The hot corner has been a nightmare this year and not just because of injuries. Third base is a corral of struggling horses led by Matt Chapman and Yoan Moncada. However, the Dodger duo of Max Muncy and Justin Turner have been killing it. Muncy missed two weeks in June with an oblique injury and to me, that’s an injury that could’ve tanked his approach at the plate. But since his return on June 22nd, Muncy’s been nothing short of greatness – .300/8 HRs/25 RBIs and a walk rate (15.8%) way higher than his strikeout rate (9.5%). Turner has been, well, exactly what he’s been the last couple of years – consistent. Batting over .300 with power to boot in the middle of a Dodgers lineup is a recipe for success for the 36-year old Turner. Coming into the year, I had some doubts about Turner, mostly because of his age. He’s certainly exceeded the expectations and I expect he and Muncy to continue to carry the Dodgers down the stretch. Let’s take a look at the list and then we’ll get into some of these scrubs….I mean players:
|2||Rafael Devers||3B||Red Sox||-1|
|12||Yoan Moncada||3B||White Sox||-3|
|24||Cavan Biggio||2B/3B/OF||Blue Jays||-5|
The biggest faller up top is Kris Bryant. The Cubs slugger was a monster early in the year because he was fully healthy. However, he’s dealt with a trio of issues that he’s trying to play through that are contributing to the slump. In June, he got hit in the hand by a pitch. Later in the month, he experienced side soreness after making a diving play in the field and missed a couple of games. The latest came in early July when he missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury. Here are Bryant’s numbers before and after getting hit in the hand by a pitch:
|Apr 1-June 15||.292||13||23.0%||10.1%|
|June 16-July 19||.188||3||27.3%||8.0%|
A fully healthy Bryant is a completely different animal than when he tries to play through nagging injuries.
Bryant also represents a line in the sand. I had a really difficult time figuring out what to do with Yoan Moncada, Matt Chapman, and Josh Donaldson. Three struggling bats that just have not come around. For Moncada, it’s doubly frustrating because the stolen base attempts that we thought might return have not. The sprint speed that we saw in the 87th and 91st percentile of the league has remained in the 70th percentile for the last three seasons. That forces us to readjust our expectations for Moncada.
With that trio struggling, I opted to bump up Austin Riley and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Both hitters have been pretty consistent performers all year and at this point in the season, I’m going to value hitters that aren’t dragging the rest of my team down. Riley slumped a little in June (26:6 K:BB), but is back in fine form this month (12:9 K:BB).
By all accounts, Hayes has done nothing to disappoint. Did I expect more pop after he smashed a homer in his first game? Yes, yes I did. But we have to keep in mind the injury that kept him off the field for two months was a wrist injury. Those are known to sap power. I’m not sure the pop fully returns this year, but Hayes has held his own, contributing in counting stats, stolen bases, and batting average. I also think long-term there’s a potential buy-low opportunity if there’s a fantasy owner that is disappointed in his power production.
As a clown, I’m a very self-aware person, so I have no problem with admitting I missed on Eduardo Escobar. From a Statcast perspective, he’s posting the best barrel rate of his career and the power has been consistent all year. The thing that’s always kept me away was the plate discipline but being aggressive at the plate has kept his strikeouts down. He’s been such a steady player, that it made it an easy decision to bump him up over his struggling counterparts.
Speaking of being self-aware, *Harley Earl*, I was wrong to not include Luis Urias on this list and I have corrected that mistake. The Brewers have become the proverbial Statue of Liberty of the league – give me your broken, post-hype sleepers. Urias has become a member of the launch angle family as he’s combined a 13.4% launch angle with a career-best 8.9% barrel rate to pop 13 homers in the first half. Quite the impressive turnaround.
Finally, you might notice that Anthony Rendon is missing from this list. He recently suffered a setback in the rehab of his hamstring injury and is expected to be shut down for another two weeks. There’s a chance that we get good news in the next two weeks and he returns to the list, but after a brutal, injury-plagued year, enough is enough.