New Everyday Players — Jun 29, 2022

Let’s keep it going by introducing you to another crop of new everyday hitters. You can find the first five discussed yesterday here.

David Bote | 2B/3B CHC

Fresh off the IL, Bote is back and has started two of three games at second base so far. With Nick Madrigal on the IL and the team giving up on Andrelton Simmons, clearly feeling like his defense isn’t good enough to offset his weak offense, Bote could be in for some significant playing time. He has shown some excellent power in the past, sporting a career 15.7% HR/FB rate, backed up by healthy maxEV marks above 110 every season.

However, with little speed and a below average career BABIP, he looks like a potential one-dimensional fantasy contributor at best. He’s struggled to hit line drives in the past, but the rest of his batted ball profile suggests a bit better BABIP luck. If he could just manage to bat .250+, his power could be enough to make him at least near the top of your replacement level options in shallower leagues. But with a career .227, it might be asking too much. Right now, he looks like nothing more than a stopgap in deeper leagues.

Alfonso Rivas | 1B CHC

Injury has vaulted another Cubs hitters into a starting role, this time to Frank Schwindel. Rivas was summoned back from Triple-A and looks to be on the strong side of a platoon at first base. The 25-year-old isn’t much of a prospect and has hit for a surprising lack of power in the minors, considering the position he plays. His current 17.6% HR/FB rate looks dandy, but with a maxEV of just 106.0, a lowly 21.8% FB%, and a .107 ISO, there isn’t actually much power in his bat.

Perhaps Rivas’ most interesting skill is his BABIP. He has posted inflated marks everywhere he has played, which is one of the primary reasons he has posted strong wOBA marks, despite limited power. He has shown excellent plate discipline in all of the stints he has earned meaningful playing time, with double digit walk rates everywhere he’s recorded at least 100 PAs, and better than average strikeout rates, supported by single digit SwStk% marks.

His skill set is uncommon for a first baseman, as it’s built on plate discipline and an ability to record hits on balls in play, rather than power. It’s not exactly appealing to fantasy owners, but he does get a boost in OBP leagues.

Buddy Kennedy | 2B/3B ARI

The 23-year-old was ranked just 32nd among Diamondbacks prospects this year, but he’s started every day, almost all at second base, since being recalled on June 17th. He enjoyed a breakout power year last year, as his HR/FB rate and ISO mark spiked, but he couldn’t hold onto those gains at all during his first taste of Triple-A action this year. Like Rivas, Kennedy has shown excellent plate discipline in the minors, posting double digit walk rates, strikeout rates mostly below 20%, and single digit SwStk% marks most of the time. He has also typically posted strong BABIP marks.

While the previous two hitters owned little speed, Kennedy might actually contribute in the steals category. He was on a 24-steal pace over a full season of PAs at Triple-A this year and has hit six triples since 2021, amounting to about a full season.

This is an unexciting skill set, but one that looks capable of low double digit homers and steals over a full season pace. That’s typically an undervalued contribution combination, as there’s no standout category. Overall though, it has value, which makes him a consideration in deeper leagues and a name that shoots toward the top of replacement level options in shallower leagues.

Trayce Thompson | OF LAD

Clearly someone was paying attention, as Trayce Thompson, who I just highlighted in my Triple-A HR/FB rate and ISO leader articles, was acquired from the Tigers recently and has started the last four games in right field to replace the injured Mookie Betts. Thompson now has about a full season of MLB PAs under his belt, but it took him six seasons dating back to 2015 to do it!

He has always shown power, and even a bit of speed, as he has hit 27 homers and stolen 12 bases, which would thrill any fantasy owner. However, that has come with an ugly .206 batting average, mostly because of a low .254 BABIP. Clearly from the Triple-A leaderboards, his power remains intact. But he has become an extreme fly ball hitter, so the .356 BABIP he posted with the Tigers Triple-A club is likely a fluke.

It’s unlikely Thompson is going to play his way into regular at-bats over the rest of the season, as he’ll be out of a job once Betts returns. But in the meantime, he looks like a pretty good bet to supply some power and maybe swipe a base or two. Over a small sample, anything could happen to BABIP, so his batting average may not kill you after all.

Justin Upton | OF SEA

Remember him?! He was surprisingly released by the Angels just before the season began and then it took until late May for any team to sign him. Finally, nearly a month later, he made his Mariners debut and has started in 10 of 11 games since his recall.

There’s not a whole lot about Upton you don’t already know. His strikeout rate jumped back in 2016 and has never rebounded, so instead of sitting in the mid-20% range, he’s been in the high 20% range, putting more pressure on his batting average and reducing his home run opportunities. His BABIP, which has sat above .300 for an amazing 11 straight seasons, fell well below it back in 2019, and it hasn’t recovered since. He has lost the ability to hit line drives, so a majority of his batted balls have become flies and pop-ups, the easiest types to convert into outs.

The good news is that he still might have his power. He has maintained high teen HR/FB rates the last three seasons and ISO marks hovering around .200, with maxEV marks above 111. That said, at age 34, his power could collapse at any point, so we can’t be sure he still has it just because he’s shown it the last couple of seasons. We’re still in very small sample territory combining his Triple-A and MLB stats this year, but so far, his power has declined. Doesn’t mean it has actually declined though, just that he hasn’t yet his for the same power he has in the past.

Clearly in a deep league, you might as well take the chance for as long as he’s playing every day. Outside of deeper mixed and AL-Only leagues, it’s hard to believe he’ll deliver positive fantasy value.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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