Batter’s Box: The Moose Giveth, the Moustakas Away

Jim Chatterton explores the top hitting performances from Thursday's games including a Cardinals catcher not named Molina.

It has been a few years since the World Series Royals were been disbanded. Mike Moustakas held on until last year, when he was traded to the Brewers before free agency. As a free agent, the Brewers saw enough in him to bring him back and even play a new position. In terms of fantasy, this has been great, giving additional value to a sneaky draft pick, a player who transformed his hitting approach not too long ago, a hitting transformation that resulted in a slugger. In 2017, we see a small 4 to 5 percentage point jump in fly-ball rate and  a sizeable jump in swing rate and swinging-strike rate. This has brought Moose from slugging in the .400s to slugging in the .500s while also keeping his batting average intact.

In 2019, he has kept up those changes while also hitting the ball harder. His hard-hit percentage is up 4 points from last year and almost 10 points from 2017. This has helped his HR/FB rate stay around 20% on the year and helped deliver last night’s line of 4-6, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Like most batters in the league, he’s seeing more and more breaking stuff; however, this season he has taken great strides in his success with them. He is hitting nearly .300 while slugging over .500 against breaking pitches. Many hoped a full season in Milwaukee could help bring Moustakas to another level as it did for Christian Yelich. So far, we are seeing Moustakas at the best he’s ever been.

Let’s look around the league to see who the best that ever was on May 30.

Matt Wieters (C, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. For some reason, I want to spell Wieters “ei” instead of “ie.” I know the E before E rule; it just looks weird to me. Almost as weird as seeing someone not named Yadier Molina at catcher for the Cardinals. He’s done relatively well for coming off the bench to spell Molina, but that is all he will be doing until Molina finds himself hurt.

Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Escobar is quietly (at least for me) having an all-star caliber season. With yesterday’s game, he now has 14 homers and 45 RBI with an OPS just shy of .900. He’s tapped into a bit more power in Arizona, hitting the ball a bit harder than last year. However, he still isn’t hitting the ball hard in general with a hard-hit rate below 30%. Your time enjoying this level Escobar may be over soon as his xSLG is 130 points below his SLG for the season.

Christian Walker (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. After a blazing hot start to the season, Walker has had a rough go for the past three weeks or so. This was only his second home run since April 22. Since that same date, he is batting .179 with a .270 BABIP and a 32.3% strikeout rate. Not all players with hot starts have found gold, and Walker seems to be one of the fools.

David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. In the middle of May, Dahl had a 10-day stretch where he missed a few games and struck out more than 40% of the time. Since that ended May 22 with a pinch-hit double, he’s been back in the lineup every day and has cut down his strikeouts tremendously, only striking out 12.5% of the time in the past eight games. I know it is just eight games, but there was a drastic shift after returning to the lineup. Dahl is still getting hits, but he is yet to really display much power this year.

Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, Colorado Rockies)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. With another heavy contender for a middle infield spot, Brendan Rodgers, getting the call, McMahon again has to hit to stay in the lineup. He has shown solid signs in May with an .851 OPS and slightly increasing his walk rate. He has cut his ground balls a bit and is hitting the ball harder than in March and April. McMahon’s homer Thursday traveled 458 feet. It could be tough for Rodgers to pull the spot away from McMahon.

Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-5, 2 R, 2B, 4 RBI. Austin Meadows is a hit machine. He is hitting .457 in his past seven games with all but one of the games being a multi-hit extravaganza. He’s kept raking since returning from his injury May 10. He has a .708 slugging and a 207 wRC+ in that time. Meadows has grown into a star with the Rays.

Yasmani Grandal (C, Milwaukee Brewers)—4-6, R, HR, 2B, RBI. Grandal was crushing Pirates pitching Thursday with three hits over 100 mph. His home run was the only hit he had under 100 mph interestingly, traveling only 338 feet. Grandal is living up to being one of the top fantasy catchers with the Brewers, especially with plate appearances. He is one of only five with 50 games and one of only three with 200 plate appearances. This can help greatly in fantasy by year’s end.

Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-6, R, 2 2B, 4 RBI. Cain has not looked himself this year in his hopes to repeat his fabulous first year in Milwaukee. He’s not hitting for average, not walking, and not stealing as many bags. He is still a ground-ball hitter like last year (over 50%), but he’s not hitting the ball as hard. Also, his BABIP is down more than 60 points and is 50 points below his career average. He is also swinging and missing more often, especially on balls out of the zone, which he is chasing more. This has prevented Cain from getting on base as frequently as last year giving less stolen base opportunities.

Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)—1-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Abreu has been on a homer tear the past week or so, with five of his past nine hits going over the wall. Despite barely having an OPS above .800, Abreu has taken advantage of his runners on base, knocking in an AL leading 49 RBI. I have two concerns with Abreu: His strikeout rate continues to rise as he is whiffing on more pitches out of the zone. And his BABIP has remained as low as last year’s, which dropped about 30 points below his career average. Both of these have contributed to his .255 average, well below his usual close to .300.

Yonder Alonso (1B, Chicago White Sox)—2-2, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Abreu’s partner in crime, Yonder Alonso, had a surprise in Thursday’s game. He recorded two hits and a walk! It has been struggle this year for him as he is hitting below .200 and is still in the everyday lineup. He also isn’t even slugging above .600. There hasn’t been much to redeem Alonso, but his BABIP may turn around from .195 and bring him back to a respectable average. For now, he’s not worth your time.

Cesar Puello (OF, Los Angeles Angels)—3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. Puello was just called up, and in his two games so far, all he has done is hit. In two games, he is 6-11 with four runs, two homers, and five RBI. I don’t know what secret Mike Trout has given to all the other Angels outfielders, but it is working. Puello was hitting well in Triple-A, and if he keeps this up, he may be worth a grab in deep leagues until he is gone.

(Photo by Keith Gillett/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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