Paul DeJong started this season on track to have his best season yet. He seemed poised to have his breakout season after his solid rookie campaign and decent shortened season last year. However, he seems to have been deteriorating as the season’s progressed. Each month, his wRC+ has decreased. It started at 162, then went to 94, 66, and 36 each month. How do you look at a player like DeJong then? He’s always been a promising young talent with some pop, and through April it seemed like he came into his own. It wasn’t from luck either. He was crushing the ball, and all his expected stats were right in line with his actual performance. His BABIP was high, but he was hitting a ton of hard contact with a lot of line drives.
What’s happened to him? First, those line drives all turned in to ground balls. His ground-ball rate in March and April was 29.5% but grew to 40.8% in May and has remained in the 40s since. Additionally, his hard-hit rate has tanked. It started over 40%, dropped to 35% in May and then down to 20% in June. He’s always been striking out around 18% of the time, but his plate discipline still has been all over the place. His walk rate has gone from 7.8% in March and April, up to 17.5% in May, and back down to 4.6% and 2% in June and July respectively. It’s just been a messy decline that’s resulted from worse and worse contact. Another notable thing to mention from his issues is his doubles output. At the end of April, DeJong had 13 doubles. Since then, he only has six. It’s been a roller coaster of a season for DeJong, especially those types that have that one big drop, and I don’t see it getting much better any time soon. Hopefully yesterday’s line of 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI could be a sign of things to come.
Let’s check the rest of the league for some other players with a solid performance in a roller coaster season:
Gio Urshela (3B/SS, New York Yankees)—Game 1: 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Urshela has logged a good amount of time with the number of injuries the Yankees have dealt with this season. He’s been replacing Miguel Andujar after Andujar had season ending surgery. With Didi Gregorius back, Urshela’s playing time may dwindle. However, he’s been playing regularly since the end of June, and for good reason. In that time, he’s posted a 152 wRC+, hitting an insane amount of line drives. He’s a solid fantasy play if the playing time is still there.
Matt Beaty (1B/3B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Beaty has had an interesting year getting tossed around from Tripl-A to the bigs and on and off the IL. Despite a quick Triple-A stint in July, he’s been playing consistently since June 14. Over that time, he has a 150 wRC+ with nine doubles with almost no soft contact. He hits the ball hard but is also seeing a lot of ground balls. Especially as a lefty with a strong pull tendency, that may be an issue with shifts for the batting average. He is still disciplined at the plate, with a low strikeout rate and high contact rate. The trouble is: Will he continue this playing time? He struggles against lefties, so he may only see starts moving forward against righties—the classic Dodger problem.
Kiké Hernández (1B/2B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—4-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Remember that blazing hot start he had? That was quite a while ago now. However, he’s picked it up significantly over the past month. He’s slashing .312/.404/.610 with six homers. He’s swinging a lot more and turning those swings into contact. He’s turned that contact into more line drives. It’s tough to have a player who will fluctuate between well above average and abysmal, but if you are in need of a replacement for nearly any position, Hernandez has the hot bat for about a month now.
Yoan Moncada (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. Right after the All-Star break, Moncada went into a bit of a funk, delivering only one hit over five games until he broke out of that yesterday. Overall, it’s been a much stronger year for Moncada. Certainly a breakout. He’s improved across the board and as a switch-hitter found more comfort at both sides of the plate, improving significantly both as a lefty and a righty. However, he still is lagging behind as a righty hitter. Additionally, he’s improved most notably against the fastball. He should continue what he’s been doing in the first half after that little five-game blip.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians)—1-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. It was only one home run and only one hit, but it was an important hit. Tables are turning for the most frustrating fantasy player of 2019. Since June 14, he is slashing .314/.363/.578 with 15 extra-base hits and four stolen bases. His 8% walk rate is greater than his 7.1% strikeout rate over that time. He has a 2.8% swinging-strike rate! He’s still hitting nearly 50% fly balls, but his contact is much harder hit. I won’t say he’s back to 2017/2018 Ramirez, but he’s done being what he was earlier this season. Put him in your lineup and don’t feel weird about it anymore.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Detroit Tigers)—3-4, R, HR, RBI, SB. Goodrum was a giver yesterday. He gave one of everything! But he hasn’t been much of a giver this season. He’s had a few hot patches of games, but for the most part, it’s a consistent delivery of a few of everything. Never enough to pop in a lineup. Lately, he’s giving mediocre contact with some line drives and a lot of ground balls, never hit hard. He’s getting on base fine as well but in the back of the Tigers lineup, so there isn’t much to do once he gets on. Unless he really starts turning it on, he’s a pass.
Stephen Strasburg (P, Washington Nationals)—3-3, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI. He does it on the mound and at the plate. Stasburg delivered one of the best hitting performances by a pitcher so far this season. It won’t count in your fantasy matchup, but it’s always fun to celebrate a pitcher mashing too.
Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)—2-2, 3 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. These next two go into the bucket of, “Oh, an incredible player had a good game? Big deal.” But I don’t think I’ve touched on Bregman yet this year, or if I have, it was only once or twice. I wanted to check in and see what’s up. Over the past month, he’s practically scored a run every game, and that is helped by his .418 OBP in that time. Also, his season BB/K ratio is 1.36. That’s ridiculous. He’s having a similar year to last year, except it’s with a BABIP almost 40 points lower. What he’s done this past month may be more indicative of the his rest of season performance then.
Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox)—2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. Betts has a 10-game hit streak on his hands, and since June 16, he’s been hitting the crap out of the ball with a 160 wRC+ over that time. Like Bregman, his BB/K ratio has been over 1 this year. It’s been interesting seeing him not be the top-of-the-league star he was last year but still be a solid performer. There’s always the hope he could be that again. He’s performing more to his 2016/2017 level than last season, which is still great but in different ways. He still somehow has 86 runs this year.
Cheslor Cuthbert (1B/3B, Kansas City Royals)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, RBI. Cuthbert has been around with the Royals for a few years now but never has fully broken into a full-time role. He had a great start to the season in Triple-A, earning him a spot in the Royals’ starting lineup. Over the past month in The Show, he’s been OK: 102 wRC+ OK. It’s not been anything of note at all. He never walks and strikes out some but not too much. There isn’t much beyond that.
(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)