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Ty France earned a turn in the fantasy spotlight when he posted a memorable stat line on Saturday night that included going 5-for-6 with a homer and five RBIs. And he followed up that effort with a homer and a three-hit game on Sunday.
Those eye-popping numbers give me a great reason to highlight someone who was underappreciated during draft season.
As a first baseman who is far from a three-true-outcomes player, France is a bit of a unicorn in this era. The 27-year-old consistency logs low strikeout rates, including a 10.8 percent mark this season. He also produces plenty of line drives, having tallied a 24.4 percent career mark that includes a rate of 33.9 percent this year. The combination of regularly putting the ball in play with keeping it on a hit-generating trajectory makes France one of the few players who can significantly help a fantasy squad’s batting average. In fact, if we throw out some struggles he had as a rookie with the Padres in 2019, France has batted .300 since the outset of the 2020 season.
France’s contributions go beyond the batting average category, however. He has hit second in every plate appearance this season, which has him on pace to top his career-best 85 runs scored from a year ago. And his 19 RBIs rank second in the Majors. France isn’t going to make a huge impact in the homers category, but he managed to slug 18 a year ago and is on pace to do better than that this season.
Ty France lets us know batting average still matters
Fantasy managers consistently chase power hitters who put up notable homer and RBIs totals. But having a player such as France provides a great batting average foundation that allows managers to make aggressive moves at other positions without having to worry about sinking to the bottom of their league in the batting average category. Over many years of playing this game, I have noticed that power or speed are the skill sets that usually attract us to free agents on the waiver wire. We rarely find a batting average gem on waivers, which makes it necessary to have a few of those players glued to our permanent lineups. France is one of those guys, and his triple-position eligibility (1B/2B/3B) makes him even more valuable.
This is obviously the wrong time to try to trade for France, as his big weekend will make him overvalued for a few days. But if you wait a week and hope that his bat goes relatively quiet, you might be able to pick him up for a reasonable cost.
In the meantime, there are some players who have similar skill sets but are off to slower starts and can be added for more reasonable returns.
Trade For: Gavin Lux (2B/SS, LAD)
The Lux breakout season is happening but has so far been hidden by a .267 BABIP. The 24-year-old is owning the strike zone (13.3 percent strikeout rate, 17.8 percent walk rate) and has logged a .347 xBA. Eventually moving to a more prominent spot in a loaded Dodgers lineup would be the icing on the cake.
Add: Nico Hoerner (2B/SS CHC)
Available in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Hoerner profiles as someone who should be a consistent .300 hitter. He can also swipe 15 bases this season, and like Lux, the youngster would benefit from hitting higher in the order.
Add: J.P. Crawford (SS, SEA)
Crawford is hitting everything in sight, having struck out just 5.9 percent of the time thus far. He is also regularly hitting near the heart of Seattle’s lineup, which could lead to career highs in every counting stat category. I’m not sure that Crawford will be a full-season solution, but he is widely available and can help right now.