We Bought a Zunino

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

Mike Zunino (TB): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

I’m sorry, Mariners fans, but with the big-name prospects getting called up now in Seattle, many minds wander back to one of their most touted prospects before this new set, Mike Zunino. After getting drafted in 2012, Zunino was brought up to the Majors the following year at the age of 22. After being called one of the best hitting prospects in the game, he posted sub-100 wRC+ seasons in his first three seasons. He had a promising season in 2017 with 25 homers while batting .251. However, that was his only season batting any distance away from the Mendoza Line.

So far this season, Zunino has been back up to respectability. After last night’s multi-homer night (2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI), he has 10 homers and a 144 wRC+. He added two more home runs in his previous four games. These aren’t your everyday dingers either. The one on the 14th against the Mets hit the upper deck at 117 MPH for 450 feet. The one on the 11th against the Yankees was a dead center bomb traveling over 470 feet. The two tonight were both about 110 MPH off the bat but not as mammoth as the last two. Still mighty impressive. Zunino’s average is still stuck in the low .200s, but at least the league average is down too. He is also striking out at his standard mid 30% rate. What is making the difference for him then? He’s just not hitting the ball on the ground. Similar to last year, his ground ball rate is in the mid-20s. Everything is in the air and hit hard. So it makes some sense his barrel rate is an absurd 23.5% without including last night’s home runs.

If you are in the market for a catcher and dingers while being able to stomach the average, Zunino may actually be worthwhile right now.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Tuesday:

Justin Upton (LAA): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI. 

Mike Trout just hit the IL, so what better place to look than the Angels outfield to replace him? Sure, Upton didn’t replace him in real life, but you’re probably looking for an outfielder on waivers that could make some kind of dent. Upton is only rostered in 11% of Yahoo leagues and hit his ninth home run of the year last night. The only upside to him at the moment is his pop. He’s hitting the ball hard if he hits it but struggles greatly against the righties and the fastball.

Miguel Sanó (MIN): 3-4, 3 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.

This is why anyone drafted Sanó. He has so much power, and he could bust out a handful of homers at any time. However, he hasn’t nearly been the guy we’ve known for the last six seasons. His hard-hit rate is at 40% (well below his career line of 51.1%). His average exit velocity is below 90 MPH, while in the last two seasons, it was around 95 MPH. He is getting under everything as well, with a 42.6% Under rate at Baseball Savant and a 25% infield fly ball rate (IFFB/FB). Night’s like this can come at any time for a hitter like Sanó, but the rest of his struggles this season make me want to keep staying away.

Gavin Lux (LAD): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI.

Lux keeps turning it up. Since I wrote about him last Wednesday after his homer a week ago, he still hasn’t stopped hitting. In this last week, he is slashing .381/.458/.619 with a 12.5% BB and K rate. I’m going to say it again. He should be on your team.

Chris Taylor (LAD): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB.

This is one of those times where I haven’t been paying attention to this particular player, I look up his stats for the first time this season, and I’m floored. He is slashing .295/.430/.508 with a 163 wRC+ and 34 runs! He is currently tied with Bo Bichette with the lead league in runs scored. I would never have guessed that. Taylor has boosted his walk rate up to nearly 16%. In the last two seasons, he is hitting the ball better than any other time in his career, with a noticeable change in his plate discipline as well. With his position versatility, he should be rostered everywhere.

Jeimer Candelario (DET): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB.

In order to pitch a no-hitter in nine innings, your team needs to score a few runs. Spencer Turnbull can thank Jeimer Candelario for his two extra-base hits to seal the deal. Candelario is continuing his standout performance in the shortened 2020 season so far in 2021. His BABIP in the .370s has kept his average near .300. His barrel rate and sweet spot percentages have stayed about the same as last year, but his hard-hit rate has dropped back down close to his pre-2020 days. He may be getting a bit luckier this year, but he is swinging at more pitches in the zone, which started in 2020. This change in approach may be the factor in his improvements.

Ramón Laureano (OAK): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.

Not known for his power, Laureano belted two dingers in his first two plate appearances last night, both over 100 MPH with one traveling 410 feet. He also played hero with a walk-off sacrifice fly. I have envisioned him as more of a 20/20 potential type bat, but he has shown some pop in AAA with 14 homers in 64 as well as 24 dingers in 123 games in 2019. With 10 on the year now alongside eight steals, a 30/30 season may be in the cards. This has really taken off with his spectacular May, sporting a 190 wRC+ this month.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (TOR): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI.

For some reason, I feel like only one Gurriel can be good at a time, and Yuli took the good for this season. Lourdes has been stuck with two dingers, hitting .234, with a 56 wRC+. And that is after his current five-game hitting streak where he has 10 hits over that span and four multi-hit games in a row. He has had a couple of lows as low as he has hit in his career this year, but he’s turning a corner now. I am still wary as there hasn’t been power in this streak, so I would just keep an eye on him and not scoop him up just yet.

Austin Meadows (TB): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.

This past week (since the 12th), Meadows is slashing .360/.385/.800. He may not be walking at all, but he has seven extra-base hits in nine total hits. Despite the season average of .218, he still has a solid 127 wRC+. His hard-hit rate is in line with his career numbers, and he is barreling the ball better than any other previous season. You’ll definitely keep seeing the power as he’s hitting fly balls 60% of the time, but I’m worried the average will stay decently low. I also would like to see some more speed on the bases going back to the 12 steals from 2019.

Randal Grichuk (TOR): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

You know what batting fifth and sixth in the Blue Jays’ lineup gets you? RBI opportunities. Grichuk has been knocking in Vlad, Bo, and co, all season and is now eighth in the league in RBI. He has cooled off a bit from his scorching hot start when he went 0-4 in three straight games last week. But he’s back with a four-game hit streak, including his two extra-base hits from last night. He has notably been striking out less and hitting the ball harder in 2021, making the start to his season something to believe in.

Nick Solak (TEX): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

I may have cursed Solak when I wrote about him on April 28th. Since his multi-homer game, he is slashing .228/.299/.354 with an 86 wRC+ and one home run, which he hit last night. He does have a handful of multi-hit games with five doubles, but it is not the newfound power I thought he had. Over this span, his plate discipline numbers haven’t changed much, while his K rate did drop a bit. Unfortunately, those changes may have come back to bite him as the power just hasn’t been there. Despite this, his rolling hard-hit rate of the last 50 batted balls is at its highest all season.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. (MIA): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Jazz returned to action on the 16th and has played two games picking up right where he left off. Two multi-hit games with a homer and a steal. That’s Jazz.

Alex Dickerson (SF): 3-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.

Dickerson has had an odd year at the plate. He is batting .230 yet has an xBA of .297. His hard-hit rate is down over five percentage points from last year, and his average exit velocity is below 85 MPH. His fly-ball rate is below 20% and has 9% weak contact. His high flare/burner rate is most likely contributing to the higher xBA. These are not appealing to me fantasy-wise. I would keep away.

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

  • Avatar larry says:

    Senzel is sitting more than playing-is he a drop for

    Y. Diaz-red hot right now
    Cesar-improving everyday
    M. Duffy
    Jeimer-steady
    Schoop

    Pickings are pretty thin right now-not sure how much longer I can go with Senzel not playing.

    Thanks

    • Avatar Jim Chatterton says:

      Jeimer is the safest I think. I’m concerned about Yandy’s lack of power and the rest are kinda meh to me. Jeimer has been solid.

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