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The Drury Is Out

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday’s games

Brandon Drury (CIN): 5-8, HR, 3 2B, 4 R, 5 RBI.

 

To say that Drury is a “journeyman” in Major League Baseball would be putting it lightly.

Drury is currently in his sixth organization since being drafted in the 13th round by the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 MLB Draft. According to Fangraphs, Drury is currently on a one-year, $900,000 deal, which shows that he is pretty much a temporary stopgap in the outfield for a rebuilding Cincinnati Reds squad.

Drury has showcased some interesting seasons in the past. In his first full year with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, he hit 16 home runs and had 53 RBI in 499 PA. The following year, he had an even better season, as he hit 13 home runs, had 63 RBI, and generated an fWAR of 1.8, which has been a career-high thus far.

Since that 2017 season, it has been a journey for Drury, and not necessarily in a good way.

Prior to the start of the 2018 season, Drury was traded to the Yankees in a three-way deal with the Rays that also included players Steven Souza, Taylor Widener, and Nick Solak. Drury only played 18 games for the Yankees due to injury and was later traded that season to the Blue Jays. He only played in eight games with the Jays in 2018.

Drury did hit 15 home runs in 120 games and 447 plate appearances with the Blue Jays in 2019. However, he struck out 25.3 percent of the time, hit .218, and only generated an fWAR of -0.2. He only played 21 games in Toronto during the shortened COVID season, and only hit .152 to boot. It’s not surprising that he and the Jays parted ways after that season.

After resurrecting his career with a .274/.307/.476 slash and four home runs in 51 games with the Mets in 2021, Drury has found a spot on a reeling Reds team. Not only is he posting a slash of .274/.325/575, but he has also hit five home runs, scored 12 runs, and had 15 RBI in 22 games this season. Drury also took advantage of the two games against the Pirates on Saturday at Great America Ballpark, as he accumulated five hits overall as well as three doubles and a home run.

Roster Resource has Drury penciled in as the Reds’ starting second baseman, which makes sense with star Jonathan India out. Even when India comes back though, Drury has made his case that he belongs in the lineup on a regular, if not everyday, basis.

Considering the Reds rank 29th in the league in OPS, he may get that opportunity, especially with a season that already feels lost after just over a month of play. Drury is currently rostered in three percent of Yahoo leagues and one percent of ESPN leagues as of May 8th and may be worth taking a flier on for fantasy managers looking for a jolt in their outfield or utility spots.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Ben Gamel (PIT): 5-9, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

 

Gamel was another top performer from the Pirates’ double-header, as he had five hits overall, which included a two-run home run in game 2 off of Reds pitcher Robert Dugger. After bouncing around with Seattle, Milwaukee, and Cleveland in his career, Gamel seems to be settled in Pittsburgh, as he is posting a slash of .308/.379/.474 with two home runs and 12 runs scored over 87 plate appearances. At 30-years-old, Gamel may not be a long-term option in the outfield for Pittsburgh, but he is someone Pirates fans, and fantasy managers can rely on for now.

As of May 8th, Gamel is only rostered in two percent of Yahoo leagues and one percent of ESPN leagues, which makes him an ideal FAAB or waiver pickup for managers looking for outfield help.

Freddie Freeman (LAD): 4-8, 2 2B, 2 R.

 

Freeman dominated Cubs pitching, as he garnered four hits and two doubles in the double-header slate on Saturday at Wrigley Field. The former Atlanta franchise player has not missed a beat since moving to sunny Los Angeles, as he is posting a triple slash of .316/.400/.516 and has three home runs and 17 runs scored in 25 games and 110 plate appearances. The home run and ISO (.200) totals are a little concerning, especially considering his first-round reputation in drafts. However, ZiPS projects that Freeman will be on the cusp of another 30-home run and near five fWAR campaign.

Safe to say, Freeman has lived up to his contract hype so far in year one, and he’ll be key for the Dodgers if they want to pull away in the NL West in 2022.

Harrison Bader (STL): 3-4, 2 R, SB. 

 

Bader is certainly known for his glove, as he has consistently been one of the highest-rated defensive outfielders in baseball (he also earned a Gold Glove last season). That being said, his offense has been more of an adventure. After hitting .205 in 2019 and .226 in 2020, he put up a batting average of .267 in 2021, which was a career-high. This year, the batting average is down at .247, but it is climbing up, thanks to three-hit performances like his one against the Giants on Saturday.

Bader has also scored 15 runs and stolen seven bases, with the latter being only two fewer stolen bases than his nine total a year ago. If Bader can hover in the .250-.260 range, he could certainly be a 20+ SB threat, as manager Oliver Marmol seems more prone than past manager Mike Shildt to give Bader the green light on the basepaths.

Franmil Reyes (CLE): 3-6, HR, 2 R, RBI.

 

It hasn’t been a great start for Reyes, the Cleveland slugger who has tremendous power but concerning strikeout issues.

Last season, Reyes hit 30 home runs in 115 games, but he struck out 32 percent of the time, a career-high. This year, he has only hit three home runs, and he has struck out 43.9 percent of the time, which is a nearly unplayable rate. As a result, his triple slash metrics have plummeted to .205/.245/.301, respectively. His .097 ISO is also alarming, especially considering so much, if not all, of Reyes’ value, is tied to power.

Reyes was able to come back yesterday with a three-hit performance against the Blue Jays, which included a much-needed home run. It will be interesting to see if Reyes will get better once the weather heats up, or if his strikeout issues will continue to plague him for the remainder of the 2022 season.

Willson Contreras (CHC): 3-7, 3B, HR, 2 R, RBI.

 

Contreras has been a solid contributor for a Cubs team that is clearly in rebuilding mode at 9-17. He is currently posting a slash of .253/.352/4.68 and his 137 wRC+ would be a career-high. His solid metrics could be tied to his improvement in K rate, as it sits currently at 20.9 percent. That percentage is not only 7.7 percent lower than a year ago, but 3.5 percent lower than his career K rate as well. That improvement in batting eye is a big reason why he’s been arguably the Cubs’ most productive hitter so far in 2022.

The 30-year-old catcher had a triple and a home run over the two-game slate on Saturday against the Dodgers. Even though his performances didn’t help Chicago in the win column on Saturday, the Cubs will need Contreras to continue to deliver outings like Saturday, especially with their season seemingly going south quickly after rough recent series losses against the Dodgers and White Sox.

Jorge Polanco (MIN): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI.

 

The Twins are embracing a “system-developed” movement, as their lineup yesterday consisted of all “homegrown” Twins players. On one end, that is a positive sign for the Twins’ scouting and development department. On the other hand, it also means that the Twins are getting hammered by injuries, which has been something that the franchise has struggled with consistently over the past couple of seasons.

One mainstay in the lineup has been Polanco, who not only garnered three hits yesterday against the Athletics, but he was also responsible for the game’s lone run, which came via a home run off of A’s starter James Kaprielian in the sixth inning. Carlos Correa received all the free-agent hype in Minnesota going into 2022, and Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis have also attracted some considerable attention with their recent call-ups. However, Polanco continues to be a consistent run-producer for the Twins, as evidenced by his 113 wRC+ this year.

Josh Bell (WSN): 2-4, HR, 3 R, RBI.

 

During fantasy draft season, Bell had an ADP of 135 in Yahoo leagues and was ranked as the 19th-best first baseman in Yahoo as well. It wasn’t uncanny to see Bell go in the 8th-to-12th round of many drafts either, with the fluctuation depending on the format and depth of a particular league.

So far this year, Bell is making fantasy managers who passed on him in their respective drafts pay.

Currently, Bell is the top-rated first baseman on a wRC+ basis with a 186 mark in that category, according to Fangraphs. Bell also is posting a triple-slash of .351/.452/.546 with four home runs, 20 runs scored, and 20 RBI in 28 games. Lastly, Bell’s plate discipline has been off the charts, as he is not only posting a paltry K rate of 10.3 percent but his 1.42 BB/K ratio is the third-best mark for all qualified first basemen as well.

Safe to say, fantasy managers who invested in Bell as their starting first baseman are definitely reaping the benefits so far this season.

Brandon Lowe (TBR): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.

 

It’s been hard to gauge Lowe’s start to 2022 from a fantasy perspective.

On one end, he’s another hitter who’s been hurt by the “low BABIP” bug (.239) and the 32-point difference in expected and actual wOBA suggests that he’s due for some correction soon. He also has cut down his K rate from last year by 3.3 percent, and yesterday’s two-home run outing could be a step in the right direction for the Rays’ slugging infielder who nearly hit 40 a year ago.

That being said, there are still some concerns lingering.

Lowe’s barrel rate is down 4.3 percent from a year ago, and his launch angle is also down 3.2 degrees. His 40.3 groundball rate is his highest rate since his rookie season in 2018, and his contact rate is 2.5 percent down from last season as well. These could be just early-season blips, stemming from a slow start out of the gate. Nonetheless, fantasy managers who roster Lowe need to pay attention to these developments, as his .214/.310/.408 line may not get considerably better if those other batted ball metrics don’t improve over the next month.

Ronald Acuña, Jr. (ATL): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

 

It was expected that it would be a slow start for Acuña as he returned from a torn ACL a season ago. After all, the 24-year-old made incredible progress in his recovery, and it’s likely that he was motivated to join the team as soon as possible, especially after their World Series run a year ago (which he had to watch from the dugout). Acuña just being on the roster this soon is a victory in itself for Atlanta fans as well as fantasy baseball managers who plucked him in their respective drafts.

Now, it hasn’t been all bad for Acuña in his return to Atlanta. He is still showcasing tremendous power, as evidenced in his two-hit performance against the Brewers Saturday which included his second home run in eight games this season. His power metrics are pretty solid, as he is posting a .219 ISO and .802 OPS so far this season.

That being said, his strikeout numbers are concerning.

Acuña is currently posting a K rate of 39.8 percent, and his 15.3 percent swinging-strike rate is nearly four percent higher than his rate a year ago. Thus, it’s not a surprise why Acuña is only hitting .250, despite flashing impressive power metrics in his first 36 plate appearances this season.

Fantasy managers who roster Acuña don’t need to be too alarmed just yet, especially since it’s been such a small sample from Acuña this year. However, the K and whiff rates will be something fantasy managers will need to pay attention to, for inflated numbers like this could limit his ceiling in 2022.

 

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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