/.336/.430 mark which gets him to a 119 wRC+. Unfortunately, for Twins’ fans, those would be the only runs the team would score in their 3-2 loss in Chicago.

Javier Báez (DET): 1-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Báez hit three balls hard last night, but only had one hit to show for it — a third-inning home run against George Kirby, his seventeenth blast of the year. Much has already been said about the all-around disappointing season in Detroit this year, but Báez is perhaps the most baffling of the underperformers. The former All-Star shortstop is slashing just .239/.280/.397. He’s well known for his swing-and-miss approach at the plate, but his 25.1% strikeout rate is over an eight percentage point improvement. It seems like while he’s making more contact, it’s worse quality. His hard hit rate is down from 36.8% last year to 26.3% this year, easily the worst mark of his career. If I was a Tigers fan, I’d be biting my nails looking at the rest of that six-year, $140 million deal that Báez signed last winter.

Albert Pujols (STL): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.

The Machine is living up to his famous nickname once again. Mitch Keller hung a curveball right over the middle of the plate last night, and Pujols deposited it in the left field seats for the 703rd home run and 2,216th RBI of his career. The home run was Pujols’ third in his last five games. St. Louis is surely hoping he stays red hot when their first playoff series begins on Friday.

Whit Merrifield (TOR): 3-3, R, 2 RBI.

Since Santiago Espinal hit the IL on September 22nd, Merrifield has moved into the Blue Jays’ starting second base role and has played incredibly well. Over his past 12 games, Merrifield is slashing .463/.477/.854. Whether Espinal is healthy or not, Merrifield’s hot streak has likely earned him a spot in the starting lineup when Toronto’s first playoff game rolls around on Friday. Before this recent stretch, Merrifield had been playing very sparingly since the Blue Jays acquired him at the trade deadline. One clutch postseason moment is all he needs to look like a great midseason addition.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from fantasy leagues to the legitimate defensive prowess of Kyle Schwarber as a left fielder. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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