Fantasy Baseball Daily Hitting Recap: 9/2/23

Breaking down notable hitting performances from yesterday’s games.

De La Cruz Control

Bryan De La Cruz (MIA): 4-5, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.

At 69-67, the Marlins’ playoff chances are starting to look dimmer as Major League Baseball begins its final stretch of the season. According to Fangraphs playoff odds, the Marlins have a 20.8% chance of earning the Wild Card, as of Sunday. Thus, it’s more likely than not that Miami will miss the postseason this year.

Nonetheless, there have been some positives to build on this season for this Marlins organization, with outfielder Bryan De La Cruz being one of them.

De La Cruz has earned a career-high 538 plate appearances, has hit 17 home runs, collected 68 RBI, and is posting a .733 OPS, as of Sunday. There has been some slight regression in barrel rate (8.8%) and hard-hit rate (42.9%) from the previous year (11.9% barrel rate and 47.2% hard-hit rate). That said, he also has nearly doubled his plate appearances from a season ago already, so some regression was to be expected with fatigue and more exposure to MLB pitching.

Strikeouts continue to plague De La Cruz as he has collected 125 strikeouts to only 36 walks. On the other hand, his K rate of 23.2% is down 2.2% from a season ago. Furthermore, De La Cruz is pretty typical of the average hitter in Miami this season, as they have the seventh-lowest K rate as a team, but fourth-lowest BB/K ratio as well.

De La Cruz doesn’t hit arbitration until after 2024, so the Marlins can take another year to make a decision on the outfielder’s future. Even though he does show batted-ball potential, his defense leaves a lot to be desired, as his OAA ranks in the bottom 6th percentile this season, according to Savant.

The Marlins already have an “all bat, no glove” outfielder in Jorge Soler. It will be interesting to see if the Marlins believe they can have another one on their roster long-term with De La Cruz.


Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Jake Burger (MIA): 2-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.

Burger has continued to mash since being traded over from the South Side to South Beach. He is hitting .315 with the Marlins and posting a .883 OPS to boot. On Saturday, Burger hit his fourth and fifth home runs as a member of the Marlins, which now gives him 30 home runs for the season. The former White Sox first-round pick’s value still is tied heavily to his bat (and power specifically), but he seems to have solidified his spot at the hot corner for 2024 at the very least.

MJ Melendez (KC): 3-3, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.

After struggling most of the season, Melendez hit his 13th home run of the year on Saturday night, which brought his OPS to over .700 for the first time this season. Even though Melendez has had a disappointing sophomore campaign, he’s five home runs away from his total last year and only four OPS points behind his .706 mark from a season ago. He’s also hitting for a much higher average as well (.236 to .212 in 2022). With a strong final month, he could produce a nearly similar line to what he did in 2022, which would make him an interesting piece in drafts next year, especially if he keeps his catcher eligibility.

Dominic Smith (WSH): 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

The .257 average and .675 OPS don’t look great at the surface level, but Smith has produced his best offensive season since 2020 with the Mets. The batted ball profile continues to be an issue for Smith (bottom 8th percentile hard-hit rate), but he continues to show solid contact skills at the plate (79th percentile whiff rate; 86th percentile K rate). On Saturday, he hit his seventh home run of the year. If he gets to double-digits by season’s end, that would be a success.

Donovan Solano (MIN): 4-5, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Solano didn’t sign with the Twins until late February, but he’s been arguably one of Minnesota’s most valuable pickups this year. Solano is hitting .296 with a .795 OPS in 116 games and 378 plate appearances. From a fantasy perspective, he doesn’t offer much value beyond the batting average, as he only has five home runs and zero stolen bases. On the other hand, Solano continues to be one of the better contact hitters in the game, and if he’s available, he could boost fantasy teams who may be struggling in that category.

J.P. Crawford (SEA): 3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI.

With his 14th home run on Saturday, Crawford has collected nearly as many home runs this year as the last two years combined (15). The barrel rate (4.8%) and hard-hit rate (37.2%) don’t look great compared to the rest of the league. However, when compared to what Crawford has done over his career, they are MAJOR improvements. With a .273 average, .828 OPS, and possibly 15-20 home runs by season’s end, Crawford could see his draft stock soar this winter.

Triston Casas (BOS): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Casas has made his slow start to the 2023 season a distant memory. He is hitting .265 with a .863 OPS in 454 plate appearances and on Saturday he collected his 22nd home run and 55th RBI of the season. The power and patience of Casas are legitimate tools that should continue to get better over time, which is a promising development for the Red Sox during another (likely) playoff-less season. Furthermore, at only 23 years old, he could be a mainstay at first base in Boston for quite some time.

Gabriel Arias (CLE): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

By acquiring Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López off waivers, the Guardians are “going for it” in the Central, even if they are 66-70 and five games behind the division-leading Twins. If the Guardians want to overtake Minnesota during the final stretch of the 2023 season, they will need a breakout from Arias, who’s long been a heralded prospect but hasn’t quite put it all together in the big leagues just yet (.219 average; .668 OPS this season). With an 8.3% barrel rate and 44.2% hard-hit rate, the power potential is there, as he showed on Saturday with his ninth home run of the year.

DJ Stewart (NYM): 2-5, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Injuries have limited Stewart to only 110 plate appearances with the Mets this season. When healthy though, Stewart has been a force in the lineup, as he is hitting .277 with a 1.010 OPS. On Saturday against the Mariners, he also hit his 10th home run of the year, an impressive number considering he’s only played in 38 games this year. If he can have a fully healthy offseason, Stewart could be a sleeper in drafts this winter.

Michael Brantley (HOU): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

After missing most of the year due to recovery from a torn labrum, Brantley has gotten off to a scorching start in four games with the Astros. He is hitting .308 and on Saturday, he hit his first home run of the season against the hated Yankees. The Astros are neck-and-neck in the AL West race with not just the division-leading Mariners, but the Rangers as well, who are a game behind the Astros in the standings. Houston has gotten solid production in the outfield from Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick this season but has failed to get anything consistent from their third outfield position. Brantley should be the answer to that issue.

Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien is a high school educator and baseball blogger based in the Kansas City metro area. In addition to writing for Pitcher List, he writes about the Kansas City Royals at his own blog, the Royals Reporter, which can be found at royalsreporter.com.

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