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NFBC Hitting Guide for Week 6: Jose Miranda, Jonah Heim, Yadiel Hernandez (2022)

by Heath Capps | Featured Writer
May 8, 2022
Jonah Heim

Jonah Heim is the No. 3 catcher in 5×5 leagues despite having only half the at-bats of the catchers pacing the league.

Another week of fantasy baseball is in the books, so I’m looking ahead to the next week of action on the NFBC. My goal is to identify players whose arrow is pointing upward–and who might not be in your lineups currently but could be.

And if you aren’t playing in a competitive 15-teamer over at the NFBC, there’s something here for you, too. These guys could at least be on your watch list in a shallow format. And if you happen to have just been hit by freak injuries and/or Covid at one particular position, one of the following players can help you out for the coming week.

Let’s see who is trending upward in the fantasy baseball world, eh? And as a reminder, most numbers were pulled before Saturday’s games. I have to draw the line somewhere, or nothing gets written.

Catcher

Jonah Heim (C – TEX)

Right after the lockout ended, the Rangers traded away infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa and RHP Ronny Rodriguez for the then-Twins catcher, Mitch Garver. Since that time, Garver has slashed .189/.282/.311 on a .208 BABIP as a member of the Rangers. Better times are probably ahead for the power-hitting catcher, but he’ll need to improve his 30.4% hard-hit rate and .195 xBA. He’s also hitting more ground balls in the early going than he has previously. That, along with the softer contact, isn’t a great combination.

Enter Heim, the holdover for Texas that most drafters probably left for dead after the Garver trade. So far, all he’s done is slash .353/.476/.676, with a .333 BABIP (fairly standard). His walk rate is way up (19.0%), and his strikeout rate is down to under 10%, numbers backed by a more patient approach at the plate and above-average contact skills. His batted ball profile is also encouraging–Heim has kept his fly ball rate steady at around 40% but traded ground balls for more line drives. And when he does make contact, it’s quality. A 50% hard-hit rate and a nominal 10.0% soft contact rate (per Fangraphs) will play. As if you needed another bullet point, Heim’s 98th percentile framing mark will help keep him in the lineup, especially while Garver struggles.

Long-term, I expect Garver to level out and regress to the mean as one of the better hitting catchers in the league. But until then, the Rangers should give Heim as much playing time as they can manage, as the hot hand. The DH slot allows for Garver to still get at-bats in the interim. And Garver hasn’t been the healthiest of players historically, either. Add it all up, and Jonah Heim’s arrow points directly upwards. He is the No. 3 catcher in 5×5 leagues despite having only half the at-bats of the catchers pacing the league.

Ryan Jeffers (C – MIN) 

Jeffers gets another mention from me this week. It’s a little uncanny how similar he and Mitch Garver are concerning plate discipline. Both guys have low swinging strike rates and similar swing and contact rates. However, it’s Jeffers with superior contact quality thus far in 2022. Maybe the Twins knew what they had in house when they jettisoned Garver to Texas? Perhaps they at least had an idea? Anyway, Gary Sanchez‘s return spells trouble in the short term. But I still think Jeffers is a bat worthy of being watch-listed, and I think he’ll find a way to offer C2 value most weeks. For reference, he’s the No. 4 catcher in 5×5 leagues over the last week. Over the previous two weeks, he’s No. 2, trailing only Daulton Varsho. There have to be 15-teamers where your second catching option isn’t that good. The Twins get six games this coming week.

Corner Infield

Rowdy Tellez (1B – MIL)

Tellez isn’t a secret in the hardest of hardcore fantasy baseball places. He was a trendy sleeper for power numbers as a left-handed bat in Milwaukee. And so far, that dream has gone exactly to plan. Did you know that Rowdy Tellez (a left-handed hitter) has a higher career batting average against southpaws? He’s at .264 with a .183 ISO against lefties for his career and a 102 wRC+. Against righties, he is batting .246 with a .241 ISO and a 108 wRC+ strikeout rate that is three percentage points lower. So against right-handers, he’s in his more powerful split. This year’s numbers bear that, as six of his seven homers have come against righties. But he’s no slouch against lefties, either. A few years ago, he made a concerted effort to make more contact and trade out a little power. It turns out the power is still there. Get Rowdy into those lineups where you need power, people. He’s playing more against lefties, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and his Statcast page is blood red nearly everywhere. What are you waiting for?

Jose Miranda (3B – MIN)

Miranda belted his first career home run on Friday, and if he makes any noise on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend FAAB bids on him might get outrageous. Miranda is a strong hit tool and power guy whose bat will carry his real-life value. He crushed 30 homers, batted .344 in 591 plate appearances across Double-A and Triple-A last year, and is the Number 3 prospect in the Twins organization. In short, he has the pedigree to justify some probability of continuing his hitting barrage at the big league level.

Given Miguel Sano‘s knee surgery that should keep him shelved until at least midseason, Miranda could occupy first base or the DH slot regularly. The light-tower power on display Friday should work well for a guy who has never had a strikeout rate greater than 17.0% at any big-league level. Get those FAAB dollars ready, folks.

Juan Yepez (1B, 3B – STL)

Yepez was called up on Wednesday of this week, and since that time, he has started all four games for the Cardinals (this writing is as of Saturday). His first start was in right field, but his next three were in the DH slot (formerly occupied by Albert Pujols and Corey Dickerson). Look, it’s nothing against Pujols or the fan-favorite C-Dick, but those guys have given awful production in the DH slot. Both should be bench players on a team trying to compete (the Redbirds are in second place in the NL Central). As an offense, St. Louis ranks either middling or bottom third in most offensive categories despite the second-place perch. Specifically, they need a little more punch, as the 21 team homers are better than just nine MLB teams.

Cue Yepez, who slugged 27 homers across 111 Double-A and Triple-A games in 2021 (22 in Triple-A). He also had walk rates above 11% and strikeout rates below 20% at both levels last year. In short, there’s not much left to prove with the stick, and Yepez could infuse this St. Louis team with some punch. As is the case with Miranda, get those FAAB dollars ready.

Middle Infield

Jeremy Pena (SS – HOU)

Carlos Correa‘s replacement in Houston is now up to six homers and a steal. The single swipe is encouraging given Pena’s 97th percentile sprint speed–though the Astros have annoyingly not utilized the stolen base much historically, despite having the talent to do so. So don’t expect a crazy number there. But the ability is enticing, while the early power barrage has held us over. It’s supported by Pena’s quality of contact, however. Pena ranks 73rd percentile or better in all key batted ball quality areas. Also, he pulls a lot of fly balls, which we dig in Minute Maid stadium. His swing certainly suits that park layout.

You’ll have to watch the aggressive approach at the plate, but he makes above-average contact in the zone, and his 13.2% swinging strike rate isn’t heinous (the MLB average is 11.2%). I could see the strikeout rate closer to 24% instead of the current 22.8% mark, but with a .242 BABIP and .259 xBA, he’s arguably been unlucky so far–the .233 BA is low when compared to the barrels, and the average exit velocity. He’s a solid starter moving forward at the shortstop position.

Santiago Espinal (2B, 3B – TOR)

Espinal is batting in the bottom of the Blue Jays lineup, but it’s a powerful one. Since he’s receiving playing time, we can justify him as a middle infield play in our fake lineups. And on that note, Espinal’s 27 games played ranks first among Blue Jays regulars Matt Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Bo Bichette. The old adage “there’s no ability like availability” applies.

Being available isn’t Espinal’s only skill, though. This year he has popped a couple of homers and has a decent .165 ISO after managing marks of just .095 and .067 in the two seasons prior. He’s a batting average and runs play, given his ability to hit consistently (career .292 BA, current .308 xBA) and his penchant for swiping bags (6-for-7 last year, 3-for-3 so far this year). I trust the bags more than I trust the power, but the dual-eligibility and the early pop make him interesting as a middle infield piece. Cavan Biggio may return from the Covid IL this coming week, but he should do so in a super-utility role, the same as before hitting the IL. You’ve got at least one more week with Espinal, and maybe longer.

Cesar Hernandez (2B – WAS)

Hernandez doesn’t have a home run yet, and that’s depressing his 5×5 ranking. However, he had a 12-game hitting streak entering Saturday’s action, with his 33 hits ranking third among all middle infielders and his 16 runs scored tied for fifth. He’s a plus in batting average, and he’s used his 70th percentile sprint speed to swipe a pair of bags already. I’m not saying he’s a league-winner, but he’s doing precisely what you drafted him to do. The Nats have six games on tap next week, so I’m giving him another week to see if he can get on the home run board.

Outfield

Yadiel Hernandez (OF – WAS)

Hernandez doesn’t have large samples at the MLB level, but what he does have is trending in the right direction. His quality of contact marks are above average, even if his lack of speed means his upside is capped. But he’s playing every day and batting in the heart of the Washington order, and he’s a multi-hit machine. He had at least two hits in five straight games before a day off on Friday. He’s a sneaky source of batting average and RBI. Surely that can help someone round out their five-man outfields. Over the last week, he’s leading the league with 12 hits and a cool .545 batting average. Hernandez could do a fair impression if you missed out on Steven Kwan.

Pavin Smith (1B, OF – ARI)

He’s bouncing around the Arizona batting order, but he’s totaled three homers in his last eight games, and he’s up to a .274/.372/.452 slash line. So far, he’s tallied three homers and one steal, and he’ll be a safe bet to continue amassing decent counting stats so long as he continues showing growth against left-handed pitchers. Fun fact, his 35.2% swing rate is a bottom-five mark in the majors. Only Daniel Vogelbach, Max Muncy, Juan Soto, and Trent Grisham swing less. That’s not the worst grouping to be similar to…right?!

Smith’s more passive approach has led to many more barrels thus far in 2022. For reference, he has 10 barrels on just 54 batted ball events so far this year. In 2021, Smith had 20 barrels on 393 BBE. That’s some improvement. Smith also has career-highs in fly-ball rate and pull rate so far. If he keeps elevating and keeps up the quality contact, he’ll be useful in 15-teamers.

Those are the ‘movers’ in my mind this week, though I’m confident I missed a couple. Who are you starting to trust more in your deep league lineups?

CTAs


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