There's solid contact and then there's bat-shattering contact. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Contact is the name of the game. You can’t make things happen if you can’t put the bat on the ball.
What follows is a list of the top three batters in baseball when it comes to putting the bat on the ball. For contact rates, I’ll use Fangraphs leaderboards. These are player who excel at what managers will call "situational" hitting, but it’s that approach that can add value to a fantasy lineup.
Find out about the leaders after the jump...
Contact Rate - 92.4%
Brantley opened the year as the Indians leadoff hitter, but a slow start saw him dropped in the order. He still hasn’t worked his way back to the top and now spends most of his time in fifth place of the Cleveland lineup. With a .366 career slugging percentage and a .385 slugging percentage this year, that doesn’t seem wise.
Still, Brantley’s game remains the same. High contact, with a handful of steals sprinkled in for good measure. He’s actually running in the middle of the order, with seven steals in eight attempts over the last month and a half. Naturally, the bonus has been the RBI opportunities. Brantley has brought home 22 runners since dropping down in the lineup. For the year, he’s scored 16 percent of all base runners, which is greater than the league average of 14 percent.
An interesting development in Brantley’s game has been his doubles power. He has 22 two-baggers this season, just two off his career high set last season. Eight percent of his plate appearances end with an extra base hit, which is surprisingly better than the league average of 7.6 percent. And 31 percent of all his hits have gone for extra bases. Of course, when I write about extra bases, I really mean doubles. He has three triples and just 1 home run.
Contact Rate - 92.6%
After missing half of the 2011 season with concussion symptoms, Span hasn’t missed a beat in his return to the top of the Twins lineup. His career contact rate is 90.7 percent, so he’s besting that mark, but he’s been at 91 percent or higher in each of the last three seasons.
The disappointing aspect of Span’s season is his lack of stolen base opportunity. In 705 plate appearances for the Twins in 2010, Span had 304 stolen base opportunities as defined by Baseball Reference as being on first or second with the next base open. This season in 320 plate appearances, Span has just 113 stolen base opportunities. That works out to a steal opportunity every 2.3 plate appearances in 2010 down to one every 2.8 plate appearances this year.
So while Span has just nine steals through the first half of the season and his stolen base totals seem depressed, he’s running in 10.6 percent of his opportunities. That’s right in line with his career average. He’s reaching base at a .344 clip, so you have to figure is running game will open up over the last half of the year. He could have a valuable second half.
Contact Rate - 94%
Among qualified batters, no one is making more contact than the Rockies middle infielder Scutaro. Like the other batters in this post, he’s uber-selective. He’s swinging at just 40 percent of pitches he’s seen, which is about five percent below average. Yet, when he swings, he’s making contact.
As you would expect with a contact rate like Scutaro’s, he doesn’t walk much. Once upon a time, that wasn’t the case. In his best fantasy season in 2009 for the Blue Jays, his walk rate was north of 13 percent, which helped him post a career high .379 OPB. He hit leadoff in every start he made for the Jays that summer, so that OBP propelled him to his lone 100 run season.
He’s hit either first or second for the Rockies this year, but his walk rate has been halved - down to 6.4 percent. With 41 runs scored, Scutaro is on pace for about 85 on the year. A good amount, but we know it can be so much more.
The runs are crucial to his fantasy value, because as a leadoff hitter, Scutaro doesn’t steal enough. For the season, he’s swiped six bags. The most he has ever stolen in a single season was 14 for the Red Sox back in 2009. With a batting average in the .270 to .280 range, he needs to add some value in another category to be worth rostering.