Batter’s Box: Half-Priced Happs

Jonathan Metzelaar recaps yesterday's notable offensive performances, including big games from Ian Happ, Gary Sanchez, and Jose Abreu.

Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire

I like baseball for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that the season is insanely long. There are 162 games before the playoffs even start. That’s absolutely absurd for a sport that doesn’t feature a game clock, and routinely has games that last upwards of three hours. But what the season’s almost unjustifiable length allows for are stories. Each individual player goes on a long and winding journey each year that spans over six months. And that journey has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, injuries and cold spells and hot streaks that all come together at the end of the season to form the long and complex story of a player’s year.

Perhaps nobody’s story has been more eventful this year than Ian Happ’s. Coming off a rookie year that saw him hit 24 homers in just 115 games, he was a trendy breakout candidate heading into the spring. His .321 average and seven home runs during spring training only fueled the hype, and he started the year with a bang, taking the first pitch of the entire baseball season deep. Things went downhill from there though. He struck out in close to half his at-bats in April, and really struggled to get things going.

Something seems to have clicked lately though. Happ went 3-4, 2 R, HR, 3B, 2B, RBI, BB yesterday, and over his past 30 games, he’s slashing .300/.398/.625 with six homers. His 39% hard contact rate is up significantly from last year, and he’s hitting more line drives and has become less pull-happy (pun intended). That said, there are a LOT of red flags here that indicate Happ’s season might have more ups and downs than two EKG machines riding a see-saw inside an elevator. For one, he’s got a .408 BABIP. Generally I could overlook that to some extent due to the hard contact he’s generating, but 51.9% of his batted balls are being hit in the air, and flyballs are the worst kind of batted ball for batting average. Now if you drafted Happ, you likely didn’t do it expecting a good batting average. But with a 20% whiff rate (nearly twice the league average) and 57% contact rate, there’s a very strong possibility that Happ will soon be on the downturn again. And things could get really, really ugly when that happens.

Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees): 4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Sanchez is hitting both grounders and flyballs at a 40% clip, so the lack of line drives at least partially explains the .204 AVG and .200 BABIP. That said, he’s improved his whiff rate for the third straight season, and he’s batting .283 with 11 homers over his last 30 games.

Andrew McCutchen (OF, San Francisco Giants): 3-5, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI – McCutchen’s 48% hard contact rate is the sixth-highest in the majors this year, and his 28% line drive rate would be a career-high. He has just a 17% chase rate this season, and seems to be seeing and hitting the ball really well, but is just not seeing the results yet. Unfortunately it was reported that he’s been McClutchin’ at his injured knee recently, though it doesn’t seem to be anything major.

Travis Jankowski (OF, San Diego Padres): 3-5, 2 SB – Jankowski now has seven steals on the year already in just 68 plate appearances, which he’s pairing with a 17% strikeout rate and 13% walk rate. Expect him to continue stealing at-bats from Manuel Margot as long as he keeps hitting.

Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves): 3-4, 2 R – It’s been a big week for Inciarte, who has homered three times and is batting .360 over that span. But can he find a cure for lupus? That’s the ultimate test.

Kris Bryant (3B, Chicago Cubs): 3-6, 2B, RBI, SB – Same initials as Kobe, same last name as Kobe, same number of letters in both their names. Kris is number 17 and Kobe was number 8, and 1+7=8. Kris Bryant is Kobe Bryant confirmed.

Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox): 3-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB – Somebody once told me that Cuban players only start playing really well once the weather warms up, because they’re not used to the cold. I chose to believe them, because I’ll believe anything you tell me if you say it confidently enough. I guess the weather’s warming up, because Abreu is hitting .429 over the past week.

Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox): 2-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB – Benintendi is now batting .385 over the past week and finally seems to be finding his power stroke. He still isn’t making a ton of hard contact overall, but sometimes you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, okay?

Jordy Mercer (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates): 3-3, R, RBI Jordy Mercer is like that can of French Onion Soup you keep in the back of your cupboard as insurance in case you’re ever hungry and you don’t have anything in the house. Except you always forget it’s there, and it’s now seven years expired. I guess what I’m saying is Jordy Mercer is bad.

Chad Pinder (SS/OF, Oakland Athletics): 2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI – It’s almost always “all or nothing” with Pinder. Pinder has an otherworldly 55.8% hard contact rate this year, but is striking out at a 35.9% clip.

Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers): 1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI – That’s now three homers over Aguilar’s past two games, and the power certainly seems to be real considering he hit 16 last year in less than half a season and is a giant, hulking beast of a man.

Christian Villanueva (3B, San Diego Padres): 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI – Though he’s homered twice over his last three games and now has 11 tates on the year, Villanueva went through a brutal 0-for-33 stretch that saw his ownership rates plummet. He’s not a bad cheap power option in deeper leagues.

Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs): 2-4, R, 3B, 4 RBI – Just like that toddler that’s always tugging on your sleeve, trying to get you to pay attention to it, it’s best to just continue to pretend Jason Heyward doesn’t exist, and eventually he’ll learn to just go away on his own. Or nag you literally forever. NO, JASON, YOU CAN’T HAVE ICE CREAM, WE HAVEN’T EVEN EATEN DINNER YET.

Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants): 3-5, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI – His performance yesterday lifted his average over the past 15 games to .446. It’s a pretty empty average though, as he has just four homers on the season and a steal.

Chris Owings (SS/2B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 2-4, 2 SB – Owings has been really scuffling at the plate recently, but with Steven Souza possibly heading back to the disabled list, Owings should have a healthy number of at-bats coming his way which he can use to turn things around.

Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets): 1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB – The corpse of Michael Conforto has twitched to life lately, as he’s hitting .346/.393/.615 over the past week with two homers. If this were The Walking Dead somebody would have to jam a shiv into this fantasy zombie’s brain, but thankfully it’s not and Conforto can go on living a perfectly safe, shiv-free life.

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer, content manager, and podcaster with Pitcher List. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

9 responses to “Batter’s Box: Half-Priced Happs”

  1. Christian says:

    So, Brandon Crawford or Addison Russell at SS? Or perhaps Dansby Swanson? And I have Barnhart at catcher, is there anyone else you can suggest? Thank you

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I think I’d go Russell there. I’m seeing a change in his peripherals and think he could break out this year.

  2. ben says:

    Gotcha – Andrew McCutchen no longer plays for the Pirates. It is also time for me to stop saying, “St. Louis Rams”.

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I’m stuck in the past, man. Thanks for pointing that out and making me confront the present.

  3. Joe B says:

    Do I take a chance and drop Kinsler for Happ?

  4. theKraken says:

    For a moment I thought PL might be warming up to Happ… He walks to offset a few of those Ks and he steams some bases along with some of the best eligibility on the league. There are tons of reasons to be excited about this guy with one of the tougher job descriptions in MLB. If you want to get really simplistic, he has a wRC+ of 129 – not bad for a 23 y/o with a nightmarish streak already in the bank early in a season. Many flawed players with less upside get passes while this one does not – I think he is a great buy low.

  5. Play Ball says:

    In a standard 5×5 season long roto league (R, RBI, HR, AVG, SB) would you trade away Judge for JD Martinez?

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