To start off the week, we had a pretty good slate of action last night. Let’s jump right into some of the performances that caught our attention from a busy Monday:
1) Dozier Keeps on Driving in Runs
One of my favorite late round picks in draft and holds this winter was Hunter Dozier. He had dual corner infield eligibility and figured to be in line for regular playing time. To be honest, Dozier has surpassed expectations so far in 2019, as he has now become a consistent run producer right in the middle of Kansas City’s lineup. After driving in two more runs in the Royals’ victory on Monday, Dozier now has 69 RBI in 383 at bats while batting .290. Dozier has also gotten caught up in the home run craze, as with 22 long balls so far on the season, he has an outside chance at 30, and it would have been a slam dunk had he not had a stint on the Injured List. As far as the batted ball metrics go, Dozier can be found at the top of the leader boards after making improvements this season to a 92.3 mile per hour exit velocity and 16.6 degree launch angle while sporting a hard hit rate of 44.4%. And perhaps the nicest touch, is that I was greeted with outfield eligibility for Dozier this morning when setting my NFBC lineups.
2) Mejia Shows off the Power
Francisco Mejia only went 1 for 4 on Monday, but with a home run, he made his one hit count. It was the seventh home run of the season for Mejia, who currently is splitting time with Austin Hedges, as he looks to find his footing in the major leagues. It remains to be seen whether or not Mejia will ever reach his once lofty prospect ceiling, my bet is on not, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a productive career. I mean after all, we saw Mejia’s production in the minor leagues, and at 23 years old, you can’t think about giving up on him. In 184 at bats so far this season, Mejia has seven home runs and 18 RBI while hitting a solid .277. Over his last 30 games, Mejia has found his groove, as the catcher is hitting .344 in that stretch with five home runs and 12 RBI, and as we look towards 2020, he is a player to keep an eye on.
3) Murphy Keeps on Hitting
Go figure, Tom Murphy leaves Coors Field and finds his offensive groove. All he does done as of late is hit, and Murphy isn’t showing any signs of slowing down either. And we have to give Seattle credit, as they continue to plug Murphy into their lineup, and there he was batting fifth last night. Against Tampa Bay, Murphy went 3 for 4 with a walk while scoring two runs, driving in four (33 overall), and hitting two home runs. In 179 at bats, Murphy is now up to 15 home runs, and while it is clear it’s a tough pace to sustain, there isn’t much regarding the long ball that really surprises us these days. Over his last seven games, Murphy is hitting .480 with five of those home runs, and for the season he is batting a solid .296. At this point, Murphy should be owned in essentially all formats, and while he can be a 20-25 home run threat moving forward, I’m not ready to anoint him as a top option at the position.
4) Hudson Flirts With History
With 111 pitches in the seventh innings, we all knew Dakota Hudson would never make it the rest of the way. And that was especially the case if we wanted Hudson to make it unscathed. Ultimately, the no-hitter was lost, but Hudson still threw 6.2 innings of hitless baseball to pick up his 12th victory. The right-hander did walk four batters as he struck out seven and brought his ERA down to 3.63. Generally, Hudson is not a strikeout threat (6.99 per nine innings) and the walks are a problem that he does need to solve (4.23 per nine innings). That is a large reason as to why Hudson has a 5.10 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP, and despite his success this season, you almost have to monitor things with one eye open. At least until he proves that he can show better command.
5) Yuli Reaps the Benefits
For starters, Yuli Gurriel is way too good of a player to be batting seventh on a regular basis. But that is just what happens for Astros when you have the best lineup in baseball, and when it comes to his RBI totals, Gurriel certainly isn’t complaining. Last night, the versatile infielder drove in two more runs with his 34th double of the season as part of a two hit effort. For the season, Gurriel is now batting .306 with 88 RBI. And batting seventh, or sixth if one of the other regulars is getting the day off, RBI opportunities certainly aren’t going to disappear for Gurriel. Over his past 30 games, entering play last night, Gurriel really has been on fire, as he was batting .383 in that stretch with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. To say he is in the zone would be an understatement, but with runners on base, pitchers have to throw strikes, and Gurriel’s plate skills are up there.
6) Cabrera Makes His Presence Felt
Asdrubal Cabrera is now longer an everyday player, but he is going to see what amounts to almost pretty regular access across Washington’s infield over the remainder of the season. While there was some struggling involved this season for Cabrera, that ultimately led to his release, he can still be a relatively productive veteran bat in the right situation. And that is enough for him to be fantasy relevant, especially in deeper leagues that allow daily moves. Batting fifth on Monday, Cabrera only had two hits (along with a walk), but with five RBI, he made them count. Cabrera picked up both his 20th double and 13 home runs of the season as he brought his RBI total up 61 overall. While the batting average isn’t going to dazzle you, .247, Cabrera does enough of the other things to give himself some deeper league value.
7) Three More Hits For Pence
It was a relatively quiet day for Texas’ cleanup hitter, but Hunter Pence did reach base in five of his six plate appearances. Pence, who is having a career resurgence in 2019, was 3 for 4 with two walks on Monday as he also drove in his 56th run of the season while scoring once. Seeing Pence even make the Rangers was the first shock, but then seeing the former All-Star make the team once again certainly has been a pleasant surprise. He is now batting .300 on the season, and there is no reason why we can’t see a repeat of this performance in 2020.
8) Quietly Going About His Business
It’s very easy to forget about Jose Abreu for multiple reasons. I mean, the White Sox aren’t very good, his performance stays relatively consistent, and he isn’t exactly a flashy player. Here he goes again in 2019, as Abreu once again is primed to end the season exactly how he should be. Last night, he hit his 27th home run of the season, a three run shot, which also brought his RBI total up to 92. For a team that isn’t close to playoff contention, that’s pretty good run production as it is very likely he surpasses his career high of 107. And while his .273 batting average may be slightly down from where it was at the beginning of his career, it certainly is not a liability either.
9) Gallen Gets Nothing For His Efforts
It is always impressive when you see a pitcher, any pitcher not just a rookie, throw six innings of one run ball. In those situations, you like to see them pick up a victory, but that is not always the case. For Zac Gallen last night, you can easily point to his six walks and say he is lucky to even emerge with a no decisions. A large of why that is the case, is because (he also allowed five hits) Gallen was able to pitch out of trouble and only gave up one run. Striking out eight also helped as he brought his ERA down to 2.45, but the walks are going to be something to keep an eye on; 4.91 per nine innings. So far it hasn’t impact Gallen, but his 4.38 xFIP does at least tell us it is a situation to keep a close eye on.
10) Watching Him is So Much Fun
Juan Soto really is one of the true gems of baseball. There might be more flashy young players, and 2019 has also brought us the newest flavor in prospect, but the Washington outfielder truly is a special talent. The production and the five tool talent is clearly there, and Soto just does things with level of smooth. Last night, while he didn’t drive in a run while Washington put up a 13 spot, Soto reached base all five times he came to the plate (two doubles – 20 overall, two singles, and a walk) while coming around to score four times. That brought his batting average up to .293 on the season, and he is truly a young player to enjoy.