Brandon Lowe (2B-TB) went 3-4 with a solo homer, a stolen base, and a walk against the Nationals on Wednesday. It seems like I wrote about this guy the last time I covered the AL (checks... yep, I did), but he just keeps producing. The 26 year-old is now batting .269 with 13 longballs, 31 RBI, 31 runs scored, and 3 stolen bases (0 caught) across 184 PA in 2020. There was understandably some skepticism about Lowe entering the campaign after he batted .270 last season with 17 dingers, 51 RBI, 42 runs scored, and 5 stolen bases in 327 PA while fanning 35% of the time. But he's hit for about the same average and raised his ISO from .243 to .319 while slashing his strikeout rate to an acceptable 25%. A key to Lowe's game? Plenty of hard contact - Statcast shows a 46% hard-hit rate last season and 41% this year, with a 14% barrel rate in 2019 and an even better 19% in 2020. He's raised his contact rate slightly from just under 65% to nearly 67% while trimming the swinging strike rate from 19% to 16%. If you didn't buy in this year, it seems that you should next season.
Willy Adames (SS-TB) went 0-4 with a hat trick against the Nationals on Wednesday. The 25 year-old is now batting .267 with 5 homers, 15 RBI, 24 runs scored, and 1 steal (1 caught) through 169 PA in 2020. He's still young, but several years into his MLB career, the centerpiece of the deal that landed David Price in Detroit doesn't appear to be making a major breakthrough... yet. But there's something interesting going on underneath the hood. While Statcast shows a career-best 42% hard-hit rate and he's elevated to an 11% walk rate reminiscent of his minor-league days, Adames' strikeout rate has jumped to 36% and he's raised his launch angle to a career-high 13.3 (previous high was 10.7, last season). Moreover, Adames has become an extreme pull hitter, as he's yanked 56% of batted balls toward left field. His 40% groundball rate is a career low while his swinging-strike rate is up to a career-worst 15% and his contact rate is also down to a career-low 66% that's way down from the 74-76% he posted the last two seasons. It seems that someone is trying to tap into his raw power to become a slugger.
Salvador Perez (C-KC) went 2-3 with a double, a homer, a walk, and 3 RBI against the Tigers on Wednesday. The 30 year-old backstop is now hitting .349 with 6 dingers, 18 RBI, and 15 runs scored through 114 PA on the year. Especially considering he missed the entirety of the 2019 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John surgery and then spent some time on the IL in the shortened 2020 season because of a vision issue, he's put together a productive year. He's struck out at a 18% clip that comes in just under the 19% rate from 2017-2018, made hard contact at a 45% clip that's close to his career-best 47% from 2018, and posted a career-high 10% barrel rate. While his flyball rate is down a bit (36%), he's hitting more liners than usual (28%) and very few infield flies (3%) because of a career-low 11% hard-hit rate. Looks like he should be a solid investment in 2021 drafts and could come at a discount because the time spent on the IL chipped into his counting stats.
Brady Singer (SP-KC) shut out the Tigers over 6 innings on Wednesday, scattering 2 hits and a walk while fanning 8. The 24 year-old rookie now owns a 4.14 ERA, 8.6 K/9, and 3 BB/9 through his first 10 big league starts (54.1 IP). His 4.02 xFIP indicates that he's been just about as good as the ERA suggests, with both his strikeout and walk rates are both good but not great and he's surrendered hard contact at a 43% clip while opposing batters have mustered a solid 77% contact rate and his swinging-strike rate is pretty whatever at 10%. But keep this in mind - Singer is only in his second professional season after being taken in the first round of last year's draft. This is an encouraging start to a career. He's essentially been a two-pitch pitcher to date, with a 94mph heater (59% usage) and 82mph slider (35%) dominating his repertoire while he only utilizes his 88mph changeup on 6% of pitches. The righty has induced grounders at a healthy 53% clip, which will help to offset his middling (for now, at least) strikeout ability.
Whit Merrifield (OF-KC) went 2-5 with a pair of stolen bases against the Tigers on Wednesday. The 31 year-old has enjoyed a productive 2020 campaign, as he is now batting .279 with 9 homers, 29 RBI, 31 runs scored, and 10 steals (3 caught) through 221 PA. He's not walking much for a leadoff hitter (a career-low 5%), but he's lowered his strikeout rate to a career-best 10% clip and has shown a greater propensity for swiping bags after stealing just 20 over 735 PA last season. Statcast does show that his hard-hit rate is at 29% for the second straight season (30% average since 2016), so he's certainly the type to mostly lace base hits while popping the occasional dinger. If anything, he's been a bit unlucky this season, as Merrifield's batted-ball profile is pretty comparable to seasons past and yet his .278 BABIP comes in well below his .335 career average. His average should trend toward .300 going forward. It's tough to expect the speed to hold up much longer, but given his contact-oriented approach, he should remain fantasy relevant for at least a couple more seasons.
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