Is arugula a form of spinach? I don’t even know, and don’t have time to find out! Today is just the hitter’s edition, ladies and gents.
It’s Monday, so it’s time to grab your afternoon coffee and make a few fantasy baseball pickups. In case you missed it, here’s yesterday’s update on closers. Better read it, too. The closer landscape is as volatile as ever, maybe more than ever before. Anyway, let’s scope out all the positions, eh?
C Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers (48% owned)
Narvaez is my top add at catcher given that Carson Kelly has graduated above the 50% threshold. He has shown some pop with three homers already, and he’s starting to see more time atop the Milwaukee lineup—he’s batted second in three of the last five games, and batted fifth the other two times. Miller Park is a prime spot for lefties, Narvaez beefed up his defense a year ago (so hopefully more playing time), and sans the shortened 2020 season he has always been a solid bet for batting average. I’m 100% sold on him as a second catching option, which is how he’s being rostered right now. Like Kelly, though, Narvaez is currently a top five option at the position. This is a free square, a guy who has a chance to finish inside the top 12 at a very weak position. And the opportunity isn’t as sketchy as you’d think given his timeshare—his 65 plate appearances so far ranks eighth at the catcher position. Lastly, his walk rate (12.3%) is higher than his strikeout rate (10.8%). Just bananas. The .400 BABIP and .389 BA are sure to drop, but his expected batting average is .343, so it isn’t all smoke and mirrors right now.
C/1B/3B Willians Astudillo, Minnesota Twins (6% owned)
For deeper formats, you could look to Willians Astudillo (6%) of the Twins, with his beautiful triple-eligibility. With Miguel Sano shelved due to a strained hamstring, Astudillo should see more run at first base for a week or so. Astudillo has started five games in a row for Minnesota now, though he has hit sixth, seventh (twice), and ninth (twice) in those contests. Still, his contact skills are unique for a catcher, and he’s batting a solid .289 right now. If you’re in OBP leagues this isn’t a play for you. Due to the contact ability, Astudillo won’t draw many walks...he’s just up there to hit! For reference, he has a career .314 OBP despite all his skills with the stick. I’m renting Astudillo in TGFBI this week as my second catcher given the ineptitude displayed by Ryan Jeffers thus far. And if that trickles into two weeks of his batting average prowess, my TGFBI squad will be much better for it. Enjoy this rental while it lasts, folks.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (44% owned)
I don’t know what to do with Joey Votto, honestly. He’s widely available, but ice cold since his mention in this space a week ago. He did swat a homer on Thursday of last week, but since then he’s back to being frigid (he was 0-for-10 over the weekend games). That said, the Statcast page is pretty darn blood-red. His sprint speed (10th percentile) doesn’t exist anymore, but there are zero gripes about the quality of his batted ball contact. His 113.6 MPH max exit velocity ranks inside the top 6% of the league, and his .612 xSLG is inside the top 9% of the league. He’s also 80th percentile or better in average exit velocity, xwOBA, and barrel rate. Moreover, his .300 wOBA is a far cry from his .401 xwOBA. I think this is a situation where I’m buying in while the price is low, and hoping some of this quality of contact begins to pay off for the veteran hitter. He’s still batting third or fourth with regularity for a prime offense in a prime hitter’s locale. For reference, the Reds rank second in runs scored so far, at 117. They trail just the Red Sox (119). There are worse darts to throw.
Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins (22% owned)
Aguilar is batting .284 with 17 RBI already. That RBI count is tied for fifth-most among corner infielders, trailing only Kyle Seager, Justin Turner, Nate Lowe, and Rafael Devers. And if we were just discussing first basemen, he’d be tied for second behind only Nate Lowe. You may not get the power numbers you’d like given his home hitting environment, but his 12.5% strikeout rate is elite (top 8% of MLB) and his .260 xBA and healthy 13.8% walk rate are positives. His hard hit rate leaves much to be desired, but so does that of Travis Shaw, who I also considered in this space. I view Aguilar as a better bet for batting average and his plate discipline is superior. Aguilar isn’t a strong first base option, but he’s exactly serviceable as a corner infield play and you can ride the wave—he’s hit a home run in three straight games entering Monday. Also, he’s no longer eating arugula, so do with that what you will...
BIG NEWS: Jesus Aguilar said he's done with arugula.— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) April 25, 2021
"After 60 at-bats without a home run, I'm back to arepas and all those things from Venezuela."#Marlins
Bring on all the arepas! From what I can tell, arepas are a type of corn/maize dish that you can eat at pretty much any meal, with any sort of ingredients added that you’d like (think omelet, and you might be close). It doesn’t sound like the worst thing. Eat whatever continues to power those home runs, buddy!
Last week I was forced to write up the no-power Nick Madrigal and the miscast leadoff man, Kiké Hernandez. This week, thankfully, there might be slightly more intriguing guys available. I will admit that Madrigal’s recent hit streak looks pretty nice, but he’s still a mostly empty batting average guy who is batting ninth...it’s tough for me to get excited. Maybe he won’t kill you as a middle infielder, but I’m always looking for more category juice. Hopefully you added Ty France a long time ago when I mentioned him repeatedly in this space. If not, oh well...
SS Miguel Rojas, Miami Marlins (14% owned)
Miguel Rojas (15%) isn’t the most exciting of guys due to a lack of power and modest speed. But he’s moved up to the No. 2 spot in the order for the Marlins now that Starling Marte is shelved with a rib fracture. On the season he’s batting .279 with three steals, and that’s pretty indicative of his skill set. Marte isn’t doing any physical activity for a week and should be re-evaluated this week, so Rojas is a decent bet to give you batting average, runs, and steals for the time being. He’s filling up a middle infield slot for my TGFBI team. I know this isn’t exciting, but it’s a decent move in 15-team leagues if you need batting average like I do. He’s a solid and cheaper version of Madrigal.
2B/3B/SS Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs (10% owned)
If you’re in a deep one, 2B/3B/SS Nico Hoerner is worth a shot. He had a torrid Spring Training and then got sent down to work on his defense or something...oh wait, Hoerner was a Gold Glove finalist last year, so that’s not it. SMDH at service time manipulation. Anyway, now that Hoerner is out of alternate site purgatory, he’s using all that added muscle from this offseason to continue doing damage to baseballs. He was batting .364 with a .659 SLG during Spring Training, and he’s Hoerner is 4-for-9 three doubles and three RBI in his first few games back. Hopefully the Cubbies do the right thing and play him over the likes of David Bote and Eric Sogard...but you never know, they may hate winning. There’s some playing time risk here, but if Hoerner rakes like he did during the spring, you could have a multi-eligibility gem on your hand. Think 15-team leagues for now. I’m happy to have added him for pennies in our Fake Teams and Friends league, and bummed that I had to cut him early on in TGFBI due to the short bench format. Over a full season of at-bats, I think you could assume Hoerner could be a 10/15 sort of guy. That’s not nothin’ in your MI slot.
Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers (33% owned)
Garcia is the hot hand right now for the Rangers. He’s batting .265 and has five homers in the last 10 games, as well as at least one hit in four straight. You can ride the wave, but there is some swing-and-miss to this game. I’m leery of how he’ll fare as pitchers adjust to his game. Early on guys who get the call will get attacked to see what sort of damage they can do. Garcia has clearly shown an ability to do some damage, but I expect a dip soon as pitchers get more of a scouting report on him. If I was looking long-term, I prefer the next guy on this list...
Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves (38% owned)
Riley is still just 24 years old, and he’s been around the block for over 150 games now. Over that stretch, he has a powerful .205 ISO, which is the good part. The career .234/.299/.439 slash line looks poor, but Riley has some positive trends, too. Peep the walk rate by year: 5.4%, 7.8%, 11.8%. And now the strikeout rate: 36.4%, 23.8%, 22.1%. And sure, including 2021 is probably folly, but the plate discipline supports something good happening. His swinging strike rate is improving (20.5%, 14.8%, 13.0%) and his overall swing rate has decreased as well. It’s clear he’s trying to figure out what works best for him at the plate, but at some point I expect the light-tower power to show up in bunches. Riley has a home run in each of his last two games, and if now is the time when that power begins to shine through, you’ll want to hop on board this train before it’s too late.
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins (30% owned)
Kirilloff is getting the call for the Twins due to the aforementioned Miguel Sano injury. He made Mark’s top 200 prospects list, sneaking in at No. 19 overall. I made the speculative add in a couple of places. Full disclosure, I’m leery of rookies in general—probably one of my faults—but this is a guy with a lot of buzz that you can take a shot on.
I’ll try to tab some pitchers for the week tomorrow...in the meantime, who are YOU adding in your leagues this week?