There’s nothing better than a comeback story.
Sure, we love the breakout youngsters, freak athletes, and sluggers. But it’s always nice to see a once good or great player return to their former good or greatness.
2023 has produced at least two such players, both solidly into their thirties and seemingly past their prime. However, as summer turns to fall, their bats have cooled, leaving fantasy managers concerned. What to do, what to do?
For a fleeting moment in the early days of 2023, Duvall seemed bent on putting up the best offensive single season of all time. Surely he would have, had it not been for a fractured wrist 8 games into the season, devastating Sox fans who thought they’d struck gold.
A career .230 hitter with solid, if inconsistent, power, Duvall was a late addition to the Red Sox roster and, despite the injury, has put together a solid season. He’s hitting .260, his best since 2017, and has posted 19 home runs in just over 300 plate appearances. His RBI and run production have been solid, as well. Oh, and he’s a spritely 35-years-old.
September has brought troubles to the wily veteran. In 28 plate appearances, he’s registered just 3 hits, though one of them was a solo home run. Quite a small sample size, to be sure, but we’re up against the clock, and fantasy managers have taken note as his rostered percentage plummets.
Making matters worse is that Duvall has seen a dip in his playing time to sort through the slump. Again, normally we could wait something like this out, but the days are numbered and we can’t afford to lose outfield at-bats down the stretch.
Verdict: Panic. He’s barely played in the past few days and has been miserable when he does, with a 46.4% K-rate in September. He should at least be on your bench.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Yelich’s best days were behind him, but he’s certainly experienced a resurgence at the plate. After two full seasons in which the former MVP’s production dropped to levels formerly unimaginable, he’s boosted his average above .270 and has a chance to hit 20 home runs for the first time since 2019.
It’s been no fluke, either. He’s cut down on strikeouts and raised his hard contact rate by nearly 3% against the last three seasons. He’s also snagged 27 bases, his best mark since the 30 he swiped in 2019, making him something resembling the fantasy darling we once knew.
Unfortunately, much like Duvall, September has been none-too-kind to the Milwaukee outfielder. In 34 plate appearances, he’s notched just one hit and struck out 14 times. His hard hit rate has dropped to 17.6% and has been eclipsed by his whiff rate of 19.7%. On the bright side, his walk rate has been elite at 11.8% and his average exit velocities don’t look too bad.
Verdict: Pray. I’m much more inclined to believe Yelich turns it around quickly than Duvall. For one, Yelich’s team is in the heat of a pennant race and needs him to secure the NL Central crown. He’s hitting the ball on the ground a bit too much at the moment, hopefully, he’ll adjust and improve in short order.