I count a measly 10 more Mondays of what has been a fine fantasy baseball season. Some easy math could happen in your leagues where you trail in specific categories. How far back are you? Divide it by 10, and that’s your goal to achieve each week. I know; I am a mathematical genius.
Moving on, we enter into Week 18 at the NFBC another week removed from the All-Star break. Recent news affecting many of my teams is the imminent return of multiple arms–guys like Freddy Peralta, Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, Lance McCullers Jr., and even Dustin May. And yes, Jacob deGrom should return next week, but I didn’t have any shares this season. Despite all the good news on the pitching side, what I’m diving into each week in this space is hitters. I focus on guys who get a volume boost, either due to games on the docket or a heavy platoon. Think 15-team leagues, and you’ll be on the right track. Of course, your team may or may not be housed at the NFBC, and that’s just where I play. So the eligibility may look a little different, but hopefully, the following players help out for the coming week, no matter what position you slot them into!
Grandal was activated on July 22, and so far, he has looked like a useful backstop. That’s a far cry from his early season production, as anyone who drafted him can tell you. Since being activated, he has played in six of seven games and spent most of his time at DH. The White Sox are still working in Seby Zavala and Reese McGuire at catcher. And this is what we always covet, right? A guy who doesn’t have to catch every day. Grandal fits that bill. Since his return, he has at least one hit in four out of six games. Batting in the middle of the White Sox order means his last week of games is a perfect microcosm of what you can expect–his zero runs scored and four RBI over this stretch mirror what to expect. Chicago has underperformed all season, so the runs scored may not be plentiful. But there should be some power and RBI given his spot as the 5 or 6 hitters in the order.
Look, I’m not excited about this either. Carson Kelly is still far more recommended, as are previously mentioned guys like Jonah Heim, Cal Raleigh, and Danny Jansen–all of whom can give you power. However, those of you who took a shot on Stallings retaining some usefulness for this year as a depth catcher with a floor of at-bats know that he has a modest six-game hit streak going. His overall .203 BA with two home runs is atrocious; I grant you that. However, the Marlins get three games against the Reds pitching this week. The Reds just jettisoned Luis Castillo to the Mariners, so that league-worst 5.19 ERA probably isn’t getting much shinier. After three games against Cincinnati in Week 18, the Marlins travel to Wrigley Field to face the Cubs. Chicago’s collective 4.34 ERA is sixth-worst in the league, making it potentially a quality over quantity sort of week for Marlins hitters due to just the six games on the docket. I’m not recommending Stallings over any of the guys I just mentioned. But if you’re in a dire situation with your C2 in a league, take a shot on Stallings rapping out some hits for Week 18. I like the second half of the week a little bit better, as Wrigley should be a park boost and that three-game set starts with the lefty Drew Smyly.
Last week’s plays: Carson Kelly, Francisco Mejia
Bohm is firmly in the circle of trust for yours truly. To be sure, six homers and one steal aren’t setting the world on fire. However, the .296 BA is legit, and Bohm has been consistent from a hitting perspective for over seven weeks. He only has two homers over that stretch, but he hasn’t had a batting average below .290 in a given week since way back in Week 10. His .302 xBA and above-average quality of contact metrics support the production, too. The current knock is a pedestrian 6.4% barrel rate, which is in the 34th percentile. Bohm just plain doesn’t hit enough fly balls right now to think he’ll suddenly morph into a 30-homer hitter. However, his launch angle is up, and his ground ball rate is down significantly this year. Previously, Bohm logged ground ball rates of 53.2% (2020) and 52.7% (2021). This year, he has trimmed that to just 43.9%. The fly ball rate has held steady (25.4%, 22.7%, 27.9%), but his 28.2% line drive rate is ROBUST and gives me hope that this current iteration of Bohm will continue to rake from a batting average perspective. Among qualified hitters, Bohm trails only Freddie Freeman in line drive rate this season, with Freeman checking in at 29.4%. That’s fitting, as there were more than a few comps to Freeman when Bohm was still a prospect–at least from a batting average perspective. No, you probably can’t add Bohm anywhere. But I’m giving the guy some love as a corner infield stick, which is how you drafted him for 2022. He’s reached ‘set it and forget it’s territory for me, and that means something.
Miguel Sano returned to the Twins to theoretically give Miranda some competition, but Miranda is having none of that business. Until he broke the streak on Friday, he had three straight three-hit games, with four runs scored, a home run, and five RBI. Bohm looks like a better bet for the batting average, and these guys have similar barrel rates (6.1% for Miranda, 31st percentile). However, Miranda’s 40.9% fly ball rate and 45.7% pull rate point to a bit more hope for home runs, with a bit less help in batting average (compared to Bohm). The main point is that Sano doesn’t appear to be a threat to Miranda’s playing time. The Twins get seven games at home for Week 18, with dates against the hapless Detroit Tigers and the mercurial Toronto Blue Jays staff (and with Alek Manoah officially questionable for his Thursday start due to a right elbow contusion). One word of caution: Miranda’s home/away splits are not favorable this season. He has been a much better performer away from Target Field. I’m currently considering that a small sample wrinkle, but it is a stark enough difference to mention. Check the splits:
Home: .235/.279/.370, .136 ISO, .285 wOBA, 83 wRC+
Away: .302/.338/.532, .230 ISO, .374 wOBA, 146 wRC+
Again, I’m considering it a small sample–81 home at-bats compared to 126 on the road–but the difference was stark enough to mention if you’re looking for a tiebreaker between Miranda and someone else.
The Angels’ everyday shortstop has been a hitting machine of late, ranking third among all middle infielders since the All-Star break with 14 hits. Only Trea Turner and Brendan Rodgers (16 apiece) have more over the same stretch. He won’t add a ton of category juice, though he may be some form of an asset in runs scored, given that he’s now consistently hitting in one of the top four spots in the lineup. Rengifo has been a .300+ hitter at Triple-A with some pop in each of his last two MiLB stints. His earliest MLB stints were rocky, but this year his .276/.320/.414 slash line is more in line with what to expect from the 25-year-old. I think there’s room for a tad more growth as well. He’ll need to trim his chase rate a bit, but he makes enough contact to survive, and the 72nd percentile sprint speed means I trust the .317 BABIP moving forward. He has a .255 xBA, but I think we could see growth for a guy who posted BABIPs of .357 and .375 in his final two Triple-A stints. As for right now, the Halos catch six games this week versus the Athletics and Mariners. They could possibly see the Athletics without Frankie Montas, too. The Mariners have the sixth-best team ERA (3.65), but Oakland is the eighth-worst (4.29). The Angels also get four games for the weekend set due to a doubleheader on Saturday, so if he plays in all four games, you’ll get an opportunity boost.
“Donnie Barrels” has recently seen a boost in playing time due to a string of left-handed hurlers on the opposing mound. And what do we have in Week 18 but a string of lefties afoot! Braxton Garrett, Jesus Luzardo, Aaron Ashby, and Ethan Small all look probable to face the Reds this week. Therefore, Solano should at least draw a pair of starts on each half of the week ahead. Solano is a safe bet for batting average against both-handedness, though. He currently sports a .297 BA versus lefties, but a .339 BA and both of his home runs against RHP. His start to the season was delayed, but he was a valuable role player for San Francisco in recent seasons. Last year, he slashed .301/.344/.478 against southpaws, with 5 of his 7 homers and a .177 ISO. For reference, against RHP, he slashed .268/.344/.361 with a .093 ISO. The Reds’ home park may give him a boost for weeks when he is home, as both of his homers are at home against RHP this year. This week features six road games, but Milwaukee isn’t a bad spot to be, and Solano has a history of beating up on lefties. This is digging deep, but I’m trying to avoid the obvious. If you need a little pop at middle infield, Week 18 looks good for Solano.
Seth Brown (1B, OF – OAK)
The same day I sang his praises last week, Brown hit the paternity list. And how many times have we seen this narrative when the guy returns and goes yard? Brown smacked a pair of solo home runs in his return on Friday, bringing his season total to 14 homers and seven steals. He is almost assured of finishing as a 20/10 player, and that fact is being obscured by his home environs of Oakland and a little bit by injury. The .230 batting average isn’t even that egregious, either–not in 2022. The league average slash right now is .243/.312/.396. Brown is slashing .230/.279/.441. He won’t be an asset in runs scored, not playing for Oakland. But he has a pair of 30-homer MiLB seasons to his credit, with one coming at Triple-A in 2019 (37 HR, 8 SB, 112 G). He’s always given us chip-in speed, and the quality of contact metrics and 65th percentile sprint speed point to this production level being sustainable. He’s elite in max EV (89th percentile) and well above average in barrel rate (72nd percentile) and xSLG (81st percentile). You’ll have to live with the low batting average, but it’s not THAT low, and we don’t play OBP at the NFBC. Brown is a solid CI or outfield depth play in your 15-team leagues.
Thompson is a 31-year-old with a career slash line of .217/.293/.415 at the big league level. He currently sports a .415 BABIP, contributing to his tolerable .268/.355/.474 slash line. His power is legitimate, but the strikeouts have long been featured (career 29.4% K-rate). That said, Thompson checks in at the 74th percentile for max EV and is 71st percentile for sprint speed. For his career, he’s pretty neutral on splits but has shown more power against LHP (.220 ISO compared to .186 versus RHP). With at least a pair of lefties on tap for the week ahead and at least one game against Jakob Junis–whose magic seems to have worn off–I think you can consider Thompson in the short term. The long-term recommendation is to fade him, though. Playing time in LA is hard to trust, and Thompson’s 36.4% strikeout rate is an eventual death knell. That whiff rate is supported by a dreadful 16.5% swinging strike rate. That would be eighth-worst in the league if he qualified, in Jorge Mateo territory. Yikes. Use him at the bottom end of your five-person outfields if you must, but I wouldn’t go crazy for him in the FAAB run ahead.
That’s it for yours truly this week. I’m headed out into the wilderness with the family, so if you need me, you’ll have to drop me a line on Twitter @HeathCapps, and I’ll get back to you when I get out of the woods! In the meantime, happy trails to all, and let’s keep closing the gap in our fake leagues!
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