This Year's Stealth Breakout
Hunter Dozier rocketed two solo home runs in the Royals’ loss to the Twins at Target Field on Friday. He thumped an opposite-field blast over the high wall in right field in the fourth inning to draw the Royals within two runs of the lead. In his next at-bat he drove one over the center field wall to put the Royals in front 5-4, although they would eventually lose the high-scoring affair.
Dozier has been one of the biggest breakout hitters in the majors this year but he's been very sneaky about it. Some of the shine of his breakout has been obscured by a three-week stint on the disabled list due to a chest injury. Those missed games have prevented his counting stats from approaching the league leaders in any category, as has the fact his Royals teammates don't provide him with nearly as many opportunities to amass RBI or runs scored compared to the stars on the higher-scoring teams like the Red Sox or Yankees. But if we look deeper and squint a little bit we can see a star in the making.
Dozier is slashing .283/.369/.538 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI in 88 games played. Compare that to last year when he hit just .229/.278/.395 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI. It is easy to see how much he has improved in a single year. He's a big guy and scouts have always hung huge ratings on his raw power, along with low ratings on his hit tool. His plate discipline is the biggest reason for his jump into fantasy relevance this year. He's greatly reduced his strikeout rate and doubled his walk rate. His improved selectivity at the plate has allowed his immense natural power to manifest itself. Instead of swinging at everything he is now hunting pitches he can drive. He is hitting the ball in the air more often and the results speak for themselves.
Kansas City is a tough place to hit home runs. Let's put that fact into perspective. Mike Moustakas set a new Royals franchise record by cranking 38 home runs in 2017. That is the lowest franchise record for any team (the Mets are next-lowest with Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran tied with 41 homers in a single season). A Royals player has hit 30 or more homers in a season only 12 times in franchise history, which dates back 50 years since 1969. 1985 was the only season in franchise history that witnessed more than one player hit 30 home runs (George Brett and Steve Balboni). George Brett holds the franchise record for career homers with 317 and no other player has hit more than 197 bombs for the Royals. Yeah, Kaufmann Stadium is a tough place to hit home runs.
Dozier is this year's Max Muncy -- 27-year-old fringe major leaguers who suddenly burst from mediocrity to stardom after changing their approach at the plate. In 2016 Muncy played 51 games for the Athletics and batted .186 with two homers and eight RBI in 133 plate appearances. He did not even play in the majors at all in 2017. In 2018 he goes to the Dodgers and breaks out to the tune of .263/.391/.582 with 35 home runs and 79 RBI. He went from fantasy dud to fantasy stud overnight. That is exactly what Dozier has done this year. Dozier should be targeted for the stretch run in fantasy leagues. He should be even better next year, particularly if the rebuilding Royals add a few better hitters around him in the batting order.
Dahl Carted Off the Field
David Dahl suffered what looked to be a severe leg injury while making a play in the outfield on Friday night. He got his legs twisted and tangled and went down in a heap. He had to be carted off the field and looked to be very upset. He has been preliminarily diagnosed with sprained right ankle but is still undergoing testing. It could be an injury that keeps him out of action for the rest of the season, which would be a shame given his big-time fantasy production. He has a .302/.353/.524 slash line with 15 home runs, 61 RBI, 67 runs and four stolen bases in 100 games. These days .300 batting averages are rare and are invaluable in fantasy leagues. Dahl has been injury-prone throughout his professional career and the trend continues.
Dahl's misfortune should lead to additional playing time for Raimel Tapia and Garrett Hampson. Tapia is a former top prospect who has never gotten a real opportunity to prove himself in the majors. He is a contact-oriented batter capable of delivering high batting averages and plenty of stolen bases. He is light on power but even skinny little guys can run into a few longballs in Coors Field. Hampson was a hot pick in fantasy drafts this spring but has fallen flat on his face, slashing just .212/.272/.315 with two home runs, 13 RBI and five stolen bases in 62 games. He stole 38 bases last year across three levels and could inject a difference-making level of speed into fantasy leagues if he gets an everyday job in the Rockies' lineup for the rest of the season. He has not hit well at all this year but it can be hard for rookie players to perform when getting sporadic playing time. Any hitter getting lots of at-bats at Coors Field is capable of delivering quality fantasy numbers and Hampson is no exception. Fantasy owners should give him a shot.
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Three MVP Candidates tied with 36 home runs
Christian Yelich entered Friday's action leading the major leagues with 36 home runs. He is now in a three-way tie for the lead after both Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger whacked their 36th taters of the season last night. All three players are also battling it out for the best OPS in the majors as well. Each of them have 100 points of OPS over all other players. The big three are all sitting with OPS scores over 1.100 while Nelson Cruz is fourth with a 1.003 OPS.
Trout is way ahead of the pack in the race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. He has 7.1 WAR and is slashing .297/.440/.665 with 36 bombs, 87 RBI, 84 runs and eight steals. He leads the majors in on-base percentage. Xander Bogaerts ranks second in the American League with 5.4 WAR and Alex Bregman is third with 4.5 WAR.
The National League Race is a dogfight. Bellinger has 6.5 WAR with a .330/.430/.681 triple-slash with 36 bombs, 85 RBI, 89 runs and nine steals. Yelich has 5.9 WAR with a .328/.423/.685 slash line and 36 bombs, 81 RBI, 79 runs and 23 steals. Ketel Marte is third in the National League with 4.7 WAR but has only an outside chance of passing Bellinger and Yelich in the MVP race.
In fantasy terms it is clearly Yelich who is winning the overall best player award. He is the top-ranked fantasy player based largely on his big advantage in stolen bases. Only three players have swiped more bags than Yelich this year (Adalberto Mondesi 31, Mallex Smith 29 and Ronald Acuna 25). Trout and Bellinger do not rank in the top 20 in steals. Yelich's five-category dominance sets him apart in fantasy leagues.
National League Quick Hits: Dustin May allowed four runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Padres in his major-league debut. The 21-year-old is an elite prospect and could get a few more starts while Ross Stripling (neck) is on the injured list... Eric Lauer struck out six batters and gave up two runs over six innings in a win over the Dodgers... Kirby Yates fired a scoreless ninth inning against the Dodgers on Friday to record his major league-leading 32nd save... Diamondbacks starter Alex Young fanned nine batters while allowing two runs in six innings and took a loss to the Nationals. He has a 2.60 ERA in 34 2/3 innings in six starts and one relief appearance... Joe Ross fired 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a win over the Diamondbacks. He improved his ERA to 8.10 with the sterling effort... Juan Soto homered in his third consecutive game and fourth in his last five... Roman Quinn went 3-for-6 with a homer and two stolen bases against the White Sox. He also pitched the final two stanzas of the 15-inning game... Jason Vargas made his first start with the Phillies and allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings against the White Sox... Scott Oberg earned a save against the Giants on Friday and has taken over the Rockies' closer role from Wade Davis... Trevor Story went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a walk in the Rockies’ win over the Giants... Ryan McMahon went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a pair of runs scored to lead the Rockies to a 5-4 win over the Giants... Kevin Gausman allowed five runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Reds... Alex Wood allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-2 win over the Braves... Joey Votto went 2-for-3 with a homer, a walk, three RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base against the Braves... Steven Matz was tagged for five runs over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Pirates. He is 6-7 with a 4.60 ERA on the season. Starling Marte went 2-for-5 with a key three-run homer and two runs scored in an 8-4 win over the Mets... Jose Quintana limited the Brewers to two runs over six innings of work in the Cubs' 6-2 victory... Javier Baez filled the stat sheet Friday, going 3-for-5 with a home run, three RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base versus the Brewers... Dodgers placed LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to August 1, with neck soreness.
American League Quick Hits: Jose Abreu crushed a two-run homer and delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the 15th inning, propelling the White Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Phillies... Glenn Sparkman was tagged for six runs over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Twins... Martin Perez gave up five runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Royals... Whit Merrifield went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and a run scored in the Royals’ loss to the Twins... Nelson Cruz went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and five RBI to power the Twins to an 11-9 win over the Royals... Wade Miley allowed two runs on three hits over six innings in a win over the Mariners... Yusei Kikuchi was rocked for six runs over four innings in a loss to the Astros... Carlos Correa went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer and a walk in the Astros’ win over the Mariners... George Springer went 4-for-5 with a run scored in the Astros’ blowout win over the Mariners... Yordan Alvarez went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, a walk and a pair of runs scored to power the Astros to a 10-2 blowout win over the Mariners... Lance Lynn delivered another dominant performance in Friday's victory over the Tigers, racking up 10 strikeouts over seven innings of one-run baseball. He is now 14-6 with a 3.71 ERA on the season... Mike Clevinger limited the Angels to a single run over 6 1/3 innings as part of a 7-3 win... Yasiel Puig picked up his first two RBI with the Indians while going 2-for-4 with a run scored against the Angels... Gleyber Torres launched a grand slam to lead the Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox... James Paxton yielded two runs over six innings and earned a win against the Red Sox... Freddy Galvis went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI, leading the Blue Jays to a 5-2 victory over the Orioles... Eduardo Rodriguez surrendered four runs on five hits and six walks over 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Yankees.