New NL Everyday Starters — Aug 19, 2021

Let’s finish off my week with three more hitters playing every day in the NL.

Brad Miller | 1B/OF

While Miller had received started here and there earlier in the season, he’s become the everyday first baseman, on the strong side of a platoon, while incumbent Rhys Hoskins has been on the IL for a strained groin. Those injuries could be minor or keep a hitter out a while, so it’s anyone’s guess when Hoskins will return, which could give Miller and his owners a bit more time of regular at-bats.

At age 31, with 3,102 plate appearances under his belt, and having played for seven organizations, Miller is the definition of a veteran journeyman. But don’t confuse journeyman with bad player. In 2019, he really amped up his power, as his HR/FB rate jumped back above 20% for the first time since 2016, and his Barrel% spiked into double digits for the first time. It was over a small sample size, but it proved to be a sign of things to come. His power remained well above his career marks again last year and so far this season, he’s once again hitting over 20% of his fly balls over the fence supported by a double digit Barrel%.

Unfortunately along with that nice power, strikeouts have become an issue, as his strikeout rate has jumped above 30% for just the second time in his career. Luckily, he has walked at a double digit clip so his OBP remains just above .300. That means he’s a far superior option in OBP leagues for as long as he’s starting every day against right-handed starters.

Hoy Park | PIT 2B/SS

The Pirates acquired Park before the trade deadline from the Yankees and just a couple of days later, he was in the Majors. Since his recall, he has started most games, mixing it up between the outfield, second base, and shortstop. Notably, he has even started in four of the team’s last six games, despite all of those games opposing a left-hander. It suggests that Park isn’t going to be in a strict platoon, sitting against same-handed pitchers.

The 25-year-old wasn’t a highly ranked prospect in the Yankees system, ranking just 37th in the organization heading into the season. But his minor league track record was pretty interesting. He always displayed fantastic plate discipline, which included double digit walk rates at every single stop and a mark as high as 20.6%, which he posted at Triple-A this year. His strikeout rate has been better than average, but it has likely been inflated some because of his patience. His mid-to-high single digit SwStk% marks suggest excellent contact skills and if he decided to be more aggressive and less patient, he would certainly have the capability of posting lower walk and strikeout rates.

The power is the big question. He entered 2021 with very little of it, with ISO marks no higher than .144 and HR/FB rates never exceeding 8.3%, both of which he posted during his 2015 professional debut. But then something happened at Triple-A this year over a relatively small sample of 223 plate appearances. His ISO shot up to .240 and HR/FB rate surged to 27.8%. He didn’t even have to give up contact to make those power gains, and incredible, he walked as often as he struck out, both 20.6% of the time. Oh, and he even swipes bases and stole eight in about a third of a season’s worth of PAs.

He hasn’t done anything offensively in his 54 PAs in the Majors so far, but his Triple-A breakout is intriguing. I would absolutely take a shot here in a deeper league, at the very least, with the hopes some of that breakout was real.

Connor Joe | COL 1B/OF

We might not always understand what the Rockies are doing or not doing, but instead of questioning it, we should just accept it and take corresponding action. Filling in for the injured Raimel Tapia, Joe has now started eight straight games, the majority in left field. As a 29-year-old, Joe is no longer a prospect, but makes for a great story after undergoing surgery for cancer in March of 2020.

Like a lot of older players first getting their shot in the Majors, Joe has a solid history of hitting in the minors. He has walked at a double digit clip everywhere he’s played in at least a reasonable sample, while he has maintained an above average strikeout rate and single digit SwStk%. His power jumped in 2018, as his ISO hopped over .200 for the first time and has stayed there ever since. As a Rockies hitter now, you want at least a foundation of some power, as the park won’t work miracles and turn a Juan Pierre into Joey Gallo. But it could take someone with middling power into above average territory.

Aside from the track record of offense, Joe has now led off in his last nine games. That’s all you need to know about how the Rockies currently view him. He was already an intriguing option given his home park, but batting leadoff increases his plate appearances and will give him lots of opportunities to score runs. This is especially true given his strong OBP and projection. Fantasy owners love to talk about stopgap adds as a hitter who “won’t hurt you”, and Joe is a perfect example.

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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Pirates Hurdles
2 years ago

Hoskins appears on track to be activated tomorrow.