That’s four straight games with a home run for the young Bobby Dalbec, and five in nine games in the big leagues so far this season. The free-swinging corner infielder has always been an aggressive hitter, and with his raw strength it means that he is able to hit a lot of home runs while also striking out a ton. As a really fun side note, Chris Cotillo of MassLive recently reported that Dalbec has been using Jackie Bradley Jr.’s bat during this stretch, though the more obvious changes are those to his toe tap and leg kick that Cotillo references.
I’ve taken several opportunities to talk about aggressive hitters in this short season—mostly to highlight that these players can be incredibly streaky, especially when they don’t have a lot of major league experience, but as a father, I feel it’s my duty to keep repeating lessons and stories until you resent me forever.
Now I’m not saying you can’t go out there and add Bobby Dalbec to your roster. He’s young, exciting, and hitting the cover off the ball right now. Thing is, his numbers in the minors show that he has a ton of swing and miss in his game with elevated strikeout rates throughout the minor leagues. He brought them down a bit in AAA, but despite his early success, he has a 45.7% strikeout rate in his nine games. Major league pitchers are going to notice those holes in his swing and give him a really hard time. Additionally, adapting to this is difficult and takes time.
So what am I telling you? On one hand, riding the hot streak in a short season is the popular play and one I can get behind. That being said, this kind of aggressive play only works if you’re equally quick to move on. The strikeouts and corresponding slump can drag down your numbers in a hurry (see the notes below on Whit Merrifield as an example). You need to cut bait as soon as it gets ugly or if a new hotness appears on the wire when it comes to unproven or famously streaky players. On the other hand, you need to hold steady with players with long track records, even if it can be a bit frustrating (again, like Whit Merrifield). Not sure which is which? Feel free to ask! That’s what folks like me are here for!
It’s simple advice, sure, but that kind of simplicity will keep you in it this month.
Wil Myers (OF, San Diego Padres)—3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI. After returning from an undisclosed injury, Myers has mostly picked up right where he left off and is hitting as well as he ever has in his career. He’s only stolen one base on the season, but with the Padres have been hitting this season there’s been little reason for him to try and swipe a bag. 2019’s elevated strikeout rate seems like a forgotten memory at this point, so keep firing him up if you managed to scoop him earlier this season.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—4-8, 2 HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. He did pretty much all of the damage in the first game of the BoSox doubleheader, but he’s been on fire over the last three weeks, slashing .346/.398/.704 with seven home runs and 23 RBI. Boston’s lineup isn’t as formidable as it once was, but the top four of Alex Verdugo, Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez is as tough as any top four in baseball. If there’s one thing to mention as a negative, it’s that 2019’s eight stolen bases were a complete fluke. He hasn’t stolen a base since June of 2019 and I wouldn’t count on him to steal going forward.
Gavin Lux (2B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, BB. He’s really started to look comfortable in his last four games, hitting the ball with more authority, taking walks, and striking out less. This little breakout from the Dodgers top prospect should come as little surprise given his prospect pedigree, and he’s available in about 50% of leagues for those who need a second baseman.
Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals)—2-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. After going 2-32 over his previous eight games, Merrifield got back in the box score in a big way. There wasn’t much cause for concern and there weren’t any red flags like an elevated strikeout rate, but the rough week of games dragged his batting average down by over forty points. It’s crazy to think that a player’s batting average can drop that much in a single week, but that’s just how the shortened 2020 season works, so try to resist overreactions and panic.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)—3-3, HR, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI. Over his last twelve games, he has three home runs and 12 RBI with a .429 batting average and .786 slugging. The 33-year-old is as good of a contact hitter as ever and is also showing a bit more power than he has in years past. Part of that might be a bit of a small sample thing, but at the end of the day, he’s a very good fantasy outfielder.
Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)—4-6, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB. I will keep drafting him until he retires. He’s one of, if not THE best power hitters in baseball and should not be benched unless he’s actually on the IL.
Jeimer Candelario (1B/3B, Detroit Tigers)—2-4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. He’s just been a completely different hitter for the last two months or so. After starting 0-19 this season and looking much like the guy who got benched in 2019, he flipped a switch and has been one of the best hitting third baseman in the league. He’s made huge strides in how well he hits both fastballs and offspeed pitches, though breaking pitches are still a bit of a weakness. He’s a fairly aggressive hitter, and we’ve seen him struggle more than we’ve seen him succeed, but it’s hard to argue with what he’s doing right now. He should be rostered in a lot more than the 30% of leagues he’s rostered in.
Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—1-4, R, 2 BB, 2 SB. Things have been much better for Bellinger over his last 91 plate appearances, as he’s slashing .269/.374/.615 with eight home runs and five steals. The speed has been a rather pleasant surprise, as these two yesterday gave him six in just forty games, putting him close to a 25-steal pace in a 162 game season. That pairs nicely with the 40-home run pace he’s on as well, with ten so far this season. The sluggish start has kept his overall batting line down, but the plate discipline is still fantastic and the power is still elite, so he should be high on your overall rankings in 2021.
Didi Gregorius (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)—3-9, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB. While Philly doesn’t have the same reputation for boosting left-handed hitters as the short porch in the Bronx, it’s every bit the hitter’s park according to park factors, boasting the fifth-best home run factor for lefties (Yankee Stadium is sixth). Leaving the Yankees together with the overall depth at shortstop in fantasy has helped Gregorious slide a bit under the radar this season despite being the 11th best shortstop so far this season according to ESPN’s Player Rater. In a full season, he should do something much like he did in 2018 for the Yankees, with 25 or more home runs and double-digit steals with strong ratios.
Donovan Solano (2B/3B, San Francisco Giants)—3-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R. After a bit of an extended slump, Solano seems to be hitting the ball well again, sporting an outlandish 249 wRC+ so far in September with three games with at least three hits in his last six starts. Since the start of 2019, he’s played in 116 games while hitting .339 and slugging .487. I don’t think he’s an elite player, but he does an excellent job keeping balls off the ground and avoiding pop-ups. He’s second this season in sweet spot%, which is the number of batted balls that have a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees (which is half of the equation for barrels), which helps him sustain a high batting average despite limited power. If you play in a league that uses batting average, Solano requires your attention.
Cedric Mullins (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—3-4, 2B, 3B, RBI. His .293/.354/.427 line with four steals and two home runs is exactly what folks were looking for when his hype reached critical mass prior to the 2018 season. He’s done well to bring the strikeouts under control during his five-game hitting streak and should be on your radar in deeper leagues and also for 2021 as a post-hype sleeper.
Khris Davis (DH, Oakland Athletics)—2-3, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI. It’s feeling like another lost season for Khrush as his batting line is even worse than 2019 and it’s getting harder to justify keeping him in the real lineup, much less a fantasy one.
Ryan Mountcastle (1B/3B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-5, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI. There is a lot to like about how this young man is handling himself in the major leagues. He’s taking lots of walks, limiting the strikeouts, and hitting for power. Equally as impressive is the strong results against breaking and offspeed pitches, which are usually what trip up young hitters. There aren’t a lot of holes to poke in his game right now, and that’s a HUGE compliment to a player in their first MLB season.
Manuel Margot (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—1-3, BB, SB. Make it five steals in his last four games and seven in his last 10. That’s a remarkable feat and highlights the speed he showcased early in his career and in the minor leagues. He’s worked on taking more walks over the last two seasons and that combined with his ability to make contact makes him a player worth adding—and that should be easy to do as he’s available in over 90% of leagues.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire.