Nelson Velazquez (CHC): 3-4, HR, R, RBI.
It’s a tough time in Wrigleyville. The Cubs just went through their second straight trade deadline as obvious sellers, and although they elected to keep both Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, the team’s next window of contention still seems at least a couple of years away.
With no real shot at competing any time soon, the Cubs’ front office is beginning to give young players a shot at showing what they’ve got, and one of those exciting youngsters is Nelson Velazquez. Last night was the 39th game of his big league career, and he played a large role in the Cubs’ 6-3 victory over the Nationals by posting a 3-4, HR, R, RBI line.
The 23-year-old outfielder passed the 100 MLB plate appearance plateau yesterday, and so far Velázquez has shown he has what it takes to hang around in the show. He’s slashing .239/.307/.489 with six home runs and two stolen bases, good for a 119 wRC+ and a .342 wOBA.
Velázquez hits the ball incredibly hard, barreling the ball at a 15.3% clip and topping out with a 111.2 max exit velocity so far. Although he’s already shown incredible batted ball skill, the biggest knock on his game is his strikeout rate – currently sitting at 29.7%. That number was actually in the mid-30s at both of his minor league stops earlier this year, so it’s encouraging to see the young Cub already making improvements in that part of his game.
The Cubs have a crowded outfield. Between Velázquez, Happ, Rafael Ortega, Seiya Suzuki, and Christopher Morel, there are a lot of mouths to feed. Despite the logjam, Monday’s start at DH marked Velázquez’s fifth start in the team’s past six games and his sixth in the past eight.
If Velázquez keeps cracking the lineup consistently, his power potential combined with a bit of stolen base upside could make him a valuable fantasy asset down the stretch. He’s available almost everywhere – in 99% of both Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy leagues. If you’re in a deep league, I think Velázquez is already worth a prospective pickup.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Ryan Mountcastle (BAL): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
The Orioles’ surprising playoff push continued last night as they took down their division rival Blue Jays 7-4 in Baltimore. Mountcastle led the way for the O’s, homering and taking a walk against opposing starter Yusei Kikuchi. His 109.1 mph home run was the third hardest hit ball of the day and was his 15th big fly of the season. Although Mountcastle is a long way from matching his 33 home run total from 2021, his .255/.299/.435 batting line and 104 wRC+ aren’t far off from last year’s output, especially considering the league-wide offensive downturn as well as Baltimore’s pitcher-friendly changes to the leftfield wall at Camden Yards.
Christopher Morel (CHC): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Cubs took Sánchez deep twice in the third inning last night, with the second homer coming off of Morel’s bat. Although Velázquez was today’s featured player, Morel has actually shown even more promise for the Cubs. After his big day yesterday, he’s up to a .263/.333/.463 line with 10 home runs and nine stolen bases while flashing valuable defensive versatility. Morel’s carved out a regular role for the Cubs, leading off against lefties while hitting ninth against righties. If he was the everyday leadoff guy, his fantasy stock would rise, but as is he’s still a decent option. He’s available in 60% of Yahoo! leagues and 80% of ESPN leagues if you need outfield or second base help.
Starling Marte (NYM): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, SB.
It’s hard to call Marte’s .294/.345/.462 batting line a disappointment, but if you drafted him early as the staple of your stolen base plans in category and roto leagues, you may be underwhelmed. Last night’s stolen base was just his 14th of the year, a far cry from the 47 he bagged last year. The rest of his production has been very strong for fantasy players and the Mets alike, but with the scarcity of stolen base contributors, you’re probably justified in feeling disappointed in Marte’s lack of action on the basepaths.
Josh Donaldson (NYY): 4-5, HR, 2 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI.
The Yankees jumped all over Logan Gilbert and the Mariners’ pitching staff last night, as Donaldson finished just a triple shy of the cycle in New York’s 9-4 win. Donaldson started things with a first-inning single, homered in the third (the 110.9 mph exit velocity made it the hardest hit ball of the day), and then doubled in the fifth. The Yankees’ third baseman would add another double in the ninth for good measure. A trade to the Bronx in the offseason was supposed to be Donaldson’s ticket to an offensive explosion this year, but in fact, it’s been the opposite. In 89 games, the 36-year-old has just 11 home runs and 43 RBI to go along with a .231 batting average. Father Time comes for everyone, and Donaldson may be his current victim. His 27.6% strikeout rate is the highest mark of his career and his 105 wRC+ is the lowest it’s been since 2012.
Matt Chapman (TOR): 2-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.
Chapman continued his onslaught at the plate last night, hitting his seventh home run since the All-Star break – that’s the second most since the Midsummer Classic, trailing only MLB’s home run king, Aaron Judge. Chapman’s sixth-inning blast was his 22nd of the season, raising his batting line to .242/.320/.475. In his first season in Toronto, he’s become a fearsome part of one of baseball’s best lineups.
Ramón Urías (BAL): 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Urías opened the scoring in Baltimore last night, hitting a Kikuchi fastball 399 feet to right-centerfield to put three runs on the board. With a .245/.293/.429 batting line and the ability to play pretty much anywhere in the infield, Urías has become a valuable part of the Orioles’ best season in recent memory. He’s not a bad short-term fill-in on a fantasy roster, but he’s not someone you want to be a regular on your team in standard formats.
Anthony Santander (BAL): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
Santander’s 20th home run of the season last night tied his previous career-high, putting him on pace for his best season yet. The 27-year-old corner outfielder’s 9.2% swinging strike rate is the best of his career, and it’s led to a 4.5 percentage point drop in his strikeout rate this year, moving it to a respectable 18.6%. Combine that with an improved 9.7% barrel rate and Santander’s already generated 1.4 fWAR so far, good for a new career-high with two months still to play.
Luis Rengifo (LAA): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
Rengifo opened and closed the scoring in last night’s Angels/A’s tilt, taking the first pitch he saw from Cole Irvin and hitting it 434 feet to left field. It was the furthest hit ball of the day and accounted for all the offense in the Angels’ 1-0 victory. Rengifo is having by far the best season of his career. He’s hitting .275/.315/.418 with six home runs and five stolen bases. His 16.6% strikeout rate is a career-best, and he’s done a better job than ever at keeping the ball off the ground. Rengifo’s had a strong enough showing that his name has been penned into the third spot of the Angels’ lineup for the past two weeks. I think that’s more of an indictment of the Angels’ roster than it is an endorsement of Rengifo’s skill.
Mitch Haniger (SEA): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
As has often been the case with Haniger, injuries have held him back quite a bit this year. He returned from a lengthy IL stint on Saturday, making his first appearance since April 29th. In 48 plate appearances, Haniger’s line is about what you’d expect – .267/.313/.578 with four home runs. Haniger’s long absence led to him being dropped in more leagues than you’d expect, so you should check your waiver wire to see if he’s sitting there being overlooked. He’s available in 24% of Yahoo! leagues and 28% of ESPN leagues. Fingers crossed he can stay healthy the rest of the way.
Jose Barrero (CIN): 2-4, SB.
The Reds’ former top prospect collected two hits and his first stolen base of the year in the team’s 5-1 loss to the Mets yesterday. Barrero was expected to factor heavily into the team’s plans for 2022, but he didn’t see MLB action until August 3rd due to a surgery in March followed by underperformance in the minors. It’s a tiny 18 plate appearance sample, but in the limited big league time Barrero’s had this year, he’s sporting a .222/.222/.556 batting line. Barrero is a combo power and speed threat and is definitely worth a look if you need shortstop or middle infield help down the stretch. He’s available pretty much everywhere – 99% of both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)