The Ke’ To Success
Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
Back in the August 8th Batter’s Box recap, I briefly mentioned Ke’Bryan Hayes hitting a home run and remarked how I was nearly out of hope waiting for him to finally turn his strong batted ball metrics into consistent power production.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, we’re now seeing Hayes do just that.
He was the lone bright spot for the Pirates last night, posting a 2-4, HR, R, RBI line as the Cubs absolutely bulldozed the Pirates 14-1 in Wrigley. In the third inning, Hayes took a Javier Assad cutter 388 feet the other way and over the right field wall. It was his 14th home run of the season, double his previous career-high.
Back troubles landed Hayes on the IL in late June and he didn’t return to regular action until early August. He entered yesterday’s game slashing .304/.345/.544 since his August 2nd return and has now hit nine home runs over that stretch. Prior to the injury, Hayes was slashing just .252/.290/.393.
Hayes has always hit the ball hard, he just routinely struggled to put the ball in the air. Through his first three seasons, his flyball rate was a measly 27.6%. That was the 11th-lowest mark among qualified hitters from 2020-2022. This season he’s finally made strides in that area. He had a 37.3% flyball rate before his IL-stint and a 42.2% flyball rate after.
Here’s a look at his rolling flyball rate. It sure seems like we’re seeing legitimate growth here from Hayes.
Hayes could help you over the season’s final days if he’s available in your league – he’s on the wire in 79% of ESPN leagues and 42% of Yahoo! leagues. He’ll make for a fun third-base sleeper pick in fantasy drafts next spring and is someone I’d be targeting in offseason dynasty league trades.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Tuesday:
Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL): 3-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB.
What in the world is there even left to say about Acuña’s phenomenal season? He’s at 39 home runs and 67 stolen bases to go with his .338/.418/.596 slash line. I would call those video game numbers, but that’s probably better than I could do playing MLB The Show on rookie.
Austin Hays (BAL): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
I talked about Hays in yesterday’s Top 10 Left Fielders of the 2023 Season article, and he further padded his strong year yesterday. He blasted his first home run off of Hunter Brown in the third inning yesterday, one that got out with the help of the Crawford Boxes in Houston. His second big fly didn’t need any help, leaving the bat at 104.8 mph and traveling 422 feet. He has a 117 wRC+ and 16 home runs this year.
Alexander Canario (CHC): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 5 RBI.
Canario finally got his first MLB start after hanging around the Cubs’ roster most of September. It didn’t take him long to contribute to the big-league club, collecting both his first career double and home run. The homer came in style too – an eighth-inning grand slam to blow the game open. Canario won’t get the playing time to be worth a fantasy roster spot the rest of the way, but he’ll be a name to watch in drafts next spring. He slashed .276/.342/.524 with eight home runs in 161 Triple-A plate appearances.
With the Cubs hanging a 14 on the scoreboard, a few other guys are worth mentioning too. Seiya Suzuki collected three hits including a double and home run. Dansby Swanson opened the scoring with a two-run blast in the first inning. Cody Bellinger hit the longest home run of the day at 438 feet.
MJ Melendez (KC): 2-3, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Melendez has a 50% hard-hit rate which is good for the 92nd percentile, and he put that on display last night. Two of his three at-bats ended with hard contact, a 101.7 mph single and a 101.1 mph homer, both against Logan Allen. Despite the elite hard-hit rate, Melendez has struggled all season long. He’s hitting .236/.313/.398 which comes out to a 91 wRC+. Both his walk and strikeout rate have gotten worse by a few points in his second season.
Steven Kwan (CLE): 2-2, 2B, 3B, R, 2 RBI, 3 BB.
Kwan is kind of the antithesis of Melendez. He doesn’t hit the ball hard and he rarely strikeouts. Yesterday was one of his best games at the plate all season long. He collected two extra-base hits and three walks to raise his wRC+ to 105. Kwan’s batting average has slipped from .298 last year to .275 this year, leaving runs and stolen bases as his fantasy strengths. He has 90 runs and 20 steals on the season.
Luis Robert Jr. (CWS): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Robert staying healthy is probably the only highlight from a dismal season for White Sox fans. Robert started his 141st game yesterday, and it’s the first time he’s hit triple digits. In the fourth inning yesterday, Jackson Rutledge left a changeup right over the heart of the plate and Robert didn’t miss it, cranking the pitch 386 feet down the left-field line for his 37th home run. He added a 113 mph double in the ninth, the hardest-hit ball of the day.
William Contreras (MIL): 1-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB, SB.
Contreras’ first season in Milwaukee has been exactly what the team wanted. After his combo meal in the Brewers’ 7-3 win in St. Louis last night, he’s hitting .283/.361/.458 with 17 home runs, 79 runs, 74 RBI, and five steals. Contreras has shown a ton of growth in his strikeout rate, dropping it from 27.7% last year to 20.4% this year. His 4.7 fWAR is the top mark among all catchers.
Yainer Diaz (HOU): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Yainer Diaz is a rare example of a backup catcher who actually carries some fantasy value. He’s only starting about three days a week but is just crushing baseballs nonstop. Each of his xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG is 90th percentile or better, plus his 12.8% barrel rate is 83rd percentile. He’s likely not floating around your waiver wire in two-catcher leagues, but he could even be of value in one-catcher leagues with daily lineup moves.
Ketel Marte (ARI): 4-4, R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
Marte has had quite the bounce-back season. Before 2023, he hadn’t really been a valuable fantasy piece since 2019, but after last night’s strong performance, he’s hitting .279/.360/.487 with 23 home runs, 90 runs, 79 RBI, and seven steals. Yesterday was his first four-hit game of the year, and his surge at the plate has been one of the biggest parts of the Diamondbacks’ rise to playoff contention.
Yoán Moncada (CWS): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
The former top prospect has really fallen off the radar with yet another disappointing season in Chicago. Injuries have held him back like normal, but even when he has been on the field, he’s put up just a 95 wRC+. He’ll still just be 28 next year so there’s a shot he can recapture the magic of his 25-homer 2019 season, but that hope seems to be slipping away.
Willi Castro (MIN): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Castro’s been an underrated fantasy producer in deep leagues this year. He’s slashing just .249/.324/.399 but his 31 stolen bases are a top-10 mark in baseball. Castro got the better of Ben Lively last night, hitting his eighth home run of the season against the Cincinnati lefty. If you need some stolen base help down the stretch, Castro is available in 94% of ESPN leagues and 65% of Yahoo! leagues.