A Starling is Born

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday’s games.

Starling Marte (MIA): 3-4, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.

Now this is why the Marlins traded Caleb Smith to the Diamondbacks. Star outfielder Starling Marte hasn’t even played in half of the Marlins games this season due to injury, but whenever he’s in the lineup he’s capable of nights like yesterday where he went 3-4 with a homer, a stolen base, and a walk. Marte on a hot streak is one of the most fantasy-potent players out there, capable of both power and speed, as evidenced by the display he put on last night against Nick Pivetta.

The longtime Pirate wasn’t impressive upon his trade to Miami halfway through the 2020 season, putting up a sub-100 wRC+ in the second half of the year. He’s made up for it and more this season, slashing .322/.429/.552 through his limited appearances this season. It’s been buoyed by a walk rate (13.2%) way above his career norms—most likely just the result of playing only playing in 25 games. While Marte’s walk rate has remained largely stable throughout his career, the 32-year-old has consistently improved his strikeout rate on a yearly basis. The speed won’t last forever, but the outfielder is making a good case for remaining relevant even when the stolen bases decline.

In the final season of his eight-year contract, there’s a chance Marte gets traded to a contender before the postseason begins as Miami doesn’t seem to be making a strong case to participate themselves. It could result in a nice boost of counting stats. Either way though, Marte has been one of the more consistent fantasy producers year in, year out, so as long as he stays healthy he should continue to be a valuable outfielder. He’s the classic 20/20 archetype.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 0-1, R, 3 BB, SB.

I’m still firmly in the “we’re not giving Ohtani enough coverage” camp, and this is exactly why: Even when he fails to record a hit he remains productive, walking thrice and swiping a bag. Whether he’s on your team or not, just enjoy the show.

Max Stassi (LAA): 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.

A monster night for the catcher, who lit up the scoreboard as the Angels poured on eight runs. Stassi has been en fuego so far through 2021, slashing .318/.388/.568 through what is admittedly just under 50 PA. After a big 2020 (137 wRC+ through 105 PA), he’s been angling to prove the offensive production was legit. While he’s matched it so far this season, I think last year was a bit lucky in terms of strikeouts—he’s back to a 30% K rate this year and it seems that’s probably about right. It does come with a decent walk rate, though, and a spot on a loaded offensive roster—you could do a lot worse if you’re desperate for a short-term catcher.

Ian Happ (CHC): 1-3, HR, R, RBI.

Happ contributed the only extra-base hit of the night for the Cubs, smashing his seventh home run of the year. The 26-year-old had high expectations coming into the season after a breakout 2020. The power is still there (88th percentile in Hard Hit % this season) and he’s able to get on base consistently with his high walk rate, but he just isn’t able to elevate the ball enough to get hits out of it. I still think he’ll come around, but if you’re not in an OBP league it’s been a bit brutal stomaching his .193 batting average.

Patrick Wisdom (CHC): 0-2, R, 2 BB.

After smashing seven home runs through his first 14 games, Wisdom has finally failed to get a hit for the first time as a starter. He managed to stay productive with a pair of walks. As fun as it’s been, the strikeouts are brutal and likely to persist even when the power begins to falter.

Victor Caratini (SD): 2-3, 2B, 2 R, BB.

A solid revenge game against his former team. Caratini reached base four times, scoring twice, but also adding one more to his strikeout total on the season. His K rate is higher than his career numbers, but so is his walk rate, both of which will likely regress towards the norm as the season progresses. I’m not scrambling to the wire to grab him or anything, but he’s got a 93 wRC+ on the season and plays about half of the time, so do with that info what you will.

Tommy Pham (SD): 1-3, R, RBI, 2 BB, SB.

Pham swiped his third bag over the past two games, bringing his season total to nine. It’s likely why you drafted him, though he hasn’t quite been able to match his offensive output from 2017-2019. He’s making up for a lot of it with an elevated walk rate, which helps provide stealing opportunities. You could do a lot worse—especially in an OBP league—than a base-stealing outfielder in a loaded lineup.

Brian O’Grady (SD): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

O’Grady came into the game with five total bases on the season and more than doubled it in a single night, smashing his first home run and tacking on a double. He’s walking a lot so far this season (something he had done well in the minors but never translated to the majors) but not a whole lot else. As tempting as the idea of finding a way to get another Padre into your lineup is, I wouldn’t.

Manny Machado (SD): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Even a slumping Manny is dangerous, and there’s evidence he may breaking out of that slump. He’s put up an .830 OPS over his last seven games, which is much more in line with his career norms. He’s hitting the ball as hard as ever and I have to imagine it’ll start to come together for the star third baseman, especially as his walk rate is at a career high.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD): 0-5.

So he is human, after all. It was a tough night for Tatis, who struck out three times, twice to Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay. He’s obviously going to be just fine and continue crushing the world of baseball, but just a reminder that everyone has off nights.

Christian Arroyo (BOS): 2-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

It’s been his best season in the majors so far (118 wRC+), yet Arroyo is doing it with the worst walk rate (3.9%) of his career. There’s a little bit of value if the Sox decide to keep him in the leadoff spot, but only as he’s able to ride this hot streak.

Jorge Soler (KC): 1-3, HR, R, RBI.

It’s been a rough season for Soler (64 wRC+ on the year), but most surprising is the lack of power. This was just his fifth home run through over 200 PA. For a guy whose Statcast page is still dark red in most power metrics, I’d think he’ll bounce back (he’s slugging just .320 compared to an XSLG of .446) but it is absolutely brutal on your lineup in the interim.

Hunter Dozier (KC): 3-4, 2 2B, R, RBI.

Don’t look now but over his last seven games, he’s slashing .269/.345/.615 with three doubles and two homers. It’s been a bit of a brutal season for Dozier and he may never peak like 2019 again but he can be fairly productive if you can stomach all the strikeouts—even during his mini hot streak he’s still striking out over 30% of the time.


Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Dylan Burris

Dylan has been a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan since 2015. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he devotes most of his non-baseball attention to college basketball.

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