The Neverending Story

Dylan Burris breaks down Monday's top hitting performances.

Trevor Story (COL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Trevor comes to the plate, Trevor hits home run. Repeat.

In a season that hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, last night was a nice treat for anyone rostering Trevor Story, who smashed two home runs to finish 2-4 with three RBI. After belting 11 home runs and stealing 15 bases in fewer than 60 games last season, most were quite bullish on Story heading into 2021. Sure, he lost some lineup protection in the Nolan Arenado trade, but we’re talking a rare power/speed combination that hits half of his games in Coors.

Obviously, it didn’t turn out quite so well. Despite putting up ~120 wRC+ seasons in four of his five seasons in the league, Story is currently rocking a sub-100 wRC+. He’s putting together a season a lot more like Robbie Grossman or Chris Taylor than the José Ramírez or Bo Bichette production we were anticipating. And in a lot of ways, his peripherals haven’t changed a lot over the last few seasons. So what’s going on?

Taking a look at his Statcast page, one metric stands out above all else: Sweet Spot %. It’s led to the lowest line drive rate of his career. It’s likely responsible for the big hit to his ISO, which is also at the lowest mark of his career.

But do not despair, all is not lost. Story is posting the best strikeout rate of his career, and most expected metrics—in particular, xSLG and xWOBA—are not far off from his career norms. It certainly suggests he’s a minor launch angle adjustment away from getting right back to where he was. I imagine the SBs will gradually drop every season he’s in the league, but the power should return sooner than later. He may not be worth the high draft pick you spent on him, but a 20/20 player is still plenty valuable. And even in redraft leagues, he could easily go on a tear right when you need him most.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Jace Peterson (MIL): 3-3, 2B, R, BB.

Peterson has a… 128 wRC+ on the season? Playing time has been inconsistent but he’s started the last seven games for the Brew Crew and slashed .333/.481/.429 during that short stretch. He’s got a solid hit tool despite minimal power and has put up a great walk rate this season. Unfortunately, batting in the bottom third of the lineup means he’s unlikely to get the counting stats that are needed to make a player of his mold valuable. If he gets bumped up you may want to take notice, but as of now, he’s probably not worth a roster spot in most leagues.

Giancarlo Stanton (NYY): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Stanton just continues doing his thing, which in his case means having a dominant offensive season. He ranks 20th in wRC+ among qualified players and while he’s hit only 25 homers on the year, he’s been plenty valuable in all facets (except obviously on the basepaths). He’s a lock for the elite tier of hitters and he’s been able to stay relatively healthy this season.

Jack Mayfield (LAA): 1-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.

Yesterday’s grand slam marked back-to-back homers for the 30-year-old. He’s got some power, but there’s not enough to make him fantasy-viable.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD): 3-5, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Now at 36 home runs on the year, Tatis is slashing an otherworldly .282/.364/.640 with 24 steals. Between the power and the speed, he’s making an argument for the best fantasy player out there. He’s just really, really darn good.

Ryan Mountcastle (BAL): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Mountcastle has quietly put up a .269/.316/.504 slash line this season to go along with 25 long balls. As long as he keeps that up, he should remain an everyday player in Baltimore and continue to churn out fantasy production with ease.

Josh Donaldson (MIN): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.

The inconsistent health has been maddening at times for fantasy managers (and obviously boo hoo for us—imagine how frustrating it must be for him) but he’s started the last seven games and slashed .440/.533/1.040 (yes, that’s his SLG) during that stretch. His health makes him hard to rely on in weekly leagues but if he’s playing, he’s going to rake. It’s really that simple.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

Vlad has cooled off a bit since the All-Star break, posting just a 108 wRC+ and five home runs in the month of August. He’s capable of turning it on at any moment, though, as evidenced by yesterday’s multi-homer game. Despite his mini-slump, he’s the #1 fantasy player in a lot of leagues, #1 in the league in wRC+, and tied for second place in the HR race. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching Vladito for the next 15 years.

Jarrod Dyson (TOR): 1-2, BB, 2 SB.

Dyson did what he does best: wreak havoc among the basepaths. One of the prototypical niche speedsters for fantasy, Dyson has never posted a wRC+ of 100 or above. Yet despite the subpar hit tool, Dyson can steal bases with ease, which instantly creates fantasy value. I’d hate to have to gamble on what days he’ll provide that production, but he’s worth a flier if you’re desperate for steals.

Carter Kieboom (WSH): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.

After struggling in his initial tastes of major league pitching, Kieboom has settled in and shown some success as evidenced by a 101 wRC+ through 34 games this season. After the Nats’ fire sale he should continue to get everyday at-bats and hopefully pare back that strikeout rate a bit. He’s unlikely to be relevant in redraft leagues but could be a nice post-hype sleeper going into 2022.

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

Since June 1st, Lowe is slashing .267/.362/.597 with 22 home runs. Despite a cold start to the season, he’s settled in comfortably with the power stroke we’ve come to know so well. The batting average is never going to be amazing, but his high walk rate and powerful swing will keep him plenty valuable in fantasy, especially with the Rays’ offense firing on all cylinders right now. He’s currently tied for eighth in the HR leaderboards.

Brad Miller (PHI): 3-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB.

I understand the compulsion but don’t do it. Miller is striking out over 30% of the time and while he can function as a cheap flier in DFS leagues due to the power potential and positional versatility, he just doesn’t have the consistency for traditional fantasy baseball leagues at the moment.

 

Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Dylan Burris

Dylan has been a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan since 2015. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he devotes most of his non-baseball attention to college basketball.

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