Fantasy Baseball Daily Hitting Recap: 8/1/23

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

For Whom The Belli Tolls

Cody Bellinger (CHC): 3-6, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, SB.

Last night’s crucial NL Central matchup between the first-place Reds and trade-deadline-buyer Cubs was an offensive explosion. The North Siders picked up a game in the standings with a 20-9 shellacking of Cincinnati’s pitching staff.

When you hang 20 runs on the scoreboard, you’re going to have a whole lot of impressive performances at the plate. Mike Tauchman and Nico Hoerner both posted combo meals by going yard and swiping a bag. Newest Cub Jeimer Candelario had a friendly welcome back to Wrigley, collecting four hits and scoring twice. Dansby Swanson hit two homers and drove in five runs. He would’ve been today’s featured hitter if he hadn’t been featured last Wednesday when he also went deep twice.

That brings me to today’s actual featured player, Cody Bellinger. He finished the day going 3-6, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, SB. All three of Bellinger’s hits came against Ben Lively who really bore the brunt of the Cubs’ onslaught, giving up 13 earned runs in four innings. His ERA went from 3.76 before the game to 5.20 afterward.

The former MVP is having quite the bounce-back campaign in his first year in Chicago, and he’s only gotten better as the season’s gone on. For the year, Bellinger’s slashing .317/.367/.545, but in the month of July his batting line was an almost unbelievable .400/.432/.690. That comes out to a 199 wRC+, the seventh-best mark in the majors last month.

Bellinger has done a great job of cutting his strikeout rate this season. After back-to-back seasons of it rising to the upper-20s, he’s sitting at just a 15.7% rate so far. As you’d expect, fewer strikeouts means more contact. He has a 79th-percentile contact rate overall, and he’s doing a great job making contact with pitches he swings at that are outside of the zone. His 88th-percentile O-Con% helps him avoid punching out and gets him deeper into counts where he can hopefully reach base.

Perplexingly, despite the strong results, Bellinger’s barrel, flyball, and hard contact rates are all down this year. He’s vastly outperforming his Stacast X-stats which are based on quality of contact metrics. His .379 wOBA is 51 points above his .328 xWOBA, and I have to wonder if we’ll see some regression over the season’s final two months.

At the end of the day, what matters is the results on the field and Bellinger has been very good. He’s outperformed his X-stats for the first four months of the season, so while there’s a chance he regresses, if he keeps up this pace it wouldn’t be shocking. At the very least, Bellinger’s plate discipline improvements give him a much higher floor than what we saw from him in 2021 and 2022. If you roster Bellinger in fantasy, hold tight to him like the Cubs opted to do at the trade deadline.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Tuesday:

Juan Soto (SD): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

When you put one of the best hitters on the planet in Coors, this is what you get. Soto’s two home runs were the second and third furthest-hit balls of the night at 438 and 431 feet. He’s up to 22 long balls on the year to go with a .275 batting average, 62 runs, 68 RBI, and six stolen bases. It’s hard to believe he’s not even 25 years old.

Michael Harris II (ATL): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Harris was the only hitter who could top Soto’s home run distances yesterday. The first of Harris’ blasts came off a hanging sweeper from Patrick Sandoval, traveling 445 feet and well over the right-center field wall. Harris got a hold of another home run in his next at-bat, also against a sweeper, but this one came from Jacob Webb. After an ice-cold start to his sophomore season, Harris has really turned it on. In June and July, he slashed .335/.363/.547 with a .387 wOBA and 142 wRC+.

Gunnar Henderson (BAL): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

The Orioles lineup rocked Blue Jays pitchers last night, hanging 13 runs on their division rival. Henderson unkindly welcomed Hyun Jin Ryu back to a big-league mound by cracking his 18th home run of the year against the lefty. Since the start of June, Henderson’s been phenomenal with a 144 wRC+, and that was before yesterday’s three-hit showing.

Plenty of Orioles had good days at the dish. Anthony Santander finished 3-4, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB with the big blow being his eighth-inning grand slam. Ryan Mountcastle went 3-4, 2 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB as he collected four hard hits.

Ryan McMahon (COL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

McMahon is quietly putting together the best season of his career. His home run last night was his 18th, so he should have no trouble breaking his career-high of 24 if he can stay healthy the rest of the way. If his 106 wRC+ holds out, it’d be the first time he finishes a season as a better-than-league-average hitter.

Eugenio Suárez (SEA): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

In the fifth inning of Boston’s 6-4 win in Seattle last night, Suárez turned on an inside changeup from Brayan Bello and tanked it 390 feet down the left-field line for his 15th home run. It’s been a disappointing season for the 32-year-old third baseman. His trademark power has slipped quite a bit, with his .379 SLG and .153 ISO both at career-worst levels. Suárez is a streaky hitter, so he could turn things around in the blink of an eye. If he does he’ll be worth a fantasy roster spot, but until then it’s fine to leave him on the waiver wire outside of 15+ team leagues.

Francisco Alvarez (NYM): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

The last few days have proven to be the death blow to the 2023 Mets’ season. They traded away both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and things only got worse from there. They lost on a walk-off balk in Kansas City last night. Yes, to the Royals. It doesn’t get more Mets than that. On the bright side, Alvarez continued his impressive rookie season, crushing a ball at 110.1 mph to straightaway center field for his 21st big fly of the year. His .232/.294/.500 slash line will make him one of the trendiest catcher picks in 2024 fantasy drafts.

Liover Peguero (PIT): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Peguero hit the third home run of his short major league career last nighta 400-foot shot against Matt Manning. The Pirates’ 22-year-old shortstop has gone deep three times in just 30 plate appearances, so you may be thinking there’s some fantasy intrigue here. You’re not wrong, especially in deep leagues, but his power certainly hasn’t been on display like this before. In 348 minor league plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A, Peguero hit 13 home runs and stole 21 bases this season. The odds are he won’t be able to replicate those numbers against better competition, but I wouldn’t blame you for making him a prospective add in deep leagues. His 40% strikeout rate is ugly, but in the minor leagues it often hovered around 20%, so it’ll come down.

Tyler O’Neill (STL): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.

Despite trade rumors surrounding him all season long, O’Neill survived the trade deadline as a member of the Cardinals. His ninth-inning home run against Jhoan Duran made things a whole lot more interesting, but it wasn’t enough as the Twins held on for the win in St. Louis, 3-2. Since returning to the lineup on July 20th, O’Neill has been very good. He was slashing .324/.439/.441 over that period, and that was before his home run last night. There’s no reason to think O’Neill couldn’t put together a stellar second half if he can stay healthy. He’s available in 51% of Yahoo! leagues and 82% of ESPN leagues, and his ceiling is higher than nearly every other player you’ll find on the waiver wire.

Jeremy Peña (HOU): 2-2, 2B, R, 2 BB.

Peña collected two more hits than the entire Cleveland team did last night. Yes, Framber Valdez threw a no-hitter if you somehow missed it. More notable than the hits for Peña were the two walks. It’s just the fourth time this season he’s had a two-walk game. His plate discipline skills aren’t anything to write home about, but they have gotten slightly better in his second big league season. Unfortunately, his power production has cratered. His barrel rate is about half of what it was last year at just 4.9% and his SLG has fallen to a measly .372. He’s also run into more outs on the bases. His 10 steals are helpful, but if you’re in one of those rare “net stolen base” leagues like I am, the fact that he’s been caught stealing seven times really hurts.

Jake Alu (WSH): 1-3, R, RBI, SB.

Alu is the next man up at the hot corner in D.C. following the Candelario trade. He was slashing .298/.360/.428 with five home runs and 16 stolen bases in 330 Triple-A plate appearances this year. Alu is worth a look if you need stolen base help, but outside of really deep leagues, you don’t need to make him a priority pick-up.

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from every fantasy league format you can imagine to the unending greatness of Mike Trout. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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