Sneaky September Standouts: AL Hitters by Paul Sporer October 2, 2018 Many September performances can be glossed over because of how many people are checked out on baseball or zeroed in on just their players as they chase down a title. Some just dismiss the month entirely because of the expanded rosters, though I find that quite ridiculous as plenty of players put up their numbers against quality arms in the midst of pennant chases. Here is a standout September from each AL team from a player who could be worth paying attention to in 2019 as well. AL EAST Renato Nunez, BAL | 5 HR, .313 AVG in 85 PA Nunez was a noteworthy prospect in Oakland, but never really clicked and wound up getting waived. After a quick stint in Texas, he ended up in Baltimore where he put some things together in a 60-game run. He closed with a big September and now enters his age-25 season with a chance at a full time role. Jackie Bradley Jr., BOS | .264/.354/.472, 4 SB in 82 PA Most of their standouts were their stars outside of bench guys like Brock Holt (201 wRC+) and Tzu-Wei Lin (232) so I chose to highlight Bradley’s basepath prowess as it capped off a 17-for-18 season in steals. He also hit well all summer with an .818 OPS from July 1st on after a .619 through June. Luke Voit, NYY | .333/.414/.736, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 19 R in 99 PA Voit started on August 24th and had a 2-homer game in Baltimore. Originally expected to be a short side platoon with Greg Bird, Voit became a lineup mainstay as he torched lefties (1.195 OPS, 6 HR) and righties (1.046, 8) alike in 148 PA with the Yankees. I did mention him in my hidden hitter seasons, too, but he was so good he deserved a second mention. Tommy Pham, TB | .368/.475/.705, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 26 R, 5 SB in 118 PA This isn’t just about off-the-radar players you might not know. Pham is well known and was even an early pick this past spring (57 ADP), but he labored through the year with multiple nagging injuries. Two games into his Rays career, he fractured his foot on a hit by pitch and went to the DL with a .725 OPS. He returned 11 days later with a 2-hit game, but then four straight 0-fers dropped him to .711. He had a 3-hit game on August 21st before another injury, this time a finger that cost him 3 games, but he returned and closed August with a 5-game hit streak before his electric September that pushed his bottom line to .275/.367/.464 with 21 HR and 15 SB. He’ll be a relatively early pick again next year (79 ADP in Justin’s #2EarlyMocks). Lourdes Gurriel Jr., TOR | 4 HR in 89 PA Gurriel’s breakout run came during July when he hit .423/.438/.648 with 4 HR in 73, but he was cut down by injury in the midst of an 11-game MULTI-hit streak. He returned for the last week of August and posted just a .310 OPS, but then put up a decent September (.734 OPS). His September wasn’t on par with the others highlighted here, but I wanted to mention him because he’s an interesting player for 2019. The 25-year old middle infielder should nab a starting role at 2B or SS and could be a key contributor, especially if he can improve his plate skills a bit (22% K, 3% BB). AL CENTRAL Daniel Palka, CWS | 8 HR in 90 PA Almost chose Palka for my underrated hitter season, but went Tim Anderson instead and now get a chance to cover his solid season. He’s a prototypical power hitter with a ton of swing-and-miss countered by massive pop. He did fan 34% of the time with just a 6% BB rate during his 27-homer season, but he was a 34% K and 11% BB during September. He doesn’t hit lefties so that caps his volume, but he can club 30 HR in 500 PA against righties. Greg Allen, CLE | 7 SB, .319 AVG in 56 PA Allen wound up with 21 SBs (and just 4 CS) on the season in 91 games and if he can maintain some of his September plate skills (20% K, 11% BB), there’s some upside here. Two of their starting OF by season’s end (Michael Brantley and Melky Cabrera) are free agents and Bradley Zimmer will miss some of 2019 recovering from shoulder surgery leaving plenty of room for Allen. He hit .277 with a .380 OBP (10% BB) and 40 SB per 500 PA in the minors so he could be a nice later round speed option. Christin Stewart, DET | .267/.375/.417, 2 HR in 72 PA Only three Tigers posted better than a 93 wRC+ in September and one of them was Nicholas Castellanos and he’s not exactly sneaky. Another was Niko Goodrum, who I put in the hidden hitters piece, leaving Stewart. I’m surprised he wasn’t called up sooner even in a bad year for the Tigers. I guess it’s not bad to keep the service time down, but giving him the MLB reps in the summer wouldn’t have hurt them or him. Power and patience are in abundance for the left-hander and he should hit 25+ HR with a .360+ OBP as a full-timer next year (he’ll be 25 years old). Ryan O’Hearn, KC | .266/.370/.595, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R in 91 PA The 24-year old left-handed torched righties in August as well, ending up with a 1.108 OPS and 10 HR against them in 129 PA. He looks like a straight platoon bat after hitting just .108 with a .465 OPS in a limited 41 PA sample against lefties. Willians Astudillo, MIN | .388/.400/.537, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 7 R, 1% K, 3% BB in 70 PA Bartolo Colon-as-a-hitter is a contact machine and put that on display throughout September. He played 16 of his 29 games this year at catcher so he will retain eligibility behind the dish and be a fun C2 pick next year. Most C2 late rounds are batting average sinkholes, but Astudillo should be a positive there, even if he doesn’t do much else around it. AL WEST Yuli Gurriel, HOU | .356/.379/.567, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 14 R in 95 PA Gurriel needed to rally in September to wind up with 13 HR, down five from last year’s total in nine more PA (573), but he hit 12 of them in his last 86 games. At 35 years old, he’s unlikely to revolutionize his power output, but if he can approach 20 with his great AVG upside, he’s a great CI option again next year. David Fletcher, LAA | .271 AVG, 3% K, 3 SB in 63 PA The pickings were very slim here. If Taylor Ward still had C-eligibility for next year, I’d have picked him despite a 56 wRC+ because of his 4 HR/2 SB. Fletcher is a major contact guy who could be a solid deep league AVG source next year. He only hit .275 on the year, but was a .294 hitter in the minors (1517 PA) with 24 SB per 600 PA. Ramon Laureano, OAK | 2 HR, 3 SB, 116 wRC+ in 105 PA Combined with a great campaign in Triple-A, Laureano hit 19 HR with 18 SB in 460 PA. His defensive prowess earned him accolades and playing time, but the diverse offensive skills make him a very intriguing late rounder in 2019. He averaged 16 HR and 36 SB per 600 PA in the minors and was caught just once in eight tries at the big league level this year. He could be a Lorenzo Cain-esque talent with a lower batting average as he’s got a bit more swing-and-miss than Cain. Guillermo Heredia, SEA | .414 AVG in 36 PA OK, this was the toughest team to find someone. Their studs studded (Haniger, Cano, Cruz), but none of the mid-tier guys went off leaving me with a fourth outfielder who BABIP’d his way to a strong month. Sorry, Mariners fans! Jurickson Profar, TEX | 6 HR, 10 RBI, 14 R in 102 PA Ending with a repeat from the underrated hitter piece, but I’m not sure Adrian Beltre’s 8 HRs is that surprising and Drew Robinson’s 157 wRC+ is fueled by an 18% BB rate. Only 29 players ended with a 20+ HR/10+ SB and among them, only Profar will be triple eligible next year (SS, 3B, 1B). He will be quadruple eligible in leagues with a 10-game limit adding 2B.