Another week in the books for Major League Baseball, and we are quickly approaching the middle of the season. With only 60 games on the schedule in 2020, now is the time to start looking at the standings to see where you are and where you think you’ll be going. Assess and re-assess your rosters because while anything can happen in baseball, we’ve hit almost one-third of the season. Before you know it, we’ll be heading to the postseason.
That being said, we’ll be looking again at some of the best and worst streakers in fantasy baseball from August 5 until August 11. It’s been a wild one for sure. Let’s get right to it.
Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot
Fernando Tatis Jr. – 11 of 25, 5 HR, 7 RBI
To call Fernando Tatis Jr. hot for the week is quite an understatement. He’s scorching hot. Lava hot. NBA Jam “On Fire” hot. He is hitting anything and everything hard and we’re here to enjoy the benefits of it. This week, he hit five home runs, all of which were at home, in a ballpark that many consider favors the pitchers. That’s a slight misconception. Looking at the Park Factors, right-handed batters do quite well hitting the ball at Petco Park, as their left field area is susceptible to the long ball.
This week alone, he smashed four of his home runs to left field and one to left-center field. He also hit them against Ross Stripling, Luke Weaver, Merrill Kelly, Hector Rodnon, and Madison Bumgarner. Still, he’s batting over .300 in his career at home and on the road, with his home numbers being significantly better.
So what’s changed for Tatis? This season, he’s already hit three home runs on breaking pitches, which is high compared to the four he hit last season in total. Coinciding with that breaking pitch contact is his ability to lay off those pitches outside of the strike zone. He’s seeing the ball better and demonstrating patience at the plate, as he waits for his pitch to hit. The combination of seeing things clearly, patience at the plate, and making good on pitches he likes has pushed up Tatis Jr. into the rankings of the elite.
Outlook: The question of continuity with regards to this power and patience isn’t totally out of the question. While it’s encouraging to see this sort of production, his minor league track records have only sporadically shown anything close to this with regards to a walk rate this high. That being said, anyone who owns Tatis Jr. is not worried about any sort of regression to anything worse than his 2019 output. He was 2nd round pick in most drafts and has thus far been worth the investment. Continue to enjoy the ride, just don’t expect a home run a night.
Mike Yastrzemski – 6 of 24 (3 doubles), 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB
I think it’s time to start recognizing his talent as something real. On a team with seemingly nothing to play for in 2020, Yastrzemski is trying to show the world that he’s the real deal, and, to me anyway, he’s proving that fact. He’s made some improvements since 2019, specifically with his eye at the plate, as he’s chasing fewer pitches, despite the fact that pitchers look to be giving him fewer within the strike zone.
Yet here he is, leading the National League in walks with 14 and fourth in all of baseball with a .442 on-base percentage. Needless to say, he’s doing his job at the plate of making every at-bat count.
Outlook: Many people discredited his talents coming into 2020, but history shows us he was probably overlooked. Going back to his days as an Oriole, he wasn’t even given a fair look the year they lost 115 games that season. Coming into San Francisco, many view Oracle Park as a detriment to batters, but it plays right into the hands of Yastrzemski’s strengths.
As someone who can spread the ball all over the field, he’s enjoyed a cool .381 batting average at home with two home runs, two doubles, and a triple. He should continue to get at bats for the Giants and those who own him likely paid very little for him, meaning he might be easier to acquire via trade if the owner believes that the party is coming to an end soon. If on the slight chance he’s somehow available on your waiver wire, go get him now.
Mitch Moreland – 4 of 12, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 walks
Mitch Moreland started the year as part of a platoon at first base, where he would face primarily right-handed pitchers. This past week was a good one for him, where he raked at the plate, including two home runs, one of which was a walk-off home run versus the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Outlook: I’m not buying this recent power surge as anything but a streak. What happened on Sunday was a veteran hitter taking advantage of pitches left too high over the plate and he made those pitchers pay. Moreland is still in a platoon with Michael Chavis, and had difficulty beating him out of camp. Thus far in 2020, his plate discipline and his batted ball profile are both down and uninspiring:
What’s concerning here is that he’s seeing more pitches in the strike zone, yet swinging less at them. He’s seeing fewer fastballs in 2020 (43% now vs 55.7% in 2019), so that could be a part of it as he tries to get accustomed to the breaking stuff he’s seeing. That said, he’s a 34-year-old first baseman who will probably be a free agent in 2021 and playing for a team in a massive rebuild. If and when the Red Sox find themselves out of a playoff spot, I anticipate Moreland’s playing time to diminish too. In fact, fans should enjoy seeing and supporting Mitch Moreland on the Red Sox now since his time in Boston is probably running out. Fantasy-wise, don’t believe the long term hype and enjoy the streak while it’s here.
Jesus Aguilar – 7 of 23, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Jesus Aguilar has been slowly getting better for a couple of years now, but it’s in 2020 where we’re seeing those changes pay off. He lost some weight in the offseason, was given the job of the first baseman after a nice Spring Training, and is now hitting the ball hard and often.
Outlook: He seems to have changed his approach at the plate, as with his weight loss, he’s able to bend more this year and get more of his lower body into the ball in his swing. As a result, his ground ball rate is the lowest of his career (30.3%) while his launch angle has increased to the highest of his career (18.6 degrees). In other words, pairing that with a 42.4% hard hit rate, and you have someone who hits the ball hard and in the air.
He’ll need to continue seeing the ball well, recognizing what’s coming, and swing when it’s necessary. Thus far, he’s done that in 2020. Will it continue? I’m willing to take a chance on him and say yes. He succeeded in 2018 when he hit 35 home runs for the Brewers. A year later, he got off to a slow start, missed some playing time and never got on track. Now in 2020, he’s in much better shape, he’s seeing the ball in and out of the strike zone, and is making it count at a hard rate. Roll the dice and pick up Aguilar.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Evan White – 2 of 22, 11 K
Let’s get this out of the way before anything else: Evan White is going to be good. His track record within the Mariners’ system suggests a power bat with a decent strikeout rate and an average walk rate. In 2019, he finished with 18 home runs, a .293 batting average and 15.8% K%-BB% rate. All in all, he came to the majors with promise and hope for the future. The word to emphasize here is future, because he has not been good now.
* – thanks to Paul Mammino (@paulmammino) for the data above.
** – note that FB = fastballs, BB = breaking balls, OS = off speed
To read this chart, note that the black line is the 50th percentile for each category. Each graph shows every hitter in baseball plotted onto it’s respective graph with at least 100 pitches seen per grouping, with Evan White being highlighted in teal. For any graph that is labeled “Whiff”, being higher on the graph is worse off, while for any graph that is labeled with just the pitch grouping, being lower on the graph is worse off. Note that Evan White has been horrible at both fastballs and breaking balls, and, while he is above the 50th percentile in off-speed pitches, he’s only seen 27 total pitches all season. His 42% Whiff % really comes through with his positioning on those respective graphs as well.
This past week, for example, he saw 37 pitches over his 13 at-bats, which equals less than 3 pitches per at-bat. What’s worse is that he also struck out seven times. In other words, he usually finds himself behind in the count with the edge belonging to the pitcher. Taking things even further, here’s how he has handled every situation within the batter’s box in 2020. Warning – it’s really bad.
Outlook: It’s hard to be positive when looking ahead at the future for Evan White. He’s got the talent and the glove to succeed, but so far he doesn’t have the patience needed to work himself into a favorable spot. Prior to this season, not a heck of a lot of players made the successive jump from AA ball to the majors:
For now, until he learns how to recognize pitches and where they’re going, Evan White can go onto the waiver wire or remain on benches within dynasty and keeper leagues.
Miguel Sano – 2 of 18, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 10 K
Drafted with the 125th ADP since July 1, Miguel Sano came into the season with high hopes for his owners. Coupled with first base and third base eligibility, the idea was that having his kind of power (34 home runs in 2019, 28 home runs in 2017) would make it easier to wait on one of the corner spots during the draft and focus on other areas. That hasn’t paid off yet this season as Sano finds himself batting .125 with three home runs and 25 strikeouts on the season.
If there’s anything encouraging about his season, it’s that when he connects with the ball, it’s hard. That’s not just what she said, but it’s also a fact as he sports a 22.7% Barrel Rate, a 54.5% Hard Hit Rate and a 95.4 mph Exit Velocity, all of which are elite values in baseball. Pretty much everything else is the polar opposite of being anywhere near the 125th spot in drafts.
Outlook: After last season’s demotion to A+ ball to get his head straight, it looked as if Sano got everything right as he hit all of his home runs being called up in the middle of May. It was an impressive year then, but he seems to have regressed to his old ways.
Nothing other than a track record of coming back successfully from failure points into the direction of buying low. I for one am scared that in a shortened season, Sano won’t figure things out on time to become anything relevant in the fantasy game. He needs to be more patient, recognize the breaking pitches, and understand that a walk can also help out his team. The Twins are in a dog fight for a playoff spot and can’t afford to wait for hitters to re-learn things they’ve patiently been taught in the past. They have a loaded farm system ready to roll, with guys like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker, all ready to come in and take over if need be. As for you and your fantasy position, I would look to see if other owners believe he will come back as he did in 2019 and try and sell for as high as I possibly could.
Scott Kingery – 9 of 23, 9 K
Kingery has not been good this season at all. This past week, he struggled mightily while the rest of his team surged forward. And even on the season, he looks slow, out of rhythm and still not yet 100% back and fully ready to go. If you remember back in June, it was Kingery that contracted Covid-19, the virus which led him to weeks of isolation. Prior to the positive test confirming the diagnosis, he said he felt weak with shortness of breath and not a lot of energy. There was one point where he couldn’t even make it up the stairs. Since returning, he has now played in nine games as a member of the Phillies in 2020 and has a combined three hits, all singles. However, it’s quite obvious that he’s not 100% ready to be back and hasn’t been so all season:
“Personally, it took me a while once I got back to campus to get into the swing of things after COVID and everything. There were some lingering things like shortness of breath. It got to a good point and then we were shut down so I feel like I have taken a step back but now it is just about building that up again.”
Outlook: Here’s the thing about Kingery, I actually like him as a sneaky buy low candidate in dynasty right now. Some of the underlying peripherals are decent, if not better than his 2019 numbers. For instance, his strikeout rate is 21.1% and his walk rate is 7.9%, and both are somewhat better than their respective 2019 rates. He’s seeing more pitches in the zone and he’s chasing less, both good signs. Finally, there’s this comment from manager Joe Girardi.
“Some of his at-bats have been pretty good. I feel like he has just missed some balls…he has fouled some balls off…he has been a tick in front or tick behind. I think his at-bats are better than the numbers say and I think that will turn. We need it to turn because he is an impactful player just because he is a combination of speed and has some power and he can do a lot of things.”
If Kingery’s owner is panicking, right now might be the time to try and scoop him up for a huge discount. I know in my dynasty points league he was outright dropped by his owner. I think 2021 will be when he is as close to 100% healthy as ever, so if you can stash him on your bench for now, I’d do so immediately. He’s a 20/20 guy who can play everywhere on the field.