If you didn’t notice Scott Kingery’s two homers and three hits Monday, we understand. The Diamondbacks and Phillies combined for 13 homers, a new MLB record. Even by 2019 standards, this was a softball game. Tap the keg in right field, first team to double-digits wins.
But Kingery’s useful season is still flying under the Yahoo radar. He’s only rostered in 29 percent of leagues as we go to press, a number that should be upgraded. The versatile 25-year-old hit all red lights last year, but everything’s coming up Kingery now.
Kingery’s slash line is enough of a selling point — .324/.360/.610. He’s up to six homers in 105 at-bats, and he qualifies at three positions (short, third, outfield). And with injuries to Andrew McCutchen and Adam Haseley, Kingery has become an everyday player. He’s started 19 of the last 21 games.
Perhaps Kingery is outkicking the coverage slightly — his batted-ball profile suggests a .284 average and a .493 slugging percentage. But those numbers still play in any fantasy context. Maybe the dip in walks will scare some fantasy players, but he’s also bumped his hard-hit rate by 10 percent.
When Kingery signed a team-friendly extension before the 2018 season, there was some public handwringing. Did a potential young star price himself too cheaply? But when Kingery suffered through a .226/.267/.338 nightmare season, those whispers were put on hold. No one was saying he was the new Jonathan Singleton, but perhaps Kingery wasn’t ready for prime time. He entered 2019 as a bench player.
But when you can cover several defensive positions, you have multiple ways into the lineup. The occasional Maikel Franco slump has been good for Kingery’s playing time, and lately it’s been the outfield injuries opening a path. And when you’re carrying an OPS+ of 146 (100 is league average), your team is going to find a spot for you.
Kingery wasn’t a generational prospect entering 2018, but he was inside the Top 40 on the three main clipboards. That qualifies as a pedigree. Perhaps the light has gone on and there’s no looking back. Development isn’t always linear, and every prospect advances at his own rate.
Get to work on that ownership tag. And if you don’t have room for Kingery, trade him to me.
Howie Kendrick’s career year
Howie Kendrick has always been a proven hitter, a professional hitter. He made an All-Star team eight years back, and a .292 average over 14 years is something to be proud of. But when a player starts assembling a career year in an age-35 season, it’s hard to judge what’s real and what isn’t.
Maybe you’re having the same issues, because Kendrick is barely rostered in over 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, despite a robust .333/.376/.604 slash. He’s hit 11 homers in just 159 at-bats. Like our buddy Kingery, Kendrick is a versatile dream — he qualifies at first, second, third, and the outfield.
Kendrick had a solid line last year (.805 OPS), but he’s doing most things better in 2019. Walks are up, strikeouts down — that’s always a nice place to start. His soft-hit rate is down significantly. No one expects him to keep a HR/FB clip of 24.4 percent, but he has spiked his fly-ball rate. He’s also pulling the ball more often, and while that isn’t a universal good thing, it can be a boost for individual cases. Perhaps it speaks to how a veteran hitter knows how to zero in on a zone and punish mistakes.
Kendrick has an extensive injury history and he turns 36 in about a month. The Nationals have a clogged roster now that Brian Dozier is hitting again and Matt Adams has returned. Perhaps Kendrick is destined to be a speciality DFS play and merely a roster option for the deeper leagues.
But I can endorse a short-term rental here. Kendrick has been an above-average hitter (working off OPS+) in 10 of his last 11 seasons. He’s a .309/.351/.524 man since joining the Nationals in 2017. Let’s focus on the fun time, understanding it might not be a long time.
The last days of Gausman
What are the Braves waiting for with Kevin Gausman? The struggling righty didn’t make it out of the third inning Monday (5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), pushing his ERA to 6.21 and his WHIP to 1.51. You have my invitation to cut Gausman as soon as possible, even without a corresponding add.
Dallas Keuchel figures to join the Atlanta rotation in about two weeks, and he dominated in a Single-A start Monday. But perhaps Sean Newcomb is ready for a second look, too. Newcomb struck out six Pirates in a brilliant 4.1 inning relief stint Monday, pushing his ERA down to 2.59. The WHIP is still a bloated 1.34, but at least he’s cut his walk rate this year.
To be fair, starting and relieving are two completely different assignments. Newcomb’s step forward in relief could be tied to less lineup exposure, and the ability to go all out from the opening pitch. Maybe the Braves should leave Newcomb alone, now that he’s taken to a role. Maybe I’m projecting my own Gausman angst into this analysis.
Just know Atlanta has a couple of left-handers who are percolating, close to fantasy value. And get Gausman off your roster as soon as you can. The buzz from last year’s strong finish can hardly be heard now.