Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper explodes with six home runs last week, while Evan Gattis has once again hit a slump.
Monday’s Pitching Report looked at the worst offenses by wOBA and strikeout rate through five weeks this season. Well, here in the Hitting Report, we choose to exalt hitters, not denigrate them. In that vein, let’s check out at the opposite end of the spectrum today. The following are the 10 best offenses by wOBA so far this season.
1. Dodgers, .358
2. Royals, .340
3. Blue Jays, .336
4. Orioles, .335
5. Rockies, .330
6. Tigers, .328
7. Cardinals, .325
7. Yankees, .325
9. Diamondbacks, .319
10. Indians, .317
This list has been a bit truer to expectations than the teams ranked 21st through 30th in wOBA. Most everyone expected the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Rockies, Tigers and Cardinals to be among the best offenses in the league, and few would have been shocked to find the Orioles and Indians in the top 10, as well. That leaves the Royals and Diamondbacks as the two surprise entries here. The Royals may have won the AL pennant last season, but they did so with pitching, defense and timely hitting. In fact, they were 18th in wOBA last year, behind also-rans like the Twins, Brewers, White Sox and Marlins. Thanks to Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas, the Royals are seriously outpacing offensive expectations and atop the AL Central.
As for the Diamondbacks, Paul Goldschmidt is having himself another other-worldly season, hitting .345/.444/.646 with a .463 wOBA, which is good for third in the majors behind Adrian Gonzalez (.492) and Nelson Cruz (.475). That was, of course, always in their plans. A.J. Pollock (.350), Mark Trumbo (.360), Jake Lamb (.511 in 10 games before going on the DL) and David Peralta (.376) have stepped up alongside Goldschmidt to give the Diamondbacks one of the best offenses to this point of the season. If only they could pitch, they could be better than 14–16 through their first 30 games.
Hitters of the Week
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: .455 BA (10-for-22), 6 HR, 8 R, 13 RBI, .520 OBP
When is one homer better than the two you hit the day before, or the three you hit the day before that? When it results in a walkoff win for your team. There aren’t many players who could answer that question with the authority of having been there, but Harper can. He went on a crazy tear last week, belting six homers in a three-game stretch, the last of which was of the walkoff variety, and he’s now hitting .300/.435/.655 with 11 homers this season.
Harper is still striking out a lot, but he has shown improved plate discipline, evidenced by his ridiculous 19.6% walk rate. Harper is forcing pitchers to pitch him carefully, and then forcing them right back into the strike zone by not chasing bad pitches. It’s overkill to remind everyone at this point that he’s still just 22 years old, but don’t let that fact escape you. Harper is still one of the youngest players in the majors. He’s going to have an MVP award one of these days, and it could even be at the end of this year.
Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals: .480 BA (12-for-25), 2 HR, 6 R, 9 RBI, 1 SB, .519 OBP
Wong put together a monster week, getting a hit in all seven of the Cardinals’ games—even the one he did not start. That gave him an eight-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 15-for-29. Wong turned on the power in St. Louis’ weekend series at Pittsburgh, hitting both of his homers and driving in five of his nine runs against the Pirates. In Friday’s 8–5 win, his three-run homer in the seventh put a capper on a four-run inning that essentially put the game out of reach, and he finished a triple shy of the cycle. Wong’s having a banner season for the Cardinals, slashing .336/.380/.518 with four homers, 17 runs, 17 RBI and three steals through 31 games.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs: .355 BA (11-for-31), 3 HR, 5 R, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .375 OBP
Rizzo continues to fill up the box score for the Cubs and his fantasy owners. All that was missing from his stat line through the first three weeks of the season was home runs, and he has corrected that over the last two weeks. He left the yard three more times during the Cubs’ seven games last week, giving him six homers on the season. Rizzo is hitting .330/.448/.578 with the aforementioned six bombs, 23 runs, 18 RBI and seven steals. He’s 18th in the majors in batting average, third in OBP and 11th in slugging percentage, all of which has contributed to a .440 wOBA that ranks sixth in the league. Don’t be surprised if and when he finishes in the top-three in NL MVP voting this year.
Hitters of the Weak
Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals: .000 BA (0-for-17), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, .056 BA
Adams had a dreadful week, failing to get a hit in 17 at-bats and reaching base just one time in six games. What’s more, he is now fully entrenched in a platoon with Mark Reynolds, and you can bet that Reynolds will start any time the Cardinals face a lefty. Adams is just 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts against lefties this year, and both hits were singles. He’s a career .189/.220/.307 hitter without the platoon advantage, making him a virtual black hole against southpaws. That also means that it’s hard to trust him as a starter in leagues with 12 teams or fewer. You can’t outright cut him, but you should not be relying on him as your starting first baseman, either. At best, he’s a corner infielder in deeper leagues, or a starter at first in leagues with 14 or more teams. Even there, he’s a bit of a stretch.
Yoenis Cespedes, Detroit Tigers: .125 BA (3-for-24), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, .192 OBP
Cespedes has to bear his share of the responsibility for the Tigers’ 2–4 week against the White Sox and Royals after he got just three hits and struck out five times in the six games. He began the week with a .310/.327/.550 slash line, but that’s now down to .274/.300/.476. Cespedes saved his worst for the last game of the week, the rubber match with Kansas City. He went 0-for-5, leaving five men on base in a 2–1 loss. With the Tigers trailing by what would prove to be the final score in the bottom of the 10th inning, Cespedes came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Greg Holland, who had been scuffling, struck out Cespedes to end the game. The perennially overrated fantasy player is going to go through stretches like this, but his presence in the middle of Detroit’s lineup gives him plenty of run-scoring and RBI upside for the rest of the year.
Evan Gattis, Houston Astros: .130 BA (3-for-23), 0 HR, 0 R, 1 RBI, .160 OBP
Say this for Gattis: He never makes it boring. This is the fifth edition of the weekly Hitting Report this season, and Gattis has been part of the Hitters of the Week once and the Hitters of the Weak twice. Such is life for a free-swinging masher who can homer in five consecutive at-bats, and then strike out in his next 10. Gattis actually made plenty of contact last week, striking out just four times. The only problem was he didn’t make much hard contact. Two of his three hits were doubles, but they were also two of the only balls he hit well all week. This is the devil’s bargain you assented to when you drafted Gattis. He’s going to give you solid power numbers, but they’re going to come with unsightly rates and a handful of prolonged slumps sprinkled throughout the season.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Soler’s owner may not necessarily be looking to sell, especially if you’re in a keeper league, but there's no doubt that everyone who drafted him expected more than three homers in the Cubs’ first 30 games. When you consider that two of those came in the same game, Soler’s power has been essentially non-existent for his fantasy owners. That’s not to say he isn’t striking the ball well. In fact, Soler’s 41.3% hard-hit rate is tied with Corey Dickerson’s for 12th–best in the league. Soler’s bigger problem is that he has a 34.6% strikeout rate that undermines nearly everything else he’s doing at the plate.
Still, there’s far more good here than bad, and his low power numbers means he could potentially be pried away on the open market. Soler hits up and down the top half of a Cubs order that is greatly improved this season. As a team, the Cubs are 13th in the majors in wOBA, and anyone hitting in one of the first five slots of the order is going to have ample RBI and run-scoring opportunities. See what the asking price is while it’s still possible to get him at a discount.
Sell: Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun had a big week, going 8-for-23 with a homer, four RBI, 11 runs scored, two steals and seven walks. He now has five homers in the last two weeks, and his slashing .255/.331/.443 on the year. That could very well be enough to make him attractive in the trade market, so act now. Even with the hot stretch he’s on, you’re better off betting against Braun. His line-drive rate is down again, sitting at 15.9% this year. Meanwhile, his ground-ball rate is at 45.1% and he’s striking out in more than one-fifth of his plate appearances. His recent turnaround at the plate should be enough to pique the interest of some owners in your league, especially those who are hurting in the power categories. Given the state of MLB today, there are at least a few of those in every fantasy league. Find one and see what you can extract for Braun.
Hold: Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
Seager has been a disappointment this year, but there’s a lot of bad luck baked into his numbers. Seager should have a better BABIP than .255, and therefore a higher slash than .246/.298/.395, with a 22.2% line-drive rate. His strikeout rate is way down to 11.3% this year, too, so the mere fact that he’s putting more balls in play, and making solid contact, should mean that more hits are on the way. Seager’s fly-ball rate is right in line with his career numbers, but his HR/FB ratio is down at 7.1 percent, which would be his worst for an entire season spent in the majors. There’s just too much good in the peripheral numbers for Seager’s results to remain this poor all season. Now, there’s no way you can trade him for anything near fair value given his numbers this year. This hold recommendation is to stress that you shouldn’t sell him at a depressed price or even think about dropping him outright. He’s bound to come around and start hitting like the 22-to-25-homer player he has been in each of the last three seasons.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
It didn’t take long for one of baseball’s best prospects to prove he was already above the competition at the Double-A level. Correa, universally a top-five prospect according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, slashed .385/.459/.726 with seven homers and 15 steals in 29 games with Double-A Corpus Christi before the Astros promoted him to Triple-A Fresno on Monday. Now that he’s just one step away from the majors, the speculation as to when he’ll be in Houston should start to reach a fever pitch. He’s just the kind of player that fantasy owners would rather be early than late on, because he can be an asset immediately upon his first day in The Show.
Two shortstops were among the top-five prospects in baseball in all three prospect ratings services of record coming into this season. One of them, Addison Russell, is already in the majors. Correa is the other one. Like Russell, Correa is just as good with the bat as he is with the glove. The 20-year-old has hit at every level of the minors, posting a career .317/.397/.495 slash line across four professional seasons. It seems appropriate to point out that he logged 204 of his 1,149 plate appearances as a 17-year-old, when many of his other peers were studying for the ACTs. No one doubts his ability to make an impact with the bat once he’s in Houston’s lineup.
The question, however, is when that will happen. Jed Lowrie was off to a great start this season, but he’s out until after the All-Star break after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. A team that seems forever cash-strapped like the Astros will want to wait until the Super Two deadline passes before promoting Correa, but that’s just more than one month from now. If he hits at Fresno, don’t be surprised to see a team that is finally competing for the first time in years bring him to the majors sooner than expected. The Astros are finally coming out of the dark ages, and they’ll want their most talented team on the field as they make a play for a spot in the postseason. That team undoubtedly includes Correa. If you have a roster space to stash a player, Correa is well worth it.
GIF of the Week
Kris Bryant hit the first home run of his career last week, a three-run no-doubter off Kyle Lohse. When he got back to the dugout, he discovered that none of his teammates were there to celebrate with him.