Fantasy Baseball Today

Early-season contact hitters: Extreme Edition

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

Andrelton Simmons is showing why he is a top 10 Fantasy shortstop with the upside of a top five player at the position.

As Scott White noted during our Leaderboards segment of Fantasy Baseball Today, Simmons has yet to record a strikeout this season, and he's the last qualifying player with that distinction. Great contact skills are nothing new for Simmons. After all, he struck out just 55 times in 658 plate appearances a year ago. Simmons is getting more hits on balls in play this year, not surprising given his .249 BABIP from 2013. He should be able to maintain or improve on his current .308 BABIP, which will help to keep his batting average high, even as he starts to accumulate a few strikeouts.

Simmons isn't the only hitter putting up an extremely low strikeout rate. Four other qualifying players -- Dioner Navarro, Victor Martinez, Charlie Blackmon and Kurt Suzuki -- all have strikeout per plate appearance rates of 5 percent or lower. We already know we can rely on Martinez for a high batting average, and Suzuki doesn't offer enough production otherwise to be mixed-league relevant, but Navarro and Blackmon are worth a second look.

Navarro has always been a pretty decent contact hitter, but he posted his lowest strikeout rate in four years last season. He may not repeat the .300 batting average he had with the Cubs, but he could be in the neighborhood. Even without much power so far, Navarro ranks eighth among catchers in standard Head-to-Head formats. With some homers and an improvement over his current .234 batting average likely to come, Navarro should be someone to keep on the radar, even in one-catcher leagues.

Blackmon doesn't walk much and he may not hit for much power going forward, but he may be translating his high contact rates from the minors to the majors. He just might be able to hit .300, and though it could be an empty .300, there could be enough steals to go along with it to make him a viable option in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues.

We have to be careful not to make too much of stats accumulated over a dozen or so games, but with players like Simmons, Navarro and Blackmon, who have two strikeouts or fewer while many players already have at least 10, the early numbers can be taken as a legitimately positive sign.

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