One On One With Nationals’ Trea Turner | AL Central Insider
An Exclusive interview with Washington's Rising Star, and confidential AL Central insights
My Fantasy Baseball Insider Series, which won the 2017 Best Ongoing Baseball Series award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association last year, gets a bonus installment during the regular season this year. In this edition, I spoke to a prominent Scouting Director in the American League who sees a lot of the Central Division. Here are his early-season takes from just as the season was opening with my spins from today’s perspectives. I wanted to see just how well his predictions were working out before sharing them now.
But first, check out my exclusive recent interview with Fantasy standout Trea Turner. He talks about how his O-swing rate has dipped a bit and working with previous first base coach Davey Lopes, a base-stealing legend. Turner already has a dozen steals, but we are still waiting for the power to come after one homer in April.
Inside the AL Central
Yoan Moncada: “The team is really comfortable with him, and this year he has more confidence. The big thing from him is will he be able to maintain from both sides of the plate from a mechanical standpoint. Last year he was just getting his feet wet and was struggling to put his swing together.”
Engel’s Angle: Moncada is off to a fine start with 6 homers, 17 runs scored, 13 RBI and four steals. The OBP is at .353, but a .423 BABIP and .257 ISO scream that a cold streak is coming very soon. He is hitting .188 with one RBI vs. left-handed pitchers. Moncada could be 20-20 this year, so I would not get down when regression comes and won’t rush to shop him.
Tim Anderson: “Last year he battled depression (Anderson lost a close friend in May because of a shooting). I want to see better results before I believe it, but I have seen more positive stuff to start the season.”
Engel’s Angle: Anderson had four homers and seven RBI in the first month, and the eight stolen bases were big for those who bought in again. He is hitting .267 with a .315 OBP and still strikes out too much, but it appears the better counting numbers over a full season are finally on the way. Ride with him as your middle infielder if you have him. His head is clear and he could hit 15 homers with 30-plus steals.
Logan Morrison: “Our pitchers hated throwing to him last year and did not want to see him sign in the division.”
Engel’s Angle: After an April in which Morrison may have looked like the worst regular in baseball, AL Central pitchers may have fully changed their minds about throwing to Morrison. He is hitting .151 with two homers. A .176 BABIP points to some better times ahead, and his hard hit rate is nearly the same as last season. There is no major deviation in the fly ball rate either. His 8 percent HR/FB rate should also improve. Things have to turn around soon, but Morrison obviously won’t be anywhere near the 38-homer guy he was last year when he had a 22.5 percent HR/FB rate. You’re looking at a .250 to .260 guy the rest of the way who will hover near the 20-homer mark.
Jorge Soler: “He is as talented as anybody skill wise, but he has two cent head. He is a just ‘see ball, hit ball’ kind of guy. He is not a smart kid. He could hit 30 home runs if he hits the ball in the air a lot, but the average will be low. “
Engel’s Angle: Soler has hit .307 with a .436 OBP so far, but he has just two homers and seven RBI. The BABIP is obviously outrageous at .412. The Hard Hit percentage is at 45.3, compared to 31.1 last year. The BA luck will certainly come back into line, while a higher ground ball rate over 43 percent so far this year will start to drag on him there too. We may not have started to see enough true outcomes from Soler yet.
Whit Merrifield: “He can definitely repeat what he did last year, he is a really good player. He is smart, tough and a hard-nosed player. He understands the game and is a real leader.”
Engel’s Angle: Merrifield has just been acceptable so far with three homers and four steals and a .250 AVG. But one month in which he has a .277 BABIP is way too early to be disappointed.
Yonder Alonso: “I'm not sold. I am shocked by what he did last year. I didn’t see that coming. The guy has always performed in non-winning environments. Yeah, I know he changed his swing, but last season was an anomaly. Now he has to face pitchers more willing to face him rather than the other guys in his lineup.”
Engel’s Angle: Alonso does have eight homers already, which puts him on track to come near last year’s career-high 28. He is hitting just .226, but then there is the matter of his .191 BABIP. The amount of HRs so far, though, makes it look like our scouting friend could turn out to be wrong here.
Jason Kipnis: “This guy is pissed off that he was getting shopped during the offseason and you will get a big year out of him.”
Engel’s Angle: Kipnis had a strong spring, but maybe now he is a lot less angry? He is hitting .167 with no home runs but a .230 BABIP. Yes he will get better, but no homers in a month is more than just bad luck. I’m benching him, not cutting him, but I am not optimistic for a big turnaround soon, either. I think he gets back to respectability, but I’m not hoping for a red-hot month of May.
Bradley Zimmer: “He may take some time to develop. He has dynamic tools, though.”
Engel’s Angle: Zimmer is hitting .236 with one homer and three steals so far. None of the advanced stats point to major bad luck (.372 BABIP) and his swing rate is up from 46.9 percent to 50.4. So he is swinging more and not generating enough results, which makes him bench fodder while we wait for him to bloom.
Mike Clevinger: “He has premium stuff. He is a tough kid. He faces three bottom-feeders in the division so he should win a lot of games.”
Engel’s Angle: Clevinger is 2-0 with a 2.56 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. His xFIP is at 4.36 though, so some rougher spells may be ahead. Still, I would be glad to have him as a guy complementing a strong core of the pitching staff right now. Three of his starts so far have been good to excellent.
Trea Turner Featured Image: (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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