Batter’s Box: When Your Name Is Kyle

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

After presumably chugging a few Monsters and punching some holes in dry wall, Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs) went 3-3, with four runs, two tates and seven RBI. The Kyles of the world rejoiced. Schwarber is just one of many Kyles, you see. There are many others like him.

Schwarber is also one of many power-hitting outfielders with one or two flaws. As I’ve said many times in this crazy season, we have to set a new bar for what a “power source” means. Schwarber, who should get to 35 home runs by the end of the season, should certainly qualify as a power source. The thing is, there are many others like him. According to THE BAT (which is admittedly a bit bullish on hitters compared with Steamer and ZiPS), 72 hitters are projected to hit 10 or more home runs between now and the end of the season. 32 of those 72 (44.44%) of those hitters are outfielders. Schwarber is actually projected by THE BAT to hit 12 more home runs, and if we change the threshold to guys projected to hit 12 or more home runs by season’s end, we still have 40 total players and 17 outfielders (42.5%). Simply put, power is plentiful in the outfield, and almost half of the major power sources in fantasy baseball are outfielders.

This revelation shows us two important lessons that we should bear in mind for the remainder of 2019: The first is that power-hitting outfielders are everywhere and simply hitting for power isn’t enough to be of much value in 10- and 12-team mixed leagues. To have relevance, they need to do at least one other thing well. Be it hitting for a high average or stealing bases or scoring runs, they have to do SOMETHING besides hit dingers. If you have a plain vanilla power hitter on your roster (Jay Bruce is the first name that comes to mind), that’s OK, but be aware that you have no need to be emotionally attached. There are many others like him. You can burn and churn these guys as they get hot, cold, injured, or demoted.

The second lesson, which is similar, is that it’s REALLY hard to roster a power hitter if he is a major drag in one or more categories. Batting average is the usual culprit, as guys such as Schwarber, Bruce, Joc PedersonKole Calhoun, and Randal Grichuk have been significant drains on a category that is difficult to boost. I’m not saying these guys aren’t worth owning, but I will say that now more than ever it is critical to have intentional team construction in roto leagues (and to a lesser extent, H2H categories) if you want to stay competitive in batting average. With power being so plentiful, it makes less and less sense to hold on to a batting average sandbag just because he can hit 30 home runs—especially if he’s not bringing some major value in another category.

As for our guy Schwarber, there is hope yet that he can stand out from the crowd of Kyles and power-hitting outfielders. Hitting first for the Cubbies can be a major boon to run scoring—a category that’s usually not helped much by sluggers. He’s been the leadoff hitter more often than he hasn’t for quite some time thanks to his double-digit walk rate. Also, while his batting average is an unimpressive .238, Statcast believes that he’s been the victim of poor fortune, as it has calculated an expected batting average of .256. While that’s not a boost, it’s not much of a drag either. Finally, Schwarber is hitting the ball considerably harder than he ever has before, and his 92.7 mph exit velocity and 50.3% hard-hit rates are career highs and are in the top 3% of the league. Despite feeling like he’s been around forever, Schwarber is just 26 years old and is showing some signs of growth at the plate. With luck, he could find a way to separate himself from the pack of Kyles. If not, well, I’m sure there’s plenty of Monster to drink and dry wall to destroy, which is what I hear Kyles like best.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF, San Francisco Giants)—4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI. He’s hitting .275 with a .505 slugging percentage in his first 54 games as a 28-year-old rookie. While Statcast indicates that this is largely being fueled by luck, he did have a fantastic season in Triple-A before his call-up and if nothing else has been a fun story for the resurgent Giants.

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. He hasn’t really stopped hitting since the break, slashing .391/.432/.725 with six home runs and two stolen bases in 16 games. Turns out he still has elite bat skills and a bit of speed after all. While he wasn’t in the recent two-round mock our staff did for a 12-teamer, he could find himself there if he continues his ridiculous tear for the rest of the second half. I’m not saying he will, of course, but I am saying that he’s capable of it.

Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, R, HR, 4 RBI. He has three three-hit games in his past four starts with eight runs scored, two home runs, and six RBI in that stretch. His .484/.500/.903 line last week likely won more than one person their matchup and is yet another reason why we don’t give up on players who have elite talent. His strikeout rate is still a bit elevated, but even if it stays where it is now at 23.2%, there isn’t much cause for alarm.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, 2 R, 2B. Four straight games with an extra-base hit and a .457 wOBA in July helps solidify him as an elite shortstop for this year and likely for many years to come. There isn’t much speed here, which will likely keep him out of the first round of most drafts, but the elite batting average and counting stats will make him a popular second-round choice.

Ji-Man Choi (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. The overall numbers won’t impress many people, but that’s because Choi just really isn’t an everyday player. Those in deep daily leagues or those who play DFS will have a better understanding of his true value, though, which lies in his .818 OPS against righties. He’s worth a look in those formats whenever the Rays draw a guy such as Rick Porcello or any of the also-rans the Orioles have cobbled together at the back end of their rotation.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-5, R, 2B, 4 RBI. It’s still so wild to me that we’ve seen so many rookies break out and that we haven’t talked much about Vladito. I suppose it’s a cautionary tale for all redraft players that rookie success is wildly unpredictable and that even the surest of sure things can flop a bit. On the plus side, his plate discipline has been quite strong and while the power is still a work in progress, he’s improved as the season as gone on. He’s also has a strong batting average in July (.278), and it’s been even better since the break (.298). There are still plenty of reasons to believe that he can be a generational hitter.

Nate Lowe (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-5, R, 2B, RBI. His third trip to the majors has been much longer and more productive than his first two. He’s hitting .327/.413/.673 this go-around with a reasonable 23.8% strikeout rate and solid 9.5% walk rate. He wasn’t a consensus top-100 prospect coming into the season, but he was exactly my kind of prospect—with a plus hit tool to complement his plus (or maybe even double-plus) power. I’m excited about the young kid for 2020 and beyond, though this season will be a bit of a mixed bag with regards to playing time.

Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants)—3-5, R, 2B, RBI. He was a top-three catcher by wRC+ in July among qualified hitters, and while he doesn’t have much power left in his surgically repaired hips, he can still smack the ball around enough to be a locked-in catcher in most formats.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—3-4, R, 3 RBI, BB. He’s on pace to set new personal records in home runs, RBI, and batting average. He’s everyone’s favorite “underrated” elite player for good reason, as he’s about as consistent as they come in every category except speed, which has more or less evaporated. Because his truly elite contribution has historically been batting average, he hasn’t driven a ton of excitement, but his first career 30-home run season should catch quite a bit of attention. I suspect that 2019 was his last season as an “underrated” guy.

Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-4, 2 R, 3B, 2B. He should get close to 20 home runs and 25 stolen bases, though it will come with a .240 to .250 batting average. He’s somehow been a bit of a disappointment for some, though I suspect that’s only because they had unrealistic expectations for the former top-five prospect. He’s not an elite hitter, but he has enough pop and speed to be a top-25 outfielder in standard 5×5 formats for many years to come.

Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. The zero strikeouts are probably the most exciting thing here. My opinion of Sano (modern-day Chris Carter with an abysmal batting average but elite power) hasn’t changed much, and I don’t expect it to. The hot streaks will be game-changing, and the slumps will be devastating. That is the roller coaster of Sano ownership.

Danny Santana (1B/2B/OF, Texas Rangers)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. Sure, why not? I have no idea why he’s been so good and I’m not sure I care because by the time I figure it out, I’m sure he’ll turn back into a pumpkin and/or career minor leaguer. Until then, though, enjoy the ride.

Jonathan Villar (2B/SS, Baltimore Orioles)—3-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. His 13 home runs and 22 stolen bases so far in 2019 are precisely what we hoped for. While his legendary 2016 is going to be an extreme outlier, Villar looks to be a solid 15-home run, 30-stolen base threat for the next few seasons. In fact, he may even get to 20 home runs and 35 steals by the time 2019 is over.

Yonder Alonso (1B, Colorado Rockies)—2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. I can promise you only one thing: By the time he gets hot, the Rockies will do something weird and platoon him. I have no faith in their lineup management. He has two starts for the Rockies with two hits in each, though. Maybe they noticed?

Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—2-2, R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. Is he the AL Rookie of the Year? I mean, he certainly looks like he could be at this rate. That and whether he’ll get enough appearances in the outfield to retain eligibility in 2020 are the only two real questions we have at this point. The kid is an elite power hitter.

Matt Thaiss (1B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. He hit two home runs, so he’s being mentioned. I want nothing to do with him outside of extremely deep AL-only leagues though. I can’t imagine he’ll be with the Angels for long with that 36.6% strikeout rate and the contract of Albert Pujols clogging up first base and Justin Bour just waiting to return to the big leagues. **Special thanks to Jason Norman for pointing out that I messed this up. I had 100% written this up thinking of Matt Beaty. Most of the analysis was surprisingly salvageable, though.

Ender Inciarte (OF Atlanta Braves)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Will the bump in playing time and the struggles of Austin Riley be enough to secure a full-time job? I mean, no, probably not, but those of us in deep leagues where he’s been locked into our IL and bench spots can always dream, right?

(Photo by Jerome Lynch/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

7 responses to “Batter’s Box: When Your Name Is Kyle”

  1. Michael says:

    Can you do like a stream of the day for hitters, like how nick does with pitchers in case you need a quick play?

    • Scott Chu says:

      That’s a pretty neat idea, Michael! I’ll pitch it to the bosses and see what they say.

      Our DFS guys do daily write-ups, which would probably serve a somewhat similar purpose in the meantime. Rich Holman wrote up today’s slate and likes Chester Cuthbert and any Angels you can get your hands on, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

      Additionally, the Reds face Jordan Lyles at home, who has struggled mightily of late. John VanMeter, a lefty second baseman, has been batting fifth for the Reds and has an almost comical 1.405 OPS in his last 15 games. He’s owned in 20% of Y! leagues and 1% of ESPN leagues, so it’s pretty likely you can grab him.

  2. Jason Norman says:

    You’ve got the wrong la team for thaiss.

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