Dylan Carlson (STL): 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R, RBI.
In his first full season at the big league level, Dylan Carlson showed all kinds of promise in 2021. He finished the season hitting .266/.343/.437 with 18 home runs, 79 runs, 65 RBI, and two stolen bases. That’s a solid showing for anyone, but as a 22-year-old in his first real taste of MLB action, it was especially promising.
In the offseason, Carlson was a popular mid-round target in fantasy drafts, typically coming off the board around pick 160 in NFBC formats. If he could put together such an impressive rookie season, it was only fair to expect him to keep getting better and better as he further acclimated to the league and entered his mid-20s. Right? ….right?
Despite the preseason buzz, Carlson did not get off to a good start in his sophomore campaign. Through May 21st, he had just a .247/.291/.363 batting line, which comes out to an 83 wRC+, 17 percent below league average.
A left hamstring strain sent Carlson to the IL, and perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. Since he’s returned from the IL on June 10th, Carlson’s been on fire at the plate, hitting .269/.397/.538 including last night’s 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R, RBI line. Over that period, nine of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases.
At the start of the season, Carlson was clearly making the choice to be more aggressive at the plate, raising his swing rate from 44.9% in 2021 to 49.5% prior to his injury. A fine idea? Sure. His strikeout rate plummeted a whole 10 percentage points to just 14.6%, but his batted ball quality suffered greatly. His barrel rate was more than cut in half to just 3.2% and his groundball rate increased to a career-high 48%.
After being reinstated from the IL, Carlson’s gone back to his more patient ways. He’s swung at just 37.9% of pitches he’s seen since June 10th, and while the strikeout rate has increased nearly six points back to over 20%, his walk rate has shot up over 11 points to 16.8% over that period. That’s a trade-off you’re happy to take.
Not only has Carlson earned a lot better plate discipline results since his return from injury, but he’s also raised his barrel rate, notched his hardest-hit ball of the year, and slightly reduced the groundball rate. If there’s a good change a batter can make at the plate, Carlson’s probably done it over the past three weeks.
The book is still being written on Carlson’s 2022 campaign, but he’s done a lot to make it a more positive story since his return to the Cardinals’ lineup. He has his season batting line up to .253/.321/.409, good for a 109 wRC+. It seems like he’s finally delivering on the preseason hype.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Juan Yepez (STL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.
The Cardinals have a spoil of exciting young talent in their lineup, and Yepez has one of the biggest bats. He launched two home runs in the Cardinals’ 9-0 shellacking of the Marlins yesterday, improving his season batting line to .282/.327/.506 with nine home runs and 24 RBI. Yepez’s playing time was inconsistent just a few weeks ago, but he’s now started eight straight games for the Redbirds, so if you need corner infield help for your fantasy team, he could be a difference maker.
Gary Sánchez (MIN): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Sáchez’s first season in Minnesota is going just about exactly as you’d expect. He’s hitting for a low average and hitting the ball super hard. Yesterday he smacked three balls over 100 mph, all off of Triston McKenzie as the Twins put 11 runs on the scoreboard. Through 232 plate appearances, he’s hitting .227 with nine home runs and 34 RBI. His 105 wRC+ would be his best mark since 2019.
Paul Goldschmidt (STL): 4-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Doesn’t it seem like every single day Goldschmidt puts up a line like this? He’s been an absolute machine this year, and his batting line is up to an otherworldly .347/.429/.642. His wRC+ is 199, so he’s producing runs at double the rate of a league-average hitter. If he isn’t the frontrunner for NL MVP, I don’t know who is.
Mitch Garver (TEX): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Garver reached base three times and belted his eighth big fly of the year yesterday as the Rangers downed the Royals 10-4. The big day moved Garver’s season batting line to .208/.295/.403, a decent line for a catcher, but not what fantasy managers are hoping to get from him. We’ve seen Garver excel at the plate in two previous seasons, posting a .995 OPS in 2019 and .875 OPS in 2021. He’s a streaky hitter, so if he catches fire, he could pretty quickly move his season-long numbers back near those career peaks and propel the Rangers and a fantasy team on a hot streak.
Elvis Andrus (OAK): 2-3, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
Andrus had one of his best nights of the season on Monday, finishing with multiple hits and a stolen base for the first time this year as the A’s fell to the Yankees 9-5. Despite his batting line sitting at a poor .226/.288/.343, he’s still cracking the lineup nearly every day for Oakland. His veteran presence may be valuable for this hapless A’s team, but he shouldn’t be anywhere near a standard fantasy lineup.
Whit Merrifield (KC): 2-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB.
It’s been a season to forget for Merrifield. Even after his strong day at the plate Monday, he’s hitting just .230 with three home runs and 11 stolen bases. He was an early-round draft pick in fantasy drafts on the back of his elite stolen base potential, but with just 11 bags through his team’s first 72 games, it’s looking more and more likely he finishes the season with 25 steals and not the 40 fantasy managers were drafting him for back in March and April. There is some reason for optimism though – his .256 BABIP is well below his career .326 mark, and if that rises as you’d expect, he could see a lot more stolen base opportunities.
Luis García (WSH): 3-4, 2 2B, 2 R.
García is getting his third opportunity to stick at the big league level, and it looks like this time he may be ready for the show. He scorched the ball against the Pirates yesterday, knocking the ball over 100 mph for all three of his base hits. In his first 101 plate appearances, García’s hitting .337/.347/.500 with the best barrel rate (6.6%) and max exit velocity (113.4 mph) of his young career. García’s just 22 years old and a former top 100 prospect, so he’s worth a look if you need middle infield help. I’d exercise caution in OBP and points leagues though. He’s struck out 19 times and walked just once; that doesn’t typically play in those formats.
Alex Kirilloff (MIN): 3-3, 2 R, RBI.
Like many top prospects these days, Kirilloff struggled out of the gate last year. He was slashing just .251/.299/.423 through 231 plate appearances before undergoing season-ending surgery on his wrist. Kirilloff was back and healthy to start the 2022 season, but re-injured the wrist after playing in just five games at the start of the year. Now, Kirilloff is back with the Twins and trying to live up to that top prospect hype. He notched three hits in the Twins’ win yesterday. His perfect day at the plate raised his season line to .242/.279/.306. That’s definitely not what you want to see, but with just 69 plate appearances under his belt this year as he’s battled through injuries, he’s still one to keep your eye on.
Garrett Cooper (MIA): 3-3, 2B, BB.
The Marlins didn’t score in yesterday’s game, but that was no fault of Cooper’s. He reached base in all four of his plate appearances, and ripped the ball twice off of Adam Wainwright, collecting a 107 mph double and 102 mph single against the veteran starter. Cooper seems to continually fly under the radar. He’s having a great year, hitting .316/.382/.463 this year, good for a 142 wRC+. Did you know this would be his third straight season with a wRC+ of 133 or better? Yeah, I wouldn’t have known either before checking his player page. Health is a big question mark for Cooper, but if he can stay on the field, he should continue to be an undervalued contributor.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)