It’s time! It’s time! It’s Streaking time! And what better time than now? Teams have now played about half of their scheduled games and are heading into the home stretch for the season. It sounds really weird to say that since we’re only about 30 games in, but here we are in 2020. That said, we’re starting to see some changes, refinements and movements towards 2020 trends and norms that can be used as predictors for later this season. Let’s keep this moving along. All games included here are from Wednesday August 19 – Tuesday August 25
Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot
Jose Abreu – 13 of 26, .500, 7 HR, 12 RBI
When will we ever learn our lesson? Abreu started off the year slowly, finishing off July with just one home run and a .250 batting average to boot. Since then, he’s been on quite the power surge, exemplified by his extraordinary performance this past week, showing what he’s capable of doing at the plate. As seen by the graph below, he’s seeing every pitch quite well, making contact and not much is getting by him.
Outlook: Each and every year,
Rodney Dangerfield Jose Abreu does what he always does and gets no respect for it.
Over his six plus years in baseball, Abreu has produced at an MVP-like quality rate with only one season of disappointment in 2018. Otherwise, he’s been fantasy gold at a position that hasn’t always stood the test of time as being reliable. This season is no different, as he is now tied for second overall in home runs hit and runs batted in. Yet despite all of this, he’s always been under-appreciated in drafts and during in-season play, and I’m not sure why. What I do know is that it’s this type of oversight that can allow a savvy player like yourself the opportunity to get him at a reduced rate.
For now, people may see his massively powerful past week and drive up the price. However, if he slows down just a bit, the time may be right, given the other owner, to swoop in and trade for him as September is typically his second most productive month over the entirety of his career. Abreu holds a .296 batting average in the final month of the season with some consistently good power numbers to boot. Come playoffs or the stretch run, he may be a piece to help you win a title.
Eloy Jimenez – 11 of 25, .440, 2 HR, 4 RBI
The once heralded prospect entered 2020 with high hopes in a loaded lineup, as the White Sox had playoff aspirations. Last season was a bit of a disappointment for Jimenez in the land of fantasy baseball, partly because he didn’t come in the majors and set the world on fire like other prospects have in the past. Instead, he struggled to make consistent contact, struck out a lot and didn’t display his power potential until it was too late in September. Coming into 2020, there were still high hopes for Jimenez, and so far, he’s produced. This past week was a prime example of what he can do at the plate if he lays off the stuff outside the strike zone and waits for the perfect pitch to come to him.
As he gains experience, he’s going to recognize the pitches as they approach the plate, and this week is a demonstration of what he’s capable of.
Outlook: Overall, his season has been an improvement over 2019. Batting average is up, strikeout rate is down, power looks to be about the same. He’s slowly, but surely getting better and living up to the hype.
That being said, it’s not yet time to buy into Eloy Jimenez in redrafts. While the above numbers look good, note that his grand ball rate is at a ridiculously high rate of 52.5% while his fly ball rate is down significantly to 12.5%. And while his line drive rate (31.3%) is better this year and above league average, Jimenez’s launch angle is almost cut in half from last season at a disparagingly low 4.9%. As we await the diagnosis following his celebratory injury, now may actually be the time to sell high on Jimenez in redraft leagues, despite the great week. After finishing off August against the Royals, the White Sox play the Twins, Reds and Indians a combined fourteen times, and all three teams have fantastic rotations.
Austin Riley – 5 of 12, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, there were other great and better performances last week, why this one? While you’re absolutely correct, I wanted to highlight a streak that could potentially lead to something bigger and better. Austin Riley was a highly touted prospect within all of baseball, but struggled to hit breaking balls last season after his call up. Despite starting his Major League career with an abundance of power, Riley fell to earth hard managing only four home runs after July in 2019.
This season, he is chasing less on those breaking balls and fastballs, is striking out less and is walking a better rate. Over this past week, he only struck out twice.
Outlook: It’s an extremely small sample, and this could be the very definition of a hot streak here. I can’t say I’m absolutely sure one way or another. It is something that I want to keep an eye on though because a) he was highly thought of as a prospect b) the power potential is there and c) third base can get shallow very quickly after the top options are gone. In the offseason, I wrote about Riley’s changes in his mechanics and footwork, and I’m curious if that hard work is paying off. In a typical season, this would be his second month of the season, and his adjustments would be coming through. In a shortened season, it’s tough to maintain patience. Furthermore, Riley needs to improve his groan ball rate, as he is hitting on top of the ball with too much consistency. As a result, this momentum could lead to nothing at all. That said, in only a 60 game season, and more so in dynasty, it’s important to stay ahead and be prepared. If Riley is improving, he will be added by others soon enough. Make sure you get ahead of the game and keep an eye open him before its too late.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Matt Olson – 5 of 26, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 8 K
Not limited to just this past week, but throughout the season, Matt Olson hasn’t been able to put anything together to represent last season’s incredible offensive output. To date on the year, he has amassed 20 hits, yet ten of those have gone for home runs. While a 50% home run rate is amazing in its own right, it’s been a struggle for him to get going with any sort of productive consistency in 2020. He’s had trouble being able to steadily contribute to the A’s in their quest for a winnable division title.
If we were to ignore his 2016 numbers, since he was only on the A’s for 28 plate appearances, the rest of the graph looks rather consistent before this shortened 2020 season. His Chase Rate is actually down significantly from last season, but his Chase Miss Rate is way up, meaning that when he does go after a pitch outside of the zone, he’s not touching it. I started to wonder if he succeeded and “broke out” last year because of the offensive ball that was being used and because of the fact that pitchers took awhile to understand how to grip and throw it. Perhaps now that the 2018 ball is back in play, he’s struggling more as pitchers are better equipped throw whatever they can at a more effective rate. Then again, as our own Matt Williams said before the season in the Turn Two Podcast, the schedule factors didn’t favour Olson at all, due to the ballparks and the pitchers he would be facing.
Outlook: All that being said, there are many signs pointing to a positive regression here. Compared to last season, where he hit 36 home runs, Olson’s 2020 Launch Angle is better, Walk Rate is better, Solid Contact rate is improved, and Exit Velocity is about the same. He’s hitting the ball hard, has a great launch angle and has had himself a nice little stretch recently, despite the lack of hits.
He’s increasing his Launch Angle and lowering his Ground Ball rate. His xBA of .244 suggests that he has been rather unlucky too. If you can acquire Olson on the cheap, I would recommend doing so soon. If you own him, I would not recommend selling him for nickels on the dollar. As someone who has the power potential for around 30 home runs over a full season, and a .260 batting average, Olson will soon have himself a 2020 Redemption Tour and go back to his productive ways. Get your Matt Olson gear now, and you’ll look like genius when he’s producing like an All-Star once again.
Joey Gallo – 3 of 24, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 12 K
Much like the aforementioned Matt Olson, Joey Gallo came into the season with a lot of promise. A streaky hitter, some were touting a 60 game season to be a perfect mix of time and stature for him to not only catch fire at the plate but also possibly win himself a home run title. For years he’s been one of the pure power sources in all of baseball, and playing in Texas was a great way to use his home surroundings to his advantage in a hitter’s haven. This season, he’s batting .163 at home and continues to struggle to get on base like he did last season when he set career highs in batting average (.253) and walk rate (17.5%).
Looking at his numbers over the past two plus seasons, he’s obviously not hitting the ball as well as he did in 2019, specifically the fastball, which is thrown at him almost 60% of the time. The one promising spot on this chart is that he is whiffing a lot less overall. That said his overall numbers show very little progression from where he was to where he is. He seems to be very similar leading me to believe he will always be a low average high power hitter.
Outlook: Not all is lost, my friends, as there is a small glimmer of hope. He’s been somewhat unlucky to start the year.
With an xBA thirty points higher than his current batting average, he could slowly pick up a few more base hits. He’s also hitting the ball harder than most in baseball, and with a good Exit Velocity and Barrel Rate, he could hit a few more home runs going forward. Looking ahead at the Rangers’ schedule, they have a tough end of August, but have a favourable schedule in September. Their schedule isn’t too tough (depending on how the Astros come together), and Gallo has a chance here to win that home run title. If you can buy low, I would give it a shot, as Gallo has the power to win you a week’s worth of home runs.
Josh Bell – 3 of 18, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4 K
Last season, Josh Bell started the year on fire, batting .302 before the All-Star Break and entered the Home Run Derby with 30 home runs of his own. He was on top of the world. Since that time, he has hit nine home runs and finds himself batting barely above the Medoza Line, Dazed and Confused at the plate. He has tried various batting stances and mechanic changes to recoup his seemingly long lost greatness, going back to old ways, new ways and every way in between. Alas, nothing has worked. This season has been a lot one for the promising star, as he finds himself surrounded by lacklustre talent on a team poised to be the worst in baseball.
It’s been ugly, as he’s not only swinging and missing within the strike zone, he’s missing it outside of it too. It’s just a giant mess that I don’t foresee him coming out of just yet.
Outlook: If you are in redraft, you need to cut the ties. It’s not good at all here, and the minute he has himself a good game, you need to sell for whatever position or category of need you can acquire. I would rather own Luke Voit, Jose Abreu, Rhys Hoskins, Jesus Aguilar, Paul Goldschmidt, Max Muncy and even a healthy Eric Hosmer over Bell the rest of the way. In dynasty formats, if I could hold off until I see him next season I would, because he’s succeeded before and the talent is in him to do it again. As for 2020, I don’t see an end in sight where he turns this around and wins you your league.