Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Strikeouts are at an all-time high and batting averages are dwindling in Major League Baseball, but, believe it or not, there are still hitters who put the ball in play hard and often.
There are eight hitters who have churned out line drives at a 26 percent rate or higher while striking out in less than 18 percent of their at-bats this season.
On average, major-league hitters have batted .253 this season with a 20.7 percent line-drive rate and a 19.8 percent strikeout rate.
If fantasy owners are looking to target high-average hitters who will maintain their pace over the final three months, these are some of the surest bets in the game (statistics through June 26):
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels - Kendrick has the majors' highest line- drive rate at 29.6 percent and has struck out in 16.9 percent of his plate appearances. He's hitting .321 this season with a .367 BABIP.
James Loney, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays - Loney's strikeout rate is 12 percent, which is in line with his career rate, and he has hit line drives at a rate of 28.4 percent, third-best in baseball. The first baseman is hitting .309 with a .327 BABIP.
Jed Lowrie, SS, Oakland Athletics - Lowrie's strikeout rate, which was 16.5 percent in April, has decreased in each of the last two months and is 8.7 percent in June. On the year, he's striking out in 12.6 percent of his plate appearances. He also has a career-high 27.4 percent line-drive rate, and has put up a LD rate higher than 24.7 percent in all three months this season.
Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals - Carpenter, who is batting .316, has lowered his strikeout rate from 18.5 percent to 13.3 percent since 2012, and has put up a career-high 27.2 percent line-drive rate. Carpenter also has a 10.1 percent walk rate, which obviously doesn't hurt.
Andy Dirks, OF, Detroit Tigers - I listed Dirks as one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball on May 28, and that hasn't changed. He's had slightly better luck in June, posting a .309 BABIP for the month, but that should be much higher when he also has a 28.3 percent line-drive rate during the month. For the season, Dirks has a 16.1 percent strikeout rate and a 26.9 percent line-drive rate, but is only batting .254 with a .284 BABIP. Look for him to hit over .300 in the remaining three months of the season.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates - Walker is another hitter who has had some poor luck on his batted balls this year. He's only batting .255 despite putting up a 26.6 percent line-drive rate. The second baseman has struck out in 17.6 percent of his plate appearances, which is a tad high, but at least he has kept it under 18 percent in all three months this season.
Allen Craig, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals - Craig's strikeout rate has fluctuated in the first three months of the season, but he still has it at 16.7 percent, slightly lower than last season when he batted .307. The first baseman has a career-high 26.2 percent line-drive rate, a .364 BABIP and a .320 average.
Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox - Konerko, who I also included on the list of unluckiest hitters in baseball at the end of May, has confounded fantasy owners this season. He has a career-high 27.8 percent line-drive rate, but his BABIP is just .277 and his average .253. Part of the problem has been his power decline -- he has posted an 8.1 percent HR/FB with a 41.1 percent fly ball rate and only has a 5.8 percent extra-base hit rate; that means many of his fly balls are ending up as outs. But with a 15.2 percent strikeout rate and that high of a line-drive rate, Konerko deserves much better than a .277 BABIP and a .253 average. In June, the veteran has a 30 percent line-drive rate, a 15 percent strikeout rate, a 10 percent HR/FB, a .310 BABIP and a .278 average overall, so he's getting there.
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