Albert Pujols (STL): 4-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
On the fourth of July, one could say that Albert Pujols‘ return to St. Louis had been a failure.
After an 0-for-2 performance against Atlanta that day, the 42-year-old Cardinals legend was posting a slash of .189/.282/.320 with an OPS of .602. Pujols did start off the year in solid fashion, hitting .267 with an OPS of .833. Unfortunately, in May and June, he posted OPS marks of .661 and .425, respectively, which included only two home runs in 103 plate appearances over the two months combined.
Sure, Pujols was named to the NL All-Star roster in mid-July. But that was as a “legacy” selection, not because of his performance in the first half of the season (.215 average; .677 OPS before the All-Star Break).
Since the All-Star game though, it has been “vintage” Pujols at the plate. As a result, Cardinal fans can say that the past two months, since July 4th, have been the “Summer of Pujols.”
In the second half of the year, Pujols is hitting .438 with a 1.429 OPS in 53 plate appearances. He’s already hit more home runs in the second half (seven) despite having 120 fewer plate appearances. Against the Diamondbacks on Saturday, in a 16-7 blowout that included the Cardinals scoring eight runs in the top of the ninth, Pujols not only collected four hits but two home runs as well.
Pujols is sitting at 692 home runs with 43 games to go in 2022. Back in June, 700 seemed like a farfetched fantasy for Pujols. Now, unless something dramatic happens, he appears to be a “lock” to hit that vaunted home-run mark, which only three players in history have touched (Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth).
Also on Saturday, he became the first player in MLB history, age 42 or older, to collect four hits and hit two home runs in a game.
Summer may be dwindling, but the “Summer of Pujols” continues to stay strong.
It will be fun to see what kind of history Pujols will continue to write before the 2022 season is over.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Willson Contreras (CHC): 2-5, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
The Cubs are 15 games under .500, but this feels like a lively team, especially after the win over the Brewers, who are now five games behind the first-place Cardinals in the Central. The future is still hazy in Chicago for Contreras, but it doesn’t seem like he’s letting that faze him, as he collected two hits, a home run, and three RBI in the Cubs’ 6-5 victory at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Justin Turner (LAD): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
The Dodgers got after Marlins starter Bryan Hoeing early, as they tattooed him for seven runs on eight hits in the first three innings Saturday night at Dodgers Stadium. Turner seemed to deliver the final blow, a three-run home run in the bottom of the third. It hasn’t been a banner year for Turner, as he only has nine home runs, and is only posting an OPS of .728 in 397 plate appearances. August hasn’t helped his overall line; he is only hitting .237 with an OPS of .654 this month, both his worst marks since April.
Willy Adames (MIL): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
The Brewers continue to freefall in the NL Central, but Adames is doing his best to keep the Brew Crew afloat. On Saturday, Adames collected two hits and a two-run home run in the top of the eighth that many thought would help Milwaukee win the game. Unfortunately, Nick Madrigal ended up driving in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and the rest is history. Adames is only hitting .222 this year, and he’s been on a bit of a slide after the All-Star Break, as he is posting a .657 OPS in the second half. If the Brewers want to catch back up with St. Louis, they need Adames to get back to his first-half self (.771 OPS).
Kyle Schwarber (PHI): 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R, BB.
While Schwarber didn’t hit a home run, he did collect a double and a rare triple (which only gets more exciting when mixed with Pirates of the Caribbean music). The Phillies split a doubleheader with the Mets on Saturday, and Schwarber’s presence at the top of the lineup was a big reason why they won 4-1 in the nightcap. Schwarber continues to be a low-average guy (.213), which hurts him a little bit in standard category leagues. However, he is still posting a solid .813 OPS and he has 34 home runs for the year.
Juan Soto (SD): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
The Padres’ “Trade Deadline” splurge hasn’t quite worked out. Josh Hader basically has lost out on his closer duties in less than a month in San Diego, and the Padres remain 18 games out of first place in the NL West. Soto has looked rejuvenated, though, since coming to San Diego, as he is hitting .305 with a .953 OPS in 17 games since the trade. The Padres’ problems pretty much revolve around pitching, but Soto will need to continue to mash as the Padres prepare for what could be an important September when it comes to their postseason hopes.
Rodolfo Castro (PIT): 2-4, HR, R, RBI, SB.
By losing to the Reds on Saturday, the Pirates are officially in the basement of the NL Central, which is not a surprise considering the influx of young talent that has progressed to Pittsburgh. Oneil Cruz has gotten all the attention, but Rodolfo Castro, another rookie infielder, has been the slightly better play, as he is hitting .236 with a .700 OPS (much better than Cruz’s .196, .633 marks). Castro produced the Pirates’ only run in their 10-1 loss, which was a solo home run in the fourth inning off of Cincinnati’s Justin Dunn.
Brendan Rodgers (COL): 4-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
Rodgers was expected to be a breakout player in fantasy leagues, especially with Trevor Story signing with the Red Sox this offseason. Unfortunately, it feels like Rodgers has been a disappointment, even though he is hitting .286 with a .771 OPS which includes 11 home runs in 471 plate appearances. Those aren’t bad numbers by any means. And yet, for a player who’s long been the top prospect in the Rockies system, it feels like he should be producing more, especially on the speed end (no stolen bases). Rodgers collected four hits and drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th against the Giants, so he’s having his moments. But at this point, it’s hard to see him much more than this kind of player, fantasy-wise, going into 2023.
Julio Rodríguez (SEA): 3-5, 3B, R, SB.
Adley Rutschman seems to have taken the lead in the AL Rookie of the Year race (or at least in Alex Fast’s eyes), but don’t count out Rodríguez just yet. On Saturday, he collected three hits and a stolen base, and his OPS currently sits at .802, entering Sunday. Rodríguez still has his share of swing and miss issues, as he ranks in the 12th percentile in whiff rate and 19th percentile in chase rate. But he already has 22 stolen bases, and he’s a homer shy of 20, so he is likely a 25-25 player this year unless something dramatic happens (i.e. injury). That kind of line will be tough for voters to ignore.
Josh Rojas (ARI): 2-4, 2B, 2 R, BB.
Rojas continues to be one of the more overlooked infielders in fantasy. He’s still available in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues and 39 percent of ESPN leagues, even though he is slashing .288/.360/.420 with seven home runs and 17 stolen bases. Basically, Rojas is doing exactly what everyone expected Whit Merrifield to do prior to the start of the 2022 season. Rojas is also hitting .327 with a .845 OPS since the All-Star break. If he’s available in one’s league, he should be acquired immediately. His high-average and stolen base ability as well as position versatility (he qualifies at 2B, SS, 3B, and OF spots) make him one of the more underrated players in fantasy today.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)