In the 18 days that have elapsed since Philadelphia 1B/OF prospect Rhys Hoskins was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to begin his MLB career, he’s gone yard 11 times. Furthermore, after a 4-11, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, BB, 2 K effort in three home games against the Cubs, Hoskins has now homered in five straight while simultaneously enjoying a nine-game hit streak. He’s taken the pitching staffs of the Padres, the Giants, the Marlins and Chicago back to school with his insane .828 slugging percentage over his first 64 big-league AB. As Philly’s cleanup hitter, Hoskins has shown that he’s already very comfortable with what arms in The Show are able to throw his way. Despite the small sample we have to work with, 49.0% hard contact is difficult to not be excited about. What’s even more surprising is that he’s done this with a .200 BABIP thus far, so it could just get better for Hoskins in spite of the great clip of production he’s started with. Moreover, he has an excellent 5.2% swinging stirke rate and 93% zone contact, both of which appear surprisingly honed for such a green talent. Philadelphia has the worst record in baseball, so it’s encouraging to see some youth join their roster as a beacon of hope for the future even though this season is well out of hand. Hoskins has been a mainstay at LF with Aaron Altherr out with a hamstring strain, but since Hoskins can also play 1B, Tommy Joseph (.239, 19 HR over 443 AB) is the one who’s likely going to suffer a dock in playing time when Altherr returns healthy. Hoskins is becoming the beautiful rookie surprise of the 2017 second half that Gary Sanchez was last year. I recommend adding his power and his .297 average immediately if you can, with serious consideration toward naming him a keeper if he can sustain the pace of his meteoric rise.
Now, let’s take a look at what some notable names were up to at the dish this weekend:
Byron Buxton (OF, MIN) – 7-13, 6 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 K, 2 SB. Buxton has rapidly emerged as one of the more exciting and perhaps unexpected second-half stories. For a guy who was under the Mendoza Line as recently as July 3, he has channeled his energy into the right places since being optioned to the minors for a clear-your-head sabbatical six weeks ago. Buxton has batted .330 with eight homers now in August, and after the three-jack demolition derby he enjoyed Sunday at Rogers Centre, it seems he doesn’t have any interest in slowing down. To have 22 runs and 21 RBI on the month is incredible stuff we come to expect from top-25 fantasy players. For context, only seven guys have crossed the plate more than Buxton in the last 30 days, while only 12 players have knocked more RBI in the same span. Throw in eight SB for good measure and you’re dealing with a suddenly lethal fantasy player in Buxton. Provided he can keep up the pace with an ominously bloated .373 second-half BABIP, he’s an excellent play and should be deployed in all formats for the foreseeable future.
Starlin Castro (2B, NYY) – 6-12, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB, K. He’s FINALLY back. I legitimately was starting to give up hope that he’d be able to rehab back into fantasy relevance with the alarmingly long layoff due to a hamstring injury. Castro didn’t miss a beat, however, in managing two doubles and a trio of RBI in the weekend series versus Seattle. He’s only appeared in nine games since the All-Star break, so I really hope he can stay healthy and that New York got him back to a full-time workload only because he is truly healed and healthy. If that’s the case, he’s going to be quite a welcome addition back to fantasy lineups with the scoring ability and high-average performances we witnessed early in the year. Although it’s only six hits we’re looking at in the month of August, Castro only had 9.1% hard contact and 27.3% soft contact over the weekend, which is rough. The good news that the medium contact resulted in some serious line drive action, so there is hope yet.
Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, NYY) – 4-10, 3 R, HR, 6 RBI, BB, 2 K. Ellsbury has stolen six bases since the All-Star break but has seen his average decline severely on the shoulders of a .151 July and .250 August. The homer Saturday was just his third of the month, and he’s started to see a fair helping of appearances as only a pinch-hitter. The six RBI he contributed against Seattle represent 40% of his plated runs for the whole month, so he might be heating up but seems tough to trust with playoff seeding on the line. He’s a fourth OF to be deployed only against RHP.
Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL) – 6-13, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, 3 K. Schoop has admirably managed to keep his batting average in the same just-above-.300 echelon for over five straight weeks now: his consistency at the plate and RBI production headline his fantasy portfolio right now as the Orioles’ locked-in 3-spot hitter. May is the only month in which Schoop scored more runs than he plated, if you were curious, and he’s on pace to get somewhere between 110 and 120 ribbies by season’s end. The power has taken a slight backseat recently with only four homers in August but, regardless, he has 28 overall and is still firmly a fantastic starting fantasy 2B in roto.
Mark Trumbo (OF/DH, BAL) – 5-13, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 3 K. It’s been a bit of a slow three weeks for Trumbo, who’s gone .246 (16-65) with three homers, 10 runs and seven RBI since his reactivation off the 10-day DL August 9 from a ribcage muscle strain. He’s a 20-HR guy, but July was a brutal month for the Baltimore slugger and August has been anemic too. The good news is that he does tend to do well in the final months of the season, going .272 and .300 during the September/October timeframe of each of the last two seasons. I’m hoping the .278 season BABIP, and more pointedly the .237 second-half BABIP, collectively mean Trumbo is poised to go on a tear and finish strong for you as a legitimate UTIL play.
J.D. Martinez (OF, ARI) – 3-10, 4 R, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K. Martinez has matched Buxton’s eight homers for the month, albeit with just a .236 average in August and fewer runs/RBI. It’s odd to think of him more as a power guy as the everyday 5-spot batter in Arizona’s order, but his BA isn’t where it was when he was still a Detroit Tiger. Over the remaining month of the fantasy season, he should be able to net you 5-10 more homers and anywhere from 15-20 more runs and RBI so he’s absolutely a necessary start whenever the D-backs play. The only subpar split he’s got in 2017 is against RHP on the road, a situation in which he bats just .234 so be aware of that if you feel like avoiding a mediocre matchup.
Daniel Descalso (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, ARI) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB, K. Descalso has been struggling mightily to produce for the Diamondbacks lately. He’s batting .227 this month with just six runs and three RBI, and while he’s going to set a personal record for HRs in a season, two in August and eight overall at this point means that he’s not terribly useful as the fantasy season winds down. The positional eligibility makes him seem more attractive than he realistically is, as a perennial backup: Marwin Gonzalez and Chris Taylor are way better jacks of all trades to utilize down the stretch. I would love to endorse Descalso’s teammate Brandon Drury more because I see upside in him, but the reality is twofold here: he starts against LHP usually, but he is not a good hitter away from Phoenix regardless of the hurler’s handedness. Neither Descalso nor Drury have the production you need on a regular basis to be worth your while the rest of the season.
Yan Gomes (C, CLE) – 4-8, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI, 3 K. Gomes has sporadic spurts of creativity on offense that are exciting to watch as an Indians fan, but you’re just getting extremely lucky on rare occasions if you’re relying on him as a starting fantasy backstop. He was 0-7 in the Boston series and then blew up for four hits and a grand slam against the beleaguered Royals; that kind of unpredictability—especially in a platoon situation seeing him split starts with Roberto Perez—unfortunately means I still can’t recommend him beyond two-catcher formats.
Joey Votto (1B, CIN) – 0-8, 6 BB, 3 K. It’s a bummer he couldn’t be driven around to score at least once or twice after reaching base on balls six times this weekend, but Votto showed why he’s still an exceptional play in OBP leagues even when he struggles to muster a hit. This aberration of a stat line, as far as going hitless and sans XBH, is not to be taken too seriously. Even with this rough performance in the Pittsburgh series, Votto is still batting .345 during August and is safely on pace to reach the 110s in runs and RBI on the season. Continue to use him on a daily basis and don’t get cute thinking you have identified a slumping hitter.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, MIA) – 8-10, 5 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K. It’s not even fair. Four straight multi-hit games and the power just won’t quit. He’s undoubtedly been the best fantasy producer of the second half and it’s not remotely close.