Everyone reaches a point in the baseball season when burnout becomes all too real. For me, that point was actually this week. Don’t get me wrong, I still set my lineups and was following along with what was going on around the league, but my interest was most definitely waning.
So what do you do when this happens? What did I do? Well, I had to take a step back and remind myself of my convictions and why I play this game in the first place. Yes of course I play for fun, but I also play to win and I believe you play to the end of the season as best you can. As Tim Allen’s character (Commander Taggart) so eloquently puts it in the underrated classic Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender”.
Allow that to be your mantra as you power through to the end of the season regardless of which place you find yourself in the standings. In the meantime, let’s look at this week’s batch of players.
I was all about Dansby Swanson this year. I bought shares of him in dynasty, drafted him in season-long leagues, and tried to sing his praises from every rooftop available to me. At the end of June, I was no longer singing his praises so much as lamenting my demise with all of those Swanson shares. All of the steady gains we had seen over the last few years were seemingly gone. Through the end of June in 319 plate appearances, Swanson was slashing a meager .231/.289/.431 with 13 HR and four stolen bases (with three caught stealing). The power was nice but other than that, Swanson was not delivering on the hope of a breakout.
This past month has been a horse of a different color. Since July 1st, in 136 plate appearances, Swanson has hit .307/.353/.567 with seven HR and four SB. His BABIP is a tad on the high side at .348 in that stretch, but on the plus side he has cut down on his strikeouts. What I like the most about this hot streak is that Swanson has hit almost as many doubles (12) in the past month as he did the rest of the season (15). That tells me that he isn’t just legging out some singles or purely getting lucky, but he is really making better contact.
Oddly enough, Swanson might be at a place right now where this hot streak isn’t fully being appreciated by whoever owns him in your league. The Braves are a little bit of a mess offensively outside of Austin Riley, and this could actually present a buying opportunity for Swanson. While I don’t believe he is a .300 hitter, I do firmly believe in the talent and the metrics pointing to him being a very solid option. I might regret this, but I am absolutely checking in on him in the leagues where I don’t have him and seeing if I can acquire him. He might not be the splashiest option at SS, but he will hold it down for you and I think there are better days ahead.
Can we take a moment and appreciate the fact that Adam Wainwright will turn 40 years old at the end of this month? Seriously, this is an amazing feat! Not only is he turning 40, but he’s doing it while arguably being the most valuable starting pitcher for the Cardinals this year. In case you’ve missed it, Wainwright has thrown for 139.2 innings so far with a 3.48 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and 130 strikeouts. He hasn’t been an Ace, but how can you deny just how good of a year he’s had and how much profit you have made if you invested in him early.
There isn’t a ton else to say about him. If you are in a dynasty or keeper and you need innings, go see if Wainwright is owned by someone who might be out of the hunt. If that’s the case, you can probably get him on the ultra-cheap and bolster your innings and counting stats. I say it just about every week, but quality innings are going to become harder and harder to come by down the stretch, which makes acquiring a guy like Wainwright very wise.
Verdict: BUY – purely as a rental piece on the cheap
The Rockies batter bias in fantasy baseball is a tempting mistress, and Sam Hilliard was a party to it after his 2019 season. He exploded onto the scene that year and in just 27 games played hit seven HR while batting .273/.356/.649. Fantasy managers had sweet dreams of the next Coors Field superstar dancing through their heads as they went out en masse and invested in Hilliard heading into the shortened 2020 season.
Spoiler alert, Hilliard absolutely tanked in 2020 to the tune of a .210 BA, and he was equally as bad at the beginning of this season. He got sent back to triple-A where he rediscovered his power stroke, but still struggled mightily with the strikeouts. It would seem that the strikeout issue is one that he can’t quite shake, and it could be the reason he will never stick at the major league level as a full-time regular.
So why is he even being addressed here? Well, Hilliard was recalled by the Rockies on July 16th, and since then he has put together a .288/.373/.654 line with five homers. This has led to some buzz around him, but I’m here to try and give caution. If you can get him for free and you have the roster space, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t pick him up as a dart throw. However, Hilliard quite literally is batting .204 against fastballs this year… You have to be able to hit a major-league fastball to stick in the majors. I’m skeptical that he will be on a major league roster come next spring.
I so badly want Lewis Brinson to be a thing, but he has not shown much in the majors to this point. For the unacquainted, Brinson is a former top prospect dripping with tools. He has speed, power, and can play centerfield. All of these things should add up to a valuable player who anyone would want to invest in. The keyword here is should… Brinson’s biggest issue is his ability to actually make good, consistent contact.
Lewis Brinson has a strikeout rate of 31.9% this year and a walk rate of just 2.6%. He has improved his 1st pitch swing percentage from last year, but he just can’t seem to hit breaking balls. This year Brinson is batting .146 against breaking balls, which have accounted for 41.1% of his strikeouts.
Honestly, Brinson shouldn’t cost you much if anything at all in most leagues right now. The Marlins traded away Starling Marte, which means that Brinson should get a lot of run down the stretch, but he needs to actually show that he can make improvements at the plate. He is teetering on the edge of being relegated to a 4th OF defensive replacement type or maybe even washing out altogether if he can’t figure some things out. I own him on a dynasty rebuild, but I can tell you he will be one of my first cuts this offseason if I need the space and he doesn’t show something. His time is running out.
Verdict: BUY – only if rebuilding and free
Photo by Mick Haupt/Unsplash | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)