- In this hitters-only Stock Ticker, we examine Joey Gallo's strong start and explain why Kris Bryant's value is dropping.
The Stock Ticker is back with an all-hitter edition for the final entry of April. We’re just about one month into the season, which means most pitchers have made about four starts. That’s enough time to pick up some meaningful data, but not quite enough to draw any sweeping conclusions. Everyday hitters, however, have reached or are approaching 100 plate appearances, giving us plenty to work with as we look forward to baseball’s second month. As such, we’ve got 10 hitters whose stock has changed significantly over the last few weeks.
This column isn’t a weathervane. It won’t respond to the natural vagaries of baseball that force even the likes of Mike Trout into an occasional slump. If a player appears on the Ticker, it means that we believe his rest-of-season outlook must be significantly recalibrated.
This isn’t a waiver wire column. While some players with low ownership rates across the fantasy baseball landscape will appear in the Risers section from time to time, the Ticker will generally consist of players widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets
This isn’t Alonso’s first appearance in the Risers section of the Stock Ticker, but it’s time to elevate his status again. How many first basemen would you unquestionably rather have on your team right now? For me, it’s Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger. That’s it. On the other side of that coin, I’d take him over Joey Votto, Matt Carpenter, Jose Abreu, Jesus Aguilar, Joey Gallo, Max Muncy and Edwin Encarnacion. At the very least, Alonso has put himself in a rest-of-season group with Anthony Rizzo and Rhys Hoskins. At the most, he’s in the Goldschmidt/Freeman/Bellinger tier. If this were fantasy football where one player can swing an entire team, we’d already be talking about Alonso as a league-winner.
Joey Gallo, 1B/OF, Rangers
Alonso is definitively ahead of Gallo, but that doesn’t mean the latter should slide down any rest-of-season rankings list. In fact, Gallo has made me look foolish for doubting him this draft season. He’s hitting .300/.412/.729 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 85 plate appearances. The batting average could prove to be a mirage, but he’s cut his o-swing (the frequency with which a hitter swings at pitches out of the strike zone) and whiff rates considerably, which suggests that his bat-to-ball skills have improved. His strikeout rate is still among the highest in the league at 32.9%, but we can live with that when he’s hitting homers as often as he is and walking at a 16.5% rate.
Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals
Wong had a hot start to the season, and we’ve seen enough from him in the two weeks after that start to believe he can keep it going all season. He’s now hitting .278/.424/.514 with four homers, three doubles, four steals, 14 RBIs and 13 runs in 92 plate appearances. Wong has more walks (16) than strikeouts (13), one of nine players who can say that to this point of the season. He has locked down an everyday spot for the Cardinals, and while he’s still buried at the bottom of the lineup, he’s more than making the most of it.
Yandy Diaz, 1B/3B, Rays
The Diaz story keeps getting better and better, so long as you aren’t invested in the Indians’ success. Diaz is now slashing .278/.381/.557 with six homers and 12 RBIs in 97 plate appearances on the season. He has a gaudy 15.5% walk rate, and a sterling 18.6% strikeout rate. While Jake Bauers, the player the Indians acquired for Diaz, has slogged his way to a .209/.312/.343 slash line through 77 plate appearances, Diaz has proved that he just needed consistent playing time to break through. This didn’t come from out of nowhere. Diaz hit .312/.375/.422 in 120 plate appearances last year, hinting that he could be an above-average regular if given the chance.
Omar Narvaez, C, Mariners
Narvaez is another guy who hinted at being a productive regular last year and is making good on his opportunity with another team this year. The White Sox sent him to Seattle this offeseason, and the catcher has been a big part of the Mariners’ month-long offensive outburst. In 79 plate appearances, Narvaez is hitting .310/.380/.549 with five homers and 12 RBIs. There’s a low barrier to entry at the catcher position in fantasy leagues, but Narvaez has not arrived simply by default. He has earned the trust of the fantasy community for the rest of the season.
Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins
It’s impossible to figure out how Polanco remains available in 53% of Yahoo leagues and 33% of ESPN leagues. After serving an 80-game suspension last year, he hit .288/.345/,427 with six homers and seven steals in 333 plate appearances, strongly suggesting he’d be a useful fantasy regular this year. He has built on that half-season, slashing .372/.432/.679 with four homers, six doubles, nine RBIs and 14 runs in 88 plate appearances this season. Forget about pushing his ownership rate up a modest amount. Polanco needs to be owned in all competitive leagues.
Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Cubs
This one pains me because I beat the drum for a Bryant bounceback quite loudly, but it’s impossible to ignore his lackluster play thus far this season. Among 288 qualified hitters, Bryant ranks 163rd in barrels per plate appearance, 155th in barrels per batted-ball event and 208th in average exit velocity, according to Statcast. Bryant has gone to the opposite field on 32.8% of his balls in play. When he won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2015, that rate was 23.8%. When he won the MVP the following year, it was 19.7%. Bryant has one fly ball to his pull field all season, and that came on Opening Day. All of this adds up to what could be a significant problem with respect to his power.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Reds
Puig’s tenure in Cincinnati has gotten off to a disastrous start. The outfielder is hitting .183/.200/.352 with three homers and three doubles in 75 plate appearances. He has 20 strikeouts against two walks, with his strikeout rate exploding to 26.7%. His .200 BABIP is a bit fluky, but we can’t call it purely unlucky considering Puig’s batted-ball rates. Puig ranks 94th in barrels per plate appearance, 97th in barrels per batted-ball event and 183rd in average exit velocity. Put simply, he just isn’t squaring the ball up all that often this season.
Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, Yankees
One month into the season, Torres’ disappointing start has to be acknowledged. The 22-year-old is hitting .247/.281/.427 with just eight extra-base hits in 96 plate appearances. Torres still has the look of a perennial All-Star, but he wouldn’t be the first or last player in his early-20s to take a step back after an impressive debut season. It’s looking like we were a little too optimistic in believing that his progress would remain linear this year.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers
We started this edition of the Stock Ticker with a first baseman, Pete Alonso, making his second appearance of the season in the Risers section. Let’s end it with a first baseman making his second appearance in the Fallers section. Aguilar has been dreadful at the plate this season, hitting .134/.234/.164 with 18 strikeouts and no homers in 79 plate appearances. What’s more, he’s losing playing time at first base to Eric Thames, who was Milwaukee’s Aguilar before Aguilar was a thing. There’s a very real chance that Aguilar plays his way out of the team’s regular lineup, all but zeroing out his fantasy value.