Gnats of the Week: Week 18

Like rookies who rake? Look no further.

Welcome back to Gnats of the Week! It’s the series where I pick the most clutch, influential and unexpected performances by under-the-radar MLB players in the past week. You won’t see Ronald Acuña Jr. or Jacob deGrom on this list—unless they’re on the opposition. You won’t even see Joey Gallo. Only the truly mediocre qualify, and the more anonymous the better.

What is a gnat? Simply put, they’re irritants. You know the type: little-known rookies and overlooked veterans who come out of nowhere to torment your team on a given night. Think of Steve Pearce erupting against the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, or Pat Borders, who won fall classic MVP in 1992 after producing negative WAR the year before. It’s all about the unexpected.

These players are delightful stories—unless of course, they’re playing your team. Then they’re the most daggum annoying thing you’ve ever seen. The gnats never fail!

This week on the magic gnat bus, it’s rookie week! Plus, I am once again lured in by thrilling performances from mediocre catchers. What can I say? They know my signs.


Honorable Mentions


Third Runner-Up: Rodolfo Castro

2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI vs. Brewers on Wednesday

A very wise man once said, “chicks dig the long ball.” If that’s really the case, the chicks in Pittsburgh must be all over Pirates rookie Rodolfo Castro right now, because he only hits longballs. With his two-homer effort against Milwaukee on Wednesday, Castro became the first player in MLB history to knock his first five Major League hits over the fence.

I suppose it’s fitting since the year that the iconic Nike commercial featuring Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine came out—1999—was the same year Castro was born. I’d recommend not thinking about that for too long unless you want to risk feeling older than Julio Franco.

But I digress: what Castro has done this year is literally unprecedented. After hitting three homers in his first stint with the Pirates last month (including two in one game against the Mets), he was demoted to AA-Altoona. Last week, following the Adam Frazier trade, the club brought him back to fill the All-Star’s spot at second base. He rewarded them with two more dingers in his second game back, including this one off Josh Hader—which was just the third dinger allowed by the lanky southpaw all season.



Ironically, Castro credited his historic run of success to lessons learned from Frazier, who is just about the farthest thing from a power hitter. In fact, Castro’s five homers through his first nine career games were more than Frazier hit in the 98 he played with the Pirates this season before being traded. Somehow, the guy with the most non-HR hits in MLB this year—even if you subtracted the four home runs hit by Frazier this year from his season hits total, it would still lead both leagues!—inspired the guy who had literally none until this week (he hit his first double on Friday). Because baseball.

So there you have it: the story of a man with a .208 average and 1.108 OPS. Welcome to the gnat column.


Second Runner-Up: Ryan Jeffers

6-17 (.353), 3 HR, 2 2B, 10 RBI, GW hit vs. Angels, Tigers & Cardinals

If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you may have noticed I have a soft spot for catchers. They make great gnats because unless you’re J.T. Realmuto, the expectations are always low. So when they explode for a game or two, it’s infuriating for the opposition. Come on man, you can’t even get the catcher out?

This is especially true when you look up said catcher, and you discover that they’re just as bad as you suspected. Ryan Jeffers and his 96 wRC+ is no exception. Oh, and that’s after he hit three home runs this week and knocked in nine runs in two games.



This week’s power binge—which included a two-run shot and a grand slam in Minnesota’s wild 14-17 loss to Detroit on Wednesday—came in limited opportunity, as he’s effectively splitting catcher duties with Mitch Garver. But in his previous opportunity against the Angels last Friday, Jeffers also had the decisive hit off closer Raisel Iglesias, a poke through the left side that led to this wild play:



Some call it luck. Some call it pluck. I call it gnat behavior.


First Runner-Up: Kyle Farmer

15-27 (.556), 2 HR, 5 XBH, 4 RBI, 7 R vs. Cubs & Cardinals

Facing the Reds lineup is no easy task right now. First, you have to contend with sluggers Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker; both All-Star outfielders are having MVP-caliber seasons. Then there’s future Hall-of-Famer Joey Votto, who’s on a historic power trip and still has outstanding plate discipline. You also have to deal with Rookie of the Year candidate Jonathan India and former All-Star Eugenio Suarez, who’s having a bad year but still possesses outstanding power. Now imagine you navigate all that, only to get utterly embarrassed by Kyle Farmer.

That’s how the Cubs and Cardinals probably feel right now, after each dropping series to the streaking Redlegs. Farmer recorded five hits against the Cards last weekend, including this home run and, later, the game-winning run in Friday’s 6-5 win.



With one division rival dispatched, Farmer moved on to another. He amassed 10 hits over four games in Chicago, nearly half of which went for extra bases. While all the attention was on Votto, Farmer was flirting with a cycle on Monday:



He helped Cincinnati take three of four in the series, inspiring such terror in the Cubbies that they sold the proverbial farm at Thursday’s deadline. Okay, maybe there were other reasons, but I like to think that Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javy Baez were all traded because of Kyle Farmer. It’s more fun that way.

It’s been quite a hot streak for the 30-year-old utilityman, who was hitting under .230 as recently as July 21 but saw his average climb all the way to .263 after Saturday’s game. Many doubted whether he could even handle everyday shortstop duties, but here he is, featured on Pitcher List dot com. What an accomplishment!



4-4, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R vs. Cleveland on Saturday

If you had Seby Zavala starting in your fantasy lineup yesterday, you have my respect. Like many baseball fans outside of Chicago, I had no idea who the 27-year-old catcher was before last night. Turns out he was called up to spell Zack Collins in the absence of Yasmani Grandal. And until last night, he was hitting .125 in 17 career games, with zero home runs.

That changed rather quickly.

Maybe Triston McKenzie didn’t know of him either, but he certainly does now. He surrendered the first home run of Zavala’s career in the third inning, then followed that trick by serving up no. 2 in grand fashion:



McKenzie learned his lesson, and the White Sox took a 6-1 lead. But Cleveland was undeterred. They scored nine runs in the next three innings to regain the lead, battering Dallas Keuchel. So Zavala stepped to the plate once again in the seventh and decided to go ahead and make history.



The Sox still lost, 11-12, but not for lack of trying on the rookie’s part. He drove in six runs on the day, multiplying his career total by seven. If it wasn’t for his eighth-inning hit off James Karinchak (4-4 like it’s Wendy’s, baby), he would have more home runs than singles this season. Here are some more fun facts:



Only in baseball. Have a night, kid! Your GOTW certificate should reach you by mail in 4-8 business days.


Photos by Gerry Angus, Leslie Plaza Johnson & Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Wynn McDonald

Born a Kentuckian, much like Dan Uggla. Braves fan by choice, unlike Dan Uggla. I enjoy long walks on the Brandon Beachy. @twynstagram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login