We’re getting into the bulk of the action here in this shortened season, as we’re about halfway through the year already. Time flies when you’re having fun. While normally at this juncture we wouldn’t pay an extraordinary amount of attention to almost 100 at-bats (give or take), the 2020 version of baseball proves otherwise.
After these many at-bats, it’s slowly but surely the time where you can begin to see patterns and tendencies, as perhaps pre-conceived notions of player production could have been wrong all along. And that’s why these streaks are important. They are good indicators of how long good or bad play may last and might preclude something bigger or better in the future to lead to where we thought they would the entire time.
A reminder that all stats for the week are from Wednesday, August 12 until Tuesday, August 18
Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot
Brandon Lowe – 12 of 25, .480, 5 HR, 12 RBI
To put into perspective how hot Brandon Lowe has been, specifically at the start of the week, when games began for the above timeline, Lowe’s batting average stood at .276 with three home runs. As of this writing, his batting average has risen 61 points and he has almost tripled his home run output for the season. To be fair, he hit some of these home runs against the likes of Zack Godley, Kyle Hart and Tanner Roark. However he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, and that’s make mediocre pitching pay for being mediocre.
So what’s different this year? Good question, but I think the biggest difference is his ability to turn on the fastball and connect with consistency. Last season, he batted .291 against them with ten home runs, whereas this season he’s mashing them at a .395 clip with three of the aforementioned home runs to his credit. He’s striking out less often and chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone, so that also means that he’s seeing the ball better. Here’s more proof:
Despite the fact that his Swing and Miss percentage within the Strike Zone is up, I like that his overall Chase and Miss percentage is down, meaning that he’s recognizing the pitches as they approach the plate and he’s waiting for that right pitch. This is supported by the fact that his Chase and Miss Rate on curve balls, of which he hit .222 last season, is significantly down, as he’s already hitting .429 against them. The In Zone Swing and Miss Rate this early in the season could very well be timing issues.
Outlook: Brandon Lowe is definitely someone to monitor, as we could be seeing the start of…dare I say it…a mini or even massive breakout here. He’s seeing the ball well, he’s picking and choosing his pitches and he’s making good contact. As someone with second base eligibility, he may be a 25+ home run type guy in a full season in 2021. It hasn’t yet happened, as he’ll need more consistency over a longer period of time, but Lowe could very well be leveling up and becoming a Top 10 second baseman in 2021.
Bo Bichette – 8 of 12, .667, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB
Bichette started the week (and this season) on fire for the Blue Jays, which included a 5 for 5 game with a home run and two steals. It was an unbelievable outing for the second year player who, had he kept it up at an even relative rate, might need to be considered one of the top players in all of baseball heading into the 2021 Fantasy Baseball season.
Unfortunately for him, his owners and the Blue Jays, Bichette suffered a knee sprain this week and will subsequently miss time leading all the way into the middle of September. It’s a massive blow to the team and to those that are starting him up the middle.
He’s undergone quite a drastic change from one season to another, which shows why he excelled all season. There have been a lot of good things happening here: His ground ball rate was down, his line drive rate was up, he spread the ball around the entire field with more consistency, his Flare/Burner Rate was much higher and his Barrel Rate had almost doubled. When you add up all of those ingredients and put them into a bowl, you get one hell of a mixed drink.
Outlook: Bichette, much like his father before him, has the pedigree to hit. He can pound the ball all over the field, hit it hard, and use his legs for steals. I don’t want to jump the gun here, but he was providing owners who invested in him with the power and speed that Trea Turner owners are still waiting for in 2020. Power, speed, average and in a good lineup. Those are the keys to first round draft picks, and Bichette,over a short period in 2020, offered them all. Assuming he doesn’t contribute much else for fantasy in 2020 and that he returns to 100% health in 2021, Bo Bichette needs to be remembered near the beginning of drafts next season.
Franmil Reyes – 8 of 19, .421, 3 HR, 6 RBI
For the first two weeks or so, Franmil Reyes looked lost at the plate. Before playing on August 6, he had hit just one home run and had struck out 15 times in his 44 at bats. Not good by any means, as coming into the year, some saw Reyes as taking the next step in his development as power hitter in 2020. And then something clicked. He became more a little more patient at the plate as he’s since recorded three of his four walks on the season. He’s getting on base, as he’s recorded at least one hit in every game since August 6, and has five multi-hit games. He’s also getting the ball into the air with force, as his Launch Angle has improved.
Outlook: While it’s fair to say that this sort of production won’t continue for Reyes, I do think we’ll see some sort of relative consistency with respect to his power. He’s got the tools to hit the ball hard, but has been awful (.077, 60.8% Whiff Rate) against the breaking ball this season.
If he can somehow get back to his usual standards of hitting, he should start producing at the elite level many thought he would perform at entering the season. Something to monitor, however, would be his wrist, after getting hit during an at-bat on Sunday. With x-rays being negative, he came back and played a game on the 18th, but finished 0 of 4.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Carlos Santana – 4 of 21, .190, 2 RBI, 4 K, 3 BB
Looking purely at the numbers mentioned above and at his season totals, one could say that Carlos Santana is struggling mightily in 2020. He hasn’t batted higher than .286 after any game all year, and he’s combined for only eight hits and one home run throughout the month of August. Yet, for all of his downfalls, the power-hitting Santana has quietly been decent enough to roster this year, especially in OPS leagues, because of his biggest strength: plate discipline. Here are his career totals for strikeout rates and walk rates throughout the years.
For as long as he’s played Major league Baseball, Santana has been an OBP and OPS machine because he shows the inane ability to lay off pitches that he doesn’t like and wait for those that he does. He’s developed himself into a power hitter of sorts and has thrived as he has averaged almost 24 home runs a season over his career. He’s also been a slow starter to his seasons as a whole. Despite possessing a .250 career batting average for a total season, he’s struggled to average that over a full month played in a season before the month of July.
Outlook: Not all is rosy for Santana currently, as he looks to be chasing and missing a bit more than usual this season as well as missing balls within the strike zone too:
While some may say that it’s due to the aforementioned slow start, in the past, he’s typically struck out less in the opening months of the season, and strikes out more frequently with the hotter summer weather. Are we seeing a 2020-like combination of a slow start compounded with the hot weather swing and misses? I don’t know. Overall though, I’m not too concerned as he is a veteran who has proven himself in the past. I’m a bit reluctant though to buy low on him in a shortened season because if he doesn’t get things going with more consistency soon, he’ll be a complete bust, walks or not.
Jurickson Profar – 7 of 28, .250, 4 K
Move over Nick Markakis, we have a new leading candidate for baseball’s most boring player: Jurickson Profar. The above stat line for the week leaves very little to the imagination. This past week, he didn’t walk a ton (once), he had two extra base hits (he has four all season), and he drove in four runs (he now has eight for the year). Yet, he continues to play every day and does almost as much to help the Padres with the bat as I do.
Outlook: I don’t necessarily see much of anything to like about Profar going forward. While he makes good contact with the ball, it’s more than likely than not going to be weak contact, as evidenced by his horrendous Hard Hit %. He doesn’t strike out a lot, as evidenced by his near career-best 14.6% Strikeout rate. He’s not afraid to take a pitch as his 11.0% walk rate is second-best of his career. So, in summary, he makes good weak contact, rarely strikes out and walks a lot. I’m thinking the Rangers were right to trade him following his outburst in 2018 where he batted .254 and hit 20 home runs. With Jake Cronenworth on the rise (.321/.387/.607 on the season) the writing is on the wall of him taking over the second base spot for the Padres, perhaps ending the disappointingly short tenure of him starting for the Padres. Here’s hoping his recent surge in the last two games indicates some sort of bounce back for the once-heralded prospect.
Jose Altuve – 2 of 20, .100, 6 K
It’s no secret that Jose Altuve has struggled a lot this year, and I’m not sure why.
Compared to last season and the rest of his career, he’s striking out a lot more, walking less, producing more weak contact, hitting fewer barrels and just seems lost at the plate. It’s almost as if he has no clue as for what pitch to expect and is guessing wrong almost every time. I’m shocked and disoriented as to why, all of a sudden, a former All-Star such as Altuve is producing next to nothing despite the very bountiful career numbers.
Outlook: I hope you caught my sarcasm up above, but in all honesty, a lot of Astros this season are struggling. Alex Bregman and George Springer are both batting well below their career averages. Could this be the result of Houston not having the edge they had before with their trash-can cheating ways? It’s hard to tell, and for now I’ll suggest that’s not the case and that they are all off to very slow starts.
Back to Altuve, there is some bright news as he is swinging and missing less at pitches in the strike zone and has a much better launch angle in 2020 (12.5 degrees now, 9.7 degrees in 2019), so he has that to look upon as encouraging. But as someone who not only was on a team known to have cheated, but has also seen his steals and attempts decrease faster than his diminishing batting average, he may be ranked high based on name value alone, and it might be time to put him down a tier or two until he can prove the doubters otherwise. He has also asked to be placed down lower in the lineup, so as to give others the opportunities he (Altuve) is squandering. As a result, fantasy owners can expect fewer at-bats and chances for the old Altuve to return.