Bobby Witt Jr. (KC): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Bobby Witt Jr. was one of the many super prospects to get the call to start the season in the majors. There were rumblings with the new CBA that this could happen, but it still seemed to surprise many despite these guys being ready for the show. At least that is what it seemed. Many of the highly touted prospects have struggled out of the gate, like Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez, Jo Adell (he already had some big league time but still), and Bobby Witt Jr.
Witt started the season batting second in the Royals’ lineup and moved to third for a few games before being dropped in the order down to sixth and seventh. During that initial stretch higher in the order, Witt had four hits and a -8 wRC+. He walked 2.8% of the time and struck out 36.1% during those 36 plate appearances. However, he must have felt that early-season pressure come off after being ‘demoted’ in the batting order. Since the move down to seventh on April 21st, he has recorded a hit in every game, has struck out only 15.9% of the time, and is sporting a .341/.386/.488 slash line.
Not only has he seen drastic a drastic performance increase, he finally knocked out that pesky first career homer with a 417-foot blast in the second inning of yesterday’s game. He added two walks, and two more hard-hit balls, one a single, and the other a 110-MPH double play.
He finally seems to be getting settled in and there is no reason to rush any fantasy decisions on such a young player with high promise after the last 11 games he’s put together.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Tuesday:
Josh Bell (WSH): 3-5, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Josh Bell continued his blistering start with another home run and a couple more hits. He is slashing .366/.464/.549 through his first 99 plate appearances with a walk rate higher than his strikeout rate. Those two rates are great but his batted ball numbers may be a bit deceiving. His BABIP is over .400 while his ground ball rate is the same as it was last year, plus his hard-hit rate is down over ten percentage points from last year and his barrel rate is down over four percentage points. He is getting quite a bit of line-drive luck but with his plate discipline, there is a lot to love.
Jeremy Peña (HOU): 2-4, 2 RBI, SB.
Peña has strung together a couple of good games with a home run the night before and a stolen base with a couple of singles last night. Despite just a .301 OBP, his wRC+ is 129 with five home runs. Houston’s top prospect has been solid and one of the better-performing rookies early on. He has a 48.4% hard-hit rate and an excellent 90.8% zone contact rate. He is also pulling the ball in the air a lot. And I feel like that has its advantages playing in Houston.
Keibert Ruiz (WSH): 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI, BB.
One of the two big prizes from the Turner and Scherzer trade, Ruiz has not been putting it together so far in 2022. He is still 23 and playing a difficult position but I was hoping for a bit more from his hit tool. He doesn’t hit the ball hard and doesn’t have much power, but he is a bat-to-ball hitter. His K rate is at 10% this season. I noticed his sub-.300 BABIP as well and thought he must be hitting too many grounders or fly balls, but surprisingly his line drive rate is 27.9%. I feel like with such a high line drive rate a sub-.300 BABIP is remarkable. With his contact rates, I would expect a better average to come.
Mike Zunino (TB): 2-2, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Zunino had a career year last season with a 134 wRC+ and 33 home runs, but still managed to be a fringe catcher in 12-team leagues. In a few of my 12-team leagues, he went undrafted. And that is the fault of his high K rate and low batting average. He is currently slashing .143/.173/.286 with a 36 wRC+. He does now have two home runs and four hits in his last three games, but Zunino’s knack for striking out or hitting home runs makes him a tough pill to swallow at an already difficult to manage position.
Mike Moustakas (CIN): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Moustakas has been hampered by numerous injuries last year and this year from his foot to his shoulder and his arms. And with that, he hasn’t done much at the plate since 2020 and before. He was a 30-homer guy with positional flexibility but that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. However, in the five games he has played since returning from a bicep injury, he is hitting .375 with a home run and only two strikeouts. It’s a short time span but a noticeable difference after an IL stint. It is something to watch.
Tommy Pham (CIN): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Pham has been one of the few bright spots in the Reds’ lineup with a 127 wRC+. Removing his 0-for-19 start to the season, Pham has been on a 15-game tear, batting .321/.387/.625 with four dingers. He has a hard-hit rate of 57.4% with a ground ball rate identical to last season which was a few points lower than his career numbers (48.1%). I would expect more of the same Pham as last season which was borderline rosterable.
Christian Walker (ARI): 2-5, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Walker has had some rough luck to start the year. His average is .163 with a strikeout rate of only 21.9%. This isn’t like Zunino here. His BABIP is .136 with a 47.7% hard-hit rate. Walker is good. He hasn’t caught a break. Most of his hits are homers (well six out of 14). Expect that ratio to change, but still with plenty of dingers. Walker is a good buy low or waiver pick up.
Sheldon Neuse (OAK): 3-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI.
Neuse made his way back to Oakland after the Dodgers put him on waivers in March. With plenty of room to work in Oakland, he’s been taking advantage by slashing .329/.393/.461 with a couple of dingers and three steals. Most of this success looks fueled by a wild .442 BABIP so don’t get your hopes up too high with this guy. His near 60% ground ball rate won’t help him continue that success. However, he is making good contact on strikes (87.5% Z-Contact).
Travis Jankowski (NYM): 2-6, 3 R, BB, SB.
Jankowski is the Mets’ speedy outfielder off the bench and has proved to be a versatile player but that is all he’ll be. He won’t impact in fantasy as he will either be a defensive replacement for the most part or need to find ways to get on base. His biggest fantasy asset is speed on the bases. He has three steals already this year, but he only has two seasons with over 200 PAs (383 and 387) when he was in his mid-20s. Now 31, it’ll be harder for him to play as often, especially in the role the Mets have him in.
Pete Alonso (NYM): 4-8, HR, 3 RBI, R.
Alonso crushed an opposite-field dinger for his fifth homer of the year in game two of the doubleheader yesterday. He’s had an interesting start this season, taking more pitches, and going the opposite way more often (31.2% versus a career 25.4%). His ISO is only .180 but power has been down across the board this season. It’ll be interesting if Alonso adjusts more to the perceived changes in the ball or if he gets going more with his power as he showed yesterday.
J.D. Martinez (BOS): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
Another big power bat, Martinez has taken off lately. Two homers in two games plus four multi-hit games in his last six, have led to a 175 wRC+ so far this year. He had three balls in play over 100 MPH yesterday. This has pushed his hard-hit rate up to 39.6%. Not close to his usual but much closer. He looks locked in now.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)