Adam Jones

Major League Baseball kicked off its Fourth of July celebration in style this year with the Fort Bragg game between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves, the first regular-season pro sports game played on a military base. A full slate of games during Monday’s holiday made for a perfect celebration for baseball fans everywhere.

In the spirit of Independence Day, Week 13 of Three Up, Three Down highlights six hitters who have enjoyed the freedom to swing away all season, though with very different results. Three free-swingers have enjoyed recent hot streaks, while a trio of other undisciplined batters haven’t seen their aggressiveness pay off as of late.

THREE UP

OF Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Stats 6/27 – 7/3: 6-for-27, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 2 BB, 5 KPercent owned: 97 percent

Though Jones hit just .222 last week, he hit safely in five out of six games, which capped an incredibly hot 30-game stretch in which the five-time All-Star slashed .300/.338/.592 with 11 home runs.

Jones’ hot month of June did not come as a result of increased plate discipline, however. He’s third in the league in chasing pitches outside the strike zone, and he’s ranked second in that category over the past 30 days, so he hasn’t shown a discernible change in approach. Jones’ hard-hit rate is his highest since 2013, which has helped him rebound from his disastrous first two months in which he slashed .234/.292/.360 with just 12 extra base hits.

Perhaps this is simply a case of an All-Star-caliber player returning to form after a rough stretch. Jones smacked 11 dingers in the Orioles’ record-setting June in which they slugged 56 home runs, and the club maintains its lead in the AL East. Fantasy owners who endured Jones’ sluggish start are now being rewarded, and they should ride his hot streak all the way to the season’s end.

OF Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds

Stats 6/27 – 7/3: 8-for-29, 5 XBH, 7 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 KPercent owned: 84 percent

It’s been a year to forget for the rebuilding Reds, but Duvall’s assault on National League pitching has been something to behold. The 27-year-old who, was acquired in the Mike Leake trade, ranks 10th in the league in strikeout percentage, though it hasn’t prevented him from being an incredibly productive hitter.

Duvall is one of seven players with a strikeout rate over 25 percent and a walk rate under 8 percent, along with other fantasy assets like Mark Trumbo and Melvin Upton Jr. His isolated power rating of .316 is by far the highest among that group.

Duvall flashed power in the minors, swatting 130 homers in 625 career games, so this type of outburst hasn’t come out of nowhere. His sub-optimal on-base percentage make him seem less valuable than he actually is, but he’s more than made up for his frequent out-making with his power. Duvall almost certainly won’t keep up this pace, but his impressive rate of hard-hit contact suggests he’ll remain a fantasy asset all season long.

1B C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels

Stats 6/27 – 7/3: 11-for-23, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 6 R, 0 BB, 2 KPercent owned: 11 percent

Cron earned his place in this week’s Three Up section simply for his weekend performance alone. The 26-year-old tied a franchise record with six hits on Saturday at Fenway Park, becoming just the fifth player ever with six hits, five RBI and five runs in one game. During the Angels’ 21-2 victory, his batting average jumped from .268 to .287 in less than five hours.

Though the 6-foot-4, 235-pound former first-round pick hasn’t yet morphed into a pure home-run hitter like the Angels might have hoped, he’s improved his value offensively this season by cutting down on his strikeouts. Despite swinging just as often as ever, he’s chasing pitches less frequently and making contact on pitches inside the strike zone more often. The home runs haven’t come in bunches just yet, but he’s making more hard contact than he has in the previous two seasons.

Entering Sunday, Cron had hit .343/.376/.618 in his last 30 games with six home runs, though he walked only four times during that span. Perhaps he’s finally unlocked his power potential, which would make his lack of on-base skills easier to tolerate. Cron is a viable fantasy option in AL-only leagues and, if you’re in a pinch, he’s worth taking a chance on in mixed leagues too. Even if he doesn’t turn into a prototypical masher, he can still be valuable as a hard-contact player who doesn’t strike out a ton.

THREE DOWN

SS Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

Stats 6/27 – 7/3: 4-for-21, 1 XBH, 5 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, 4 KPercent owned: 73 percent

Andrus has always been a player whose real-world value trumps his fantasy impact. As a slap-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop, his fantasy value is basically tied to how often he can get on base, steal a bag and score runs.

Though the Rangers boast the best record in the AL, Andrus hasn’t exactly moved the needle much for fantasy owners. Despite ranking near the bottom of the barrel in hard contact, he ranks 46th out of 167 qualified hitters in pitches per plate appearance. He’s on pace for 21 stolen bases, which would tie a career low.

Given all the shortstop talent scattered across the league, Andrus is nowhere near a starting-caliber option in mixed leagues, and his real-world value doesn’t match his salary. With no power to speak of and diminishing stolen base potential, it’s odd that he’s still widely owned. Owners would be wise to trade on Andrus’ name recognition and try to upgrade, since Andrus doesn’t appear to have much upside with limited stolen base potential and no power to speak of.

2B/3B/OF Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates

Stats 6/27 – 7/3: 5-for-22, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 KPercent owned: 74 percent

After making a name for himself as a valuable utility player back in 2014, Harrison appears to have fallen back down to Earth. The past two seasons have seen his walk rate and ISO rating plummet, though he continues to swing away, ranking fourth in the league in swing percentage.

Unsurprisingly, Harrison’s batting average on balls in play has seen a steady decline since 2014, as his line-drive rate has cratered. Since last season, he’s actually cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone and swung more often at strikes, but his results have only gotten worse.

Part of Harrison’s fantasy value has been his versatility, though at this point it doesn’t matter which position owners slot him in — there are still better options available. Harrison was a bench player until two years ago, and he’s looked every bit like one in the year-and-a-half since. It’s time fantasy owners start thinking of him as such and move on.

2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

Stats 6/27 – 7/3: 7-for-31, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 KPercent owned: 94 percent

While the Indians have gone on a tear in recent weeks, their star second baseman has struggled at the plate. Since the start of Cleveland’s 14-game win streak on June 17, Kipnis has posted a .318 on-base percentage with 14 strikeouts and just four walks. Kipnis’ current K-rate is the highest it’s been since 2013, and his walk rate is his lowest since 2011.

Despite the uptick in strikeouts, Kipnis has seen a spike in power. His .175 ISO is his best mark since his rookie campaign, which consisted of only 150 plate appearances. Kipnis is making hard contact more often than he ever has before, and he’s on pace to set a career high in home runs. Given all of that, fantasy owners shouldn’t be too concerned with the increase in strikeouts — it seems to have brought with it a substantial upside.