Batter’s Box: He’s da Man-cini

Jim Chatterton details the best hitters from Thursday's games and gives an update on 40/40 watch.

We are at that time of the season where we can look back at some of the preseason predictions and see if we were a super smarty pants or a big dumb dumb. Looks like Ryan Amore gets the Super Smarty Pants award for this article on Trey Mancini from back in January. Mancini has certainly lived up to the bargain price he was going for in drafts. Through the same number of plate appearances as last year, he has 10 more home runs, 31 more runs, and 35 more RBI. He was able to slide in and solidify that second and third spot in the lineup all season instead of being shuffled around like he was last year. This provided him much more opportunity to produce at the plate as he improved as well.

Yesterday, Mancini added a couple of doubles and RBI to his already great season, going 4-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI. The improvements he’s made are across the board. One of his main issues was his ground-ball rate, as it had been firmly above 50% his whole career. He cut that down this season by more than 8 percentage points, pushing his fly-ball rate up 5 points and his line-drive rate up 3. Even though he is hitting the ball as hard as the previous couple of seasons as well as barreling the ball as often, his stats across the board have improved. He may be outperforming his xStats by a bit, but he has been putting better balls in play. Additionally, he’s taken a step forward in his plate discipline. He’s making some more contact than the past few seasons and subsequently has cut his strikeout rate 3 percentage points. He also has been walking 2 percentage points more than last year.

Let’s look around the rest of the league at how some other players have fared this season:

Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—1-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Welcome back to 40/40 watch! In this episode, we discover that Acuña is now a part of the 40/30 club. He is also the third player 21 or younger to smack 40. He needs three more steals in the Braves’ remaining eight games.

Shed Long (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners)—3-5, R, 2 RBI, BB. Long had a short stint in the majors back in May but was sent back down to Triple-A. On Sept. 3, he was recalled and started games a few days later. Since the return, he is slashing .354/.392/.583 and has a multi-hit game in six of his past seven starts.

Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees)—2-3, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. He’s just kept on hitting the ball since the last time I wrote about him last week. He’s just padding those career-year stats. His September has been particularly powerful, bopping eight homers with still a handful of games to play. He has been striking out more often (over 30%) but has posted a 179 wRC+ in September.

Cavan Biggio (2B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Hit a cycle one day, get a couple more hits in back-to-back games the next few. He’s been batting second in this young Blue Jays lineup. That Bo Bichette, Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., one, two, three punch all season next year will be dangerous.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B/SS/OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. He’s been out since early August with a strained quad, and I feel he’s the lost Jay. He’s still 25 and has had a solid breakout season. In the time he was on the field, he posted a 130 wRC+ but has only been out there for half a season. Again, with this guy hitting behind the other young birds, there is a chance the Jays offense could have some bite.

Yasiel Puig (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI, SB. Puig was traded to Cleveland at the deadline, and something weird happened. He forgot how to hit home runs. In almost 200 plate appearances, he has two dingers. However, he’s hitting .300. His fly-ball rate from the first to second half dropped more than 10 percentage points, and his HR/FB rate has dropped more than 12 percentage points. His barrel rate has dropped to about 7% for the second half as well.

Miguel Sanó (1B/3B, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Hey look! A handful of Twins crushed more home runs. Sanó had two hits over 110 mph, one being a 432-foot homer and the other a line out to dead center. He’s been hot, with this dinger being his fourth in six games. About a month ago, I wrote about how he’s improved his plate discipline, hoping he had learned something. However, his walk rate has dropped a bit since then, and his strikeout rate is back to 40%. He still makes baseballs afraid of him though.

Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. Garver may be the biggest fantasy surprise of the 2019 season. He now has 31 homers through 88 games with an OPS north of 1.000. That’s a lot.

Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. Cruz probably has some kind of deal with a witch. He’s 39 and has 100 fewer plate appearances than last year, yet he still has 39 homers and more than 100 RBI. His hard-hit rate is in line with his past few years, but he’s been barreling at a rate 6 percentage points higher than last season. More barrels and a juiced ball give some incredible results.

Nicky Lopez (2B/SS, Kansas City Royals)—3-4, 2 R, RBI. This young Royals rookie has been hitting ninth for them for about the past month. He batted in the front when he was first called up but now lives in an awful spot for fantasy production. However, he’s a classic Royal putting a ton of balls in play. His walk rate is 3.9%, and his strikeout rate is 13.2%. He has no power though and has posted a 45 wRC+ for the year. Probably don’t pick him up if you are in the finals.

(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

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