Andrew McCutchen (OF, PIT) - McCutchen had a tremendous night at the plate, homering twice (including a grand slam) while going 4-4 with four runs scored and eight RBI. The homers bump him up to 28 on the year, his highest total since 2012 when he smashed 31. It's been a nice bounce back season for Cutch, who is now hitting .278/.362/.487 on the year after hitting .256/.336/.430 a season ago while dealing with injury issues. His steals have returned as well; he was 6-13 in stolen base attempts last season, and this year is 11-16. He has jacked his contact rate up 4% as well, the first time he's been over 80% since 2013. He'll be 31 years old heading into next season, but this resurgent season has given me confidence that he will be a solid option in the middle rounds of drafts.
Dominic Smith (1B, NYM) - Smith went 0-3 with a walk, dropping his slash line to .199/.250/.372 on the year. He's just 22 years old, but he is quickly finding out that the major leagues are a bit different than the Pacific Coast League where every ball falls for a hit. He has managed to hit seven homers for a .173 ISO, but little else has given us the impression that he's ready to be an MLB regular. He has never taken a lot of walks, but he has a mere 6% walk rate on the year with a 27.4% K% that is 10% higher than what he maintained at Triple-A before his promotion. This is the first season he has hit over 20 home runs (which has probably been aided by the new MLB baseballs), so the jury is still out on what his true power potential looks like. However, if he can't up his 72% contact rate and hit for more average, the power isn't likely to be enough to make him a standard mixed league commodity.
Jake Thompson (SP, PHI) - Thompson held the Nationals to one run over five innings on two walks and four hits while striking out five. He lowered his ERA to 3.88 over eight starts for the Phillies, but that number is deceptive. He has walked 22 batters over 46.1 innings for a 4.27 BB/9, while also allowing nine homers for a whopping 1.75 HR/9. The 16.1% HR/FB rate is inflated, but even if you normalize it he is saddled with a 5.54 xFIP. He doesn't help his stock with strikeouts either, with a below average 6.80 K/9 that is backed up by a 6.85 K/9 at Triple-A this season. He has an ugly 7.6% swinging strike rate and a mere 22% chase rate, so his stuff doesn't fool anyone. He's just 23 so you'd like to think there's still room for improvement, but it's unlikely he ever gets the strikeout rate much better than league average, making him an easy avoid in all but the deepest of leagues.
Corey Knebel (RP, MIL) - Knebel locked down his 38th save of the season, an impressive number considering he didn't take over closing duties in Milwaukee until May 14th. He has simply been one of the games best relievers this season, tying Craig Kimbrel with the MLB lead among relievers at 122 strikeouts. He also has a microscopic 1.58 ERA, so if you handcuffed him early on this season you have been well rewarded. The 4.86 BB/9 is the difference between he and Kimbrel though, so while Knebel has established himself as a top-tier closer for 2018, his walk rate could lead to a few extra blow ups than you would like. He is rocking a 92.6% strand rate this season, which is pretty impossible to maintain even with such a crazy K/9, so you should expect some regression in his ERA next season as he strands fewer baserunners.
Trevor Story (SS, COL) - Story hit his 23rd home run, a three-run blast that served as his only hit of the night. He has been a pretty big disappointment this season given expectations based on his impressive 97 games in 2016. He has hit just .233/.302/.443, which is a real drag on your BA/OBP in roto leagues. He gets an even bigger ding in points leagues thanks to a 34.8% K% and just 8.7% walks. His seven steals over 141 games are less than the eight he stole in 97 games last year, and his ISO dipped from .296 to .210. This is why you can't buy into inflated BABIP's combined with high strikeout rates over a limited sample size. His contact rate has also dropped 3%, so while there was definitely going to be a correction from his 2016 numbers, he has also regressed as MLB pitching has adapted to him. It won't be long before he'll be looking over his shoulder as Brendan Rodgers approaches the majors, so Story has some work to do if he's going to keep an everyday gig in 2018.
This is my final report of 2017, but you can follow me all offseason @NathanDokken for more baseball banter!
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