Sound the small sample size alarm, because it’s time once again to cast season-long judgment on just 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 the last couple weeks? 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 second half of the month of May and deserve our attention in fantasy baseball.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
You might not ever find a player who has a larger month-over-month difference in his slash line than Votto this year. In April, he put an absolutely abysmal .129/.291/.143 slash line with a 31.4% strikeout rate. But in May, the switch has been flipped back on to Vottoian levels. He hit .278/.395/.639 last month to show everyone that his age of 38 is just a number and he can still hit as well as anyone in the league. Unsurprisingly, Votto had eight extra-base hits in May when he had only one in April. The problem was an easy one for Votto to fix; he just had to get his launch angle back up. In April, Votto hit groundballs 51.2% of the time. That plummeted to 24% in May and his flyball rate is back up to 48%. The buy-low window is likely closed on Votto at this point, but if you held strong you should reap the benefits the rest of the season.
Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
If I asked you to name the MLB hitters with the highest slugging percentages in the past two weeks, how many guesses would it take for you to get to Tyrone Taylor? Well, snuggled right in between Joey Votto and Rafael Devers during that span is Tyrone Taylor with a .708 slugging percentage, the seventh-highest in the league. Only Mookie Betts, Trevor Story, and Paul Goldschmidt have more than Taylor’s five home runs in that span and his 18 RBI are also fourth in the past 15 days. Taylor has recently been rewarded by moving up to the top five in the batting order in five of the Brewers’ last six games, including batting second for the first this year on June 1. (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain who went 0-for-5 in the second spot that night). With Andrew McCutchen simply McCucking it up right now, Taylor will get first crack at producing from the top of the lineup, and he is taking advantage so far.
Tyler Anderson, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
“You hear that, Mr. Anderson? That’s the sound of inevitability.” Was it inevitable that Tyler Anderson would excel as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching staff? Not necessarily, but we shouldn’t be surprised that the Dodgers gave him the red pill and he can now see clearly. Now we get to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Anderson’s last month gave us a glimpse of this newfound elite ability. A 3.09 ERA accompanied by a 3.23 SIERA is just the appetizer for what Anderson has done the last two weeks. In that timeframe, seven qualified pitchers have an ERA under 1.00. But only one – Tyler Anderson – has an ERA of zero. His K-BB% is also top-12 in that span as he has basically eliminated baserunners via the walk over the last month. He has a new pitch Matrix to thank for the success as he follows the trend of reducing fastball usage (40.8%) and increasing his changeup usage (31.2%). It’s resulted in his lowest HardHit% since 2016 and the lowest overall ERA of his career.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Over the last two weeks, there are 187 qualified hitters in Major League Baseball. It is a fact that 185 of them have a higher slugging percentage than Buxton over that time (.128 SLG%). When you are only better than Sheldon Neuse at something, it’s time to reevaluate what exactly is going on. It’s clear at this point that Buxton is playing hurt. Does he negatively impact the (first place) Twins by being out there at the top of the lineup every day if he isn’t right? Would the better course of action be to park it on the IL for 15 days and get healthy? We know fantasy managers are tiring of that, but they can’t be getting any benefit from his .106/.204/.128 line from the last 15 days. We counted on binary options for Buxton this season when we drafted him in the 4th-5th rounds. What we expected was he would either 1) play and be elite, or 2) be injured. We didn’t factor in him playing and being atrocious. It’s causing a glitch in the Matrix but I think the only system remedy is to heal up and get ready for the dog days of summer.
Yasmani Grandal, C, Chicago White Sox
Speaking of dogs. Buzz, your fantasy catcher…woof! Grandal now is in the unenviable position of having the third-worst batting average (.163) and worst slugging percentage (.218) of all qualified major league batters this year. Making matters worse, only five catcher-eligible players have more plate appearances than Grandal, so he is tanking your roster both in quality and quantity. He does have an abnormally low BABIP (.200), but the power being sucked dry remains a mystery. Among his 24 hits, he has two doubles and two home runs. None of the standard batted-ball metrics seem out of line from previous years or career numbers, so perhaps this is a case of extremely bad luck. But I have benched him indefinitely in leagues where he’s on my roster and right now he looks closer to being cut from my rosters than making it back to the starting lineup. Give me Omar Narvaez, Keibert Ruiz, or Travis d’Arnaud over him all day long.
Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox
Another member of the Pale Hose who stinks right now worse than that old gym bag used sock is Lucas Giolito. The problem? The walks have returned. Over the past two weeks, Giolito ranks 114th out of 123 starting pitchers with a 5.06 walk rate which puts him worse than guys like Tyler Mahle and Blake Snell who have had massive problems in that department all season. His season-long walk rate of 3.61 per nine innings is the highest since 2018 when he was a completely unusable pitcher. He just isn’t inducing the swings from the past three years when he averaged a 50% swing rate on his pitches. It’s down to 45.1% this year, and since he isn’t locating his breaking balls, the walks are piling up. The ERA estimators should give us some hope (2.99 SIERA), but if he can’t get the walks under control quickly, he is going to find the bench in many fantasy leagues much like his battery mate Grandal.
I’ve been an X stats snob so far this year. Yasmani’s slugging % is underperforming by 0.159, fourth most in the league behind Verudgo, Mountcastle, and somehow Alveraz..
It’s been a shit show so far for the old Dodgers backstop, but I wouldn’t give up on him yet. He has as better a shot than anyone to be a top 5 catcher at seasons end.
The OBP is always going to be there, and you’re right. Much of this could be bad luck (.198 BABIP now), but he’s got to get more balls in the air. 45% ground balls his highest since 2015
If Bux was hurt, I think you’d see it impact his defense, but that continues to be elite. Just in a bad slump me thinks.
Boy, I hope you are right, but his is a baaaaad and loooooong slump