Mookie Betts (OF-BOS)
Betts went 2 for 4 with a double and home run Friday. 2019 has been a complete struggle thus far and even Friday's strong performance puts him at just a .216/.314/.432 line. He had been particularly cold since April 6 going just 3-32 at the plate since then while striking out in 25% of those at bats. Betts has seen a decrease in hard hit % (44% to 33%) and line drive % (21% to 12%) from last season - but looking a bit further one must wonder if 2018 may have been a slight outlier. 20 games is far too early to tell if this is true and Mookie is still easily a 800+ OPS type of player; but his underlying metrics in 2019 do tend to line up more with each of his previous seasons before his amazing 2018 season. Stay tuned to see if Friday is the start of a hot streak for Betts.
Brett Gardner (OF-NYY)
Gardner went 1-2 with a walk, HBP and his 5th home run of the season. Its been a little bit of a strange season for Gardner who's .766 OPS is right in line with his career number - but he has gone about getting it a different way. So far in 2019 he has seemingly traded in his average for power as he a career high 48% fly ball rate - 16% higher than his career mark. This has led to a career high .221 ISO but a dreadful .162 babip and a batting average sitting at .200. His walk rate remains steady at 10% but he has what would be a career low 11.7% K rate as his contact rate is slightly up and his swinging strike rate is slightly down. Gardner has hit 33 home runs the past 2 seasons despite having 101 for his career and he could potentially approach 20 home runs again if the flyball% stays up - but most likely at the expense of his batting average to some extent.
Billy Hamilton (OF-KC)
Hamilton went 0 for 2 Friday night with 2 walks and 2 stolen bases. Despite the 0-fer game hitting he was still able to be effective on the base paths, upping his stolen base count to 6. The .231 batting average isn't pretty but his struggles as a hitter have been well documented as he is just a .242 lifetime career hitter with a career .299 OBP - numbers that severely hamper the speedsters stolen base total. I like what he has done in 2019 thus far when looking at his underlying numbers. He's sporting a career high 25% hard hit rate and has also increased his line drive rate 8% to 33% in 2019. In addition, and most encouragingly he is drawing more walks (13%) which may have driven the decision to give him more looks in the 2-hole. He still does not have an extra base hit - but does have 20 triples over the past few seasons - so look for him to get on the board there sooner than later.
Will Benson (OF-A/CLE)
Generally, someone in Single A has no fantasy relevance - but Benson is worth highlighting today as he had himself quite a day Thursday hitting 4 home runs and driving in 8. It was the first 4 home run game in the minor league since 2015. Despite being a 1st round pick (14th overall) by the Indians in the 2016 draft, he had done little to impress in the low minor leagues, as 2019 is his second-year playing A ball following a dismal 2018 that saw him slash .180/.324/.370. The high OBP coupled with the low average certainly jumps out as he did manage a 16% walk rate and hit 22 home runs and stole 12 bags over 123 games. His monster game brought his 2019 line to an encouraging .341/.431/.864 line - although that still accompted by a whopping 37% K rate - even higher than the 30% rate he posted last season. He is a name to keep an eye on - but only if the strikeouts come down - otherwise he is still years away from an MLB debut.
Bubba Starling (OF-AAA/KC)
Starling continued his scorching start to the AAA season for Omaha going 3-5 with a double, home run and 3 runs scored. Starling is now hitting .372 with a .966 OPS through 11 games. This follows up an excellent spring for the former 5th overall pick of the 2011 draft where he hit 2 home runs and posted a 1.057 OPS. Starling has improved his walk rate and cut down on his strikeouts both during the spring (5:5 BB:K ratio) and with Omaha (5:9 BB:K rate) - great numbers to see considering he routinely struck out in well over 25% of his plate appearances in the minor leagues. If he continues to exhibit strong plate discipline and keeps hitting he may finally make his major league debut after almost 8 seasons in the minor leagues.
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