Bernie on the Scene: Give These NL Hitters Some Love

Bernie on the Scene: Give These NL Hitters Some Love

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Today I will share the second of my three articles on players I believe deserve more "buzz" -- more love, if you will. I believe these players are not getting enough attention in the world of baseball.

Today I look at several National League players. Next week, I'll do a combination of both American and National Leaguers.

Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Miami Marlins, age 31

Cooper was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the sixth round out of Auburn University in 2013.

Cooper was traded by the Brewers to the Yankees in 2017 for pitcher Tyler Webb. He was then traded again in 2017. He went to the Marlins, along with pitcher Caleb Smith for pitcher Michael King.

I think the Brewers would love to have Cooper back. The man can hit. He is having a career year with the Marlins. He has enough power to hit the gaps and he can also take the ball over the fence with a very measured swing.

It is possible Cooper can end the season hitting better than .300, and getting on base at a great pace. And quite frankly, he might be sitting on your waiver wire.

There are lots of quality first basemen available, but some leagues may also list him as an outfielder. That would be a big bonus. He is also serving as a DH for the Marlins.

The Marlins are improving. They have fantastic pitching, we know that. Two of their starters are injured. But frankly,

Today I will share the second of my three articles on players I believe deserve more "buzz" -- more love, if you will. I believe these players are not getting enough attention in the world of baseball.

Today I look at several National League players. Next week, I'll do a combination of both American and National Leaguers.

Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Miami Marlins, age 31

Cooper was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the sixth round out of Auburn University in 2013.

Cooper was traded by the Brewers to the Yankees in 2017 for pitcher Tyler Webb. He was then traded again in 2017. He went to the Marlins, along with pitcher Caleb Smith for pitcher Michael King.

I think the Brewers would love to have Cooper back. The man can hit. He is having a career year with the Marlins. He has enough power to hit the gaps and he can also take the ball over the fence with a very measured swing.

It is possible Cooper can end the season hitting better than .300, and getting on base at a great pace. And quite frankly, he might be sitting on your waiver wire.

There are lots of quality first basemen available, but some leagues may also list him as an outfielder. That would be a big bonus. He is also serving as a DH for the Marlins.

The Marlins are improving. They have fantastic pitching, we know that. Two of their starters are injured. But frankly, their hitters are often under the radar in fantasy.

Brandon Drury, 2B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds, age 29

Drury has been around for a long, long time. But he's still only 29. Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 13th round in 2010, Drury was traded to the Diamondbacks in 2018. He has since played for the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Mets and now the Reds.

Drury has played first, second, third and designated hitter for the Reds. He's having a very solid season in a home park that fits his swing well.

Drury makes contact. He will put the ball in play, and he may give your fantasy team availability at a couple of positions. He is showing a bit more power this year than in his normal season. Of course, much of that has to do with his home park. And that favorable home park gives him a bit of a boost as a fantasy target.

I'd like to see Drury walk more, but he usually hits in the two-hole in the lineup, which gives him a chance to move runners into scoring position.

Ian Happ, 2B/3B/Chicago Cubs, age 27

Happ is another player who seemingly has been around for years. Still only 27, he is one of the bright spots of the Cubs.

Happ was a first-round draft choice of the Cubs out of University of Cincinnati in 2015 and has always played for them. We have to remember that Happ hit 25 home runs last season, his best home run output ever. Still, going in to fantasy drafts, Happ was not on the minds of fantasy baseball managers.

This year, I think Happ has a chance to help our fantasy teams. His batting average is improving over last season. Home runs may be down a bit, but on-base percentage is in our favor.

Happ is fairly good at making contact, but I've seen him leave men on base with an untimely strikeout. There are times I think he hunts home runs far too often.

Happ has some speed. He can stretch a single to a double and maybe steal a couple bases. But beware, the Cubs really don't offer much in the way of offense. In fact, they don't pitch well either. However, Happ does stand out as a good option off the waiver wire in many leagues.

Jeff McNeil, 2B/OF/3B, New York Mets, Age 30

The Mets drafted McNeil in the 12th round in 2013 out of Cal State Long Beach. The interesting part about McNeil is that he has long been rumored to be traded by the Mets. I think perhaps his trade value has never been higher. The Mets might try to take advantage of his hot 2022 start and trade him in August.

McNeil won't deliver home runs. He'll offer your team a solid hit tool, but most will be singles. He'll get on base, but he'll not show much speed to steal bases, or even take an extra base. McNeil is a grinder, and he'll likely grind for your fantasy team.

One of the best aspects of having McNeil on your fantasy roster is his eligibility at second, third and left field. That will be helpful every time you set your lineup. An excellent contact hitter, McNeil can be counted upon to put the ball in play and not strike out. As a left-handed hitter, he is capable of using the entire field.

Jurickson Profar, OF OF/2B/SS, San Diego Padres, age 29

Switch-hitting Profar is finally delivering more of the type of performance at the plate that scouts have been waiting to see. When Profar signed with the Rangers out of Curacao he was touted to be a consequential baseball player. He was a tremendous athlete with excellent instincts and agility.

In his 2014 season, Profar had a severe shoulder injury that ultimately required surgery. As I have stated on these pages many times, shoulders are very, very difficult to fix. Profar never regained his ability to throw with the same velocity or accuracy he had prior to his surgery. Once an outstanding middle-infielder, he was moved to the outfield to take some of the strain off his throwing mechanics.

Now playing left field and leading off in a good Padres lineup, Profar is offering fantasy managers a solid on-base percentage and a respectable batting average, especially in this seemingly "deader" ball era.

Profar sprays the ball around the field. He may deliver 15-20 home runs, but he is basically a guy that will hit singles and wait to be driven home by bigger bats in the lineup.

Christian Walker,1B, Arizona Diamondbacks, age 31

Walker was a fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2009. He was claimed by the Braves in 2017 and then by the Reds in the same year. Waived again that year, the Diamondbacks finally gave him a home. He has been with Arizona since.

Walker is now hitting in the middle of the batting order for Arizona. He has been on a home run tear and has delivered some big blows. That's the only reason to roster Walker. He has found a comfort level at the plate, and he is hitting the long ball.

Walker won't deliver a batting average or on-base percentage that will help. But he may finish the season with 25 to 30 home runs, which isn't bad.

Walker is really slow, so don't look for him to stretch a single to a double or steal bases. That causes me to repeat that Walker should be rostered for one reason only: He is now hitting home runs on a more regular basis. He hit 29 in 2019, but has been struggling in that department since. So—this year is different.

HEADING HOME:

The Immaculate Inning: Striking out three hitters on nine pitches. It really is hard to do. Think about it. Most hitters will foul off a pitch when they have two strikes. So, to throw only nine pitches and strike out three guys, it means no foul balls. Tough to do.

Astros starter Luis Garcia struck out Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran and Brad Miller on nine pitches. Then, reliever Phil Maton did the same thing. He struck out three hitters on nine pitches.

Having an Immaculate Inning is rare. Tough to do. Having two in a game? Hats off to them.

So this past week , Miles Mikolas went into the bottom of the ninth pitching a no-hitter against the Pirates. He got to two outs in the ninth when mid-game replacement Cal Mitchell drove a ball over the head of Gold Glove caliber center fielder Harrison Bader. No-hitter over. Cal Mitchell? Now there's the guy I would think of first when I think of the guy who will break up a no-no.

Then the next day, Dodgers lefty Tyler Anderson once again took a no-hitter to the bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Ohtani at the plate. Boom. He tripled down the right field line. No-hitter gone again.

Baseball is a game of inches.

Pitcher Zac Gallen to Miami for middle-infielder Jazz Chisholm. Both young. Both exciting in their roles. The Diamondbacks needed pitching. The Marlins needed everything. The trade was made July 31, 2019.

I was stunned the Diamondbacks again traded a potential All Star shortstop. They did it when they shipped Dansby Swanson to the Braves.

Would you make that deal? Gallen is really good. Chisholm is really good. Both teams have reaped benefits from that trade. But…

Jesse Winker is having a terrible year. He isn't hitting a lick with the Mariners. He is among the many players under-performing for a franchise that had high hopes. But…the Mariners rewarded him for his futility by giving him a two-year, guaranteed $14.5M contract extension. One year wouldn't have been enough? Two years? Seriously Jerry Dipoto? Guaranteed?

Here's an idea. Why not renew him (if you must) for one year? Then, if he performs, reward him after his one year deal is up.

Flops: Jo Adell of the Angels and Jarred Kelenic of the Mariners. Wow. They both hit the bottom of the dumpster with a very loud thud.

The Philadelphia Phillies are proof positive of how important defense is in baseball. They are atrocious. And it will help destroy them. That, and the fact that once again, general manager Dave Dombrowski has failed to fix another big league bullpen. He's neglected the pen everywhere he's been. Most notably with the Tigers. But he did it with the Red Sox as well.

I think the Dodgers may sell the farm to get the Reds starter, Luis Castillo. They need him. So do other contenders, but the Dodgers have the goods to make the Reds happy.

Speaking of the Reds, remember when analysts like me thought Nick Senzel would be a big time power hitter in the band box in Cincinnati? Well, I was wrong. While I clearly like my track record in projecting players, I missed on Sinzel. He has hit a total of 16 home runs in 766 plate appearances. That's 16, one-six. I would have never, ever guessed that would happen.

Buzz Worthy:

Yep. Cubs Christopher Morel is getting the buzz. Well deserved. Good player.

And remember C Patrick Bailey? He was the Giants No. 2 pick in 2020. He's now 23 and he's playing at…Class-A Advanced. I'm surprised at that, because Bailey was a college draft pick. I thought he'd be further along by now.

You have to watch Twins versatile Luis Arraez play to appreciate him. The man is a hitting machine. And he plays solid defense. He can hit any type pitch he's thrown.

I got the treat of watching both Arraez and Byron Buxton against the Dbacks. Two terrific, very athletic players. Buxton's athletic ability is totally off the charts. But the Twins are being very careful with him. He isn't playing every game. And he isn't always in center field when he does play. They use him as a designated hitter. But the guy is simply amazing.

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at forbes.com

Have a good week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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