NFBC Hitting Guide Week 24: Eric Haase, Josh Jung, Elvis Andrus (2022)
Yes, it’s true–there is still fantasy baseball to be played, despite the onslaught of NFL content hitting the airwaves. If you’re frustrated at baseball writers dividing their time lately, don’t be mad at me! I’m still here to churn through 15-team relevancy, namely at the NFBC–but your 15-team league can be housed anywhere, and the following players should still be relevant.
These may be gems on your draft and hold benches or waiver wire adds to consider in competitive 12-team formats. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Heim has cooled off considerably after a strong first half, but if you’re still considering him as a second catcher in 15-team leagues, the first half of Week 24 is what Captain Jack Sparrow would call an “opportune moment.” On the season, Heim has slashed .267/.342/.505 against southpaws, with a .238 ISO, .365 wOBA, and 142 wRC+. It is certainly the split where he has made his proverbial hay. And while Sandy Alcantara will be tough to deal with on the second game of Monday’s doubleheader, I give Heim the edge against LHPs Trevor Rogers, Ken Waldichuk, and JP Sears.
Major shouts to Haase last week, as he was my injury fill-in for Willson Contreras. Sometimes, you just get lucky, eh? Anyway, he is up to 12 homers already, despite ranking 23rd among catchers in at-bats. For reference, he has fewer at-bats than offensive luminaries such as Austin Nola, Max Stassi, Jacob Stallings, and Martin Maldonado. Yikes. Anyway, his 12 dingers are tied for 14th among backstops, and his .257 BA ranks eighth among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances this year (32 backstops meet this criterion). In the same sort, Haase is tied for 16th in runs scored and ranks 14th in RBI. The man is getting it done, despite not seeing the sort of volume we’d like. Among the 36 catchers with at least 150 batted ball events in 2022, Haase ranks 14th in barrels per BBE, at 8.5%. That’s a shade behind Adley Rutschman (8.7%), and ahead of Travis d’Arnaud, Alejandro Kirk, Elias Diaz, Jonah Heim, Carson Kelly, and Jose Trevino, to name a few. Trevino is actually a good comparison–he and Haase have a similar amount of at-bats, but Haase has outproduced him in nearly every way. And despite playing for the vaunted (formerly?) New York Yankees, Trevino has just two more runs scored than Haase but two fewer RBI (in 14 more PA). This is a circumnavigational way of saying that Haase is totally legit as a second catching option.
Walker was a draft day target of mine, and he morphed from an early season surprise to a lineup stalwart in my draft and holds. On June 5th–the last time I wrote up Walker–he was batting just .211, but with a whopping 14 home runs. On that date, I said he would bat .235+ by season’s end, with plenty of power. As things stand now, Walker has compiled 32 homers and a .237/.331/.481 slash line, far exceeding what I thought he would produce when I landed him in multiple leagues during draft season. The D-backs catch a full seven games in Week 24, albeit against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers and the solid pitching of the San Diego Padres. But he’s not leaving my lineups. You can’t make me.
The wait is over, folks. Jung would have likely broken camp as the starting third baseman for Texas this year, but his big league debut was thwarted due to a Spring Training shoulder injury. Now fully recovered from a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Jung swatted a home run and swiped a base in his MLB debut on Friday. The Rangers would do well to find out what they have in Jung for the remainder of the season, especially after signing double-play tandem Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Add in the continued breakout of Nate Lowe, and Texas could be all set in the infield for the foreseeable future. Jung should have every opportunity to put his power on display over the final four weeks of the MLB season.
If the Chicago White Sox rides the hot bat of Elvis Andrus to a Wild Card spot, that will be something. Since suiting up in Chicago, Andrus is slashing .298/.330/.500, and over the last 12 days, he has totaled five home runs. He also has seven multi-hit games over his last 10 games played. He is the purest definition of a ‘hot hand.’ His overall slash line is now up to .251/.308/.404, with 13 homers and nine steals to his name. The White Sox have just six games in Week 24, but three are against southpaws. We like that split for Andrus, as he is slashing .287/.346/.508 in the split, with a .221 ISO and a stunning 148 wRC+. The time is now.
Is Nico Hoerner the new Whit Merrifield? A vintage Merrifield, not this year’s watered-down version. He has settled in as a low-strikeout guy with wheels (18 SB) but with a modicum of power (.129 ISO, 9 HR). He won’t ‘wow’ you with his overall quality of contact, but the marks for strikeout rate, xBA, and sprint speed are all elite. He is probably going to bat .280+ with around 12 homers and 20 steals. What’s that worth to you on draft day in 2023? The first half of Week 24 is a bit rough with the Mets pitching staff on tap, but the week lightens up considerably with the Rockies coming to Wrigley Field over the weekend. But like the aforementioned Christian Walker, you can’t make me bench Hoerner right now.
Feel free to pick your poison here. Do you want the leadoff man with a bit more speed in Friedl? Or the cleanup man with a bit more pop in Fraley? The Reds have a staggering NINE games on tap for the week ahead, including five games in the first half–and all against right-handed pitching. Feel free to load up on these sneaky, left-handed hitting lineup regulars. And for what it’s worth, Friedl has a .353 batting average against lefties thus far, although it’s just a sample of 18 plate appearances. Fraley has nine of his 10 homers against RHP, as well as a .271 BA (just .154 versus lefties). Still, load up on these two for the first half of the week, especially.
I considered Lane Thomas or Oscar Gonzalez, but I have hyped those two up previously in this space. It’s more fun to dig a bit deeper. The Nationals, fresh off of trading Juan Soto and Josh Bell, suddenly have tons of roster flexibility. And with Yadiel Hernandez on the shelf, there’s one less outfield bat to contend with. Call has experience at all three outfield spots, and the Nats are hoping some good plate discipline (read: low chase rate) can lead to a bit of untapped power for the 27-year-old. I don’t see any reason why Washington should prioritize the 42-year-old Nelson Cruz in a lost season. Call has seen time at center field and right field already, and with Joey Meneses capable of handling right field or first base, there is more than one pathway for 15-team relevance here. He just needs to keep hitting. I’m intrigued in my 15-team dynasty league.
That’s about all I dug up for today. I hope it helps someone somewhere. Is anyone out there still playing baseball? Bueller? Bueller? If so, find me on the Twitter airwaves @HeathCapps, and let’s talk!
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