Wander Is the Beginning of Wisdom

Dylan Burris breaks down yesterday's biggest hitting performances.

Wander Franco (TB): 4-6, 3B, 3 R.

Socrates was truly a visionary, but you don’t need to be a fifth-century BC Greek philosopher to predict the quick baseball development of Wander Franco.

Entering yesterday’s matchup with the Red Sox, the 20-year-old was on a 35-game on-base streak, just one game from matching Mickey Mantle’s second-place record for streaks at 20 years or younger. He didn’t leave us wandering (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) for long, smacking a first-inning triple off of Boston’s Chris Sale to tie the streak, finishing the day 4-6 with a triple and three runs scored.

The Tampa Bay wanderkind (I’m done, I promise) is slashing .336/.399/.552 with a 164 wRC+ during that stretch, a sign he’s settled in nicely after slashing just .221/.272/.358 prior to the streak in his 100 plate appearances in the majors. With his sharp eye, raw athleticism, and quick bat speed, he’s established one of the higher fantasy floors in the game. The big question is whether he can take the next step, adding on the power that he’s never quite realized in-game.

Franco will be one of the more interesting questions of next year’s draft, as his potential is sky-high but his floor—while high—isn’t necessarily a league-winner. At his age, I’m banking on not having to wait around for improvement. Franco should continue to grow and power is likely one of the elements to develop over the next several years—most likely sooner than later.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Thairo Estrada (SF): 3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Yesterday’s multi-homer game catapulted Estrada from a 95 wRC+ on the season up to 114. He’s spent more of the season in Triple-A than in the majors, but he’s making it count, showing off some improved plate discipline this go around. Estrada is unlikely to hit true fantasy relevance (keep in mind the Giants are currently playing in Colorado), in part due to the impending return of Donovan Solano.

Darin Ruf (SF): 2-4, 3B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

Once again, Coors. After spending a few years tearing up the KBO, Ruf returned to the majors last season and has been able to carry over his success. The 35-year-old is putting up a 16.1% walk rate while slugging .547. While he isn’t in an everyday role, he’s finding plenty of success at the plate, making him a solid DFS target or useful utility player for those in daily leagues. And hey, he’s got a couple more games in Coors this week.

Nelson Cruz (TB): 3-6, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.

There’s something truly poetic about the 41-year-old Nelson Cruz hitting directly after the 20-year-old Wander Franco. Cruz hasn’t exactly wowed since coming to Tampa Bay, but he’s slugged nine home runs in that time and is one of the most reliable and consistent hitters in baseball. If he can just impart some of his slugging wisdom to his young teammate…

Kyle Tucker (HOU): 3-4, 2 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Tucker continues to impress in his age-24 season, showing off with 24 home runs and a shiny .286/.344/.538 slash line. The young outfielder boasts some speed (12 bags on the season) and crucially has cut down his strikeout rate considerably. While he hits frustratingly low in the order for an admittedly loaded Astros lineup, he’s established himself in the elite tier of fantasy outfielders as we begin looking ahead to 2022.

Jorge Polanco (MIN): 4-5, 3 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.

If you’re in the fantasy postseason (or close to it), there’s a decent chance you’ve got Polanco on your team. It’s looking like last year was an aberration for Polanco, who is crushing the ball the season. He’s posting the highest ISO of his career while hitting close to .300. A performance like yesterday—four extra-base hits—only further seals his fantasy production.

Byron Buxton (MIN): 2-5, HR, 2 R, RBI.

It’s nice to see Buxton back, even though this was his first homer since returning a week and a half ago. He’s struggled since his return to action and unfortunately did not pick up right where he left off, this time after missing over two months. Regardless of how he finishes out the season, he’s going to be a fascinating player to evaluate for next season, as he’s already shown off his ceiling as one of the best players in the league.

Franmil Reyes (CLE): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.

Three straight homers for the Franimal, who is closing in on 30 homers despite missing a chunk of the season with an oblique injury. As Scott Chu noted yesterday, Reyes is a 40-HR slugger who hasn’t quite hit that mark in practice, but rest assured he will soon. Sure, you have to stomach a strikeout rate north of 30%, but with a .260/.337/.556 slash line and 27 homers in just 92 games, that’s an easy pill to swallow.

Cedric Mullins (BAL): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI.

Speaking of guys on a lot of championship squads, Mullins has been one of the biggest finds of the fantasy season. After abandoning switch-hitting over the offseason, the in-game results have been immediate for the snubbed All-Star (yes I’m still bitter he wasn’t a starter). Mullins has 26 homers and 26 stolen bases and seems well on his way to hitting 30/30, all while hitting over .300. Some might expect regression next season (and some may be coming), but in my mind, he’s firmly entrenched as an elite fantasy outfield option.

Marcus Semien (TOR): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.

What an incredible season Semien has had, as he continues to make himself money for whatever enormous contract he’ll be signing at the end of this season’s one-year deal. The second baseman swatted his 36th and 37th homers of the season, marking five in his last five games. With the 14 stolen bases he’s chipped in alongside the power onslaught, Semien has established himself as one of the most valuable fantasy players in the league, regardless of position. The 2B/SS eligibility makes him just that much nicer to roster.

Teoscar Hernández (TOR): 1-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB, SB.

Yesterday’s homer was Teoscar’s third in four games and he added his tenth stolen base of the season along with it. While overshadowed a bit by the giants of Semien and Vlad, Hernández has had a very nice season despite not quite hitting the same power numbers as he did in last year’s abbreviated campaign. It could be just enough to get overlooked in next year’s draft, but he seems a lock for 20-30 home runs along with a few stolen bases. He’s been able to cut down his strikeout rate this season—a welcome development as he previously posted 30+% marks in the last several seasons.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR): 3-5, HR, R, RBI.

What is there to say that you don’t already know? Yesterday was Vlad’s 40th long ball of the season, he’s slashing an otherworldly .321/.410/.604, his walk rate is pretty close to his strikeout rate, and it’s September. He’s incredible, and we’ll get to watch in wonder for decades to come.

Brad Miller (PHI): 3-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.

Look, in a DFS contest you could do worse than Miller as a dart throw. He has the potential to explode like he did yesterday. But without an everyday role and numbers that are overall a bit underwhelming (power notwithstanding), he’s not worth rostering in standard fantasy leagues.

Jean Segura (PHI): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

The stolen bases sadly aren’t really there anymore, but you shouldn’t turn your nose up at a .300 hitter with a low strikeout rate either. Without the speed along the basepaths, Segura is more of a very good low-end fantasy starter. For where he typically gets drafted, he should be great as someone who will keep up your batting average while providing some nice counting stats (though it feels like he should be getting more runs batting first or second in that lineup).


Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Dylan Burris

Dylan has been a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan since 2015. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he devotes most of his non-baseball attention to college basketball.

2 responses to “Wander Is the Beginning of Wisdom”

  1. DB says:

    I’ll enjoy many wasting early picks on Franco.

    I’ll be focusing on veterans with upside, like Ohtani, Judge, Muncy, Scherzer, etc…

    • BillyBob says:

      Well, I have him in an OBP keeper league and he is causing me problems. For my last keeper, my top 3 players are:

      Jacob deGrom/ Yordan Alvarez/ Wander Franco

      A 100% healthy deGrom would make this easy. Alas his on-again, off-again shut downs undermine my confidence in selecting him. As it is, although they were stellar, I got less than 100 innings from him. Yordan is one of my favorite players, but the drop in his OBP from 2019 to today leads me to question whether he is elite, or just good.

      As for the guy you’ll be passing up next year, over the last 30 days, this TWENTY year old rookie has slashed

      29/3/19/0/.411 good for 21st best player overall.

      I’m not a math major, but the guy hits 3rd on maybe the best managed team in baseball. So we’re looking at

      150/18/108/0/.411 over the course of a full season.

      I am keeping Wander Franco and the thing of it is, it’s not even close. A month ago I thought this would be a tough decision, but not now. He is the only recent prospect other than Vladito to get a 70 hit grade or higher (some gave him 80). And next year, he’ll be even more comfortable. This is a generational player. Period.

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