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NFBC Hitting Guide for Week 15: Nolan Jones, Ha-Seong Kim, Aaron Hicks (2022)

NFBC Hitting Guide for Week 15: Nolan Jones, Ha-Seong Kim, Aaron Hicks (2022)

We’re entering Week 15 of fantasy baseball at the NFBC and also approaching the All-Star break. It’s the time of year when fantasy football interest is rising, and some of your leaguemates’ focus is beginning to drift. But that’s not going to be you, is it?

This week, four teams with eight games (CLE, CWS, DET, KC) and three with just five (BAL, LAA, LAD). Everyone else has six or seven. There’s also a full set of games at Coors Field, with the Padres and Pirates visiting, so you can give the Friars and the Buccos a little boost.

Catcher

Christian Bethancourt (C, 1B – TB)

Bethancourt, freshly traded to the Rays, should have a chance at fairly regular at-bats. Francisco Mejia just hasn’t been good, whether you cite his 26.1% hard-hit rate, 25.7% strikeout rate, or 74 wRC+. Mike Zunino’s left shoulder issue hasn’t healed as hoped, either. Bethancourt, on the other hand, is having a resurgent season at 30. He’s currently an upgrade over Mejia behind the plate, and he can help out at first base when an opposing lefty is on the mound, spelling the lefty-hitting Ji-Man Choi. Bethancourt’s quality of contact metrics this year are superb, and the 70th percentile sprint speed means that being 4-for-5 on the basepaths so far isn’t completely a mirage. The Rays get seven games for Week 15. Bethancourt is a Rays player, if ever there was one–he’s versatile and inexpensive. This should be a lovely marriage for fantasy baseball purposes.

Seby Zavala (C – CWS)

Zavala has been a bright spot for the White Sox lately, and Yasmani Grandal isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break. That gives Zavala a fair chance at a quality week for Chicago, given that the Sox have eight games on tap, including five games during the first half of the NFBC week. Reese McGuire is still lurking about, but he’s been atrocious (.233/.273/.286). The White Sox need all the offense they can get, so they’d be wise to ride Zavala’s recent hot streak. It’s a small sample, but Zavala’s .271 xBA and 41.0% hard-hit rate so far are improvements over his two previous MLB stints. He swings a lot, but early returns on his plate discipline look encouraging. He has an above-average 31.5% chase rate and is making more contact this time around. He’s shown reverse splits throughout his career, so the week ahead with just one left-hander on the docket is good. Five of his six career homers are against right-handers, and he’s batting .256 in the split–compared to one homer and a .158 BA against lefties.

Eric Haase (C, OF – DET), Jorge Alfaro (C, OF – SD)

Haase keeps hitting, and Detroit has an eight-game week, so you can keep rolling him out there as a second catcher. Alfaro is one of the better San Diego hitters against southpaws (.300 BA, 4 HR), and the Padres are slated to see at least three of them in Week 15–not to mention they get the Coors Field boost. Both of these guys are in for a lovely week ahead, so I had to mention them, even if it was brief.

Corner Infield

Nolan Jones (3B – CLE)

The 24-year-old rookie profiles at least as a left-handed platoon bat, albeit one who should post solid OBP and power numbers. However, the Guardians catch a week chock full of right-handed pitchers in Week 15, so Jones will be a viable corner infield play in leagues where you need power. Cleveland has eight games to play this week, and at least seven are projected to feature a right-hander on the hill. Jones got on the board with his first career dinger in just his second MLB game, and it was a no-doubter. He also slashed .311/.417/.500 at Triple-A this year, with three homers and four steals. Of note was his 26.9% strikeout rate, an improvement over his 2021 mark at Triple-A (30.0%). Lastly, in 99 games played in 2021, he hit 13 homers and stole 10 bags. So there’s a penchant for some chip-in speed here, at least.

Jonathan Schoop (1B, 2B – DET)

Schoop’s Tigers get eight games this week, and on the heels of Schoop inexplicably doing his best Jon Berti impression in Week 14 (four steals over four games). For reference, before this week, Schoop had 11 stolen bases in his CAREER. His career began in 2013, and he never stole more than two bases in any season. And he stole four in one week. Nutso. Anyway, I wouldn’t bank on him being the next 20/20 player, not with his 44th percentile sprint speed. But he has been a consistent 20-homer bat throughout his career, getting his dingers from his ability to pull the ball. He’s had a red-hot July, slashing .382/.417/.412, with a 13.9% strikeout rate and a 136 wRC+. He hasn’t homered this month, but he’s driving the ball more, and he does have the aforementioned four steals to his credit. It’s time to slide him back into lineups where you need the help.

Middle Infield

Matt Carpenter (2B – NYY)

Matty “Mustache” Carpenter is just raking, y’all. No, he doesn’t play every day. But when he does, he is packing some major punch, and this week he was given the No. 3 spot in the lineup for three games in a row. Some things I’m just tired of questioning. I’m into the 36-year-old Carpenter’s sudden rebirth, even in limited duty. Playing in a powerful lineup and moving up in the order can offset his days off by just a tad. If you’re desperate for punch at corner infield, give him a whirl. He’s still pulling the ball a massive amount and hitting a ton of fly balls, but it’s working for him, not just at Yankee Stadium. A quick view of his splits tells us that he’s been good home and away, and he’s been good against lefties and righties. His 60.0% HR/FB rate against southpaws is absolutely going to plummet, and his 39.1% strikeout rate in that split isn’t going to cut it, either. However, he’s getting something right with the plane of his swing, as his 16.7% barrel rate is by far the best mark of his career. He serves primarily as the DH for New York, so he may not pick up additional eligibility this year. But where you need pop at middle infield, you can justify Carpenter given his current hot streak.

Michael Chavis (1B, 2B – PIT)

Chavis slashes .280/.320/.527 against left-handers, and Pittsburgh faces three lefties (of four possible) alone in the first half of next week. Add in that the second half of next week includes a date with Coors Field and one other lefty (the mercurial Austin Gomber), and I’m sold on Chavis as a fill-in at middle infield for the week ahead. Knock him for his 32.0% K-rate against southpaws if you like, but he has a whopping .247 ISO, a .357 wOBA, and 131 wRC+ in the split. It’s definitely where he does his damage.

Ha-Seong Kim (2B, 3B, SS – SD)

Kim should benefit from the Coors bump and the host of lefty pitchers that San Diego is slated to face in Week 15. Keep your eye on a potential thumb injury, as he was removed from Saturday’s game. But if that’s not a significant issue, I think you can chase some batting average, runs, and steals from him in Week 15. Kim has a .298/.417/.440 slash and a whopping 150 wRC+ against southpaws this year. He has 17 walks against a mere 10 strikeouts and a tolerable .143 ISO. Want to compare? Against right-handed pitching, he is slashing .207/.276/.316, with a .109 ISO and a 72 wRC+. The Padres catch lefties Gomber and Freeland at Coors in the first half of the week, and they begin the weekend half with southpaw Madison Bumgarner. Kim got his first career look as a leadoff hitter when the Pirates threw the lefty, Sammy Long on Friday, and he was back in the top spot against lefty Carlos Rodon yesterday. For so long as Jurickson Profar is on the shelf, Kim could continue holding down the No. 1 spot in the order. You want that in your lineup for a date with Coors Field, people.

Outfield

Nick Senzel (OF – CIN)

Senzel gets trashed in the fantasy baseball community because he’s never been healthy long enough to live up to the hype that followed 2019, and maybe Cincinnati brass reads too much on Twitter. He’s still batting in the 7-8-9 spots in the order despite slashing .387/.424/.613 this month, with three extra-base hits already (two homers and a double). He’s been pretty even against both handednesses of pitching, batting .255 against lefties and .265 against righties. If the power is finally going to start coming, the Reds may be forced to give him another look in the top spot in the order, given the struggles of one Jonathan India (.215/.271/.292). And even if India awakens, there’s a scenario where it’s India and Senzel atop the lineup, which would allow the suddenly powerful Brandon Drury to drop down a notch and focus on driving in runs lengthening the lineup a bit. This is all my conjecture, of course. But Senzel’s 82nd percentile sprint speed is intact, and despite not walking much, he could post around a .320 OBP given his ability to rap out hits. Right now, he’s a guy you round out your five-man outfields with. But he plays home games in a hitter’s haven, and there’s a scenario where he could move back atop the order…AND he’s shown a little power this month. The Reds get the powerful pitching of the Yankees over the first part of the week, then travel to face the sturdy Cardinals. As it’s just a six-game affair in Week 15, I view this as more of a long-term play. I’m holding Senzel where I can, and he should certainly be in most of your five-man outfields for the week ahead.

Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY)

Hicks’ best skills are his ability to get on base and to run. He’s sitting on a .359 OBP and is up to nine steals, with a 75% success rate on the basepaths this year (9-for-12). That, and he’s still just 32 years old. It’s not like we are dealing with a geriatric here. Also, concerning speed, he’s the fastest he’s been since 2018. That’s right! His 27.7 ft/s mark is a hair better than his marks in the last three years. This supports the idea that he’s finally healthy and is back to running again. I think you can trust the speed moving forward.

As for the other parts of his game, it’s encouraging that he has hit five of six homers against right-handed pitching, as his best split historically has been against southpaws. In 2022, his .258 BA against lefties is besting his .234 mark against RHP–but the aforementioned power is carrying his line against righties. If he puts it all together, so to speak, his overall line is only going to be that much better. The Yankees are home for six games this week against the Reds and the division-rival Red Sox, so I think we can safely expect plenty of fireworks. Hicks has homered in three of his last four games.

That’s it for me this morning, as the coffee cup is now bone dry. Who did I miss, gamers? Who is trending upward in your NFBC lineups?

CTAs


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