10 Performances You Haven’t Noticed by Paul Sporer August 19, 2021 At this point in the year, full season lines are heavily influenced by how a player started. That first month-to-6 weeks can hold a player down or prop them up for quite a while. Here are 10 players who have surged or fallen from their early season work. And yes, I grant that some of y’all have probably noticed a few of these and if that’s the case, just exclude yourself from the headline and roast the dweebs who aren’t as cool as us. Yes… that’s right. As cool as us. PITCHING Kenta Maeda has a 2.98 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in his last eight starts since July 1st. In that time, he has a 31% K rate and 6% BB rate across 45.3 IP. In his first 12 starts, he had a 5.56 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 21% K, and 8% BB in 56.7 IP. Alex Cobb has a 2.36 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over his last six starts and that includes a 4 IP/6 ER dud. He allowed 0-1 ER in each of the other five. For the season, his 26% K rate is a career high while his 0.4 HR/9 is a career low. Remember when Zac Gallen was performing well but just couldn’t stay healthy? He had a 3.69 ERA/1.26 WHIP through his first eight starts of the season, but if you are still starting him it is likely based on his name value alone because he is in a funk. Even with a couple gems mixed in (one of which came against the Dodgers), he has a 6.55 ERA/1.57 WHIP in his last seven starts. His K% in that time is still a solid 26%, but his walk rate Chad Kuhl is currently on the COVID IL, but he was surging before that with a 2.84 ERA/1.16 WHIP in his last seven starts (38 IP). He had a 6.52 ERA/1.62 WHIP in his first seven starts. He had a near 1:1 K:BB in those first seven with 23 K and 21 BB in 29 IP. His strikeout rate has surged to 24% over these last seven with a 2.5 K:BB ratio in 38 IP. The Dodgers have struck gold with former prospect Phil Bickford. The 2015 1st rounder (and 2013, actually) never really got going with San Francisco or Milwaukee even after moving to the bullpen permanently. He is throwing his slider a lot more and has turned into a middle relief weapon for the Dodgers. He has a 2.02 ERA/1.04 WHIP combo with a 31% K and 9% BB rate in 35.7 IP. Still just 25 years old, he has become the 7th inning guy for the Dodgers and could play a key role out of their pen in October. HITTING Even if you remove the 3-HR game, Rafael Ortega is still contributing. Since August 2nd, the day after that magical game, he’s hitting .353/.431/.412 with 9 R and 3 SB (91/30 full season paces). The power has dried up – he literally hit half of his season homers in that game (6 in 181 season PA) – but there is still fantasy goodness in this 30-year-old bat leading off for the Cubs. Jorge Polanco is tied for the 5th-most homers in the second half with 9 and has 12 since July 4th. In the second half, he is toting a .320/.373/.607 line, good for a 164 wRC+ in 134 PA. He wasn’t terrible in the first half, but his .248/.315/.420 line, 11 HR, and 6 SB was pretty bland. All of a sudden, he is now a top 10 shortstop on the season ahead of Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, Javier Báez, and even the ultra-surprising rebirth of Brandon Crawford. Jared Walsh and Adolis García were two of the biggest first half breakouts of the year, posting 140 and 122 wRC+ totals, respectively, each hitting 22 HR. Both have struggled massively since the break with Garcia posting a 44 wRC+ in 115 PA and Walsh down at a 31 in just 71 PA. The half splits actually help their outlook, the trouble really began back in June. Since June 1st, they both have 10 HR with Garcia at 77 wRC+ and Walsh at 90. Garcia has just 2 SB since June 1st, so we can’t even fall back on his speed as a reason to start him. He is definitely cuttable. I’m giving Walsh a little more runway since he just returned from the IL on August 11th, but he is in a 22-game homerless streak that is concerning. Tyler Stephenson has been a top 10 catcher (8th to be exact) despite the 15th-most PA at the position. His 303 PA are just 1 shy of his platoon partner, Tucker Barnhart (who has also been a solid option in 2-catcher formats), but he has made the most of them. His .291 AVG is behind only Buster Posey (.322) while his 48 runs are tied for 3rd-most. His 9 HR and 38 RBI are definitely held back by the fact that he is in a firm platoon, but they haven’t stopped him from an excellent season. The Reds are rewarding his work by moving him up the lineup, too, as he has started a game batting lower than 5th just once since mid-May. He is going to be a very popular breakout backstop pick for 2022. Nicky Lopez is running wild of late with 7 SB in his last 10 games. He has 15 SB on the season and a .277 AVG, but zeroooo power so you need a particular team structure to roster him. By the way, I don’t mean just 0 HR, but also just 28 RBI which is a full season pace of 42. Can you afford to roster Lopez’s speed with a solid AVG and nothing else? If so, then go for it. But don’t underestimate how tough it can be to roster a true power zero.