In a typical MLB season, we would have already hit the halfway point and would be in the process of looking at what teams would need to do to make an increase in the second half. However, the lockdown has pushed opening day back by two weeks and as a result, most major league teams will not play their 81st game until early next week.
Let’s see if we can pick a player in each position who may have underperformed so far, but who could still be a squad maker.
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Kibert Ruiz, a Washington native. Ruiz, a substitution hitter in his first full season, calls at a stellar 88.7% rate and rarely comes out. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much when he called – income for the week averaged 0.25, twice at home and 13 RBI.
However, advanced metrics suggest that the Ruiz should be more productive with an expected hit average of .311 and a .462 slowdown. He even has three stolen bases (only three Hunters have more). When Ruiz’s luck starts to tie, look up his stats to turn upside down across the board.
Brandon Bilt, San Francisco Giants. A quick start this year was derailed first with a positive COVID test, then a knee injury. The belt of power showed last season – when he hit 29 of his teammates in just 97 games – that he hasn’t returned since his last stint on the injury list. However, his excellent eye is still alive and well. Although the hit rate is 0.224, the belt rests at the base at 0.351 clip.
While he’s working his way back to 100%, the Giants often start with the belt against right-handed bowlers, which is a good strategy since he’s put over 1,000 games against them in the past two seasons.
Whitt Merryfield, Kansas City Royals. Murrayfield, 33, has never gotten below 0.27 in a season as a key player, so his 0.227 average is a distinct anomaly — especially with a 0.253 on-balls-in-play averaging 70 points below his career level.
He continues to play every day and leads the royal team, with nine stolen bases in 10 attempts. Even if it is traded, Murrayfield’s big second-half dreams present a good chance of becoming a reality.
Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers. When Bayes sat in the June 15 game against the White Sox, his batting average dropped to .188 season’s worst, and Rs 47+ ranked him the worst offensive player in baseball.
But after meeting that day with his agent and manager AJ Hinch, Baez immediately marched on a nine-game winning streak that included four wrecks, seven runs, nine RBIs and two base steals. Whether it’s a change in his thinking or an adjustment with his swing, Baez looks more like the player who hit the .265 with 31 home runs and 18 steals a year ago — and he’s been rewarded with a six-year contract worth $140 million.
Luis Ureas, Milwaukee Brewers. Urias played regularly for the first time, and had a breakout season in 2021 (23 HR, 77 R, 75 RBI). However, he had a quadriceps injury in spring training and missed all of April.
After a strong start in May, Urias was terrible in June. His slash at the start of the week was a paltry .216/.314/.347. About the only bright spots so far is that his walking rate is still very good and he doesn’t chase poor pitches.
Urias is still only 25 years old, and she has a lot of positive aspects.
Jesse Winker, Seattle Mariners. Winker also failed to hit its milestone numbers a year ago. But his 15.9% walking rate is the third highest in the majors after Max Muncie and Juan Soto.
If we look closely, Winker started heating up with four homers, 12 RBI and .910 OPS in June. The Mariners don’t sit him down when there’s a left-footer on the hill as the Reds did last season – and he’s actually been more effective against the south side thus far. If he starts hitting the right hand the way he has in the past two seasons (1.070 and .927 OPS), pay attention.
Kevin Gusman, Toronto Blue Jays. Before throwing seven rounds of closing against the Red Sox on Monday night, Gausman had an unremarkable 5-6 record, 3.19 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. However, basic metrics showed that he was pretty much the same bowler he had been a year earlier. Maybe better.
He has recorded the highest swing stroke of his career (16.6%) while at the same time hardly anyone walks (1.48 BB/9) or gives up a run (only twice in 79 runs). Problem: Opponents were hitting .372 when they put the ball into play – the highest rate yet for any eligible base player. As a result, Gausman had a major league low of 1.74 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). Perhaps the sleeping giant is starting to wake up.
Tanner Scott, Miami Marlins. While Boston’s Tanner Hook and Washington’s Tanner Rainey might get more attention, Scott might be a more sassy Tanner by the end of the season.
This month, he’s racked up three wins and converted 6 of his 7 tackle opportunities, not allowing a winning run in 10 of his 11 matches. In addition, he averages 14.6 strokes in nine runs and is tied for fourth place among the two homers in puffs. He may have already closed the locker job for the rest of the season.
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