Rhys Hoskins, 1B (PHI)
Hoskins smacked his 28th home run of the season, one of two hits for the big first baseman in Philadelphia's 6-3 loss to Boston. Unless he can forge together a power surge over these final two weeks, Hoskins will finish with a lower ISO than last year, which was lower than the year before. Meanwhile, his contact rate is down for the third straight year and swinging strike rate is up. Those trends are discouraging and they coincide with a continued upward trend in launch angle. I know it's all the rage but look at the top seven launch angles: Adam Duvall, Hoskins, Will Smith, Travis Shaw, Stephen Vogt, Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda. That's not exactly an All-Star team there. Not surprisingly, Hoskins' leads the major leagues with a 51% flyball rate, which isn't conducive to a high batting average. So where's that next level? If it's not batting average, can he elevate his home run total into the 40s? Maybe the 50s? Right now that would only be possible if he returned to the lucky 32% HR/FB rate of his rookie season or actually went against the baseball trends and lowered his launch angle.
Ryan McMahon, 3B (COL)
McMahon was a big part of Colorado's 10-run effort on Sunday, finishing 3 for 5 with two home runs and four RBIs. Even though this is his third season appearing in major league games, it's McMahon's first full season in the bigs. Thus, there are both concerns and promising statistics to evaluate. Above all, McMahon will not develop into an all-star caliber player unless he lifts his contact rate over 70%. In correlation, his swinging strike rate cannot continue to sit above 15 percent. Those are areas to work on in the offseason, and I believe they are correctable to a certain degree. What is promising is his low soft contact rate, which coincides with a league average chase rate. McMahon's problem is his low contact rate on pitches in the strike zone. It's only 77% and league average is about 10 points higher. So he's avoiding chasing pitches, which in turn avoids weak contact, but he is swinging and missing at pitches that he should be hitting. Furthermore, his groundball rate is over 50% for the first time in his professional career. Reaching 22 homers with that low ground ball rate implies there could be more power in the tank if he reverts his batted ball profile closer to his minor league chart. Again, those are correctable issues with the right offseason approach.
Ian Happ, 1B (CHC)
Happ entered Sunday's contest due to an injury to Anthony Rizzo, an injury that could keep Rizzo out for the rest of the season. If that is indeed the case, there's a good possibility Happ will get more playing time as the Cubs are not shy about putting him at first base. He took advantage of the opportunity on Sunday, hitting his sixth home run of the season. In over 100 at bats since being recalled from AAA-Iowa, Happ's plate discipline is better than his first two seasons. While a 14% swinging strike rate should concern any fantasy owner, it must be taken into account that Happ's career average is 15.5 percent. Furthermore, his contact rate is up to 72% after displaying an atrocious 63.5% contact rate in 2018. However, even though it's a small sample size, his hard hit rate is very low and that must be factored in because it could be a direct result of his plate discipline. Happ could be sacrificing power for contact. Well, we want your cake and eat it, too, so it will be very interesting to see over the final two weeks whether Happ can continue to make contact at a serviceable rate while improving his hard contact.
Tommy Edman, 3B (STL)
Edman was hitless in three plate appearances before taking Josh Hader deep for a two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning on Sunday. It's his second straight game with a home run and Edman is now one long ball away from double digit homers and steals, despite spending the first two months in the minor leagues. If you factor in his production at AAA, Edman now has 16 home runs and 21 stolen bases. More importantly, he makes very good contact and hits a lot of line drives, which supports his .282 batting average. As he settles into a regular role with the Cardinals, Edman will probably draw more walks, which increases his stolen base potential. The question is whether St. Louis will actually have a regular role for him next season. Will the Cards move on from Matt Carpenter? Will Kolten Wong or Paul DeJong be on a different team next March? Those are questions Edman must wonder and fantasy owners must consider. If he gets a starting job on Opening Day, there is true 20/20 potential.
Will Smith, RP (SF)
Smith has had a few rough outings over the past month, but he was able to close the door on the Marlins on Sunday, pitching a scoreless 9th while allowing one walk for his 33rd save of the season. Smith's strikeout numbers are excellent, but he is allowing far too many home runs and that greatly limits his effectiveness as a closer. In fact, if not for the high home run total Smith would be almost lights out. Ten of the last 11 runs allowed by the San Francisco stopper came on home runs. That is seemingly a correctable issue as Smith is having some bad luck, evidenced by his 22.2% HR/FB rate. That is a high number in general but factor in Oracle Park in San Francisco is statistically the most difficult stadium to hit a home run and that number seems completely unsustainable (by contrast, Smith's HR/FB rate last year was 6.5%). All in all, what this tells us is Smith already has very good stats but they should be even better. I feel comfortable heading into next season labeling Smith as one of the top closers in the game.
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