Batter’s Box: Long Live the King

Jim Chatterton explores Saturday's top hitters from around the league.

In a rare move by many organizations, the Philadelphia Phillies signed one of their top prospects , Scott Kingery, to a long term contract before he played a single game. The standard process is to manipulate service time to keep the player under pre-arbitration contract and slowly move into arbitration. These measures provide a team friendly, cost controlled contract for almost a decade. The Phillies, however, finalized a deal for six years and $24 million with club options for the 2024 to 2026 seasons that could add and extra $31 million. The Chicago White Sox used a similar construct this past off season with Eloy Jimenez. The economic decisions for both the player and organization can be hotly debated, but it does show the Phillies had a level of trust in what Kingery can become.  There’s still plenty of baseball for him to play on this deal, but the first year was undoubtedly a rough start. The Phillies struggled down the stretch in 2018 failing to make the postseason while Kingery had a rough rookie campaign, finishing with a 62 wRC+ and a sub-zero fWAR. In the current MLB environment where younger players are thriving more and more, it was tough for fans to watch and keep the hope they have for a player that is supposed to be a part of their core for years to come.

2019 started, and any residual feelings from the previous season quickly shifted as Kingery began to show improvements and display his true potential. He came out of the gate strong, was felled with a strained hamstring, but picked right back up and slashed .316/.350/.643. Frustratingly, that has not been the story of his second half. Since the All Star break, he’s fallen off slashing .243/.323/.439. His K rate has nearly reached 30% making less contact overall, especially at pitches out of the zone, while being more selective on pitches in the zone. His hard hit rate has dropped down to the low 30s which is where he was for some of his better months last year but not as good as where he’s shown he could be. One of the biggest positives he’s shown over both seasons is his consistent ability to hit line drives. He’s maintained a fantastic 25% line drive percentage. Another positive? Yesterday’s 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB line. In Miami, Kingery slugged a 380 foot home run and then a 413 foot double to the deepest part of the park. Hopefully those hits can trigger a rebound.

Corey Dickerson (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—4-5, R, 2 2B, 5 RBI. Dickerson to the Phillies could probably be the most under rated trade of the deadline. Since the deadline, he’s slashing an interesting .292/.288/.569 with no walks. But the Phils have added another solid bat into the middle of their lineup. Check out Daniel Port’s article from a couple of weeks ago for a deep dive.

Hanser Alberto (2B/3B, Baltimore Orioles)—2-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, BB. This guy just hits the baseball. He has a 3% walk rate and a 9% K rate. But he had negligible power in the first half with a .390 but has turned things around with a .540 slugging so far in the second. He’s hitting about 5% more fly balls but he’s increased his HR/FB significantly. With that huge jump, his power is most likely not sustainable and the rest of his value comes from a high batting average.

Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—1-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Has anyone pointed out yet that he’s Drake and Josh combined? Yesterday’s game he finally broke out of his 3-30 slump with a home run. He hasn’t been striking out much over the stretch, but there’s been a lot of weak ground ball contact. The last three or so months, he’s been destroyed by a supremely low BABIP, while hitting the ball less hard.

Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)—2-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Bregman is back for more with another home run and his third straight game with two hits. This guy has been on cheat mode since the All Star break slashing .363/.468/.714.

Francisco Cervelli (C, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, R, 2 2B, 3 RBI. With an interesting twist, Cervelli asked to be released from the Pirates and was subsequently scooped up by the Braves. With his first game in the Braves uniform and first game since May, he stringed together three hits with two doubles. If he plays regularly, he may be someone to keep an eye on but this season has not been the same as last year for him.

Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Kepler has kept up his shenanigans in the second half with a similar slash line. His average is down a bit but his slugging is up, as his BABIP dropped nearly 50 points and an increase in HR/FB. However, his August has been a bit more of a struggle than most months, with his fly ball rate up, his hard hit rate down, and all his expected stats much lower than they have been. At least he’s still been able to hit some home runs.

Jake Cave (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Cave is still in the lineup with Rosario out and he continues to produce. With no definitive timetable other than day to day for Rosario, Cave should stay in the lineup. If Rosario does make it to the IL, Cave could be an intriguing pick up in some deeper leagues.

Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Crawford is putting together another normal Crawford like season. He’s in the lineup everyday but doesn’t do much in any capacity especially for fantasy. His last month his slash is below .300 for each average, OBP, and SLG. That’s impressive.

Bo Bichette (SS, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. On the other end of the long-locked shortstops is Bo Bichette with back to back three hit games. Since his doubles streak ended, he’s come a bit more down to earth, yet he’s still slashing .295/.328/.557 over that span. Additionally, he could use some more plate discipline as his BB/K rate is 0.25. That can come with the territory though for a rookie season. He’s still been incredible and, according to Jai Correa’s piece, will be a key player in fantasy teams championship run.

Omar Narváez (C, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. Seattle has moved on from one home run hitting catcher to another but this time, Narváez can hit for average too. With a .287/.361/.473 slash with almost 400 plate appearances, he has rewarded fantasy owners that picked him up or drafted him and stuck with him through out the season.

Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Willie Calhoun is finally here. He’s been called up the past couple of years for several short stints, but hasn’t put things together until this season. After his most recent call up in late July, he’s slashing .307/.352/.663. He’s making more contact than previous seasons while hitting the ball harder with more fly balls. If you need some power down the stretch, he’s someone to grab with four dingers in his last six.

(Photo by Kyle Ross/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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