Birthday Squirrel

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday's games.

Jeff McNeil (NYM): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.

After slashing a sublime .319/ .383/ .501 over his first three seasons, the Flying Squirrel came crashing down in 2021 and was left as an afterthought this past draft season. But last night’s 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB performance, on his 30th birthday no less, reminded everyone of the type of hitter he was. His breakout in 2019 was preceded by an excellent major-league debut in 2018 (.368 wOBA across 248 PA) and a fantastic season in the minors that year, as well.

With the Mets trailing by a run, McNeil led off the second by belting a 1-1 fastball from Josiah Gray into the seats in right to tie it up and later added a pair of singles. One of the few hitters capable of flirting with a .300 batting average, if McNeil can find the power he showed in 2019, he has the potential to be a difference-maker. And if he keeps hitting like this, you’d figure that Buck Showalter will have to find a way to get the Squirrel’s bat higher in the order. At the very least, ahead of the ghost of Robinson Cano, who hit sixth last night. And while we’re at it, can we get Dominic Smith some at-bats, please!? He deserves better.

OK, back to McNeil, don’t forget he dealt with a leg injury last year that held him out for over a month, so its’ fair to wonder if maybe he wasn’t playing at full strength last season. He also acknowledged that last year left him perplexed, and he was constantly in the middle of tweaking his stance and approach at the plate. It might sound like excuses, sure, but at the very least, I always believe it’s enlightening to be aware of the context behind a players’ struggles. He’s not a must-add in standard-size leagues by any means yet, but keep an eye on McNeil because if he keeps hitting like the 2019 version, he could be.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday.

Giancarlo Stanton (NYY): 1-5, HR, R, RBI.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones somehow stumbled upon a career hitting baseballs? Me too. And we might have seen the answer during yesterday’s Yankee Red Sox game. In the fourth, Nathan Eovaldi left a 1-1 slider out over the plate, and a late swing from Stanton resulted in a line drive that cleared the wall the opposite way in right. At 116.3 MPH. What!? It was one of those line drives that you could hang laundry on. Exit velocity alone, of course, doesn’t tell the whole picture, but it’s always entertaining to look at. Last year, Stanton had 26 of the 89 batted balls hit at or equal to 116 MPH. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.and Aaron Judge were second with seven each. Stanton is something else.

Chad Pinder (OAK): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Well, here’s Oakland’s cleanup hitter. Facing Aaron Nola in the fifth, Pinder lifted a flyball past the wall in right-center for a solo shot. The thirty-year-old hasn’t shown much, with a .311 career wOBA and a .224 batting average to his credit, albeit with sporadic playing time across six seasons. He peaked with 15 home runs in 309 PA back in 2017, so there’s at least some decent power. Given Oakland’s gutted lineup, he could now find himself with a chance at over 400 PA for the first time in his career and could approach 20 home runs. Far from exciting, but he could be a potential stopgap option in deep leagues; he’s also 2B/OF eligible in Yahoo.

Kyle Schwarber (PHI): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Facing Frankie Montas in his first at-bat as a Phillie, Schwarber worked the count full before eviscerating a 97 MPH sinker down and in, sending it over the wall in right, a majestic, 426-foot blast. Killing righties is nothing new for Schwarber, who, over the past three seasons, owns a .374 wOBA against RHP, good for 13th in baseball (min 900 PA). Now hitting leadoff against RHP in a loaded lineup, a career season could be on the horizon for the former Cub.

Bryson Stott (PHI): 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI.

After crushing it this Spring, Stott made the Opening Day roster and started at 3B in yesterday’s home opener. Hitting seventh, Stott got his first career hit, in his third at-bat facing reliever Jacob Lemoine in the sixth as he turned on a 2-2 slider and pulled it to right for a single, before adding an RBI-double in the eighth. In roughly half a season with Double-A Reading last year, Stott hit ten home runs and stole six bases while hitting .301, so there’s certainly multi-category potential making the Phillies’ top prospect, and former first-round pick an upside MI option. Alec Bohmalso a former first-rounder, was on the bench yesterday.

Darin Ruf (SF): 1-3, R, RBI, 2 BB.

Ruf hit third yesterday for the Giants, and it was against the righty Sandy Alcantara. Not the most exciting line, but, hey, he scored the game-winning run all the way from first on a double from Austin Slater in the tenth. Ruf is a player who has been very impressive over the past two seasons with a .383 wOBA over 412 PA. And that’s following three 100 RBI seasons in the KBO. Ruf, who recently signed a two-year extension, first impressed the Giants as a non-roster invitee two years ago. The DH spot will give him an opportunity to establish himself as more than just a stereotypical lefty masher. He’s shown an excellent walk rate of 14.3% over the past two seasons, so he gets a big bump in OBP formats, where he could potentially be a right-handed foil to teammate Brandon Belt, who went 2-4 with a home run yesterday. Ruf also has the added bonus of being 1B/OF eligible on Yahoo. The veteran righty had some impressive batted ball data last season and is certainly worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Mitch Garver (TEX): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Garver burst onto the scene with the Twins in 2019 when he cranked out 31 home runs in just 359 PA. After a rough 2020 season, he flashed again last year with a .372 wOBA across 243 PA. The trade to Texas should afford him ample playing time as the team’s primary catcher. And last night, operating as the cleanup hitter, he lifted a two-run shot to left-center off reliever Taylor Saucedo in the second. Note that this was against a scheduled righty starter too in José Berríosso if Garver is going to keep hitting in the cleanup spot, and considering what he’s shown in the past, it’s not too terribly difficult to see a path at him being a top-ten option at catcher, and maybe even better.

Danny Jansen (TOR): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

That team from Toronto scored ten runs last night; wow, who would’ve thought? The Blue Jay backstop capped off his nice night at the dish by redirecting an ill-advised, middle-middle 92 MPH fastball from reliever Greg Holland into the seats in left in the eighth. As the primary catcher (Alejandro Kirk was the DH last night) in one of the league’s most prolific offenses, Jansen is someone that could certainly provide a spark given the lack of options at the position. The soon-to-be 27-year-old has shown some intriguing offensive ability in the past, most notably a .386 wOBA during his time with Triple-A Buffalo back in 2018.

Jeremy Peña (HOU): 3-5, HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.

Hitting seventh, the heir apparent to Carlos Correa, Peña picked up his first career hit in the second inning, a sharp groundball through the third base shortstop hole on a 1-2 slider from Reid Detmers. He led off the seventh with his first career home run, a blast to left-center off reliever Mike Mayers. Peña showed off some power for the first time last year with a .311 ISO across 30 games with Triple-A Sugar Land and should get every opportunity as the Astros’ new shortstop. Similar to Stott, if you’re looking for a young MI option with upside, Peña should certainly be on your radar.

Kyle Tucker (HOU): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Nothing new here. The man is a stud and went off last night, including a pair of dingers against Jaime Barriathe first part of an eight-run barrage in the seventh. I’m saving the best for last. Maybe that’s Dusty Baker’s rationale for hitting him sixth? This can’t last, right?


Ryan Amore

A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club, Ryan Amore has been writing things at Pitcher List since 2019. He grew up watching the Yankees and fondly remembers Charlie Hayes catching the final out of the '96 WS. He appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

2 responses to “Birthday Squirrel”

  1. Barry says:

    Great stuff Ryan, looking forward to your recaps throughout the upcoming year.

    12 Team 6×6 H2H OPS 3OF Daily Redraft

    I currently roster Teoscar, Castellanos, O’Neill, and Badoo as my OF options. Always starting the first 3 and using Badoo as my only bench option. Very disappointed at Badoo batting 7th yesterday and now 9th today. Your thoughts on swapping him out for McNeil. I would be sacrificing SB potential, however I would be gaining 2B eligibility with McNeil.

    Also, I’m plugging in Jeimer Candelario at 3B until Witt gains eligibility there. Your thoughts on swapping him out for Stott until that happens.

    Thanks in advance for thoughts


    • Ryan Amore says:

      Hi Barry!
      I would hang on to Baddoo for now just because as you mentioned SBs are really tough to find. I think Baddoo might lose PT versus lefties occasionally but given that you’re in a daily league that hurts a little less so I’d stick with him for the speed. I would also hold Candelario over Stott. Candelario has I think a higher floor playing every day in the middle of the Tiger lineup and he was sneaky good last year too- career-high 42 doubles which makes me think he’s starting to tap into his power a bit more and he’s still just 28 so there’s a fairly decent chance we haven’t seen his peak yet. Stott is interesting for sure but he sat this afternoon against a lefty in favor of Bohm. I don’t think Stott and Bohm are necessarily in a strict platoon but at the very least I’d want to give it a bit longer to see how it plays out before swapping him for a steady bat like Candelario.
      Hope that helps and thanks for reading!

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