Batter’s Box: If You Give a Mouse a Mookie

Scott Chu gives his take on a selection of Sunday's top hitting performances.

I don’t normally like to talk about a consensus top two overall player in this space, but I want to take a moment to talk about the difference between a player like Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox), who went 3-4 with three runs and a double on Sunday,  and virtually everyone else. I had a conversation with someone right when the month of May began regarding their fantasy team (Notice: Unlike the vast majority of people in your life, I not only am willing to discuss your fantasy baseball team, I enjoy it—use the comments section, our fabulous Discord, or any other social media outlet to hit any of us up with your questions and requests, or to just tell me how you’re doing out there). He shared with me that he wanted to make a strange trade to bolster his stolen base totals, then proceeded to provide this strange narrative about how it was clear that Betts, who had just one stolen base to his name, wasn’t going to be a stolen base contributor like we expected. He pointed to things such as his low base running metrics and his only slightly above-average sprint speed and the strength of the lineup around him. It all made sense, in a weird sort of way, but neglected one key point: Mookie Betts is one of the most talented athletes in professional sports.

Now, it just so happens that Betts has stolen three bases in the past two weeks, but even if he hadn’t, I’d urge this owner, you, and anyone else who asked me to avoid making rash judgments or inventing narratives to explain the difference between one month of statistics and your expectations of a player such as Betts. Players such as him, Kris BryantMike Trout, and others are called “unbelievable” so often that it feels like it has lost its impact, but whenever you doubt one of these guys or wonder about them, remember that word. They have earned that description by doing things that other professional athletes who have dedicated their life to a game simply cannot do. I don’t know if my friend is still concerned about Mookie’s stolen base totals anymore, but I hope he isn’t. At any given time, he could pop off for 10 steals in a single month—a feat very few players can accomplish. That’s not a hypothetical based on skills, either. It’s what he did last May. He’s special. Unless he’s hurt, that’s the only narrative you need.

Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins)—4-5, R, RBI. He’s taken full advantage of the poor pitching he’s faced in his past 13 games, slashing .429/.475/.679 in this stretch. Speaking of missing steals, Polanco finally stole his first of the season this past week, though it’s looking like 15 steals won’t be in the cards for 2019. Swiping 10 more is plausible, though.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, Seattle Mariners)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. The 36-year-old still has plenty of pop in that bat and is well on his way to his eighth consecutive 30-home run season. He’s also seemingly cured whatever caused his drop in walk rate and spike in strikeout rate last season.

Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, SB. While he may be well past his prime, the elder statesman of the Bronx Bombers hit and ran his way into his third combo meal of the season. He may be batting just .211 with a sub-.300 OBP, but he’s not striking out as often as he usually does and should once again find his way to at least 12 home runs and 16 steals for the fifth time in six seasons.

Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. The former top-60 prospect hasn’t done much with the mostly full-time role he’s had in May, slashing just .213/.269/.362 in 52 plate appearances. He’s slightly above-average against righties, though, and his decent spot in the lineup can be useful when you need a cheap guy at the hot corner in DFS.

Ryan McMahon (1B/2B, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He’s hitting the ball fairly well this season, but his playing time is held hostage by the unintelligible workings of the Rockies front office. If I knew he’d play five or six games a week, I could feel good about him in a lot of formats. The issue, of course, is that I don’t know that at all.

Josh Reddick (OF, Houston Astros)—2-2, 2 2B, 2 BB, SB. The perennially undervalued southpaw continues to provide solid value. He’ll get close to 15 home runs and seven steals along with strong ratios, which is useful as a boring but pleasantly predictable fifth outfielder in 12-teamers. He’s even more valuable in points leagues that penalize for strikeouts because of his talent for avoiding those negative outcomes.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB. There’s quite a bit of excitement about the young firecracker in Cleveland, but for fantasy purposes, he’s likely just a stolen base contributor. His fantasy profile for 2019 is very similar to that of Greg Allen, whom he replaced.

Hunter Renfroe (OF, San Diego Padres)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Both he and Franmil Reyes have forced their way into full-time roles, which is good for the Padres and for baseball. The former first-rounder has plenty of power and should eclipse 25 home runs on the season. Just don’t expect any help in OBP.

Carlos Santana (1B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. The batting average is rebounding nicely after a very unlucky 2018, and he continues to be what we all expect him to be—a quality OBP asset with 25-home run power. I very much expect him to finish somewhere in between his fantastic 2016 and his pretty decent 2017.

Leonys Martin (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-4, 2 R, 2B. He’s available in roughly 95% of ESPN leagues because of the slump he endured recently, but he has begun to come back from it, hitting .333/.389/.455 with two steals and a home run since May 8. I recommend buying him in 12-team and deeper formats that require five outfielders if you need a guy who can steal some bases and not hurt you in the other categories.

Dan Vogelbach (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. The portly first baseman will likely be prone to hot and cold spells all season, as seen by the four dingers in his past five games after hitting just one in the previous 18. There should be 25 to 30 home runs in his stat line by the end of September, the only question will be whether you want to endure the agony of watching him get there.

(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

42 responses to “Batter’s Box: If You Give a Mouse a Mookie”

  1. sturock says:

    OK, Scott. With Taillon, Maeda, Glasnow, and Trevor Williams on the IL, I’m in a pitching crunch and need to choose among Giolito @ HOU, PabLo @ WAS, and Skaggs vs. TEX this week. My other active starters are deGrom, Wheeler, Bassitt, and Spencer Turnbull. Who do you think? Skaggs? Thanks.

    • Scott Chu says:

      Hey Stu — I’ll do the best I can with this, though my pitching knowledge pales in comparison to that of my colleagues. Skaggs is probably my pick here. While the Rangers have a scary offense, Skaggs has a few things going for him that will help. First, the Rangers have the second worst strikeout rate against lefties (29.2 K%). On a similar note, the Rangers also have the 10th worst wRC+ (85) against lefties. Finally, this game won’t be in the hitter’s paradise of Arlington. Those three things make his match up the most favorable, and because none of these three names are significantly above the others, I’ll go with Skaggs.

  2. Micah says:

    Great stuff, Scott! Sano, McMahon, Profar, or Kike Hernandez ROS?

    • Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Micah! I appreciate that. Hope you still think that after this answer!

      I know that most would tell you to take Sano here—his prodigious power is tantalizing and he’s finally back in the majors. There’s a problem though, and it’s that Sano has this problem with actually making contact. He hasn’t actually improved in his strikeout rate through 1,631 plate appearances and his batting average potential is probably closer to .240 than the .264+ he put up in 2015 and 2017. Simply put, I’m not a Sano fan. He could hit 30 HR at some point, but he’d have to stay healthy and make contact, which are two things I cannot count on him to do.

      My actual recommendation will depend a bit on your format, but I’m actually a fan of Profar. He’s been much more like what we saw last season since the calendar flipped to May (9 R, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .250/.323/.446 with 5 walks to 6 strikeouts) and his versatility will be very useful as the bodies continue to pile up on the IL. Kike is fine, but you really should bench him against righties and that kind of management can be too tedious for some. McMahon would be my pick if he played, but I am too afraid of the Rockies management to count on that. Profar wins by attrition!

      • Micah says:

        Thanks! League format is 6×6 roto with OBP and SLG if that affects your recommendation.

        • Scott Chu says:

          You’re welcome! In theory, it makes Sano more palatable (career .334 OBP is a lot mroe playable than the .243 career BA). I’m in a heavy minority recommending Profar over Sano, but that’s the hill I’m choosing to die on today.

      • theKraken says:

        I don’t think McMahon deserves an everyday gig – his numbers are inflated by yesterday’s game and are right at league average. Nothing wrong with making him earn it. I am calling *@!? on his plus defense and base running. I am always up for a breakout player, but he has done nothing to earn the job yet. Those guys that get handed jobs don’t continue to improve in most cases as much as their peers that have to earn it. I don’t think COL does a particularly poor job of decision making. Of that group Sano is the only one with upside – so that would be my pick. Regardless of choice, that sounds like a streaming roster spot.

  3. robert danzig says:

    start la stella or odor this week? I’m leaning stella but not sure

    • Scott Chu says:

      La Stella continues to defy explanation, though his incredibly favorable schedule of opposing pitchers has likely helped matters. Odor has slightly better match ups this week and I like him considerably more ROS, but this week it’s OK to ride the hot hand in La Stella. Odor is slugging .609 over his last 50 PA, which only slightly worse than the .644 mark La Stella has in his last 50, but La Stella has a significantly better BA and OBP in that time.

      One note – For all of La Stella’s success, he’s still been awful against lefties. The Angels face 3 of them this week, so don’t be surprised if La Stella rides the pine a few times.

  4. Chris Clemons says:

    Long Term Cron or Renfroe?

    • Scott Chu says:

      How long term are we talking, Chris? If it’s just this season, give me Cron. I think they’ll hit a similar number of home runs and accumulate a similar number of runs and RBI, but Cron will do it with an extra 20 to 30 points of batting average and OBP.

      If it’s the next 3 seasons, it gets a little closer. In OBP, I still might take Cron, as Renfroe might struggle to get to even a .290 OBP which is very difficult to roster. Cron should sit around .325, which is a much more acceptable level of mediocrity. In BA leagues, they’ll be slightly closer together in the two categories, so I can see arguments for Renfroe’s power potential in the maturing Padres lineup. Hunter is a little older than folks realize (he’s 27), but he has more job security than Cron, who is on a 1 year deal and will likely have to find a new employer in the off-season.

  5. Ryan Hicks says:

    Who would you take from this list? Pick one, H2H, OBP, shallow league. I’m thinking and torn between Reyes and Pham.
    – F. Reyes
    – B. Buxton
    – T. Pham
    – D. Santana
    – A. Jones

    • Scott Chu says:

      Nice pic, Ryan! It’s good to see a face that isn’t just a featureless blob. It’s Pham for me in redraft unless you have absolutely no need for ratios or stolen bases (which would be a very strange scenario). He can contribute in all five offensive categories in a way that the other names here cannot. The strength of talent on this waiver wire is certainly exploitable, though. If I had to guess, this would be a 10- or 12- team league with only 3 OF spots. Pham is the only one who I’d plug in consistently throughout the season in such a format. Franmil is next, but because he can only provide a plus contribution in power and RBI, I can’t be as high on him as Pham. Buxton is intriguing as well, but it’s hard to speculate much when a guy like Pham is out there.

      • Ryan O. Hicks says:

        haha thanks; I would agree with you as well. Nothing to hide here for me.

        Thanks for the input. It’s a 10 teamer, but with only 8 member/teams this year. We consistently carry 8 teams and sometimes go to 10 off and on; and yes 3 OF spots. I’m in bad need of a bench OF to fill in some days. I’m dropping Folty for this spot to be filled. I currently have Senzel, Bellinger, and Betts as my OFs with no one else. I don’t necessarily need stolen bases so I’m not overly concerned about SBs as I have a team full of that potential; had 9 of them last week.

        I’m leaning towards Reyes, but my concern here is that he only hits HRs. Then when he’s not he doesn’t add much valuable production. I also like Pham for long term ROS, but he’s not doing much at all 2 months in and I wonder if he will ever pick it up. So do I ride the hot hand with Reyes and hope Pham turns it around. Then snag Pham when and if I get the chance?

        • Scott Chu says:

          I’d challenge you a bit there with respect to Pham “not doing much” so far. He’s hitting .279 with a .394 OBP with 5 HR and 6 SB. That’s not mind blowing, but really all that’s missing for him right now is a bit of power (he’s slugging just .418). That said, his xSLG is .452 on the season and his xSLG in 2018 was .508. That means the power isn’t gone, it’s just not falling for him at the moment. For his full season output, I’ll take the over on each of these: 75 R, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 17 SB, .275 BA, and .370 OBP.

          Because he is such a talented player, I’d hesitate to leave him out there for long. Someone else is bound to notice. If nothing else, I would want to make sure that my opponents cant have him, even if he sits on my bench. Again, he’s a 5 category contributor, and those aren’t generally available on waiver wires. Make sure it stays that way.

          • Ryan O. Hicks says:

            You’re correct and that’s a fair line of logic. I’ll go ahead with Pham and keep a close eye on both. Appreciate the input despite being busy with everyone else and these articles.

            • Scott Chu says:

              Always happy to weigh in, and you’re far from obligated to take my advice! Franmil Reyes is a fun player to watch right now and is not an easy guy to pass up.

              Responding to comments is as much fun as writing the articles. Feel free to stop on by any time, even if it’s just to tell me I was wrong (which will be often, so feel free to take your shots).

  6. Carson says:

    So I have to disagree about Vogelbach, I think he needs a lot more love from the fantasy community. In my OBP leagues he’s the 5th ranked 1b, ahead of Rizzo, Voit, Hoskins, Muncy to name a few. He has had a very consistent season, the guy has power outbursts but he rarely doesn’t produce day in and day out. My friend and I were scratching our heads a couple weeks ago when he went down to around 35% owned in ESPN, I feel like the community as a whole has been really fickle on him whereas I see him as a guy who will most likely have a 90-30-100 season with a .260/370 AVG/OBP season who is still very available in 55% of ESPN leagues.

    • Scott Chu says:

      I’m actually a big fan of Vogelbach, but his change in ownership doesn’t surprise me. You can generally get an idea of ESPN’s ownership trends by watching the 15-day Player Rater. When the 6 HR in 7 games fell off the 15 day window around the end of April, his ownership likely dropped quickly. Between April 13 and May 12th, he slashed a measly .184/.333/.342, which probably also contributed to the number of rosters he was on.

      Of course, he was hitting .400/.513/1.133 in the 39 PA before April 13 and has hit .333/.429/1.000 in the 21 PA after, so I would probably have to stand by my statement that he’s been streaky, and with his extreme fly ball tendencies, I would probably guess that he’ll continue to have streaks like this throughout the season (though perhaps not quite as extreme).

    • Scott Chu says:

      Really though, Carson, it sounds like we agree on the underlying point—that Vogelbach will be a good fantasy first baseman. I suppose all I’m really saying is that there will be many (particularly those in weekly H2H formats) who will be frustrated by him due to the hot and cold spells, not unlike people have been frustrated by players like Justin Upton in the past. Frustrating as they may be, they’re still very good.

      • Carson says:

        In average leagues I can definitely see the frustration, from an OBP league standpoint he’s definitely worth holding onto because even when he’s not hitting he’s still taking walks at a good pace and getting some counting stats. He just reminds me of one of those guys who you look at the end of the season and go “he did what?” (looking at you Nimmo) and you wonder why he wasn’t widely rostered. I’m not saying he’s going to be a top 5 all year but he has a good shot at being a top 10 in OBP leagues.

        • Scott Chu says:

          I agree, Carson. Like I mentioned, I think he has 25 to 30-home run potential. The walk rate has been consistently high even when the hits haven’t fallen, which is also a good sign. There’s a lot to like there, even if the numbers slow down due to the Mariners sudden but inevitable return to mediocrity.

  7. theKraken says:

    Sprint speed is a proven absurd metric for predicting SB. It blows my mind that people care about it at all – you would have to have never followed up on it at all to think it is valuable.

    • Scott Chu says:

      I think it’s a really interesting metric (though it’s not a great basis for predicting steals), but really that whole line is about how people will use whatever information they can find to create a narrative, when the real answer is much more simple.

    • Ryan Fickes says:

      Of 140 qualified players in 2018, Sprint Speed and SB had a Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.639. That is a fairly strong correlation between the two, even if not entirely predictive.

      The highest SB and sprint speed for players with below average sprint speed were Ian Kinsler with 16 / 26.6, Manny Machado with 14 / 26.3, and Michael Brantley with 12 / 26.1. Average MLB sprint speed is 27 ft/sec. Ketel Marte probably does the least with his sprint speed, which is a very solid 28.7, but had just 6 SB in 2018. JT Realmuto was also in that category last year with 3 SB and a 28.6 sprint speed (but as a catcher, it’s more understandable).

  8. theKraken says:

    Pads need to swap the positions of Reyes and Renfroe in the lineup. I’m not sure Reyes is a legit big leaguer, but hitting in from of Machado helps a lot. Renfroe keeps asserting himself back into the mix, while Reyes just gets the gift handed to him. Put another way, Reyes is getting the Kole Calhoun treatment which helped keep him relevant for a while.

    • Scott Chu says:

      I’d disagree with you a bit here. First, I think Franmil is a legit big leaguer who could push for 35 to 40 home runs this season. I also think hitting him second is just fine. More PAs is always a good thing, though flipping him and Machado would be fine I guess. He also has a better hit tool than Renfroe and will get on base a bit more (though neither has high-end on-base skills). Kole Calhoun gets what he gets because until very recently the Angels were without a lead off hitter and decided to just use a lefty against a righty (prior to cowboy Kole, I believe they relied on Yunel Escobar). Franmil gets what he gets because he has hot nasty power and hits the ball really hard.

  9. stevek says:

    Great column, really look forward to it. So, what’s the outlook for Daniel Murphy?

    • Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Steve! Great to hear that you enjoy the piece.

      As for Daniel Murphy, I continue to believe that he is worth owning in all 12-team formats and all 10-teamers that use a CI and MI roster spot. Slumps happen, but he is one of the best contact hitters in the league playing half of his games in the best park for contact hitters. Playing time is the obvious concern with the log jam all over the Rockies roster (and the utter unpredictability of how they intend to deal with it), but I’ll take him over La Stella, Wong, McMahon, Goodrum or Dozier ROS.

  10. Kev says:

    Hi Scott – Great column, thx.
    Couple of quick hitters for you (10 Team Standard Roto 5×5);
    Muncy or Murphy ROS? LeClerc or Jackson? When does Y. Alvarez get called up?
    Keep up the good work!

    • Scott Chu says:

      Quickly, Kev, I’d say Muncy/LeClerc/Who knows. A year after keeping EVERYONE down needlessly, teams have started calling EVERYONE up needlessly.

      Murphy should have been my pick but he’s looking like a batting average contributor only right now and he’s not even that. Muncy has pop and a bit safer of a role somehow.

      • Kev says:

        Appreciate the response. I’m keeping Muncy and dropping Murphy (although I still believe he’s not done). You may be right about LeClerc over Jackson – Newcombe came in and got the save tonight! Sheesh. I’m stashing Yordan. Oh, and my kids totally loved that book ; ). Thx.

  11. Swfcdan says:

    “He pointed to things such as his low base running metrics and his only slightly above-average sprint speed and the strength of the lineup around him. It all made sense, in a weird sort of way, but neglected one key point: Mookie Betts is one of the most talented athletes in professional sports.”

    Doesn’t negate his point though. If the speed/baserunning metrics show that, surely expecting a decrease in steals this year is reasonable? Not sure how they calculate baserunning metrics though? As I’d expect Mookie to be high in that area due to good baseball IQ.

    Anyway not many of us get to own Mookie so enough about him. Daniel Murphy has been a disaster so far for my team which relied on him at 2B….yikes. Have lost track of the number of WW I’ve tried at 2B, with his injury and then poor performance/platooning. Ton of lefties in the west too. If you could get McNeil ($3) for him ($16) would you do it? OBP contracts keeper, so McNeil might be worth keeping one more year too.

    And finally you buying G Polanco? Rapid return from injury and looks strong out there. I think he could match last years production over a shorter span of games, Bell tatooing behind him only helps too. Polanco ($6) or E5 ($13) in a contracts keeper? And yes Polanco would likely be a keeper at $9.

    • Scott Chu says:

      The points about Mookie may have had merit, but the key was making an assumption based on a month of data when we have a lengthy track record to look back on.

      I’d take McNeil there. He can do what Murphy looks like hell do ROS plus grab some steals. I like that as a cost saving mood.

      Polanco’s biggest enemy is health, it a lack of talent. He should be solid when healthy, the question is how much ‘if healthy’ you’ll get.

  12. Chelsa says:

    Hi Scott!

    Another good article! Would like your take on Daniel Murphy and Travis Shaw. I drafted BOTH of them, but cut ties with Shaw a while ago. I am eager to do so with Murphy too! It’s nearly June and he STILL HASN’T done anything!! Am I overreacting or should I just cut the dead weight? I have Nicky Lopez and Gennett on the DL. Please advise

    • Scott Chu says:

      Thanks Chelsa! I’ve talked a bit about Murphy above, but generally you’re probably holding him in 12-teamers due to his upside. He’s shown an elite hit tool for quite a while now.

      Shaw started his rehab assignment and is a threat to be a good player at any time. That would put the Brewers in a tough spot with the recently called up Keston Hiura, who I expect would go back down if Shaw heats up. You’ve gotta keep an eye on him.

  13. Wade says:

    Hey Scott,

    What are your thoughts on Ozzie Albies? He’s been just awful lately and I’ve been thinking of trading him. I know I won’t get a super good price, but he’s killing me. His xWOBA is the same as his WOBA, his BABIP doesn’t indicate he’s getting unlucky, and his hard hit % is pretty bad.

    • Scott Chu says:

      Hey Wade! Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. The recent move to the 8th spot certainly indicates there’s a problem, and it’s not like he finished 2018 all that well. That said, the overall numbers aren’t THAT bad (.261/.315/.427). I think he can finish the year with 20 HR and 10-15 SB, though his real value last year (besides the weird power surge early on) came from the 105 runs. He won’t get those hitting in the bottom third of the order, so he’ll need to get back to the top of it to return the value you want.

      There’s no such thing as “buying low/selling high” in today’s fantasy baseball landscape because there’s too much info out there to take advantage of anyone who is willing to take the time to look things up. If you sell him, it’s because you think things will stay bad (meaning he stays as a 6-7-8 hitter) and you found someone who thinks he will rebound. You won’t get what you paid for him, but you might get more than he’s worth going forward.

  14. livedraw togel says:

    Yesterday, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a 25 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

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