Batter’s Box: Twice is Nice

Everything Chu thinks you need to know about Tuesday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

In all of my days writing this article, I have never seen a day where 10 different players hit two home runs on the same day. With precious few topics that are relevant to fantasy managers for the remainder of this season, I thought I’d instead provide a little extra outlook on the 10 guys who hit two home runs.

Sean Murphy (C, Oakland Athletics)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He now has 3 home runs, five runs scored and six RBI in his first four MLB starts and has started more often than he hasn’t in September. He’s owned in just 1.3% of ESPN leagues at the moment and may be well worth a stream with Oakland facing off against the soft pitching staffs of Texas and Kansas City in their next two series. He’s also a very intriguing future asset as a catcher with a strong hit tool to go along with his power and is more than good enough while wearing his catching gear to stay at catcher for the foreseeable future.

Kris Bryant (3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)—2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. In standard leagues, Bryant has not been a top-50 overall hitter. That’s not good considering the price that was paid on draft day, but on the bright side, he should get close to 150 games played after missing a big chunk of 2018. Also, it’s not like he’s been bad—he has 28 home runs and a .281/.381/.522 line and 100 runs scored. He gets a value boost in OBP formats and his brand name will likely inflate his draft price a bit, but he still should be considered a very high ceiling player.

Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. You don’t often hear about a 36-year-old with 1484 games played under his belt setting a new career high in home runs, but here we are. He has five home runs in his last five games, and with two more games in Detroit and a series against Toronto this week, he should be scooped up if you need any power or speed for your matchups. He’s not going to be worth much in 2020, but everything he provided in 2019 has to have been pure profit.

George Springer (OF, Houston Astros)—2-2, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Despite playing in just 108 games so far this season, Springer is one home run and two RBI away from career highs in both categories. He did miss a few games after hurting himself in the field earlier this month, but has a hit in each of his games since coming back including three home runs, giving him six in his last nine starts, which, I mean, is pretty nice. He’s also stolen five bases on the season, which isn’t all that impressive but for the fact that he’s only stolen five or six in each of the last two seasons. With a little health, he could even flirt with 10 steals in a full season if the Astros have the inclination to let him run (not that they would have any reason to). This is a top-50 player if you think he can play 140 games or more (which he did in the three seasons prior to 2019).

Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. He’s been moderately effective as a hitter this year, but between the modest results and missed time due to injury, he comes in as just the #31 fantasy shortstop on ESPN’s player rater. With the insane depth at shortstop and a .241 batting average since August 1st, it will be hard to see Seager being a top-15 player at the position in 2020 drafts.

Corey Dickerson (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. In 33 games as a Philly, Dickerson has eight home runs, 10 doubles, 34 RBI, and an impressive .300 batting average. He doesn’t walk a ton, but his career .286 batting average and 25-home run power makes him a great fourth or fifth outfielder in most formats. I’d love for him to be more than that, but the reality is that most teams utilize will utilize him as a platoon bat against right-handed pitching. He has a predictable split, with a 125 wRC+ against righties and a below-average 90 wRC+ against lefties. He’ll be a free agent this offseason and I have to think that whoever signs the 30-year-old will do so with a platoonmate in mind.

Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. These two home runs established a new high-water mark for Olson. As if his 29 home runs in a full 162 games in 2018 wasn’t enough, he already has 31 bombs in just 111 games in his sophomore season after missing time early with an injury to his hamate bone. In addition, he’s elevated his batting average from .247 last season to .274 this season by converting a fair number of ground balls into line drives. He also has started pulling the ball with more authority, with his pull rate jumping from 42% in 2018 to 51.3% this season. I think 2020 will show how impressive this young man can be in a full season and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t hit 40 or more home runs.

Martin Maldonado (C, Houston Astros)—2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. He’s a career part-time catcher who is strong behind the plate but not so good in the box.  AL-only managers might use him as an emergency catcher who can throw in a few home runs from time to time (he is average more than 10 per season for the last four years), but who otherwise should not be on a fantasy roster. The Astros wanted a defense-oriented catcher, and this is him.

Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB. As is always the case with Heyward, the overall stats don’t tell the overall story. On one hand, his 21 home runs and eight steals is much more valuable than anything he’s done since 2012 and his .345 OBP is pretty useful in those formats. The issue, of course, is that he runs very hot and cold throughout the year. In the first and third months of the season, he posted an OPS over .900 with at least 5 home runs each month and a combined 5 stolen bases. That’s good! In the second and fifth months, though, he had an OPS below .620, only 3 home runs each month, and 1 total stolen base. He was basically statistical poison. In the fourth month, he was just, well, average. So by month, he was great, then awful, then great, then mediocre, then awful. For head-to-head players in 12-team or fewer leaguers, I would stay away from Heyward. There are other more reliable options in the outfield.

Didi Gregorius (SS, New York Yankees)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. The Yankees infield is going to be an interesting story to follow over the offseason, but I feel somewhat confident that Gregorious, who is technically a free agent after this season, will be back and serving an important role in the middle of the lineup against righties. He missed most of the first half recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be a rather serviceable middle infielder in most leagues due to his power and counting stats if he remains a Yankee. His lack of speed and average ratios will keep him out of the discussion as a starting fantasy shortstop in 10- and 12-teamers, though.

Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves)—0-2, RBI, 2 K, BB. He came roaring out of the gate when he was promoted to the big leagues in May, and while he absolutely belonged on fantasy rosters, worry-warts like me kept pointing to his incredibly aggressive approach at the plate and worried about the sustainability. When I’m worried about players, I don’t actually want to be right because being right means these guys don’t get to succeed. Unfortunately, I was right to be worried. In 88 plate appearances since July 1, he has a 43.2% strikeout rate and a .152/.216/.291 line. With Josh Donaldson likely going elsewhere for 2020, Riley should be able to slot into the third base job for the Braves next season and you should expect him to showcase his power. To reach his fantasy potential, though, he’ll need to tidy up his control of the strike zone and learn to hit the offspeed and breaking stuff. His swinging strike rate on sliders and change ups is over 26% on each pitch, and you’d better believe that every single pitcher who faces him is going to know that.

Danny Santana (1B/2B/OF, Texas Rangers)—0-4, 3 K, BB, 2 SB. A .494 OPS, a 40.3% strikeout rate, and a wRC+ of 10 (which means he has produced 90% below the average major leaguer in that stretch). Sure he has three home runs and these two steals in that time, but you can’t roster him right now.

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here at Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor of Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and co-host of the Hacks & Jacks Podcast on the PL Podcast Network, and 4x FSWA Award nominee for Best Fantasy Baseball Podcast. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad of three, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

2 responses to “Batter’s Box: Twice is Nice”

  1. Bantha Fodder says:

    Hi Scott – who do you like as a 4th outfielder for the stretch run between these gents…
    E.Jimenez, W.Myers, W.Calhoun, Soler, JD Davis, Corey Dickerson

    • Scott Chu says:

      I’d probably go week by week with these kinds of options, but Myers starts a series in Coors on Friday and I want that on my team in the short term. I’d re-evaluate based on schedules on Sunday evening.

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