The Midsummer Classic has come and passed, and the races for the pennant and, hopefully, your fantasy league are in full swing. Unfortunately, a few typically reliable players have hit the summer skids. What to do, what to do?
Since becoming a mainstay in the Mariners’ lineup in 2021, France has been a steady force. Between 2021 and 2022, he appeared in 292 games, eclipsing 600 plate appearances in both seasons. He hit .283 and averaged 19 home runs, 78 RBI, and 75 runs, making him a valuable all-around fantasy player.
2023 has been a little less steady. He’s seen his average drop to .256 and with it has gone the power, posting just seven home runs in 381 plate appearances. His 36 RBI are on track to be a three-year low, as well. Still, halfway through June, France was still a productive player. The past month has painted a different picture.
Since June 17, France has been one of the worst hitters in baseball. He’s batting .165 with a 33 wRC+. He’s hit only one home run and driven in just four runs in 22 games. Normally a great contact hitter, France has struck out at a 26.9% clip over that span, way above his career mark of 17.8%.
Verdict: Patience. I think there’s time for France to sort things out. The team context is just fine, as evidenced by his 53 runs despite his offensive downturn. Given his limited eligibility at first base, though, I’d have a short leash with France. If August rolls around and he’s still scuffling, look elsewhere.
McNeil fits the mold of a steady player as well, but he doesn’t come without fantasy risk. Since a torrid 2019 in which he hit .318 with 23 homers, 75 RBI, and 83 runs, the Mets’ second baseman has been a pure contact hitter. He hasn’t hit double-digit long balls since that season and owns a career barrel rate of 3.2%. Nevertheless, from 2020 to 2022, he hit .298 and sported a 123 wRC+.
The problem with a player like McNeil is one-dimensionality. If the batting average drops off, there’s little to fall back on. And drop off the batting average has.
McNeil is batting just .248 after posting a .326 AVG in 2022. One would hope that team context would be a plus after the Mets spent the GDP of a small country in free agency, but they’ve fallen short of expectations and, as such, McNeil has just 37 runs and 26 RBI in 373 plate appearances.
Even more troubling are McNeil’s summer troubles. In the past month, he’s hit .152 and struck out at a 19.8% clip, a remarkably high number by his standards. He’s registered zero (0) barrels over that stretch. Woof.
Verdict: Panic. McNeil is a proven hitter at the major league level, but waiting around for him to improve his average doesn’t seem worth the angst. I’d take a flier on a free-agent middle infielder with any degree of upside before putting him in the lineup regularly.
After spending the first few weeks of the season on the injured list, Gonsolin got off to a ripping hot start. Through 9 starts, he was 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. His past 5 starts, however, have been less inspiring.
In those 5 starts, Gonsolin is 1-2 with a 6.92 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He’s surrendered hard contact at a 27.9% clip and struck out just 18.9% of batters. So what’s changed on the periphery to take his production from elite to downright miserable?
The answer to that question is simple: not much. His K-rate has remained relatively constant throughout the season, well below his career average. His walk rate has hovered around 9% throughout the year, another underwhelming figure. Unfortunately for Dodgers’ fans, most signs point to some serious good luck in the first part of the season.
Even with the horrendous stretch that Gonsolin is experiencing, batters are producing an unsustainably low .215 BABIP against him. The strikeout stuff seems to have escaped him and his fastball is hardly what we thought it would be when he was sitting 95 in 2020. The .157 AVG hitters have managed against the pitch while hitting it in the air at a 54% clip is due for some serious regression to the mean.
Verdict: Panic. Gonsolin simply is not missing enough bats. 16-1 in 2022 was a lot of fun, but I expect mediocrity the rest of the way in 2023.