June 19, 2024

Sunday Funday Stat Leaderboard: Kepler crushing, new saves options emerge

Welcome to the Sunday Funday Stat Leaderboard. If you were following my work ahead of my transition to NBC Sports
then you might know this as the Samulski Sunday Tribune. It’s a new name, but if the same column with just a few sections removed since it’s now FULLY FREE.

If you’re new to this column, the goal is to present you with the top performers in a few key stats for this week of action. I then try to give some context to some of the names on that list, so we can begin to see just how real this hot week of production was. This way we can together decide if these are players we should be bidding on, bidding BIG on, or maybe trying to trade away or trade for.

I also have two sections of minor league leaders over the last 30 days, so we can see if there are any under-the-radar names that might be worth stashing. So far this season, those leaderboards put us onto Matt McLain
, Trey Cabbage
, Tanner Bibee
, Bryan Woo
, Nolan Jones
, Maikel Garcia
, and many more weeks (sometimes months) ahead of their call-up. That can be valuable insight in redraft leagues.

With that said, let’s dive into the leaders from this week. Happy Sunday!

Hitting Leaders (Week of July 24th)

Hard Hit Baseballs

  1. Max Kepler
    , MIN – 10 hard-hit baseballs (58.8%)
  2. Julio Rodriguez
    , SEA – 10 hard-hit baseballs (52.6%)
  3. Joey Meneses
    , WAS – 10 hard-hit baseballs (52.6%)
  4. 14 hitters with nine hard-hit baseballs, including Tyler O’Neill
    , Leody Taveras
    , Ian Happ
    , Jeremy Pena
    , Tim Anderson
    , Gunnar Henderson
    , Xander Bogaerts
    , and Matt Olson
    .

Max Kepler
is rostered in 8% of Yahoo leagues. Why? He has 15 home runs this season, and is hitting .294/.344/.506 with four home runs, 15 runs, and 14 RBI in July. Kepler is being a little more aggressive this year, which has led to an uptick in strikeouts, but he is nowhere near concerning in that regard and still possesses great contact rates. He’s no longer running, so you want to keep that in mind, but when he’s hitting the ball well, you’re going to get power and RBI and a solid average. Then you can move on when he cools.

The time to scoop up Tyler O’Neill
before people remembered his upside has most likely passed. The Cardinals outfielder hit the ball hard all week, batting .389 with a .566 SLG. He’s only played 39 games this season and injuries are certainly part of his profile, but there are few people with his power/speed combo that remain rostered in UNDER 50% of leagues. I think he could certainly benefit from a fresh start at the trade deadline, but even if he stays in St. Louis, he appears likely to play every day and hit in the middle of the order.

Home Runs

  1. Pete Alonso
    , NYM – 4 home runs
  2. Jake Burger
    , CWS – 4 home runs
  3. Lars Nootbaar
    , STL – 3 home runs
  4. Julio Rodriguez
    , SEA – 3 home runs
  5. Shohei Ohtani
    , LAA – 3 home runs
  6. Marcell Ozuna
    , ATL – 3 home runs
  7. Carlos Santana
    , PIT/MIL – 3 home runs
  8. Max Muncy
    , LAD – 3 home runs
  9. Matt Wallner
    , MIN – 3 home runs

People seem to keep talking about dropping Jake Burger
, but I don’t really see why. With Chicago selling at the deadline, Burger should be locked into every day at bats for the White Sox to finish the season. He may only be hitting .218, but he has 25 home runs and a 20% barrel rate. His strikeout rate remains high, but is coming down a bit in August, and I think there is a reasonable expectation he can hit .220-.230 the rest of the way with plus power.

Even with Tyler O’Neill
back, Lars Nootbaar
is playing nearly every day for the Cardinals and has turned his season around a bit after coming back from injury in late June. Since coming back, Nootbaar is hitting .297/.389/.514 with six home runs, 25 runs scored, 13 RBI, and two steals in 31 games. With St. Louis claiming they won’t be trading Nolan Arenado
or Paul Goldschmidt
, their offense should remain as productive as it has been, and Nootbaar figures to remain in the middle of it, which makes him a candidate to close the season strong.

Stolen Bases

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL – 4 SBs
  2. Nico Hoerner
    , CHC – 3 SBs
  3. Willi Castro
    , MIN – 3 SBs
  4. Corbin Carroll
    , ARI – 3 SBs
  5. Zack Gelof
    , OAK – 3 SBs

Zack Gelof
is doing what we thought he would do since getting promoted to the big leagues. He’s hitting just .235 with a 30% strikeout rate, but he has three home runs and five steals in 13 games. That power pace won’t keep up, but he has some decent raw power, and the speed is real. I’d expect a slight bump in on-base percentage as he gets more comfortable at this level and takes his usual number of walks; however, his average will remain low and the strikeouts will be high. If you need steals in a deep league, there should be enough value here.

Willi Castro
has been a great story this year, hitting .243 but stealing 26 bases in 89 games for the Twins. Even with Jorge Polanco
back, Castro has continued to play, just shifting to the outfield and replacing Joey Gallo
, who is struggling again this season. While Minnesota could acquire a hitter at the deadline, Castro figures to start a handful of games each week at worst and will clearly look to run. That gives him value in deeper formats.

Pitching Leaders (Week of July 24th)

SwStr% (Starting Pitchers)

  1. Freddy Peralta
    , MIL – 24.7% SwStr%
  2. Michael Grove
    , LAD – 22.1% SwStr%
  3. Cristian Javier
    , HOU – 20.2% SwStr%
  4. Shane McClanahan
    , TB 18.6% SwStr%
  5. Sandy Alcantara
    , MIA – 17.5% SwStr%
  6. Ryan Walker
    , SF – 17.5% SwStr%
  7. Gavin Williams
    , CLE – 17.2% SwStr%
  8. Touki Toussaint
    , CWS – 16.9% SwStr%
  9. Tyler Glasnow
    , TB – 16.5% SwStr%
  10. Luis Castillo
    , SEA – 16.5% SwStr%

Who knows if Michael Grove
is going to remain in the starting rotation after the deadline, but he’s made an interesting change to his pitch mix recently, adding a cutter in June and then aggressively leaning on the slider in this last start. In his last start, he had a 50% whiff rate on both pitches, which is pretty nice and certainly something Grove could look to build on if he gets more chances in the Dodgers’ rotation, especially since the cutter has a 30% whiff rate and .158 batting average against so far.

Ryan Walker
is not in the Giants rotation, but he pitches two or three innings two times a week as a bulk reliever, which essentially gives him a starter’s workload each week. On the season, he has a 2.50 ERA, 3.25 SIERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 21.6% K-BB%, which makes him an intriguing option in deeper leagues if the starting pitcher options on the wire are a bit bare.

Saves

  1. Adbert Alzolay
    , CHC – 3 saves
  2. Pete Fairbanks
    , TB – 2 saves
  3. Alexis Diaz
    , CIN – 2 saves
  4. David Bednar
    , PIT – 2 saves
  5. Paul Sewald
    , SEA – 2 saves
  6. Kenley Jansen
    , BOS – 2 saves
  7. Scott Barlow
    , KC – 2 saves

Scott Barlow
figures to be dealt at the deadline and move into a role where he doesn’t get save opportunities, so this may be your last few days of real value there. Rumors have also surfaced that the Mariners would be interested in trading Paul Sewald
, much like they did with Kendal Graveman when they were last in a playoff race. That would be a real blow to Sewald’s fantasy value, but could mean big things for Andres Munoz
over the final couple of months.

Not mentioned on the list above is Gregory Santos
, who got one save for the White Sox and seems to be their closer until Liam Hendriks
comes back. Santos has been really solid this year and makes for a strong waiver add. I also like Robert Suarez
of the Padres and Drew Smith
of the Mets as speculative adds since I think they could become closers for their teams if Josh Hader
and Adam
Ottavino are dealt at the deadline, as is being reported.

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MINOR LEAGUE HITTER LEADERBOARD (Last 30 Days)

  1. Luke Voit
    , 1B, NYM – 1.061 OPS (10 HR, 22 RBI)
  2. Masyn Winn
    , SS STL – 1.172 OPS (8 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB)
  3. Justyn Henry-Malloy, 3B DET – 1.085 OPS (4 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB)
  4. Jose Barrero
    , SS CIN – 1.040 OPS (6 HR, 20 RBI, 9 SB)
  5. Michael Busch
    , 2B/3B, LAD – 1.092 OPS (9 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB)

If the Cardinals trade Brendan Donovan
and/or Paul DeJong
at the deadline, would they give Winn a shot to get some at-bats. He’s the likely starting SS in 2024 and has been finding his footing at Triple-A, but would a poor stint in the majors over the final month or so damage his confidence? The Mets are likely to trade away a bunch of assets at the deadline. Could Luke Voit
work his way into DH at-bats? We’ve seen him produce at the MLB level before and 10 home runs in the last month makes it seem like maybe he could produce again.

At some point, the Tigers need to call up Henry-Malloy, right? He’s hitting .284 with 16 home runs at Triple-A and would likely produce just as well as most of the hitters currently in the MLB lineup. It wasn’t long ago that Barrero was the SS of the future for the Reds. Still just 25 years old, it would be nice to see him get a fresh start with another team. Could Michael Busch
also get a shot in another organization if the Dodgers make a big swing at the deadline? If so, he would be a must add fantasy player.
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