Sound the small sample size alarm, because it’s time once again to cast season-long judgment on less than two months’ worth of data for players. But this is the information we have, and fantasy baseball is a reactionary game. We can’t pause our waivers or our FAAB to get a better, more longitudinal look at performance. We must 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 May and deserve our attention in fantasy baseball.
Just four short weeks ago in this very same column, Julio Rodriguez was labeled a “Faller” after a truly horrific month of April. In that first month of his major league career, J-Rod slashed .205/.284/.260 without hitting a home run. He did steal nine bases somehow, but with a 37% strikeout rate, there were murmurs of whether or not he could cut it at the major league level or if he needed more seasoning down on the farm. Fast forward to May and Rodriguez has certainly figured it out with some on-the-job training. He is at .339/.381/.492 for the month with a pair of homers and a couple of steals to cap it off. His strikeout rate is down to 23.8% this month as he is learning to be more selective on pitches outside the zone. The truly special hitters can adjust to whatever strategies the opposing pitchers deploy, and J-Rod seems to have found that level early in his career.
I guarantee that before you read this sentence you did not know that Jean Segura was first among all second basemen in on-base percentage this month and second in slugging percentage. I guarantee you didn’t know he is batting .417 in May with four home runs and four stolen bases. Only teammate Bryce Harper has been a more valuable rotisserie hitter than Segura the past two weeks. After experimenting with batting leadoff for a few games, then spending time in the sixth and seventh slot, Segura has found a home in the five-hole, right behind on-base machines Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, and Nick Castellanos. During draft season, if you were someone who waited on second base and then waited some more, you might have been lucky enough to snag Segura as the 26th second sacker off the board, sometime after pick number 200. Segura does have a wildly unsustainable .500 BABIP this month, but he is also backing up his production with a solid 10% walk rate and low 22% strikeout rate.
Anyone who bet on Skubal to be top-four in both ERA and strikeout rate during the month of May, it’s time to go collect your winnings. Skubal has been absolutely masterful this month, posting a 0.95 ERA and striking out 25 batters in 19 innings of work. Only Dylan Cease and Logan Gilbert (both with one more start) have more strikeouts than Skubal, and he has his new pitch mix to thank for it. His four-seam fastball (thrown 43% of the time in 2021) is down to just 29% of his pitches. Meanwhile, his breaking balls (slider and sinker) account for a full 50% of his arsenal in 2022. The slider has been especially devastating, with batters only hitting .222/.222/.267 against it this season. Even compared to a player like Segura, Skubal looks like an absolute steal from draft season. He was drafted as the 55th pitcher off the board, meaning he was almost an afterthought in 12-team leagues. Now, he just might win you that league.
There is a case to be made that Sanchez is the absolute worst hitter in MLB during the month of May. Only three players have a worse wOBA (.163) and his .106 batting average is fourth-worst in the league. He has one home run this month which has led to his one RBI. His strikeout rate is high, but not crazy-high 30%. The power he displayed in the early going has just been zapped as evidenced by the .085 ISO this month. The most likely culprit for the downfall of the Jesus Sanchez power outburst is his propensity to hit ground balls. He is up to 49% ground ball rate on the year and his fly ball rate is down to 32.5%. You may have heard, but hitting home runs and doubles is pretty hard to do when you hit the ball on the ground. With a career-low exit velocity of 88.7 mile per hour on his batted balls this year, it seems the player still isn’t quite ready to live up to the hype.
Uh oh. Deja vu all over again? After Lindor looked to finally be all the way back when he slashed .282/.367.482 in April with four homers and three steals, he preceded to crash and burn in May. So far this month his production has slipped to .150/.243/.267 with two bombs and one stolen base. Lindor managers are starting to get the uneasy feeling of PTSD after he busted all last season. This could be a case of just an outlier month of a .159 BABIP, but the tough pitching in the division and the run-reducing home park certainly don’t help matters. The baseline is likely somewhere in the middle of his April and May, so managers just have to keep on believing that he will find that happy medium sooner rather than later.
Take a guess at what Berrios’ K/9 is in the month of May. I’ll wait…… Wrong. Only four qualified pitchers have a strikeout rate lower than Berrios’ 4.24 this month. One of them is no-hit club member Reid Detmers and everyone was talking about how fluky that performance was just as soon as the celebration huddle cleared off the field after the game. You just can’t earn your pay in today’s major league game if you don’t strike out enough batters. It’s not like he is some ground ball artist either. Berrios’ ground ball rate of 37.3% is 60th among qualified pitchers this month. The 5.82 ERA in May looks rough enough, but you go into it thinking there must be some metric that points to regression. Unfortunately, he has a 4.98 SIERA this month so the poor performance seems legit. With plenty of games coming up against the powerhouses in the AL East throughout the summer, this is a stock that’s falling like it’s on the S&P 500.