Batter’s Box: A Desmond is Forever

Scott Chu tells you all about Monday's hitting performances.

The ravages of time are hard on us all. Your joints get achy. You need more and more time to recover from even the slightest injuries. The audible but involuntary groans and sighs you make when you stand up and sit down become louder. Your skills deteriorate. All of these things, but particularly the latter, have hit Ian Desmond (1B/OF, Colorado Rockies) pretty hard as a 33-year-old in his 11th major league season.

Despite going 2-4, with a home run, a double, a run, and 3 RBI, there’s a lot to be worried about in his profile. His xBA and xSLG have been below .240 and .400 (respectively) for 3 of the last 4 seasons despite moving to the fertile hitting soil of Coors Field. and he has developed extreme ground ball tendencies. To top it all off, he’s striking out at a fairly alarming rate to begin 2019. So why am I bringing him up? Because sometimes, for reasons scientists don’t quite understand, the husks of formerly great fantasy assets like Desmond continue to receive optimal playing time from their managers and therefore produce good (though not great) results.

Desmond is mostly batting from the 6th spot in the lineup as Colorado’s primary center fielder, and has 3 multi-hit games in his last 7 outings, 2 of which were on the road. The batting average and OBP won’t be great, but the Rockies seem committed to providing him every opportunity to go for 20 HR and 20 SB for the 6th time in 8 seasons despite all of the warning signs that he’s no longer the all-star he was in Washington. You can’t ignore him, though, because anyone getting 500+ PA in Coors is a potential fantasy asset, and while Desmond may be riddled with impurities and caked in dirt, he’s still a Desmond, and Desmonds [can be] a girl’s best friend. (You didn’t think I’d actually let this bad joke get away from me, did you?)

Shin-Soo Choo (OF/DH, Texas Rangers) – 3-5, R, HR, RBI, BB. This article was ALMOST titled “Big League Choo”, and I can’t promise that I won’t use that reference for a later piece (it’s a long season, after all). Another older player with a deteriorating body and skill set, Choo’s 10+ base stealing days are all but over, but that doesn’t mean he can’t provide value. He’s slashing .333/.439/.563 to start the season, though it’s likely more smoke an mirrors than legitimate — he has 0 barrels on the year and although his Hard Hit rate is in the top 4% of the league at 56.7%, his xwOBA is a full 76 points below his wOBA, which suggests that regression is coming. His final line should look something like it did in his 3 full seasons from 2015-2018: 85 R, 22 HR, 70 RBI, 6 SB, and a triple slash of .265/.360/.430. That’s a pretty nice player to have around, especially in OBP leagues.

Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – 3-4, 3 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, BB. There isn’t much analysis to add here, besides the fact that he’s 3rd in HR with 8, 3rd in RBI with 22, has 3 stolen bases and has exactly as many walks as strikeouts. He’s really, really good, and 2018 looks less like a fluke every single day. 30 HR, 20 SB, 100+ runs and 100+ RBI all look pretty locked in at this point.

Dwight Smith Jr. (OF, Baltimore Orioles) – 2-5, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Getting traded to the Orioles will do wonders for your playing time, it turns out. He’s got a little bit of both power and speed, and should get to 10+ HR and 10+ SB if he can get to 500 PA. He’s hit in the 2 and 3 spots in the order in all but 3 games this season (he has hit 5th against lefties so far) and could be a decent addition to 15+ team and AL-Only squads that need a fill in for injured players.

Hunter Dozier (3B, Kansas City Royals) – 2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. The early season power surge is a nice sign from the 8th overall pick in the 2013 draft, as are the low strikeout rate and elevated walk rate. That said, he’s never found a way to tap into his power in previous seasons. If you’re in a very deep league or are a bit desperate in a dynasty format, you can try to hang your hat on his 5 barrels, 94.1 mph exit velocity and .619 xSLG from the early goings, but be warned that he’s been pretty mediocre in everything else we’ve seen him do.

Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B/SS, Texas Rangers) – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. The journeyman infielder already has his 5th HR of the season, which bodes well for those who grabbed him at the ends of their draft. He’s in the best home park he’s ever had, and now has 2 HR, 4 R and 4 RBI in his last 3 games (all at home). He’ll never be an exciting guy to own, but as someone who has owned him plenty over the last several years, his steady production is a comforting thing to have on the roster. He’s often cut for more exciting talent throughout the season (he was dropped in 9.6% of ESPN leagues, bringing his ownership to 77.1%), so keep an eye on the wire if you ever need an infielder. He’s probably fairly easy to acquire in a trade, if that’s more up your alley.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – 3-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. It’s the first home run of the year for the power-hitting outfielder, who hit the ball awfully hard in 2018. I had some hope that he’d break the 25 HR mark and push for 30 with full playing time, but so far he’s struggled to make hard contact the way he did last season, when he had a 15.5% barrel rate (top 3% in baseball). On the plus side, he’s striking out less and walking much more, so hopefully the improvement in plate discipline will start bearing fruit soon.

Kole Calhoun (OF, Los Angeles Angels) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Cowboy Kole should probably be a more useful fantasy OF than he is, considering he’s entrenched as the lead off hitter for the Angels against righties and has shown 20+ HR power in the past with a double digit walk rate. Despite all that, he has a pedestrian career .251/.321/.416 batting line and failed to score 80 runs in 3 of the last 4 seasons (though he did breach the 70 run mark in those 3 seasons). He’s widely available in ESPN leagues (he’s only rostered in 13.2% of them), so if he shows signs of the breakout he flashed last summer (better BB:K ratio, fewer grounders, more fly balls), throw him on your bench. Otherwise, you can probably ignore him in 12 team leagues.

Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets) – 1-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, 3 BB. This is why you don’t overreact after a week of baseball. He now has a hit in 7 of his last 8 starts with 3 HR, 10 runs, and 7 RBI in that stretch. A 20 HR, 6 SB season with a .370 OBP is still in play, and that’s what you drafted him for, isn’t it? He should be owned in 12 teamers and all OBP formats.

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians) – 1-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB. Okay, good. Now stop panicking.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/2B/3B, Texas Rangers)- 1-4, R, 2 RBI, BB. I’m intrigued by the early walks, but not the limited playing time. He was a trendy sleeper at catcher in 15 teamers and 2 catcher leagues due to his potential to steal double digit bases and provide decent batting average and OBP (for a catcher), but he’ll need to show he can even get to 120 games before I can recommend him as anything but a low-end 2nd catcher.

Chris Davis (1B, Baltimore Orioles) – 1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Good for him, you know? His 20 HRs this season will likely come with a sub-.300 OBP, but no one wanted to see him struggle the way he did.

Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire.

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here at Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor of Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and co-host of the Hacks & Jacks Podcast on the PL Podcast Network, and 4x FSWA Award nominee for Best Fantasy Baseball Podcast. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad of three, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

11 responses to “Batter’s Box: A Desmond is Forever”

  1. theKraken says:

    Re Nimmo: I don’t think 20 HR, 6 SB plays – in 2014 it probably did. I can see the OBP playing where relevant, but those other counting stats don’t. There is also the reality that he doesn’t play every day which hurts the counting stats as much as the lack of hits. Let someone else roster him and be happy with not much of anything other than BB.

    • Scott Chu says:

      It doesn’t seem impressive, but Nimmo was a top 35 OF in OBP formats last season with 17 HR and 9 SB thanks to his .409 OBP. Even with a bit of regression in the OBP, I think he could do what Shin Soo Choo did in 2018 (21 HR, 6 SB, .377 OBP), which was a top 30 OF in OBP leagues last season. He’s probably closer to just inside the top 50 in standard 5×5, which makes him less viable in formats like the Y! default (3 OF, 2 UTIL), but in any league with 4+ OF, he’s worth owning. I also think he’ll provide 80+ runs with a 150 game season, though as a #1 hitter, the RBI will be around 50.

  2. J says:

    F*** Kole Calhoun

    • Scott Chu says:

      I take it that either you are not one of the folks who own him in the 13.2% of leagues where he is owned . . . or you definitely are.

  3. Captain Stubing says:

    Hey – I just traded Jose Ramirez, Justin Turner & Mallex Smith for J.D. Martinez & Luis Castillo.
    (I then plugged in Yoan Moncada at 2B to replace JRam)
    Felt torn about JRam but i had concerns from very mediocre 2nd half last year and awful start this year.
    Good or bad? thx!

    • Scott Chu says:

      Good to hear from you, Cap.

      For starters, I think this is a fair deal. To feel that this was a great trade, you’d need to believe that Justin Turner will miss a chunk of the season, that J.D. is the best hitter on the planet (which I do), that J-Ram will regress to somewhere between the 2016 and 2017 versions of himself, and that Castillo’s electric (if a bit wild) 4-game sample is real. I also would hope you can make up for the 60+ SBs you traded away (or that they don’t matter). All of those are perfectly sane beliefs.

      I probably fall somewhere in the middle on this. J-Ram for JD is pretty even for me, and I don’t necessarily mind Turner + Mallex for Castillo, though you likely spent quite a bit more draft capital to acquire Turner and Mallex than the other owner spent on Castillo. Nick Pollack certainly believes in Castillo so far, based on his move to 19th on The List, so I hope it works out!

  4. Captain Stubing says:

    hey Scott- Yep, your thinking on this is very similar to mine. Thx!

  5. Chelsa says:

    Hi Scott. Good article! Love the spin on words, “A Desmond Is Forever.” Was wondering if I could get your take on the hitters on my Yahoo Squad. I’m lagging behind in Runs, RBIs, SBs & AVG. Currently in 6th place!! 10 team, roto, 6×6, keeper with Runs, RBIs, HRs, SBs, AVG, OPS, Ks, ERA, WHIP, Wins, K/BB & Saves+Holds. Are my hitters just starting slow or is now the time for me to consider trades or drops?

    C – Mejia (may have to drop soon; poor ratios hurting me)
    1B – Rizzo (low ratios; concerned about repeating 2018)
    2B – McNeil (concerned over playing time with Frazier back)
    SS – Tatis
    3B – Machado
    CI – Shaw (low ratios; not hitting anything)
    MI – Schoop
    OF – Acuna, Eloy, Pederson & Trout
    U – Ketel & Y. Diaz
    BN – H. Dozier
    IL – Andujar, Dahl & Murphy
    SP – Bieber, Boyd, Fried, Lucchesi, Musgrove & Stripling
    RP – Colome, Lovelady, Pressly, Smith & Treinen
    NA – Whitley

    I do not care about SBs, but I CARE A LOT about the other offensive categories!! My OFs alone are AVG, Runs and RBI machines!!! I SHOULD NOT be lagging in ANY of those categories!!! Please advise.


    • Scott Chu says:

      Thanks, Chelsa! Bringing corny jokes to the public is an important part of my life’s work.

      As for your hitters, I think you should be really happy with Rizzo, Machado, and your outfield — it should do quite well as the season goes on. Being 6th despite the slumps and loss of Andujar, Dahl, and Murphy is pretty darn good.

      Tatis Jr’s strong start is a huge plus, and McNeil’s playing time should be secure for now thanks to 6 multi-hit outings in his last 8 games.He can move around the infield and outfield, so they can find ways to get him in there even with Frazier back. He might not be a full-season asset due to his fairly unspectacular speed and power, but he’s a good stop-gap for now as you wait for Daniel Murphy’s return.

      Shaw’s slow start is frustrating, but I think you need to hold on to him as flexible 2B/3B with big power upside. He’s still walking a ton, so a third consecutive 30 HR, .340 OBP season is still very much a possibility.

      As for what players you can cut, Mejia and Schoop would top the list — they’re all fairly replaceable assets. Schoop in particular loses value in 6×6 due to his low OBP. Mejia has plenty of tools for a catcher, but isn’t playing nor producing enough to be worth keeping in a single catcher league. I would recommend streaming a catcher until something sticks — check out Dave Cherman’s weekly piece on catchers (https://pitcherlist.com/category/articles/catchers-to-stream/) for some guidance.

      Truthfully, I’m more concerned about your pitching over the course of the season. Your current roster construction indicates that streaming and utilizing RP (love the Pressly add) is the best way to keep ratios down, and your waiver wire should be deep enough to pluck a few good starts from week to week. Streaming a great strategy in 10 team leagues because of the general abundance of usable talent on the waiver wire at all times.

      Finally, I know it’s a bit trite, but it’s been about 2 weeks. Even if you absolutely dominate your league at year end, there will be 2 week periods that your team is less than amazing. At this point, very few metrics have a large enough sample to be considered reliable, and one or two game outbursts will turn a player’s stat line from awful to awesome. I’d preach patience, and also to look for the positive, like losing some key pieces and yet still being in the thick of it. Oh, and you have Mike Trout. That’s pretty neat, too.

  6. Chelsa says:

    Hey Scott! Thanks so much for your feedback! Not trite whatsoever, just truth and greatly appreciated. Thanks again!!!

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