Full Nelson

Your daily recap of all of yesterday's most interesting hitters.

I’m going to keep the feature pretty brief today, but I do want to remind everyone why they shouldn’t talk themselves out of a player based on a single narrative. To do that, I’m going to talk about Nelson Cruz, who went 2-3 with two dingers and a walk last night. I know I’m not the first, second, or tenth person to discuss why Cruz is great and that it doesn’t matter that he’d old, but from some private conversations, it’s clear some people still don’t get it.

Cruz should be easy to analyze—he’s 40, sure, but he has six consecutive seasons with at least 37 home runs and at least 93 RBI with a cumulative .285 batting average. His runs scored has fluctuated a bit, here and there, but he’s essentially an elite three-category contributor and a very good contributor in a fourth category. The only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases. He’s about as much of a sure thing as you can get, unless you talk yourself out of him for some reason.

And yet, that’s what people keep doing. Usually, it has something to do with his age. They don’t want to be left holding the bag when the bottom falls out and age catches up to him. When you have that mindset, you’ll often look for any reason at all to prove that the end is nigh. In the case of 2020 Nelson Cruz, there were two challenges I heard most: that he missed time with injury, and that his strikeout rate was higher than it had been since 2007. Both of these things are 100% true and cannot be argued. They’re easy-to-reference statistics that can be found on many websites. That doesn’t mean they’re especially meaningful, though. Being true and being meaningful are very different things.

First, Nelson Cruz has been in the top one percent of the league in average exit velocity and the top three percent for hard hit rate for every single season that we’ve measured it publically. That was still true in 2019.

Second, Cruz’s strikeout rate jump may have been related to a wrist injury he suffered early in the season. He played through most of it, but did hit the IL on both May and August. It’s also worth noting that while it was high for him, a 25.1% strikeout rate really isn’t that big of a deal in today’s game. His strikeout rate in the second half was in line with his career average. His current 25.8% strikeout rate is, again, higher than his usual, but is not high and it’s not as though he’s chasing more or missing more in the zone—two things that would be a whole lot scarier than a slightly elevated strikeout rate.

I’m rambling a bit here, so let me just make the point I want to make—be careful with narrative building. It’s mostly a slippery slope that you don’t want to fall down. As my hero Homer Simpson would say, “you can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.”


Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)—2-6, 2 HR, 2 R, 7 RBI. His current 162-game pace would be 74 home runs, 189 RBI, and 34 steals, and while that’s absurd, it’s not as absurd as you might think. In the offseason, there was discussion about “regression” due to the gap between his expected batting average and actual batting average. I covered that briefly last season, but basically, statistical regression to the mean isn’t the ONLY moving part when it comes to stat discrepancies. In some cases, like Tatis, we also see players just get better. Throughout the last few months of the season, Tatis’s luck did get a little worse, but not nearly enough to outweigh how much he improved his skills and adjusted to the big leagues. Just for giggles, here are his 2020 percentile rankings from his Statcast page. While not everyone loves Statcast and it’s admittedly not an all-knowing statistics machine, hard numbers that show a player is hitting the hardest and is running the fastest are fun to look at, and the percentile rankings from his Statcast page, which I’ve added for you below, do exactly that.


Robinson Cano (2B, New York Mets)—3-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI. Even after a trip to the IL, Cano has stayed locked in at the plate, with eight multi-hit performances in his last 11 games. This isn’t merely a case of good luck, either—Statcast data supports the results. He’s available in about two-thirds of leagues and should be picked up by anyone needing to fill a hole in their middle infield left by injuries to DJ LeMahieu or Ozzie Albies.

Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—3-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB. He’s done quite a bit to cancel out the slow start to his season by slashing .263/.364/.526 since the calendar flipped to August. Like many young power hitters, the Polar Bear is going to be prone to streaks and slumps, but he still has one of the highest power ceilings in baseball. It’s just something you’ll have to accept in the short term. On the plus side, his walk rate should help outweigh some of the volatility in OBP leagues.

Brad Miller (3B, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-2, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. Miller has made his way into the starting lineup in three of the four games that the Cardinals have played since returning to action. Wouldn’t it just be SO St. Louis if they turned this 30-year-old journeyman, who is on his fifth team since the start of 2018, into an all star? I mean, they probably won’t, but NL-only and deep league players might want to take notice. Miller has been a decent power hitter at times in his career, including his 66 games with the Phillies last season here he slugged .610.

Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. He’s not walking like he used to, but I suppose he might not need to when he’s rolling on a seven-game hitting streak. He’s also moved up in the lineup, hitting second in each of his last four games. Hitting second is pretty much always better than hitting sixth, especially in a season where every plate appearance matters, so Voit should continue to be a solid first baseman for fantasy.

Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox)—2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Through 56 plate appearances, the reigning AL batting champion is batting .340, and while his walk rate is a bit low, it’s a far cry from the 2.9% clip it was last season. He’s locked in as the leadoff hitter for the White Sox and should continue to be an excellent source of batting average, runs scored, and speed (he stole his first base on Sunday, and more will likely come). Not sure he’ll have another two home run game, but don’t confuse him with Mallex Smith or other light-hitting contact guys—there’s also some legitimate power here too.

Evan White (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. After a brutal 15-game cold streak, White seems to be heating up again. He’s a young, free-swinging power hitter who will be prone to streakiness, but deep leaguers in need of power should keep their eye on him as he continues to adjust to major league pitching.

Luis Robert (OF, Chicago White Sox)—2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. While he hasn’t stolen a base in two weeks, he continues to hit. He’s hitting seventh, which isn’t ideal, and he is striking out at a 33.7% clip, but there’s a world of talent in this bat.

Aaron Hicks (OF, New York Yankees)—2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI. I don’t know how a guy with a 22.5% walk rate and just a 15.5% strikeout rate can have a .236 batting average, but that’s where we are with Hicks. He’s recently moved into the leadoff role for the Yankees and should be rostered in all formats that reward walks, though batting average players with shallow outfields should only pick him up if they really need runs scored.

Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)—3-7, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. The plate discipline isn’t great, but he’s on a five-game hitting streak and has been at the top of the order for most of the month. He’ll stay there for as long as Ablies is on the IL and becomes a rather interesting MI in most formats.

Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. The surprise home run power from 2019 hasn’t quite showed up, but in eight games as the #2 hitter, he’s slashing .313/.361/.563. If you’re thin at MI or CI, this is a good place to start.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI. He’s walking more, striking out less, and has three home runs in his last four games with a six-game hitting streak. He’s far from a superstar, but he can get hot and blast some home runs from time to time. If you stream your last outfielder, Grichuk should usually be on your watch list.

Kyle Seager (3B, Seattle Mariners)—3-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB. I have no idea what is going on in Seattle, but Kyle Seager is walking as much as he strikes out and already has two combo meals (home run and a stolen base) this season. Will this last? I have no idea. Is it fun? You bet.

Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B, Washington Nationals)—2-4, HR, R, RBI, BB. The old-timer is hitting third or fourth in the lineup right now and seems to be over the mini-cold streak he went on since I featured him in this piece. I still think he’s a viable second or third baseman in a lot of formats as long as you don’t need any speed.

Hunter Dozier (3B, Kansas City Royals)—1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB. Not a huge fan of Dozier in particular, but he now has back to back games with a home run and is hitting in the middle of the Royals lineup. He hit 26 home runs last season with a respectable .279 batting average, but I’d project him to be more like a .250 hitter going forward.

Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals)—1-4, 2B, R, SB. HE FINALLY STOLE A BASE.

Jo Adell (OF, Los Angeles Angels)—0-4, 3 K. I really like Adell long term, but I also don’t think you need to roster him in 12-team leagues.


Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

8 responses to “Full Nelson”

  1. larry womack says:

    Looking to pickup Cano while he’s hitting-need to drop Solak, D. Murphy, Canha or Mondesi. I have steal sources else where.

    Also would you pickup Schwarber over any of the above.

    Thanks for your great advice.

    • Scott Chu says:

      1) Murphy is the cut for me. Cano and Murphy provide the same categories, but Cano is hitting better right now. 2019 was a bit rough for both of them, but I think Cano’s floor is definitely higher.

      2) Schwarber is probably better, though he’s been pretty unspectacular this season. He’s still hitting fourth for the Cubs, which is something, but he’s not swinging at as many pitches in the zone for some reason, and while his walk rate is up his strikeout rate is WAY up. It’s pretty close long term vs Cano and Schwarber, with Schwarber having the higher upside and also a lower floor. I’d take the one you think you can get into your lineup more often.

      I am assuming your league is fairly shallow. If this is a deeper format, I’d be more inclined to go with Schwarber’s upside. Because I’m assuming it’s more shallow, the stuff Schwarber does (low BA, lots of power) is easy to replace and therefore he’s not as valuable.

  2. larry womack says:

    Sorry for 2nd question

    Would you rather have Swanson over Mondesi as your SS. Steals aside who’s the better hitter?


    • Scott Chu says:

      “Steals aside” is a tough condition, as it’s a MASSIVE driver of Mondesi’s value. In a points league that doesn’t do much to reward steals, or leagues with TONS of categories (which suppresses the value of steals), I suppose it’s Swanson.

  3. jkula3@gmail.com says:

    Thanks for adding Adell in here. Now how is Carlson looking so far??

    • Scott Chu says:

      As much as I dislike talking about players who are struggling, I felt it was important to get that note out there.

      Carlson has only walked up to the plate 18 times, so I don’t have much of a gauge yet on how he’ll adjust, but he was less strikeout prone than Adell in AAA and that’s big for some of these younger players. Carlson has a better hit tool right now than Adell, which should allow him to adapt more quickly. Adell is the better dynasty play, but Carlson could be useful in deeper leagues due to his power/speed combo. I am not currently rostering either in 12-teamers, though—especially Yahoo-style 12-teamers that only need 3 OF. Too many good OF and too few bench spaces out there.

  4. Simsbad says:

    Thought’s on Ian Happ’s has increase in strikeout rate over the last week and a half? Also, what’s wrong with Gurriel Jr.? Seems like he’s only hitting shallow pop ups.

    • Scott Chu says:

      1) A deep dive on Ian Happ is coming soon (hopefully within the next week), but as far as the last few days go, it seems like mostly just missing breaking and offspeed pitches. He’s faced some tougher pitchers and bullpens, at least as it relates to stuff, so it happens. The lack of walks the last few days is kind of annoying, but he’s getting hits so I don’t really care much.

      2) Lourdes Gurriel Jr is an aggressive young hitter, so he’ll be prone to these kinds of hot and cold spells. So far this season, he’s getting a lot of pitches down and in and down and away, and can’t seem to do anything with them. He’s also struggling a bit with breaking and offspeed pitches—missing the stuff in the zone and making weak contact with stuff out of the zone. I don’t think these are permanent problems, but it could be a painful and slow climb out. Of course, with his bat speed, it could also take a week. He was quite effective against all pitch types last season, so there’s good reason to believe that this is just a slump.

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