Should we? Shouldn't we? I just don't know anymore.
I have a pretty good idea who Joc Pederson is. We all should. We've seen him go on home run binges occasionally, usually finishing with 20-25, but never over his nine-year career has he hit better than .249 in a season. He's also a career .205 hitter against left-handed pitchers, making him best suited for a platoon role. It's one he figures to fill for a team like the Giants, especially.
But he was arguably the best hitter in baseball for the first three weeks of this season, batting .353 (18 for 51) with six homers in 16 games. Who cares, right? Small sample, and he went on to hit .089 (4 for 45) over his next 17 games, bringing his numbers down to size. That's baseball, Suzyn.
Nonetheless, it happened, and now it's happening again. Pederson homered three times Tuesday against the Mets, driving in eight runs.
"It was probably the best offensive performance that I've ever been around," manager Gabe Kapler said.
So what? Hot, cold, hot ... what comes next? Cold, presumably. Maybe. Probably. But I'll note that Pederson's first cold stretch was immediately preceded by a groin injury, which cost him time and potentially threw off his rhythm. I'll also note that the three-homer game came on the same day he had an intense conversation with Barry Bonds about hitting, one that lasted right up to the point when Pederson was supposed to take the field.
"Just getting knowledge from such a good hitter and the way he thinks about baseball and hitting, it just helped connect some dots to free my mind up at the plate," Pederson said. "I was able to put some good swings on pitches today."
I'll grant you there isn't a lot of meat on those bones, but the timing is certainly curious. And, worth noting, Pederson followed up the three-homer game with another home run Wednesday ... off a lefty. It was his first start against one. Granted, that lefty was one almost no one has heard of (Thomas Szapucki), but still. Maybe Kapler is loosening the restrictions.
How usable can he be in Fantasy Baseball if he never -- er, almost never -- plays against left-handed pitchers? Well, if he's going to continue to produce like he has so far, usable enough. Statcast actually thinks he deserves better than he's gotten, assigning him a .335 xBA and .716 xSLG. Plus, this Giants regime has a gift for maximizing the talents of veteran players, having done so with numerous pitchers and hitters over the past couple years. In that context, maybe I don't know who Pederson is after all.
But probably I do. I think so, yeah. Wait, he's only 52 percent rostered in CBS Sports leagues? Perhaps I can squeeze another outfielder on my roster just to see. It's not the highest priority in weekly leagues, but in leagues where you can change your lineup daily, avoiding left-handers as needed, it's probably a must.
HOU Houston • #53 • Age: 25
With Pederson sucking all the oxygen out of the room, Cristian Javier won't get his due, but he's actually the player I'm most hyped about today. This outing follows a six-inning, nine-strikeout effort against the Rangers last time out and only bolsters my belief that he should have been starting all along. He now has a 2.43 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 11.7 K/9 this year and a 3.43 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 in 24 career starts. Wednesday's start was also his second straight with double-digit swinging strikes on his fastball alone, which is rare for any pitcher. Particularly if you lost Freddy Peralta, Javier makes for an interesting facsimile.
Mitch Garver DH
TEX Texas • #18 • Age: 31
In Wednesday's edition of Waiver Wire, I highlighted a couple of emerging catcher standouts for those who've been constantly cycling through bad options, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. But one catcher who you may have passed on too quickly, judging by his sagging rostership rate, is Mitch Garver, who, for all his health issues, has about an .870 OPS since the start of 2019. Recently back from a forearm strain, he seems to be regaining his form as the Rangers' primary DH, homering for the third straight game Tuesday. He was miserable to begin last year, too, but went on to hit .292 with a .991 OPS from April 28 forward.
Jorge Soler LF
MIA Miami • #12 • Age: 30
Speaking of players who took a while to get in the swing of things last year, Jorge Soler was generating premium exit velocities from the get-go, but they weren't reflected in his numbers until his final 59 games, during which he hit .277 with 18 homers and a .936 OPS. That's a 49-homer pace for a guy with a 48-homer season already on his resume. It's going better so far this year. Soler just homered for the sixth time in his past 13 games and has been making the same high-quality contact from the get-go. He's been in and out of the lineup some with back stiffness, possibly obscuring the surge, but he offers the sort of power everyone could use more of.
Aaron Ashby SP
MIL Milwaukee • #26 • Age: 24
I mentioned Cristian Javier as a possible replacement for Freddy Peralta. Well, Aaron Ashby is who's actually replacing him for the Brewers, taking his first turn in that role Wednesday. The results weren't as good as Javier's, but the upside is similar, perhaps even a little higher given that, in addition to missing bats, Ashby is a ground-ball specialist -- emphasis on the "special." We're talking a best-in-baseball sort of rate, or close to it. What Ashby did confirm in this start is that his velocity is back on track after lagging early in the year. Now if he could cut down on the walks ...
ATL Atlanta • #24 • Age: 24
William Contreras got the cover treatment in Wednesday's edition of Waiver Wire, so if you'd like to hear more, be sure to check that one out. I'm doubling down here because, well, he homered again Wednesday and also drew two walks. It was his third straight start, this time at catcher but previously in left field and at DH, which only supports the idea that the Braves have come to think of him as an instrumental part of the lineup. That's a good place for a catcher-eligible player to be.
KC Kansas City • #9 • Age: 24
The 24-year-old already seemed like he was trending toward a promotion before having a game for the ages Wednesday. He went 5 for 7 with two doubles and two home runs, including a grand slam, giving him a .516 (16 for 31) batting average, four homers and seven doubles over his past seven games. The Royals are no doubt nearing a breaking point on Carlos Santana, who has .660 OPS since the start of 2020. Nick Pratto was presumed to be next in line, but Pasquantino has clearly surpassed him at this point. He also hit .300 with a .957 in the minors last year and particularly stands out for his plate discipline.