NFBC Hitting Guide Week 25: Albert Pujols, Vaughn Grissom, Yonathan Daza (2022)
After today, I’ll pen this article just two more times, which is a bit surreal. Only three weeks of fantasy baseball are left, and yours truly is locked into some battles for first place in multiple leagues. I need every edge I can get.
This week, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers each play eight games. There are seven games at Coors Field and six games in the Great American “small park.” Hopefully, we can mine for some volume today while also honoring recent hot streaks and good-looking upcoming matchups.
As usual, my lens is that of a 15-team NFBC league or even a very competitive 12-teamer. But your competitive format can be housed on any platform, and hopefully, some of the following players are still available to you.
Jansen is back on the menu. He endured a bit of a slump for a while, but his bat has woken up recently with four multi-hit games over his last seven appearances. No, he doesn’t play every day. But he does exist in a powerful Blue Jays lineup and his .249 BA and 12 homers are perfectly adequate for a second catcher. There are at least a couple of tough lefties on tap this week, but that’s also Jansen’s better split. Currently, he is slashing .267/.382/.533 against LHP, with a measly 10.9% strikeout rate and a 14.5% walk rate. He should offer some production for the week ahead.
If you’re like me, Diaz fell out of favor quickly, hopefully for some dart throw that you took on a third or fourth catcher. In many of my leagues, Diaz was replaced by Jonah Heim‘s early production. At any rate, the Rockies catch a full seven games at home this week, so Diaz is firmly on the second catcher radar for me. He had a two-homer game at Coors Field as recently as September 9th, and that’s despite only tallying nine homers for the full season so far. His best trait is that he has a pretty low strikeout rate for a catcher, but he also has an ability to ramp it up with the quality of contact, as he checks in at the 80th percentile for max EV this year. His average launch angle and barrel rate are below last year’s production, but again, we are in Coors Field all week long. For reference, Diaz is batting .197 with two homers on the road this year, compared to a .269 BA and five homers at Coors. You know what to do.
Last week’s plays: Jonah Heim, Eric Haase
Pujols has treaded water against RHP, with a .200 batting average and seven of his 19 home runs. Nineteen! Anyway, against lefties, he is batting .356/.408/.760, with 12 homers and ridiculous marks in ISO (.404), OPS (1.168), wOBA (.478), and wRC+ (216). He has been stupendous against southpaws. Like, Babe Ruth against lefties, pretty much. For reference, Ruth’s 1.164 OPS is the best all-time among big leaguers. For his career, Ruth slashed .342/.474/.690 with a whopping .348 ISO. That ISO is also the best mark of all time. Now re-read what Pujols is doing to left-handed pitching in 2022. He is right up there with Paul Goldschmidt and Austin Riley as a preeminent lefty-basher. And what is on tap for Week 25, you ask? There are six games for the Redbirds, but a whopping five come against left-handed pitching. It’s time to get this legend into your lineups at the corner infield slot if you haven’t been already.
This 36-year-old was left for dead in Kansas City, but the move to Seattle has brought him a new life. Santana is up to a very quiet 17 home runs, and he has done so with a still healthy walk rate (14.6%) and a low strikeout rate (16.2%). Both of these marks are in line with career norms. The one piece that isn’t is his .196 BABIP, so the ensuing .197 BA is pretty ghastly. Santana will be a prime candidate in “sleeper” posts for 2023 due to the shift ban, though, as his quality of contact numbers is pretty darn stellar. For this season, you’ll have to endure a lower BA, but we are only talking about it right now–and right now, Santana is on a heater. He has five homers over his last seven games, tying him for second among all corner outfield players over the last two weeks and tying him for first over the last week. The Mariners have seven games on tap for the week ahead, and the smattering of lefties doesn’t scare me since the switch-hitting Santana is currently batting .244 against them. If you’re looking for some power production, he is a solid play.
After missing three months with a fractured foot, Ozzie Albies returned for just TWO games. Albies is now done for the season after fracturing his right pinky finger on Saturday. And while this is a blow for me–a real-life Braves fan–for fantasy baseball purposes, it means that Vaughn Grissom should continue playing every day in the stacked Atlanta lineup. The 21-year-old continues a trend of young Atlanta prospects making a big impact, as he is slashing .301/.352/.478 with five homers and five steals over his first 32 big league games. He’s handling both handednesses of pitcher very well, and he’s making contact at slightly above average rates despite being something of a free-swinger (51.9% swing rate). He’s cooled off a bit lately, but he doesn’t have competition for at-bats with Albies shelved and gloveman Ehire Adrianza (quad) also hitting the 10-day IL on Friday. It’s time to ride out the last few weeks with the youngster, enjoying the runs scored and some help in BA and stolen bases.
I wrote Castro up weeks ago, and he sort of disappeared. But now he is heating up again, and he is consistently batting third for the Pirates despite a .244 batting average. Sometimes it pays to be bad, and this is one of those times. Castro is up to 10 homers and five steals over just 56 games. Last year at Triple-A, he slugged 12 homers and swiped six bags in 75 games. So there’s some recent precedent for this sort of work, despite his 50th percentile sprint speed. His overall batted ball profile isn’t stellar, and we don’t like the home park environs, but you can hang your hat on the max EV (78th percentile) and the ability to barrel the ball (7.7% barrel rate). That’s not a giant mark, but it is above average, and he qualifies at three positions. That’s worth something for a guy who is on a heater right now. I especially like the weekend matchups against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have a bottom 10 ERA on the season and rank third-worst overall with a 1.35 HR/9 allowed. Only the Nationals and Reds have fared worse in the allowing of homers this year.
Aquino has five homers in 15 games since September 2, bringing him up to nine homers on the year (in limited duty). However, eight of those nine homers have come against right-handed pitchers, against whom he is batting a tolerable .233 with a .314 wOBA and 94 wRC+. Do yourself a favor and don’t linger on the ghastly .266 OBP, okay? Assuming you are NOT playing in an OBP league, you should be solid with Aquino for this week if you are hunting for power in one of your five outfield spots. As mentioned previously, the Reds catch six games at home, and so far, at least five of those six come against right-handers. You could do worse than this toolsy 28-year-old. His max EV (89th percentile) and sprint speed (87th percentile) are encouraging. You’ll just have to live with the whiffs. Who said fifth outfielders were perfect?
If it’s the polar opposite of Aquino that you seek, allow me to introduce you to Yonathan Daza. If it’s batting average help you are in need of, Daza and his .313 BA and 13.6% strikeout rate are calling your name. Daza has a mere two home runs over 99 games played in 2022, but he is currently occupying the No. 2 spot in the order for the Rockies and will contribute in runs scored and batting average. Again, you could probably fare worse in your final outfield spot. The Rox have a full slate of games, and Daza is batting .429 over the past two weeks. Over his past nine games, he has a hit in all but one–and multiple hits in seven of nine. So he’s entering a full week at Coors Field on a heater. Sign me up.
That’s it for me this morning. Be sure to mine for Dodgers and Diamondbacks as well. Maybe speed maven Bubba Thompson is still floating on there on your waiver wire. Maybe not. At any rate, trust yourself over these last three weeks! And find me on the Twitter machine @HeathCapps if you ever want to chat fantasy baseball. I would love to link up.
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