Peter Alonso, 1B (NYM)
Time will tell if Alonso gets bitten by the Home Run Derby Curse. The rookie has elite skills, but he is 1-8 since winning the event on Monday. It's remarkable that Alonso is seven home runs away from surpassing last year's minor league home run total of 36. He did that in 478 combined at-bats between AA and AAA. He has 30 homers in 328 MLB at-bats this year. We could see some 2nd-half regression on the long ball due to an elevated 32% HR/FB rate. One thing to keep an eye on with Alonso: how much is that HR/FB boost specifically helping him with balls going to the opposite field. Overall, he is hitting less than 20% of his batted balls to the right side. However, half of his home runs were opposite field shots. Again, 20% of his contact goes to the right side but 50% of his home runs are there. That just doesn't seem natural and leads me to believe some of those opposite field homers will regress over the rest of the season.
Jon Lester, SP (CHC)
Lester did it at the plate and on the mound. The veteran left-hander picked up his ninth win of the season, limiting the Pirates to three runs in 6.2 innings, striking out six and hitting his third career home run (his OPS is .774 this year). He gave up two home runs in the win, increasing his HR/FB rate to 16%, the highest of his career. That coincides with the highest hard hit rate of his career. However, he's minimizing the damage with a low walk rate. That also creates more efficiency, which explains why Lester has gone at least six innings 10 different times this year. While fantasy owners wait for Lester to fall off a metaphorical cliff, he continues to hang on the edge, providing above-average value and reliable production.
Austin Riley, OF (ATL)
Riley reached base twice and hit a sacrifice fly in Saturday's extra innings contest at San Diego. After exploding onto the scene in mid-May with nine home runs in his first 18 games, Riley cooled off with a .298 wOBA since June 5. He still has a .233 ISO in that stretch, but his swinging strike rate spiked to over 21%. As his propensity to struggle against offspeed pitches manifested, opposing pitchers started throwing more curveballs and sliders. Not surprisingly, the young slugger is having a tough time adjusting. Those are the sorts of adjustments that are difficult to make in-season. He still projects for power, but the average could continue a precipitous decline.
Willson Contreras, C (CHC)
Contreras hit his 19th home run, a 1st-inning 3-run shot to right center. It was his sixth homer over the last four weeks, and the 5th-year catcher ranks 12th in MLB in wRC+ at 143. Contreras is a prime example of where baseball's offensive game is right now. Last year, with a much-improved swinging strike rate and contact rate, Contreras struggled. This year his plate discipline is awful: 14.4% swinging strike rate and sub-70% contact rate. Yet he's having a Silver Slugger season. Why? For one, his batted ball profile is better, including a 7% increase in his hard hit rate. Also, a whole lot of luck. His HR/FB rate is 30%. Last year it was 9.3%. Some of that can be attributed to the harder contact. Also, Contreras has a higher launch angle, resulting in a 4% increase in his Barrel rate. A lot of fantasy owners nabbed him at a discount because of his lackluster output in 2018. However, he will undoubtedly be drafted too high in 2020. He is somewhere between 2018 and 2019 although either way an elite option at the catcher position.
Patrick Corbin, SP (WAS)
For the first time in his last five starts, Corbin allowed more than one run. The talented lefty gave up three runs in six innings in a no-decision at Philadelphia. However, it was his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the season. Corbin is justifying the big contract he signed in the offseason, generating a 13.2% swinging strike rate and featuring a respectable 3.59 xFIP. He made slight alterations to his pitch selection, throwing his fastball 55 % of the time (it was 48.6% last year) and using less of his slider and curveball. In correlation, he is increasing the usage of his changeup, a pitch he barely ever used in the past. It's worked nicely, generating a 25% whiff rate over the last month.
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