Surprise! These Hitters Are Now Regulars — NL 9/15/20

After tackling the new American League regulars yesterday, let’s now dive back into the National League to discuss the hitters who are now seeing every day playing time.

With Ketel Marte on the IL, Josh VanMeter has gotten first crack at strong side platoon at-bats, mostly starting now against right-handers. The 25-year-old debuted last year after a small sample breakout at Triple-A, driven by a massive power spike. Since the rest of his skills were strong, it was fair to wonder whether this was a new level or just randomness over only 211 plate appearances. Given that he has always shown solid plate discipline with single digit SwStk% marks every stop since 2016, along with a touch of speed, he makes for a nice pickup in deeper leagues.

David Bote posted a respectable .336 wOBA last year over about a half season’s worth of plate appearances. This season, he finds himself with regular playing time, as he has rotated between second base, third base, and DH recently. His home run power remains attractive and he has upped his fly ball rate to actually take advantage of it. Interestingly, while his strikeout rate is a touch high, his SwStk% sits just below 10%, so it hasn’t been a result of too many whiffs.

In fact, he has clearly been too passive, as his Swing% is well below the league average. A little more aggressiveness should allow him to cut down on the strikeouts, though it will also likely reduce his walk rate. That said, more balls in play would lead to more home runs and runs batted in.

It’s sometimes amusing to me to see the series of transactions a hitter experiences. Daniel Vogelbach opened the season with the Mariners, but was DFA’d in mid-August. Soon after, the Blue Jays picked him up, but then DFA’d him too about a week later. Finally, the Brewers picked him up a couple of days later, and now he’s their cleanup or fifth place hitter against right-handers.

Imagine a regular corporate office worker fired by two different companies within a month, then latches on with a third company who makes him a senior manager. I guess when a hitter offers no defensive value, it all comes down to whether the team has an opening at DH for a guy projected for a .330-.340 wOBA the rest of the way. Anyway, Vogelbach has power, walks a ton (OBP league booooooooost), and actually doesn’t swing and miss very often, so his strikeouts are more the result of passivity than an inability to make contact. A perfect lotto tickets for 2 weeks of games.

Along with Vogelbach, Jedd Gyorko is also seeing every day at-bats now with the Brewers, at first base. Yes, the same Gyorko who hasn’t accumulated 500 plate appearances since his rookie year back in 2013. This year, his power has been insane over his 69 at-bats, which should keep him in the lineup, even though his strikeout rate sits at a career worst.

Interestingly, his strikeout rate has spiked despite the fact that his SwStk% is right in line with his career mark. In fact, his SwStk% has been remarkably stable throughout his career, sitting between 11.2% and 11.8% every single season since 2014! That’s crazy consistency.

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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