As we march diligently toward the halfway point of the season, we are getting closer and closer to knowing who players are for the season. But we are also still getting surprised every day. Devin Smeltzer is a top-five pitcher over the last two weeks? Alfonso Rivas would have won fantasy managers a matchup last week? What do we do with this information? Fantasy baseball is a game that forces us to act now. Who is rising and falling after four weeks of games? Who has earned our waiver love and do we dump?
This piece will look at batters and pitchers who have overperformed or underperformed in the month of June and deserve our attention in fantasy baseball.
For as valuable as players like Aaron Judge, Dansby Swanson, Kyle Tucker, and Paul Goldschmidt have been over the last month, Adolis Garcia outpaces them all in five-category rotisserie leagues. His .321 average, eight home runs, 20 RBI, and seven steals ranks him third among all players in that format over the last month. He is currently on an 11-game hitting streak and has been the one consistent bright spot in a lackluster Texas Rangers offense.
In the month of June, Garcia’s 26.9% line drive rate ranks 16th among all major leaguers, and he is doing it by swinging at pitches in the zone 80% of the time (19th among all hitters this month). Garcia is a player who has made significant gains each time he is given a major league shot, and while he may be a drain in on-base leagues (.297 OBP), the power looks legit this year, and he remains a real threat to go 30-30 this season.
Until June 15th, Amed Rosario was part of the zero home run club, that illustrious group that includes Nicky Lopez, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, and Myles Straw. It was a disappointing start to a breakout season in 2021 when Rosario hit 11 homers, stole 13 bases, and slashed .282/.321/.409. But since June 15th, all Rosario has done is hit another bomb, steal three bases, score eight runs, and bat .375.
After the predictable decline of Steven Kwan and his Ty Cobbish start to the season, Rosario is firmly planted back in the two spot for Cleveland and is certainly taking advantage. He is hitting .309 in that position and slugging .431.
If you’ve been streaming Zach Plesac over the last two weeks hoping to help your win column, well, I’m sorry he has let you down. But man, he certainly deserved them. Since getting blown up for seven earned runs against the Astros on May 24th, Plesac has delivered six straight quality starts, including allowing more than two runs just once. But he has just one win (on June 5th) to show for it. Among those six starts, he has faced some cupcakes but also shut down the Dodgers and Twins twice.
If you wander over to Plesac’s Statcast rates and rankings, you are going to see a lot of blue balls staring you in the face. That’s because Plesac doesn’t acquire his success through a ton of strikeouts or overpowering stuff. What he does do well is limit hard contact and limit fly balls. He is certainly on a heater right now, but you may want to wait until after his next start against the Yankees when the acquisition cost could be much lower.
Beyond the injuries to rotational mainstays like Bryce Harper and Zach Eflin, the Phillies are also dealing with some tremendously bad performances from some key guys in their lineup this month. Castellanos, especially, has been leading the pack in pathetic play. He is the anti-Kyle Schwarber this month. Over the last two weeks, Castellanos is hitting .208 with nary a home run and just six RBI. Castellanos’ slash line of .248/.302/.381 was not exactly what the Phillies signed up for when they forked over $100 million to him in the offseason. Bringing a safe right-handed power bat into the park with the 10th best home run rate for right handed hitters seemed like a match made in heaven. Instead, it’s more fractured than the Liberty Bell and there is no end in sight.
The main culprit? Castellanos can’t get the ball off the ground. His 42.3% ground ball rate is his highest since his rookie season of 2013, as is his soft contact percentage this season (14.9%). He is also swinging at pitches outside the zone at a rate six percentage points higher than his career number. The Phillies have moved Castellanos up to third in the order over the last two games, trying to simultaneously get him going and replace the offense Bryce Harper leaves behind. So far, however, it’s been an 0-for-8 experiment that shows us no signs of life.
For the first time all season, Alex Bregman batted somewhere other than third in the Houston Astros lineup on Tuesday against the New York Mets. That’s significant because it happened again on Wednesday, and marks a minor demotion for one of the few hitters in Houston’s regular lineup that has been really struggling. Bregman’s .253 average, .432 slugging percentage, three home runs, and 10 RBI for the month of June don’t look completely awful on the surface, but you have to consider Bregman has four multi-hit games in his last eight just to salvage that batting line. In fact, his season-long batting average bottomed out at .214 on June 15th and Bregman has been struggling to bring it up ever since.
If you’re in an OBP league, you certainly don’t care as much because Bregman is walking all the time. His 15% walk rate in June is a season high. But if he sticks in the fourth spot behind Yordan Alvarez, that’s much less protection in the lineup. This may be a moot point if Alvarez suffered a concussion or other injury after his collision with Jeremy Pena on Wednesday, but Bregman needs to start hitting no matter where the Astros list him in the lineup. Bregman has the highest flyball rate of his career this season, plus he has a 19% line drive rate. The batted ball profile is there, so he just needs some luck to turn things around considering the abnormally low .250 BABIP on the year.
The month of June has also not been kind to Pablo Lopez, who looked like one of the breakout pitchers of the year through April and May. Over the course of the last month, Lopez’s ERA has ballooned from 1.83 to 2.98. The year-to-date ERA is still a very pretty balloon, one you would have no problem buying for your kids, but the air has really come out over the last five starts. He has only passed five innings in two of those and allowed four or more earned runs in all but two as well. It stands in stark contrast to the first two months when Lopez allowed more than three runs one time. Lopez has not struck out more than six batters all month when he had done that four times the first two months of the season.
The issue for Lopez this month has been the amount of hard contact he has allowed. With a June hard hit rate of 39.3%, it’s more than double what he allowed in April (17.2%). That has led to an unseemly and unwanted 1.57 home runs per nine innings this month. Lopez still has an elite park to call home and brings a strong 46% ground ball rate to each of his starts. But he will need to start limiting the barrels to get back to the elite levels he created the first two months of the season.