Moncada went 1-4 and struck out twice against the Royals on Monday. Moncada's first half was what fantasy owners have been hoping for ever since the 24-year-old broke into the major leagues in 2016 as Moncada took an impressive .309/.363/.902 slash line into Monday's game. Unfortunately, negative regression is likely coming for Moncada, and fantasy owners would likely do well to sell high on the former top prospect. Moncada has always posted a desirable batted ball profile with this season being no different (in fact, Mondaca has hit the ball better this season than he has in the past), but his .393 BABIP is unlikely to persist through the rest of the season and should fall fairly significantly over the rest of the year. The other (and more concerning) regression that Moncada likely faces is his strikeout rate. Moncada's poor contact ability and high strikeout rate held him back over the past few seasons, and although he's gotten it down to a manageable 27.3% so far this year, Moncada's strikeout rate is likely to rise back over 30% over the rest of the year. Moncada has been more aggressive at the plate this year, leading to fewer walks, less contact, and a higher swinging strike rate -- numbers that suggest an increasing strikeout rate. Moncada's athleticism and power should keep him more than relevant in fantasy leagues, but don't expect him to maintain his .900+ OPS for the rest of the year.
Plutko allowed five runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings while striking out one against the Tigers on Monday. Plutko re-entered the Indians' rotation after the team skipped his past couple of starts, but his return shouldn't do much to excite fantasy owners. Although Pluko owns a usable 34.2% hard hit rate and rarely walks batters, he rarely generates whiffs (and strikeouts) and owns a fairly poor contact quality profile overall. Every pitch in Plutko's arsenal is solidly below average at generating whiffs, and the 27-year-old's 8.8% swinging strike rate feels a little generous given his arsenal and 90% z-contact rate. Hitters do tend to miss Plutko's pitches when he goes out of the strike zone (though his 69.9% o-contact rate is still not great), helping push his strikeout rate up to a still poor 17.5%. While hitters don't hit the ball extremely hard off of Plutko, his 88.2 MPH average exit velocity is worse than average, and he allows a ton of fly balls and line drives. Plutko will probably bounce in and out of the Indians' rotation depending on what happens as the trade deadline approaches, but leave him on waivers regardless of his status with the team.
Benintendi went 2-5 with three RBI against the Blue Jays on Monday. Benintendi struggled in the first half of the season, and the 24-year-old took a disappointing .770 OPS into Monday's game. Two problems have driven Benintendi's lack of production this year: a low home run rate and a (relatively) high strikeout rate. Benintendi's home run rate should rebound at least somewhat considering that his hard hit rate is in line with last season's mark and his xWOBA on contact is the same as it was last year (his GB/FB is even more fly-ball heavy than last season), but his strikeout rate is a more interesting dilemma. Benintendi's plate discipline profile actually looks better than ever this season (arguably, at least) as he's been significantly more aggressive with strikes (79.5% z-swing rate 70.8% last season) while maintaining a decent o-swing ate (33%, 28.4% last season). Problematically, the more aggressive approach has resulted in substantially more swings and misses from Benintendi, driving his strikeout rate jump. Curiously, Benintendi has also been significantly more aggressive with the first pitch this year -- a continuation of a trend that helped him cut his strikeout rate last season -- and he's done exceptionally well when swinging at the first pitch this season. Combined with his improved plate discipline profile, this suggests that Benintendi is being more aggressive while continuing to see the ball well, so his contact rate should catch up eventually. Expect Benintendi to rebound over the second half as his strikeout rate dips back towards last season's level.
Snell allowed one run over five innings against the Yankees on Monday. Snell's 4.70 first half ERA might look ugly, but his performance has been strong, and he's still the same pitcher he was last season (in fact, a case can be made that he's pitched even better this year). Forget the ERA for a while and consider this: Snell owns a 32.8% strikeout rate (better than last year), an 8.3% walk rate (better than last year), a 36.8% o-swing rate (better than last year), and a 17.8% swinging strike rate (better than last year). I could keep going with his hard hit rate, contact rate, and barrel rate (and more), but you get the point: Snell is still a great pitcher. Snell has simply struggled to get out of trouble this year (68.8% strand rate) and been dealt a heavy dose of bad luck (.351 BABIP, 11.6% HR/FB ratio). Snell was unlikely to pitch as well as he did last season this year (and he's unlikely to replicate last year's numbers over the rest of the season), but he should pitch like an ace through rest of the year. Buy low if you can.
Alvarez's stellar beginning to his rookie season was almost certainly fueled by a decent amount of luck, but that shouldn't scare fantasy owners away from the 22-year-old. Although Alvarez's xwOBA-wOBA (-76) is concerning at first glance, xStats still paint a pretty picture, giving Alvarez a .282 xBA and .574 xSLG. It's easy to like Alvarez's numbers -- he hits the ball very well and makes a solid amount of contact -- and fantasy owners should still be optimistic about his second half performance (though it will almost definitely fall from where it is now), but the outfielder will have to make some adjustments over the rest of the year. Alvarez whiffs on breaking balls frequently, and pitchers have been attacking him more with breaking balls in July to exploit that weakness. Expect a strong second half from Alvarez with some negative regression and a likely increased strikeout rate.
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