The 10: Updating April’s Breakout Hitters

In one of the earlier editions of “The 10”, I wrote about some of the early season breakouts and assessed their viability. It’s time to check in on them and more. I’ll be covering 20 hitters here so it’s essentially a double edition, which is good since I haven’t written a single iteration of “The 10” in the month of June.

Let’s cut to the chase, only two of the 20 have improved their wRC+ since April and truthfully, it’s only one since the other guy has added just two points. However, these guys didn’t need to improve or even maintain their gaudy April numbers to remain viable fantasy contributors.

I’ll break them up into groups according to their performance from May 1st through June 24th and give some thoughts about how they might perform going forward. I’d also like to acknowledge that wRC+ alone doesn’t determine fantasy viability and I’ll be sure to point out those who are still contributing in other fantasy-useful ways despite sharp drops in their wRC+.

ELITE

Player April Since
Josh Bell 142 167
Pete Alonso 165 161

Josh Bell | PIT, 1B

Our lone riser, Bell has incredibly been quite a bit better since his fast start in April raising every part of his slash line while also cutting his strikeout rate. Crazily enough, I didn’t even include him in that April piece on breakout hitters. I truly don’t remember why he missed the cut because he was definitely deserving as he was hitting .300/.386/.600 with 4 HR on the day it was posted.

He ended the month at .286/.363/.592, but really took off in May (1.238 OPS, 12 HR) while showing he is indeed mortal in June (.785, 2). Add it all up and he’s .330/.398/.665 since May 1st with 14 HR (2nd-most on this list). I’m not at all concerned about his June swoon as most hitters would love their off month to be a couple ticks below average (96 wRC+) while still maintaining solid 22% K and 13% BB rates.

Pete Alonso | NYM, 1B

An unnoticeable 4-point drop in wRC+ hasn’t slowed Alonso in the slightest. In fact, his 18 HR are an MLB-best since May 1st as he continues to be the standout rookie in a rather strong class – 13 rookies have a 110 or better wRC+ in at least 145 PA. I incorrectly tabbed Alonso as a generic power hitter coming into the season, figuring he’d display bursts of light tower power surrounded by extended bouts of swing-and-miss that would suppress his batting average, cutting something of a Hunter Renfroe image (.248 AVG, 26 HR in 2018).

Instead, he’s looking a lot like peak Nelson Cruz (162 gm average of 40 HR/.277 AVG from 2009-18) thus far, mixing transcendent power with a useful batting average (27 HR, .280 AVG thru 327 PA). Where many rookies see their strikeout rate jump and walk rate drop from their Triple-A marks, Alonso has matched his 26% K rate and lost just a tick off his 11% Triple-A BB rate. Even if Alonso only matches the lowest of his rest of season projections, he’d hit 17 HR with a .252 AVG and end at 44 HR/.266 AVG.

GREAT/VERY GOOD

Player April Since
Jorge Polanco 157 133
Max Kepler 138 131
Domingo Santana 128 130
Brandon Lowe 142 127
Trey Mancini 168 125
Tommy La Stella 139 124
Hunter Dozier 192 121
Yoan Moncada 151 119

Jorge Polanco | MIN, SS

When I wrote the first breakout piece, Polanco was running an insane .424 BABIP but went 3-for-26 the rest of the month, bringing it down to a more reasonable .346 mark. He’s actually been at a .359 clip since May 1st, spurring a .328/.380/.512 line. Only his power has dipped since the excellent April start, but even if only reached the 21 homers his “since May 1st” pace suggests, he’d still be an incredible fantasy asset thanks to the batting average and awesome runs and RBI opportunities atop that Twins offense.

He’s only 2-for-5 on the bases so he might fall well short of the double-digit pace established in 2017-18, but that’s not too surprising given awful 63% success rate he showed in those seasons. Polanco has stood out at the deepest position on the diamond and he’s a good bet to remain a really strong option there. The best part is that he’s likely not even your primary shortstop as he was routinely drafted around pick 200 this past spring so many of you are getting frontline production out of your middle infielder slot.

Max Kepler | MIN, OF

Another sweet-swinging Twin, Kepler has been essentially the same since his fast April start (a negligible -7 wRC+ points) despite a sharp upturn in June. One of the most impressive aspects of his season has been the surge in performance against lefties since May 1st. After hitting just .167/.211/.333 against them in April, he’s got a .321/.361/.554 line against them in 61 PA since, including 3 HR, just two short of his entire 2018 total. All told he has 19 HR and 51 RBI in 313 PA, almost matching his 2018 totals of 20 HR and 58 RBI in nearly twice as many plate appearances (611). I’m completely in on this breakout.

Domingo Santana | SEA, OF

The Mariners have crumbled since their fast start, but not because of Santana. His fantasy production is down a little but he’s actually up a couple points in wRC+ since May 1st. He stole four bases in April, but since then has just one. He’s attempted just one stolen base in the last 25 games putting a damper on his chances to repeat the 15 SBs from 2017.

Santana is still hitting a healthy .275 with 11 HR and 29 R and RBI in 201 PA since May 1st. He is also leading all of baseball with 100 strikeouts on the season, though part of that is Seattle’s 82 games played as his 29% K rate sits 9th in the league. High BABIPs have helped him overcome his ugly strikeout rates and this year’s .360 is right in line with his career mark so the Ks don’t necessarily put his batting average rate in danger. He might not continue the .282 we’ve seen thus far, but he’s unlikely to completely tank and hit something like .220 the rest of the way.

Brandon Lowe | TB, 2B

The same can’t be said of Lowe. His 35% strikeout rate is second worst to only Wil Myers (36%) and unless he somehow continues his absurd .399 BABIP, that .282 AVG is coming down. The power is undeniable, though. This still feels like a Brian Dozier clone, though the variety of outcomes we’ve seen from Dozier makes it hard to know which version of Doz we’re getting from Lowe the rest of the way.

Lowe has only swiped one base since May 1st so he might struggle to replicate Dozier there, who has averaged 15 SBs a season coming into this season. I think we can get something like a .245 AVG, 15-17 HR, and 3-4 SB the rest of the way from Lowe.

Trey Mancini | BAL, 1B/OF

My assessment of Mancini back in April was that he was BABIP-dependent as that seemed to be the only real difference between his 2017 and 2018 campaigns. He’s still holding a .333 BABIP on the season and his power has remained strong with 11 HR since May 1st. The bouncy ball being used this year is no doubt helping that, but until we see evidence of a different ball, it’s safe to bet on Mancini staying good. The projections look strong for him, sitting around 15 HR with a .270-.280 AVG.

Tommy La Stella | LAA, 2B/3B

La Stella clubbed seven homers in April, but his just .250 while walking twice as often (10) as he struck out (5). He’s hit another eight since May 1st with a strong .317/.349/.481 line. His wRC+ is down 15 points due mostly to the power drop as well as the walk rate dropping to 4% since May 1st.

Power-conducive gains across his profile, elite contact, and a HR-friendly pull field at his home stadium makes him reasonable bet to display more power the rest of the way than we’ve seen at any point in his pre-2019 career, even if he doesn’t continue his 34 HR pace. I think he can hit .280 with 11-14 HR and a strong runs output atop the Angels lineup (at least against righties).

Hunter Dozier | KC, 1B/3B

Dozier was one of my favorite April breakouts and while I never thought he’d maintain the insane 1.133 OPS from April, I did buy the power gains and still thought we could see some chip-in speed despite an 0-for-1 in the season’s first month. He’s only played 31 games since May 1st because of an injury that robbed most of his June, but he’s hitting a solid .272/.343/.500 in that time with 5 HR, 21 RBI, and 1 SB.

That’s a full season pace of 27, 110, and 6. His drop of 71 points is one of the biggest among the group, but of the seven with at least a 50-point drop, his 121 wRC+ since May 1st is easily the best. Only one other (Yandy Diaz at 106) is even north of 100. His Baseball Savant snapshot box that I referenced in April remains beautifully red.

Yoan Moncada | CWS, 2B/3B

One of the key gains in Moncada’s April was dropping his strikeout rate to 22% (down from 33% in 2018). His walk rate was down, too, but part of it was by design as Moncada was being more aggressive and attacking the pitches he could handle. The strikeouts have returned since May 1st, spiking to 31% due in part to a 10-point jump in O-Swing rate up to 36%.

He has still been a plus bat thanks to a near-.400 BABIP fueling his .290 AVG along with 7 HR and 3 SB. I don’t think he can keep it up with this kind of strikeout rate, but a May drop off (.714) has given way to June surge (1.095) including just a 23% K rate so perhaps May was a blip as opposed to falling back into old habits.

Part of Moncada’s appeal is how dynamic his profile can be when he’s clicking, but he’s just 5-for-8 on the bases so I’m uncertain how much speed he will offer the rest of the way. I’m really interested to see where he goes from here as I could see a blistering second half where he’s one of fantasy baseball’s best players just as easily as I could see him performing to his projections: ~.250 AVG, 12 HR, 8 SB.

THE REST

Nine of the remaining 10 sit in a tight 81-114 wRC+ range with one outlier all the way down at 50 since May 1st. The average wRC+ drop off in this group is -55 points with one excelling and several others still holding fantasy viability despite the fall and the rest once again becoming waiver wire fodder.

Player April Since
Eduardo Escobar 137 114
Yandy Diaz 160 106
Clint Frazier 149 101
Melky Cabrera 120 97
Christian Walker 152 94
Tim Anderson 170 92
Jason Heyward 142 90
Freddy Galvis 123 83
Brian Goodwin 167 81
Tim Beckham 137 50

Eduardo Escobar | ARI, 3B/SS: I debated putting Escobar in the group above because he’s still been really good since May 1st, but I decided to make this group a full 10. His 12 HR since May 1st is tied with Kepler for third most among this group and only Bell has topped his 42 RBI. Yeah, I should’ve included him in the other group. Sorry, Eduardo!

Yandy Diaz | TB, 1B/3B: Two IL stints have stunted Diaz since May 1st, but anyone who drafted him would gladly take his .276 AVG/22 HR pace once he returns on Thursday.

Clint Frazier | NYY, OF: Injury and demotion have limited Frazier to just 136 PA since May 1st (5th fewest of the group), but more importantly his swing-and-miss finally caught up to him with his K rate soaring to 32% while his 26% HR/FB from April came back to earth at 16% and stifled his power.

Melky Cabrera | PIT, OF: This one of the best cases where wRC+ doesn’t really paint the picture of potential fantasy usefulness. If you scooped Cabrera for some AVG help after his .329 in April, then you’re perfectly happy with his .302 mark since. His appeal is limited to deep leagues, particularly NL-Only.

Christian Walker | ARI, 1B: An ugly May likely led to some drops of Walker across in shallower mixed leagues, but he’s come back with a strong June, hitting .297/.366/.514 with 4 HR and 2 SB in 82 PA. In the April piece, I suggested he might this year’s Jesus Aguilar and that still seems viable, especially after the big June rebound.

Tim Anderson | CWS, SS: Anderson is exactly who I had in mind when I said a major fall in wRC+ doesn’t necessarily curb the fantasy appeal. Despite just a .720 OPS since May 1st, he’s still hitting .279 with 5 HR and 5 SB so he hasn’t been a total dud. That said, he was never going to hold his 1.009 April OPS so this production since May 1st is more in line with expectations and still represents an improvement over 2018.

Jason Heyward | CHC, OF: I really wanted it to be real, but it looks like it wasn’t as he’s had a .733 OPS since May 1st, which is right in line with last year’s .731 mark. I’ll always been rooting for Heyward, but his fantasy relevance remains fringe.

Freddy Galvis | TOR, SS: Galvis fell apart in May (.631) but has rebounded in June (.785). That said, the premium depth at shortstop still keeps him on the periphery. He’s already a home run short of last year’s total (13 in 162) so he’s set up well to set a new career high (20 in 2016).

Brian Goodwin | LAA, OF: Injuries opened up a full-time role for Goodwin in April and he made the most of it with a 1.001 OPS, but the .404 BABIP was never going to hold and the impending returns of Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton were always going relegate him back into a 4th OF role. His 86-point wRC+ drop is the second highest behind only…

Tim Beckham | SEA, SS/3B: …the guy that everyone was leery of even as they enjoyed his April production. His April surge wasn’t a full month of great production. He had a 1.053 OPS through April 14th, but then just a .678 the rest of the month. Since May 1st, he’s put up an unrosterable .577 OPS with just 5 HR, 14 RBI, and 9 R. He’s been losing playing time of late, too, making it hard to hold him in even AL-only leagues at this point.

We hoped you liked reading The 10: Updating April’s Breakout Hitters by Paul Sporer!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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caponehollywood
Member
caponehollywood

Any reason Ketel Marte didn’t make it onto this list?

Anon
Member
Anon

Because Marte wasn’t an April breakout. He was at 239/268/435 as of 4/23/19 when Paul published the original piece and ended April at 250/296/483