Soto in San Diego

Reviewing last night's best batted balls.

Juan Soto (SD): 1-4, 2B.

The essence of last night’s Padres/White Sox game could be captured by the Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man meme as you had two of the season’s most disappointing teams going head-to-head. In the case of the Padres, imagine trading for Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Josh Hader and not making the playoffs. Thankfully for San Diego fans, they have a game and a half lead for the 2nd WC spot, and their magic number stands at three. But the final few days of the season could be uncomfortable as the Phillies and Brewers aren’t far behind and someone is going home.

Anyway, the curious case of Soto and his disappearing power has been one of the biggest mysteries of the season. Since making his San Diego debut on August 3rd, he’s hit just five home runs. During that span, his .149 ISO is tied with Thairo Estrada for 89th among qualified hitters. Just like we all expected. The missing power isn’t the only thing either: This is a career .287 hitter who is hitting just .243 on the year.

Initially, I wanted to believe that it was probably happenstance more than anything else because of his previously irreproachable track record. He has 43 walks and 29 strikeouts during that span, so at the very least, his plate skills are there.

But as Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs pointed out a couple of weeks ago, there are some funky things going on in his batted ball profile right now. I won’t attempt to rehash it here too much, it’s an excellent read if you’re curious to take a deeper look. Suffice it to say, there are some elements of underperforming. But it’s not that simple either – his contact quality is down, too. Discrepancies in his launch angle and more infield pop-ups are two salient details.

Of course, you should always be cautious whenever you dice up and examine a small sample size. Such is the case with Soto’s early tenure in San Diego. This could certainly be an extended blip and nothing more, just another example of how whacky this game can be at times. The moment you think you know something. Poof. It’s the great tug of war that is fantasy baseball, trying to grasp the difference between results and expectations.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:

George Springer (TOR): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.

The Jays were one of the teams that went off last night as they hung nine runs in a blowout against the Red Sox. Nick Pivetta started, but Springer’s dinger came off Tyler Danish in the sixth. After injuries cost him just about half the season last year, the former Astro missed only a week this year with elbow inflammation in August. The steals have been a surprise considering he hadn’t stolen more than 10 since 2015, his first full season in the majors. But his power has been down a tick this year: Last night, he hit his 25th, just three more than he had last year in only 78 games.

Bo Bichette entered last night’s game hitting an even .400 with a 1.135 OPS across 27 games in September. He finished the month by picking up two more hits and now has his OPS at .801 on the year.

Yandy Díaz (TB): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Díaz had been out since the 19th with a lingering shoulder injury. He was key in the Rays’ win over Framber Valdez as he reached with a leadoff walk before scoring the first run of the game on a single from Harold Ramírez. He tagged Valdez for a two-run double off the wall in left-center that pushed the Rays’ lead to 6-2. He only has nine home runs as over-the-fence power isn’t his game, but the righty-hitting third baseman has otherwise put together one of his finest seasons yet, hitting .296 with a career-high .825 OPS and 135 games played, too.

Evan Longoria (SF): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.

Both shots were off Merrill Kelly. After a two-run shot in his first at-bat staked the Giants to a 4-1 lead, the former Ray launched a 400-foot blast to straightaway center in the second. He hasn’t been playing much down the stretch, but he definitely still has some power left in his bat as he’s hit 27 home runs over the past two seasons combined (583 PA). The Giants could buy out the final year of his contract, so this very well might be the 36-year-old’s last hurrah. Mike Yastrzemski had a big night, too, with two hits, including his 16th home run of the year.

Jake Fraley (CIN): 3-4, HR, R, RBI.

Fraley, who first debuted with the Mariners in August of 2019, seems more like a fourth outfielder on a good team, but the Reds roster is kind of, well, you know, not great as the season winds down. To his credit, the 27-year-old has done well with the opportunity, particularly against RHP, against whom he’s hit to the tune of a .857 OPS this year along with a 20.6% K rate and 10.6% BB rate. And, hey, four steals in 229 PA isn’t too bad either.

Drew Waters (KC): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Selected by Atlanta 41st overall in the 2017 draft, Waters was traded to Kansas City in July in exchange for the 35th overall pick in this year’s draft. It’s a little strange he hasn’t played more for the Royals down the stretch, as he’s started in five of their last ten. Anyway, this was the third home run of his career. But power isn’t a strength for Waters based on his scouting report. He does have some speed, though, with 18 steals combined in 80 games for Triple-A Omaha and Gwinnett.

Cedric Mullins (BAL): 0-3, R, 2 BB, 2 SB.

No hits, but Mullins is doing his part to tilt roto leagues as the clock hits zero. He’s up to 34 steals, tying teammate Jorge Mateo for second place behind Jon Berti, who leads with 38. A year after banging out 30 home runs, he’s not surprisingly regressed with 16 round-trippers this season, but still: 88 runs, a .261 average, and all those steals are nothing to scoff at.

J.T. Realmuto (PHI): 2-5, 2B, RBI, 3 SB.

Speaking of tilting roto leagues, this certainly qualifies, too. The former Marlin is up to 21 steals, the most he’s ever had in his career and he has not been caught either. So you might be thinking, a 20/20 seems insanely rare for a catcher. And you’d be correct: It’s only been done one other time, Iván Rodríguez in ’99 with the Rangers. Wow! The Phillies will need everything they can get out of their backstop as the battle for the final WC rages on.

Oswaldo Cabrera (NYY): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

Your latest example of That’s baseball, Suzyn. A lineup featuring Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, et al. against Jordan Lyles at Yankee Stadium, and their only run comes off the bat of Mr. Cabrera. The 23-year-old Venezuelan native and glove guy extraordinaire, who has played everywhere except catcher, has been on a roll slashing .314/.385/.657 over his last ten games. His batted ball data, though, pales in comparison with a .289 xwOBA and an average EV of 86.5. He also had a 26.4% K rate in 47 games with the Triple-A RailRiders. Not great, but, hey, you could do far worse than rolling the dice on a guy playing every day in the middle of a good lineup.

Logan O’Hoppe (LAA): 1-4.

His second career hit. If you’re in a dynasty league and looking for an add for next year, the 22-year-old catcher is someone to look out for. The former Philly, who was swapped for Brandon Marsh at the deadline, had a tremendous season in Double-A, slashing .306/.473/.673 in 29 games for the…Trash Pandas. Please, who needs raccoons? The righty hit 11 home runs and rocked a 22.1% BB rate and 16.8% K rate. Pretty, pretty good. The Angels certainly have an opening behind the dish.


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Ryan Amore

A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club, Ryan Amore has been writing things at Pitcher List since 2019. He grew up watching the Yankees and fondly remembers Charlie Hayes catching the final out of the '96 WS. He appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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