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NFBC Hitting Guide for Week 14: Juan Yepez, Evan Longoria, Jack Suwinski (2022)

by Heath Capps | Featured Writer
Jul 3, 2022
Juan Yepez

Yours truly was on the river with family for half of Saturday, and it’s to the lake we go all day on Sunday. Therefore, Saturday statistics will probably be omitted from this post. But I’m not basing any analysis off of one day’s worth of games, anyway. On that, I think we can all agree.

What follows are some deep-league (think 15-team) movers, at least in my mind. Many of these are guys I’m using in either my draft and holds at the NFBC or in leagues like TGFBI. In some cases, a name that you see may not be ideal. But we can’t all be enjoying a season without injuries, can we? And I’m not here to tell you to add Jon Berti. He’s long gone. The goal is to dig deeper.

The following players can help you if you’re in a pickle in 15-team leagues, and perhaps even in shallower formats if you’ve been ravaged at a given position.

Catcher

Cal Raleigh (C – SEA)

Tom Murphy is now out for the season, clearing up some of the muddiness surrounding the Seattle catching situation. Throw in Luis Torrens‘ current IL stint for a shoulder injury, and Raleigh has plenty of job security at the moment. He isn’t going to help you in batting average, but he’s playing every day and he has 10 homers already. His underlying metrics support this production, as he’s bottom 10% of the league in K% and Whiff% — but he’s inside the top 10% of the league in hard-hit rate and barrel rate. That’s easily second-catcher production.

Eric Haase (C, OF – DET)

Haase stumbled out of the gate this year, but check out his month of June: .286/.314/.571, .376 woBA, 149 wRC+. During said stretch of time, Haase was 14-for-49, including three homers, three doubles, and a triple. And it won’t amount to many steals, but the 74th-percentile sprint speed is nice. You’ll get a couple by the season’s end, perhaps. I just like knowing a guy can move around. I tend to trust athleticism. Haase is admittedly a mixed bag in his fifth year as a big leaguer, though. He seems to have traded out some power for more contact. The move hasn’t been superb for fantasy baseball overall, but his .253 BABIP is on the lower side and his .261 xBA is more encouraging than his .215 BA would have us believe. He’s also heating up, as noted by the June production. He’s made gains each year in swinging-strike rate at the MLB level, leading to a career high in contact so far this year (70.5%). He’s making more contact in the zone and out of the zone, too. That contact rate isn’t ideal when compared to the league average, but it does represent growth. And qualifying at catcher is what makes him viable. You can ride him while he’s hot in two-catcher formats. Like me in some draft-and-holds, though, ultimately you’re yearning for more at-bats. Do the Tigers really want to keep rolling Tucker Barnhart out there? Barnhart’s gifts were the ability to not strike out and to get on base, but this year he has a 29.9% K-rate and a ghastly .261 OBP. And zero homers. And zero steals. It’s awful. I’m just saying, Haase could weasel his way into more at-bats if he keeps hitting.

Elias Diaz (C – (COL)

I whiffed on Diaz this year. I felt the Coors backdrop offered a pretty solid safety net. I’m just thankful to have not been overexposed. In my DCs, Diaz has been supplanted by Jonah Heim in a couple of places. However, I did roll with Diaz for Week 13’s Colorado homestand, as he has been trending in the right direction (while backup Brian Serven has been cooling off). If these trends continue, Diaz will be serviceable again as a C2 option in 15-team leagues. He’s hit three of his five home runs over the last 14 days, and he’s batting .267 over that stretch with eight RBI. That may not sound impressive, but that RBI count is bested by only Alejandro Kirk and Eric Haase over the last two weeks, as those guys are tied at 10 apiece. Overall, Diaz’s fly ball and pull rates are down from last year, when he smacked 18 homers. A silver lining is that his hard-hit rate is very similar, 37.2% to 37.6%. He is also bashing lefties. Finally, if you toss out the month of May, he’s been perfectly fine — a .250 backstop in Coors with some power. Everyone can have a bad month, right? The Rockies have seven games ahead for Week 14. None are in Coors, but it’s still a full slate.

Corner Infield

Evan Longoria (3B – SF)

Longoria is raking of late, but more than that, he’s only had one day off since June 20. Health, especially with this 36-year-old, has been a fickle beast. But when healthy, you can safely insert him into your corner infielder slots. The Giants have a full seven games on tap for Week 14, including a couple of lefties (which Longo bashes) and a beginning of the week that features a suspect Arizona pitching staff. And for what it’s worth, Longoria has bludgeoned both handedness of pitching this year — his strikeout rate is only 20.7% against RHP, and his .261 ISO exceeds the .229 mark he’s showing against lefties so far. In short, all you need is health. He’s currently healthy. Plug and play wherever you need power, folks.

Juan Yepez (1B, 3B, OF – STL)

Yepez is no secret if you were lucky enough to take a shot on him or claim him from waivers. He’s batting .283 with nine homers in just 166 at-bats, and he’s the rare plus power type who doesn’t rack up tons of strikeouts. Despite swinging (and chasing) aggressively, Yepez has above-average contact rates and he swings at an above-average rate in the strike zone. His max EV (95th percentile), barrel rate (61st percentile), and xSLG (67th percentile) support a guy who can operate at a 25-homer clip from here onward. The .319 BABIP and .283 BA might be a bit over his head, but .250+ with power is notable given his multi-eligibility and solid team context. He should have plenty of leash with Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader both on the IL, and neither is expected back for Week 14. The Cardinals have a full seven-game slate for the coming week, including four games’ worth of a park boost at Atlanta for the first half of the NFBC week.

Middle Infield

Luis Rengifo (2B, 3B, SS, OF – LAA)

Rengifo has batted fifth for the Halos for three games running, a likely side effect of him batting .319 with a pair of homers over the last couple of weeks. Still just 25 years old, he has a tolerable .147 ISO and has reduced his strikeout rate to just 16.8% this year. Let’s be real here — the bottom part of the Angels’ lineup is awful. If Rengifo can perform like anything approximating an MLB regular, batting behind Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Jared Walsh consistently should pay dividends. We like the speed (73rd percentile) and the ability to rap out hits. Over the last two weeks, only eight middle infielders have more hits than Rengifo (15). He has a career .278/.361/.431 slash line in the minors, with multiple 20+ steal seasons. There are worse ways to attack the MI slot if you’re desperate.

Miguel Rojas (SS – MIA)

Rojas is annually undervalued because he’s not a world-beater. Still, he’s a career .264 hitter with the ability to give us double-digit steals and some chip-in dingers. This year’s .259 BABIP is well below his career mark of .291, so the .248 BA is likely destined to creep closer to his expected .276 mark by year’s end. His 11.5% strikeout rate is inside the top 5% of the league, and he’s shown more power against right-handers this year — five of his six homers — which is nice, because historically he has hit left-handers better. He could wind up as a .260 hitter with double-digit homers and steals, which means something. It helps that Miami has a full seven-game slate in Week 14, with some winnable matchups ahead. I especially like Rojas on the front end of the week, as the Fish have four games and three of those four aren’t pitchers we typically fear.

Outfield

Jarren Duran (OF – BOS)

Duran had to take a seat for the Toronto series due to being unvaxxed, but he’s quickly back into our hearts after going deep in his first game back on Friday (and swiping a bag on Saturday). More importantly, though, is the fact that the speed demon is continuing to bat leadoff for the mighty Boston Red Sox. Duran had a small cup of coffee in 2021, but he disappointed with a 35.7% strikeout rate, an awful .241 OBP, and just a pair of steals. The old adage “you can’t steal first base” definitely applied. This year, though? He blistered Triple-A (.305/.379/.531) with six homers and 11 steals in just 43 games. And at the MLB level, he has arguably been better. A .333/.387/.544 slash line with a homer and five steals over just 15 games? I won’t insult you by prorating a 15-game sample. But I will tell you that if Duran’s OBP is anything over .325, he’s easily gunning for 15 steals the rest of the way. Add in the chip-in power and the seat atop the Red Sox’s lineup? He should be in every lineup from here onward, regardless of format.

Jack Suwinski (OF – PIT)

If the Pirates will just leave Suwinski alone in left field, he’ll threaten for 30 homers this year. No jokes here, as he’s already up to 13 homers, and the season is young. He didn’t play Saturday, but it was just a routine day off. You’ll have to live with the anchor of a batting average, but the power is real enough based on the barrel rate (87th percentile) and the max EV (86th percentile). And as I’ve said before, Suwinski can move. The 86th-percentile sprint speed may not always manifest in swipes, but there’s some chip-in speed here and some hope that we get some improvement on his .250 BABIP. He could be a 25/7 type of guy by year’s end…if he gets any sort of luck at all in the batting average department, his final ranking among outfielders will probably surprise you. For the week ahead, the Pirates have some tough pitching matchups but a couple of prime hitting locales (vs NYY, @ CIN, @ MIL). Right now I only see right-handers on the schedule, though some matchups are to be determined. Suwinski, a lefty stick, has eight of his 12 homers against RHP this year, and a much more tolerable .240 BA — he’s at a .167 BA and a .158 BABIP against southpaws. One final note: Suwinski LOVES playing at home, with stunning marks all around at PNC Park (.333 ISO, .403 wOBA, 162 wRC+, and four percentage points less on his K-rate). I don’t understand it either. I just wanted to share.

That’s it for me today. It’s time to hit the water. You can let me know who I missed by finding me on the Twitter machine @HeathCapps. Happy July 4th to all who celebrate!


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