As we enter the playoff season for many fantasy leagues, we are getting closer and closer to knowing who players actually are for the 2022 campaign. Time to regress is running short But, because it’s major league baseball, we are also still getting surprised every day. Yandy Diaz and Aaron Judge have the same OBP the last two weeks? George Kirby leads all American League pitchers in WAR the past 30 days? 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 last couple of weeks and deserve our attention in fantasy baseball.
Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
This past offseason, Bo Bichette was a no-doubt, don’t-look-back, sure-fire top-six pick in fantasy baseball drafts. Coming off a 29/25 season with a .298 average, the signs were there that the breakout would continue in spite of a marginally high .339 BABIP and 49% ground balls. Perhaps in hindsight, we should have all been a bit more concerned about those things, because basically, every stat has taken a step back for Bichette this season. That is, until the last few nights.
Bichette is on a heater to end all heaters in the month of September so far. He is slashing .593/.607/.1.259 (ah, that good ole 1.866 OPS) including five home runs in his last three games as well as 14 RBI. Almost 18% of Bichette’s 2022 RBI have come in the last five days as he tries to almost single-handedly keep the Blue Jays in the thick of the Wild Card race. How will this impact Bichette for 2023? Will we remember the good-not-great first five months or this unbelievable binge he is on? He has probably played his way out of top-12 draft pick consideration. But with a strong finish, he is right back in the second round conversation for me.
Jake McCarthy, OF. Arizona Diamondbacks
Looking at the best of the best rotisserie hitters from the last month, one name stands out amongst the Goldschmidts, Betts, Bregmans, and Machados of the list: Jake McCarthy. According to several rotisserie player raters, Jake McCarthy is the most valuable five-category player in the game, his .347 seasonal BABIP be damned.
In the past 30 days, he has put up a .337 average with four homers, 23 RBI, and 10 steals. The seasonal average (.288) and steals (15) are where McCarthy has really been assisting his fantasy managers through just 76 games this season. And having just turned 25 years old less than a month ago, he looks like a potential star in the making. The arrival of Corbin Carroll and improved health for Ketel Marte haven’t slowed down McCarthy one bit. All he has done in the last two weeks is slash .317/.364/.610 with three bombs and five steals.
Lance Lynn, SP, Chicago White Sox
Lance Lynn, who admittedly didn’t debut until June 13th this year, looks like a completely different pitcher in the second half compared to the first. Coming off a knee injury in late preseason, it clearly took Lynn a nice long while to round into form this year, but once he found it, he has taken his pitching to another level.
Through 36 first-half innings, Lynn’s ERA was 7.50 and he was allowing a .303/.355/.480 slash line, which basically means the average hitter against him was Trea Turner. Since that time, he rediscovered the Lynn of old to the tune of a 2.28 ERA over 55 innings, with a .195/.225/.361. In the second half, the average hitter against him is now Geraldo Perdomo. Lynn was able to up the strikeouts and essentially eliminate walks from his game (0.81 BB/9) in the second half. It’s leading to a resurgence that is going to benefit plenty of fantasy managers who remained patient during the rough patches.
Jeremy Pena, SS, Houston Astros
There was a time earlier in the season when Houston Astros fans genuinely thought they had seamlessly replaced Carlos Correa with the younger, sexier model in Jeremy Pena. Through the first half of the season, 24-year-old Pena was slashing .263/.310/.454 with 13 home runs and six stolen bases. Essentially, Pena was a carbon copy of Correa through those first few months and was playing comparable defense. Then the second half rookie wall came looking for him and it has been a slow slide downhill since.
Since the second half started, Pena is batting just .229/.249/.331 with three bombs and three steals. That means he isn’t hitting for average, he isn’t getting on base, he isn’t hitting for power, and he has slowed down the steals pace considerably. Frankly, it’s a good thing he looks like an above-average fielder or he might be getting more days off down the stretch. It’s typical rookie stuff, mostly. His groundball rate is 13% higher in the second half and pitchers have started to figure out his holes. This is likely a star in the making, but probably not for the balance of your fantasy team’s playoff run. The two steals on Tuesday night help, but he is a long way from being relevant right now.
Mike Clevinger, SS, San Diego Padres
Mike Clevinger’s pitching line over the last two weeks looks about as bad as that greasy hair and mustache he hasn’t groomed all season. In just 8.1 innings in the last 14 days, M-Clev has managed only a 7.56 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP and less than a strikeout per inning. The drop in strikeouts is particularly strange. Over the last month, he has only a 5.70 K/9 rate, 112th out of 126 pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched. No whiffs mean no wins for Clevinger who has only two wins since the first week of August.
Compounding that problem is the fact that his groundball rate has dropped from an acceptable 40.2% in the first half to just 29.6% in the second. That 29.6% rate ranks 125th among 131 30-inning pitchers in the second half. Guess what happens when you don’t strike people out and you don’t induce ground balls? You give up a lot of balls in the air or on a rope, which is what leads to a 7.56 ERA over a two-week span.