As we march diligently toward the two-thirds point of the season, we are getting closer and closer to knowing who players actually are for the season. But, because it’s major league baseball, we are also still getting surprised every day. Cole Irvin is the best pitcher of the last two weeks? Michael Harris leads all of MLB in steals the last month? 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 July and deserve our attention in fantasy baseball.
Let’s start by looking at Harris and his incredible power-speed combination over the last month. In the past 30 days, Harris is slashing .237/.279/.462 (just meh) but has six bombs, eight steals, 14 runs, and 16 RBI. You don’t need me to tell you that is a crazy seasonal pace. Over a full season, that would be a 36/48/84/96 pace, which would solidify Harris as a first-round draft pick for 2023.
The average and on-base ability still need some work. If Harris had enough plate appearances to qualify, his 82.9% zone contact rate would rank 123rd among major league batters. But it’s clear that the power and speed are major-league ready right now. Batting in the ninth spot every day is a drag, but this is clearly a player on the rise over the last two months of the season.
Speaking of speed options over the last two months, Rojas is not going to sneak up on anyone anymore, but you may just be able to find him on your waiver wire and grab him for nothing. In Yahoo leagues, for example, Rojas is eligible at four positions, is just 62% rostered, and is a top-20 rotisserie asset over the last month.
In that time, Rojas is batting .346 with 14 runs, two homers, and six stolen bases. He now is the everyday leadoff hitter for the Diamondbacks and has even played in three of the last five games the D’Backs have faced a lefty, bucking a trend from earlier in the season. At age 28, this is a career year for Rojas, as he is slashing .283/.357/.422 and is on pace for 10 homers and 20 steals.
It’s no surprise to look at the Razzball player rater for pitchers the last month and see names like Justin Verlander, Shane McClanahan, and Sandy Alcantara. But when you see Merrill Kelly listed amongst those Cy Young candidates, it makes you sit up and pay attention. Somehow, someway Kelly has posted four wins over 34 innings with a 1.57 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts over the last month. His last assignment was a masterful performance where he completely shut down the Giants for eight innings.
Relying much more on his devastating changeup this year, Kelly’s swinging strike rate, called strike rate, and outside-zone swing rate are all career highs in 2022. Kelly is also another Diamondback who might just be available for a song. He is only 71% rostered in Yahoo leagues as of Thursday morning.
Set whatever time or statistical parameters you want for 2022, I guarantee you Nick Castellanos is going to be one of the players that pops up as the most disappointing relative to his expected outcomes and draft capital. If we look over the last month, Castellanos is a bottom-10 player in all of baseball in terms of OPS. His .547 total OPS in that span is in the Cesar Hernandez/Geraldo Perdomo territory, and there are no signs he is going to break out of his prolonged slump anytime soon.
After a career year in 2021 with a .309/.362/.576 line and 34 home runs, Castellanos is on pace to hit less than 15 bombs this year and has struggled to keep his slugging percentage up over .350 all year. Why the dropoff? He simply can’t lay off pitches outside the zone this year. His 35% swing rate on pitches outside the zone is eight percentage points higher than his career average, which has also led to a career-high swinging strike rate. Put it all together, and this has become a lost season for the Phillies’ new $100,000,000 man.
You don’t automatically get put on the fallers list when you rack up your first loss of the season in late July. That would just be cruel. But the wheels have started to fall off somewhat in the last few starts for Tony Gonsolin, smearing what was an absolutely elite start to the 2022 season.
The sum of Gonsolin’s numbers is still mesmerizing. He has an 11-1 record with a 2.26 ERA and over eight strikeouts per nine innings compared to 2.4 walks per nine. But he has now allowed 11 earned runs over his last three starts and given up four home runs. Many Gonsolin doubters pointed to the unrepeatably low .202 BABIP for Gonsolin as a clear indicator that regression was coming. It turns out those prognostications were correct. His BABIP has jumped up over .300 in three of his last five starts. This is still a strong fantasy option every time he takes the mound, but we should temper our expectations and not expect a 2.00 ERA with minuscule homerun rates the rest of the year.