Jorge Polanco (2B/SS - MIN) - Polanco continued his monster second half on Monday, tallying 3 doubles and a homer in the 5-2 win over Cleveland. The 28 year old came into the game hitting 322/368/633 with 14 HR in the second half alone, showing another level of performance that we haven't seen before from him. First, the good news: the power spike is mostly supported, as career highs in exit velocity (89.1, 2 mph over his career average and approaching league average), FB rate (44.6% vs career avg of 42%), and pull% (52.9 vs career avg of 42.4) should certainly result in a few more bombs. He hasn't sacrificed a ton of his solid contact ability to get there either, increasing his swinging strike rate to 8.4% from a career average of 7, and his chase rate to 32.7% from a career average of 29.0%. Throw in 10+ steals and the possibility of 100 R and RBI both, and you've got an All-Star season from a player firmly in his prime. The bad news, though, is that his BABIP hasn't really budged despite the massive increase in FB rate and pull%, and it should. I think there's some downside potential in AVG going forward. There's also the pesky lack of above average exit velocity. Brian Dozier was able to maintain a high HR rate despite subpar exit velocity for many years, but most of the time it came at the expense of about 20-30 points of AVG, and when the end came for him it came quickly, with just a few games played past age 32. I'm not saying the Sword of Damocles is hanging over Polanco, but there's a bit more downside here than many expect in my opinion.
A.J. Alexy (P - TEX) - Two years ago, Alexy was a "JAG": a 21 year old in his 4th pro season pitching in A-ball with a fairly live arm but little control. Fast forward through the camp year for prospects in 2020 where Alexy was reportedly touching 100 (3 mph up from 2019), which prompted the Rangers to add him to the 40-man in the fall, and now we have a guy that's showing some modest control improvements to go along with even slightly better swing-and-miss stuff. The changeup appears to have made some strides this year to give him the makings of a legitimate third pitch, but the biggest thing has been cutting 1-1.5 BB/9 from the equation. He is still a flyball pitcher with some control issues, so there's plenty of downside risk here, but you can't argue with the early returns: after limiting the Rockies to a double and 3 walks over 5 shutout innings in his debut, he somehow improved upon that against the Angels on Monday evening, holding them to a single and 2 walks over 6 shutout innings while fanning 7. The schedule the rest of the way is a little dicier, with road games in Oakland and New York sandwiched around a home game against the White Sox before a return matchup against the Angels at home. Still, 11 shutout innings is nothing to scoff at, and he should definitely be picked up in all formats. The flyball tendencies should be mitigated by Oakland's park and at home, but the start against the Yanks could be troublesome for him if they can wait him out. The control is still a major issue here....any deployment of him isn't without significant risk, but there are definitely situations where I would be rolling the dice with him for the stretch run, and I'm very intrigued to see what he can do in 2022. Very high upside play.
Jake Meyers (OF - HOU) - Meyers was 2-5 with his 4th homer of the season in Monday's 11-2 drubbing of the Mariners, and he's now hitting 319/344/516 and playing almost every day for Houston. Meyers wasn't much of a prospect as a 13th round draft pick in 2017, showing a little speed and not a whole lot else in his first 3 minor league seasons. All of a sudden this season he was hitting the ball significantly harder at AAA, tallying 16 HR and 10 SB to go along with a .343 AVG in 68 G at AAA, and now he has 4 homers and another lofty AVG at the big league level through 96 PA. The power has come seemingly from nowhere, as the exit velo has spiked to nearly 91 mph, but the high AVG is very suspect....there are some moderate to severe contact issues here that are being completely masked by a .436 BABIP so far. Still, at just 25 and with a power/speed combo that is at least interesting, there has been enough development where he is a worthwhile add in most formats for the stretch run to see if this hot streak can continue. His profile is similar to fellow borderline prospect Jose Siri, albeit with a bit better contact and probably a bit less power and speed. So far, he's playing and Siri really isn't (plus he got the first call to Houston, which means quite a bit), so as long as he keeps hitting he will stay ahead in the pecking order. The Astros aren't all that deep in the OF throughout the organization to be honest, and with a lineup that strong any starter is likely to have some value. I believe Meyers should be starting for most teams for September, but I'm not entirely sold on him for 2022...the holes in his swing are significant enough that the AVG could be extremely problematic once the BABIP begins its inevitable drift downward.
Jeimer Candelario (3B - DET) - Candelario only walked and scored in 4 trips to the plate on Monday, but he's been one of the better hitters in baseball in the second half this season, slashing 311/378/571 and showing off his above-average contact, above-average power combination. That lineup isn't great, but they're nosing their way out of the bottom 10, so it isn't a complete sinkhole. Candelario has pretty obviously been a top-12 player at 3B so far this year, and at age 27 he would seem to be a reasonable option for at least a CI spot heading into 2022.
Joey Gallo (OF - NYY) - Gallo is going through one of his more wretched slumps, with a 1-25 line with 13 K's over the past 7 games. One thing I'm noticing with Gallo now that I'm getting a chance to put eyes on him more is something that is borne out by the stats: not only has his exit velo dropped quite a bit since the 2019 injury (I know we've harped about this plenty), but he's also become even more passive as a hitter. After watching him take a called strike 3 multiple times on Monday, I feel like there's a confidence issue at play here as well. The announcers even commented on how he just seems uncertain about his feel for the strike zone. After averaging around a 47% swing rate in his first 4 seasons, Gallo is closer to 41% since, and despite improving his swinging strike rate in every season of his career he still is substantially below average in terms of making contact. That all adds up to the obvious: a prohibitively high K rate, and with the exit velo down there just isn't enough power to offset the impact there on AVG. I remain unconvinced that Gallo can provide enough to justify a roster spot in most formats, even with a full year coming in Yankee Stadium in 2022.
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