Batter’s Box: My Friend Pedro

Jim Chatterton finds the top hitters from Friday's games including some fresh faces.

This is not an advertisement for the new Switch game called My Friend Pedro. This is an advertisement for the new Baltimore Orioles catcher called my friend, Pedro. Pedro Severino. This younger catcher never had a full opportunity to play as he spent his early career staying in AAA for the Nationals. Now with the Orioles, he is sharing recent time with Chance Sisco. Since Severino hasn’t had much playing time before this year, there is not much to go off from. However, in the 70 games he played with the Nats, he hit .168 with a 32 wRC+. He never had much of a hit tool in the minors either. The Orioles took a shot on him to fill in a role and it has been paying dividends.

Of catchers with 150 or more plate appearances this season, Severino ranks 7th in wRC+, 5th in wOBA, and 5th in OPS. Unfortunately, he only has the 25th most plate appearances, so he has not had as much opportunity to put those skills into action. How did Severino go from 0 to 60 so quickly? He’s hitting a ton of line drives and finally hitting the ball hard. Last year, his hard hit percentage was below 20, and he has improved that up to 35.8%. He’s handling fastballs and off-speed pitches nicely, not struggling much against one particular pitch. This balance has come from laying off pitches out of the zone much more often than last year while also making more contact on pitches in the zone. Multi-hit games like last night’s 3-4, 2 R, 2B, 3 RBI are happening every few games due to these improvements. There is not much luck in this great contact he’s been making but that doesn’t mean the contact won’t stop. This is his first streak of any kind of success at the plate. In a market like catcher, Severino is an easy scoop up, but once he struggles again it may be time to part ways to the next hot streak, especially if his playing time is not as regular. For now, he’s a good friend we should all support.

Let’s look around the rest of the league for more friends and possibly some enemies.

 Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. McNeil is one game away from playing as many games in 2019 as he did in 2018. The breakout contact star finished last year with a .329 average and a 137 wRC+. Many were worried if this was just a flash in the pan, but flash forward 62 games into the 2019 season and he’s hitting .341 with a 143 wRC+. He won’t deliver the power as frequently as he did last night, but he’ll score and drive in some runs while being on top of the average leaderboard.

Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. With his weird season last year of injuries and struggles, his prolific 2016 and 2017 seasons were not fresh in people’s minds. Sanchez has changed that this season. His 50% hard-hit rate and 50% fly ball rate are a perfect storm for hitting at Yankee Stadium. He’s definitely the best catcher for fantasy and he’s proving he could be one of the best overall.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Grichuk has usually been a fine player, hitting 25 homers a year playing in 120/130 games. This season has been a step back. Usually atop the barrel leader boards in Statcast, Grichuk is making softer contact, topping the ball as well as getting under it more often. His recent play has also been similar so he’ll have to keep having games like yesterday to make himself a worthwhile pickup.

José Iglesias (SS, Cincinnati Reds)—4-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB. Iglesias is back again for the second day in a row. Just when I chided him for his lack of stolen bases, he delivers with a four hit night and his second stolen base of the season. If this is a change of heart, and he goes back to his base stealing ways of last year, he may be a solid pickup for some extra speed with the way he is hitting.

Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, R, 3 SB. With how incredible Christian Yelich has been, I’ve been blinded to Cain’s struggles. Even last night’s game, Yelich delivered another HR/SB combo when Cain had a solid fantasy performance. Cain’s three stolen bases takes him to ten on the year, still well below his pace for the last handful of seasons. His run scoring has still been great despite the .312 OBP. But what’s going on with Cain? Notably, his BABIP is about 50 points below his career average. But he is swinging at more pitches out of the zone and missing on more of those swings too, driving his walk rate down four points from last year. His average should improve a bit but don’t expect him to be a .400 OBP guy again.

Cheslor Cuthbert (1B/3B, Kansas City Royals)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. With a name like Cheslor, I’m imagining him walking up to the plate in full plated armor and the largest sword known to man as his bat. He did deliver on that name with the hardest hit of the game last night going for a home run. However, it hasn’t been that way for the month he’s been up in the bigs. His expected stats are well below what he has been producing, so he’s not the knight in shining armor coming to save your team.

Marcell Ozuna (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, SB. Ozuna joined Yelich on the fun with a combo meal last night. Ozuna seems to be trying to prove something this year with stealing bags. Outside of the five he stole his rookie season, he has never stolen more than three bases. This speed boost and power resurgence have helped his value as his average has dipped to its lowest mark since 2016. He’s been hitting way less grounders and more fly balls, pushing that divergence of power and average. He’s also hitting the ball harder than he ever has before with a 51.5% hard-hit rate. Know also that his expected stats are pointing to a somewhat unlucky first half of the year.

Alex Dickerson (OF, San Francisco Giants)—3-5, R, HR, 3B, 6 RBI. Last night was his first game since May, and his first with his new club. He kicked off being a Giant with a career night. He wanted to show his new employer they made the right decision. If you found a way to start him yesterday too, then good for you.

Kevin Pillar (OF, San Francisco Giants)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. Another new Giants outfielder putting up some big numbers. Pillar is having his typical season of 15 homers, 15 steals and hitting .250. It’s always almost something to be interested in but only in some deeper leagues and maybe now just NL only.

Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Olson broke his hand two games into the season and came back at the beginning of May. Since June 5th, he has settled in. In those 17 games, he is hitting .311/.391/.672. In that time he also cut his strikeout rate down to 18.8%. He is hitting tons of hard hit fly balls and line drives with a 54.3% hard-hit rate. Expect to see more of this June version of Olson moving forward.

Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)—3-3, 4 R, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB. Since getting called back up, Smith is sporting a 114 wRC+ and hitting well enough to be worth the roster spot to boost your team’s stolen base totals. For all the details you need on Smith, read Daniel Port’s Going Deep from June 19th.

(Photo by Douglas Stringer/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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