Ah, baseball; arguably the greatest sport ever. The crack of the bat, the whack of the glove, and the trot around the bases. It’s a beautiful sport that we like to watch, play and admire. It’s a game of inches and a game of confidence. Sometimes pitchers miss the plate by an eighth of an inch, and other times they hit that corner and dominate. Sometimes batters swing just under the ball, and other times they hit it right smack in the middle. It’s that matter of inches that can manifest as anything from the end of an inning to the start of an offensive onslaught.
It’s also those very inches that can give rise to confidence leading to sustained success or can precipitate shaken faith causing spiraling failure. Possessing the internal belief that you are locked into a zone can have long-lasting effects on your future output. In the real world, possessing confidence can go a long way toward how others perceive you and how you attack certain tasks. And that confidence, which extends on the playing field over time, can affect how you play for a given game/series/week. Those are called streaks.
Yes my friends, we are going streaking. Every week, I’m going to look back to the week that was and see who went streaking. I’ll look into how that streak will affect fantasy play and predict how much longer that streak might go. Who knows, I may even see if KFC is open too.
For clarification, a player can have a hot streak or a cold streak. A hot streak is a positive one where everything seems to be going right for you. A cold streak is just the opposite, wherein struggles are highlighted and the results are negative. There are many factors that can contribute to a streak, and the toughest part is trying to decide whether those streaks indicate sustainability or if they’re isolated events. Looking at what has transpired and what lies ahead can help owners distinguish whether success is likely limited to a small sample size or if it will continue.
For the first part of this weekly column, because we will only have less than a week’s worth of games, the sample sizes for anyone listed here will be very small. The streaks here, both hot and cold, need to be treated lightly for now, as nobody has played more than a handful of games as of this writing. I’ve highlighted some of the highest of highs and lowest of lows for players of note. Remember though, in a 60-game season, it’s necessary to be reactionary and prepared since the margin for error is so small. Finally, most starting pitchers have only pitched once, and relievers have a minimum number of innings pitched, so this will be hitter-centric. In the future, it may feature pitchers and their streaks too.
Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot
Giancarlo Stanton: 4/9, .444/.545/1.222, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Stanton looked lean, tuned up and ready to roll on, and during his first at bat, he got a hold of a fastball and sent it flying. In case you missed it:
— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) July 23, 2020
Both Stanton and Judge looked dialed-in Opening Night, as both were key parts of the Yankees offense. Stanton has had a good first few games and with an ADP of 64 since July, he is one of the beneficiaries of the delayed season, as the schedule allowed him to get fully healthy. If he stays that way (healthy), he possesses a lethal bat that can win you a fantasy season. As always though, he, unfortunately, comes with a risk warning, as he has lost time due to injuries, though some would argue that a lot of those have been fluky and out of his control. He’s one season removed from hitting 38 home runs and two seasons removed from an MVP-winning 59 home runs.
Outlook: If he remains healthy, he will receive regular at-bats. That said, it’s a big “if” as health hasn’t always been on the side of Stanton. He’s fortunate that the Yankees play three series with rotations that are mediocre at best, with both the Red Sox and Orioles on tap. He will have plenty of opportunities to capitalize on his power potential. His value going forward is health dependent, but his power potential can win you your league.
Enrique Hernandez: 7/22, .318/.318/.455, HR, 5 RBI\
Nobody had a better day yesterday than Kike Hernández 😳
— Taste Of Sport (@TasteOfSport) July 24, 2020
Filling in for Gavin Lux after his surprising demotion, Hernandez feasted on Opening Night, prompting many to flock to their waiver wires and add him. While he did have a great night at the plate, he is part of a platoon with Chris Taylor, as the Dodgers are known for giving their players games off. He’s also keeping the position until Gavin Lux returns to the Dodgers.
Outlook: Considering that Hernandez was 5/5 on opening night, and has gone 2/17 since then, it’s almost a sure sign of him and his future going forward. He will likely split time with Taylor for now, and his stat line from Opening Night is probably a blip on the radar. He possesses a career .243 batting average with sporadic at bats since his career began in 2014. He’s closer to a situational plug and play instead of a must-start at this point in his career, especially since Lux could be back up at anytime and take back the job that is more than likely his.
David Flethcher: 10/18, .556/.609/.667, 3 RBI, 2 SB
— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) July 26, 2020
He’s only appeared in four games, but David Fletcher has begun the season on fire, recording at least one hit in every game, multiple hits in two of those games, and two extra-base hits overall. Throughout his career, both major and minor, this is the type of player Fletcher was, as he put the ball to the bat, he would leg out extra-base hits and he would limit his strikeouts. That said, one familiar face added some nice context to the beginning of the season for the speedy infielder:
— Michael Govier (@mjgovier) July 29, 2020
So while it’s encouraging to see what Fletcher has done so far in 2020, it’s unfair to expect him to do much of anything other than batting average and some speed. He won’t help you with much in the way of home runs or runs batted in, because that’s not who he is. David Fletcher is here to play small ball. Keep your expectations realistic. That said, there is an opportunity for playing time, as injuries abound in Los Angeles. Anthony Rendon had missed some time to start the season, and Andrelton Simmons will be out of action for a while after re-injuring his ankle over the weekend. This will give manager Joe Maddon the opportunity to move people around and give Fletcher the chance to continue hitting.
Nelson Cruz: 7/17, .412/.444/1.059, 3 HR, 10 RBI
Hitting a 3-run homer to extend his @Twins lead to 13-2 vs the White Sox, Nelson Cruz becomes just the 4th player in MLB history to have a game of 7 RBI at 40 years of age or older. Others: Stan Musial (1961 with STL), Reggie Jackson (1986 with CAL), Jason Giambi (2011 with COL) pic.twitter.com/DLDeipVuyq
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) July 26, 2020
The ageless one continued to roll this week as he feasted on the White Sox. He looked like a video game character as he was able to make history. Opportunities will be aplenty for Cruz as he is locked in as the team’s designated hitter. With only 60 games this season, there’s less of a need to conserve energy and keep him fresh.
Outlook: Looking at his splits last season, he hit over .300 vs. LHP and RHP, and bested the mark whether home or away. Therefore, regardless of the situation, he should still thrive. His ADP of 63 since July 1 heading into the season suggests that people could have been scared of his age or by having his eligibility limited to DH-only, but his bat has thus far assuaged those concerns. He offers elite power potential and he should supply power consistently throughout the season. Dare I say 20 home runs this shortened season?
Jackie Bradley Jr.: 8/18, .444/.500/.556, 3 RBI
07/25/2020: Gold Glove Award-winner Jackie Bradley Jr made this terrific catch on Saturday!@JackieBradleyJr @MartinPerez54d @BostonStrong_34 @Eich_AJ @TheFrizz87 https://t.co/SQux5ZevNT pic.twitter.com/scL82O7W3u
— Brad Badini ⚾️ (@celeBRADtion) July 27, 2020
The favorable early-season results of Jackie Bradley Jr. are more circumstantial than anything. He faced Orioles pitching during in the series opener, as they rank among the worst rotations in all of baseball. Nothing from his career numbers suggest that he will be able to remain a solid fantasy contributor.
Outlook: Ride the wave while you can because Jackie Bradley Jr. will come crashing hard. This is a streak in every sense of the word. He will do what he normally does, and that’s hit for power with a low batting average and a high strikeout rate. He’s been lucky too, in that his ground ball rate (75%) and fly-ball rate (8.3%) are absurdities. He is spreading the ball around the field and pulling it less to start the year, but I don’t expect this heatwave to continue.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Ronald Acuña Jr.: 3/21, .143/.217/.190, 12 K
.@JdeGrom19 finished 2-time all-star Ronald Acuna with six pitches all 99 mph+ ⛽️
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) July 24, 2020
Right now, Acuña looks lost and uninterested at the plate. His 57.9% strikeout rate isn’t going to stay that high as he appears to have a slow bat. Eight of his twelve strikeouts have come against the fastball. He’s also swinging within the strike zone 77.4% of the time, yet connecting with only 53.1% – both numbers are far from what we’re used to. All in all, he’s getting off to a slow start.
Outlook: Acuña will face tough pitching competition within his division, but he’s Ronald Acuña Jr.: the consensus number one pick in most drafts. Anyone who is legitimately panicking needs to ease up on their worry. For reference, he started off the season 4/40 in 2019 after nine games. Whether he starts to produce elite numbers this week or next, you can bet it will happen and you’ll be happy.
Andrew Benintendi: 1/16, .063/.250/.063
Andrew Benintendi is not in the starting line-up today
AB – 66
H – 7
2B – 1
HR – 0
RBI – 3
K – 14
BA – .106
OBP – .221
SLG – .121
OPS – .342
Damn, need him get raking pic.twitter.com/HjS4X0vD0l
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) July 26, 2020
As you can see, this ugliness extends further back than these first few games. He was a bit better during Spring Training, but overall, there’s something not quite right with Benintendi. The scary part is that he struggled against the Orioles meager rotation. He didn’t even have to face John Means. Another familiar face offered some insight that’s worth strong consideration as to why he’s struggled:
Andrew Benintendi has dropped to 9th in BOS lineup after starting w/ a 60% GB rate
It seems he has attempted to open up his stance (right) back to his success in 2018 (left) but more flat footed & slightly lower hands than 2019 (mid)
— Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams) July 28, 2020
Outlook: He’ll snap out of this funk eventually because he’s too talented a hitter to perform this poorly. However, he needs to figure out a batting stance that works for him fast. Like Matt says above, he’s doing fine if the ball is in the strike zone, but outside of it, his 22.2% contact rate is ridiculously low compared to standard MLB averages. Subsequently, his steals and attempts will stay down like last season, and then, if he can’t find a way to use his speed to his advantage, he’s just an ordinary hitter doing ordinary things. With a 123 ADP since July 1, he’s someone I avoided this season. His price is too high and I feel like right now, he has more name value than on-field value.
Adalberto Mondesi: 2/21, .095/.095/.143, 9 K
Mondesi is a career 164/205/329 hitter vs Cleveland in 79 PA (40 PA in 2018 and 28 PA in 2019) https://t.co/ZIWPgP5g3f
— Brandon H. (@BHIndepMO) July 26, 2020
Mondesi is still one of the league’s most polarizing players. Some drafted him early and often because speed is treated as a premium in fantasy baseball, while others decry his plate discipline and feel like they can dig for speed later on. Either way, he’s a talented player who has yet to fully assemble his game. It took until his third game, but he broke out of his mini two-game slump with two hits (including a double), and looked more like himself last Sunday. However, he’s only had a hit in one game this year and continues to chase bad pitches.
Outlook: To be fair to Mondesi, he faced Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco to start the year, all of whom could contend for the Cy Young in 2020. That said, to be the best, you need to beat the best, and he didn’t do much of anything positive during his first two games. He also struck out against two different Tigers’ pitchers who won’t win the Cy Young, so there’s the other side of the coin as well. Ultimately, it’s much too early to give up on Mondesi. The talent is there, his manager believes in him, and he should be able to provide his true value soon. He’ll need to limit his strikeouts, and that will take some work on his part, but he’ll be back to his old ways of hitting and getting steals and bring back value.
Christian Yelich: 1/22, .045/.087/.182, HR, 3 RBI
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 27, 2020
Yelich couldn’t get anything going against the Cubs this weekend, but this trend extends back a little further. He struggled at Summer Camp, unofficially finishing 2-for-23 against his teammates.
Outlook: Overall, I’m not too concerned with someone who was drafted about as high as Mike Trout and had a monster year in 2019. It’s unfortunate that it has started this way, and reports indicate that he’s just trying to find his swing. That being said, this was a slight concern back when Summer Camp began and something to monitor. While his kneecap is healed, it can take time to get the positioning back in his legs and to get into a groove and feel right. His patella fracture did not require surgery and healed on its own; likewise, I hope his swing naturally adjusts. Yelich is too good of a player to have struggles like this all season. Much like Acuna and Mondesi, things will turn around. If other owners are panicking about these slow starts, it’s the perfect time to pounce and snatch them away on the cheap.