It is tradition that this piece open up with a feature about a single hitter, but to be quite honest, I want to save that time so I can dive into more hitters. I hope you’ll forgive me, but let’s get right to it, shall we?
Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—1-4, 2B, R, SB. You might be wondering what’s up with the 26-year-old center fielder, as he was absolutely red hot through the weekend, which carried over into Monday’s game. I wish I could say that it’s due to some amazing adjustment and that he’s finally unlocked his full potential… but in reality, he’s a strong but aggressive young hitter who can go from locked in to ice cold in a heartbeat. His batting line prior to this weekend? .136/.269/.182 with one double, no home runs, and no RBI in 26 plate appearances. His batting line since Friday? .417/.533/1.167. I’m more than happy to re-evaluate if he carries this production for more than a week or two, but quite frankly, history suggests that is unlikely to happen. For me to believe the next step is happening, I’d want to see this kind of production without the heavy strikeouts and also see him move out of the nine-hole. While he was hot over the last four games, he also struck out five times. OBP players can get a little more juice out of the Bader orange due to his willingness to walk, and in a perfect world, Bader could hit 20 home runs and steal 15 bases in a full season with a .330+ OBP. That said, his sub-.240 batting average and streakiness make him just a very tough player to own.
Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)—2-3, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB. The rookie hotshot has three home runs and 11 RBI in his last six games and ha climbed his way to fourth in the batting order. The batting average won’t blow you away, but this kid has power and speed that are impossible to ignore. He’ll slide down the batting average a spot or two when Alex Bregman returns, but as long as he can make adjustments when pitchers start to give him new looks, he should be a star sooner rather than later.
Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals)—2-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. I had much higher hopes for Eaton than we’ve seen so far, considering that he he has a long history of making solid contact and double-digit power and speed contributions, but it’s been a pretty slow go of things this season. He’s starting to heat up a little bit over the last nine games, slashing .282/.333/.436 with seven runs scored and nine RBI, but in shallower leagues that start only three outfielders, Eaton is a fringe guy right now.
Javier Baez (SS, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. After a cold stretch early this month, Baez appears to be turning it around again. He’s famously hyper-aggressive at the plate and isn’t afraid to swing and miss, but his otherworldly bat skills and coordination means that his slumps won’t usually last very long. In other words, don’t panic.
David Bote (2B/3B, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, HR, R, 4 RBI. For a fairly unknown player, Bote was surprisingly effective back in 2019 for the Cubs, hitting 11 home runs and swiping five bags in a mostly regular role. Perhaps more impressive, though, was his .362 OBP. While the 2020 version of Bote has shown more pop, hitting four home runs in just 23 games, he’s walking less and striking out more, making him unsuitable for deployment in the vast majority of leagues.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. Through 18 games, Goldschmidt has an incredible .507 on-base percentage thanks to a staggering 21.9% walk rate and a strong 15.1% strikeout rate. He currently ranks just 22nd on ESPN’s Player Rater for first baseman, but keep in mind that he missed a significant amount of time due to the COVID outbreak among his teammates. He should be a top-10 first basemen going forward who provides plenty of production in four of the five standard categories.
Willy Adames (SS, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-4, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI. The two extra base hits moved his line to .295/.386/.534, and while he is striking out more than he has in the past, he’s actually swinging less and walking more. It appears to be a classic case of selling out for power, as while he’s making a bit less contact, he’s making much harder contact. Statcast suggests that he’s over-performing when it comes to batting average and slugging, but deep leaguers should considering picking him up if they need a middle infielder.
Jon Berti (2B/3B/SS/OF, Miami Marlins)—2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB. The versatile utilityman has a hit in nine of his last ten appearances, and has scored nine runs and stolen four bases in that stretch with a .353 batting average. His multi-positional eligibility and speed make him a great bench bat or injury replacement in most formats.
Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI. The hot-and-cold outfielder found the outfield bleachers again after going five games without a dinger (he had six in six games prior to the mini-drought), but also left the game with back tightness. Injuries have chipped away at Grichuk in the past, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on him. Should he hit the IL, it’ll be a tough call for managers who already have filled up their IL slots.
Omar Narvaez (C, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, HR, 2B, R, RBI. Back-to-back two-hit performances won’t make Brewers fans forget how rough Narvaez’s 2020 has been so far, but hopefully it’s a start. Narvaez has a fairly long track record of hitting for average that suggests he might turn it around a bit, but this was his first home run and just his third RBI of the season. If you’re one of the 24% of fantasy owners still holding on to him, feel free to move on (unless it’s a two-catcher format or a 16+ team league).
Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI. The plate discipline is a tiny bit off right now, but he still looks like a 35-40 home run hitter in a full season who could push for more if he gets hot and stays healthy.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)—2-5, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI. Brantley spent just over 10 days on the IL, but it’s good to see him show that he’s at least somewhat healthy by smacking two doubles. I doubt we’ll see him run as much as we did when he was in Cleveland, but excellent ratios and solid counting stats should be pretty much a guarantee.
Yoshi Tsutsugo (3B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—1-1, HR, 2 R, RBI, 3 BB. It hasn’t quite been the season the Japanese import has hoped for so far, but on the bright side, he’s appeared in four consecutive games, and is drawing plenty of walks while avoiding many strikeouts. You can’t really add him in mixed leagues at the moment, but there’s some real power and OBP upside in there if he can get into his groove and get consistent playing time. You may want to get him on your watch list in leagues that require five outfielders.
Cesar Hernandez (2B, Cleveland)—2-5, HR, 2B, R, RBI. That’s back-to-back games with a home run for Cleveland’s leadoff hitter and he has at least one extra base hit in seven of his last eight starts. His plate discipline should keep him at the top of the order all year, giving him the opportunity to score plenty of runs while chipping in just enough power and speed to be a viable starting second baseman in 12-team and deeper formats.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/3B, Texas Rangers)—1-3, HR, R, RBI. He’s faded considerably after starting out the month with a bang, but he’s racked up five hits in his last five starts. He’ll be eligible at shortstop in some formats pretty soon, making him the first player I can remember with both catcher and shortstop eligibility, but he’s really only valuable as a catcher due to his limited offensive production. He’s still a viable starting catcher due to the fact that he plays every day, can steal bases (he has five on the season), and doesn’t actually have to catch games, but he’s probably more of a back-end starter. If I was still starting Wilson Ramos, Carson Kelly, or Omar Narvaez in a single-catcher format, and Kiner-Falefa was available, I’d make the swap immediately.
Matt Joyce (OF, Miami Marlins)—3-6, R, 2 RBI. The 36-year-old is on his seventh team in his 13th major league season. You might be wondering how a 36-year-old with a .244 career batting average continues to find work, and the answer is simple: he can hit righties hard. In 3092 career plate appearances against them, he’s slashed .254/.355/.451 while walking 13.3% of the time and striking out just 20% of the time. While he is on an impressive seven-game hitting streak, he’s not really a guy you can add in mixed leagues. That said, NL-only and DFS players should take note when he’s in the lineup, as the Marlins have started batting him in the 2-3-4 spots over the last week.
Nico Hoerner (2B/SS, Chicago Cubs)—1-4, R, RBI, 2 SB. It’s been a slow start for the Cubbies top prospect, as he’s slashing just .211/.313/.246 in 67 trips to the plate so far in his debut season. On the plus side, the plate discipline has been pretty strong, so hopefully it’s only a matter of time before he can make the necessary adjustments and start slapping the ball around like he did in the minors. He doesn’t carry any loud tools to the show as he’s unlikely to hit 25 home runs or steal 20 bases, but he should be an all-around contributor when he finally settles in.
Raimel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies)—3-7, RBI, SB. He’s been the leadoff man for the Rockies in five consecutive games, and while it hasn’t led to many counting stats quite yet, he has managed to steal two bases in his last three games while showing solid plate discipline. The only real problem here has been that he has just two extra base hits in 74 plate appearances, which makes it really tough to roster him right now in 10- and 12-team leagues. That said, he does have speed and it seems like the Rockies finally want to let him play, so if you need steals and are still holding onto a guy like Mallex Smith, you can make that switch and feel good about it.
Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire