Steadily, quietly, in a way that hasn't manifested in the overall stats yet, a number of hitters who seemingly invalidated themselves from Fantasy Baseball consideration early in 2021 are coming around.
Or so it would appear, anyway. It's always difficult to tell whether a string of multi-hit games is the start of something or just the inherent variability of the sport. It's especially difficult this year, with the rules of BABIP having been broken by a new baseball that's somehow made offense more home run-dependent.
We're still recalibrating to this new reality. Or maybe not we, but full disclosure, me. More specifically, I have little confidence in marginal hitting talents -- the kind that, you know, might be available on the waiver wire -- doing much beyond what I'm actually seeing them do. It's an uncomfortable feeling not to trust one's own instincts.
But we all believed in those highlighted here at some point, whether because of their track record or pedigree and suddenly, they're doing better. The turnaround has to start somewhere, so if you're itching to make a move to shore up a stunted offense, it may be time to hop back aboard.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #2 • Age: 27
A three-hit game Wednesday has Dominic Smith batting .333 (12 for 36) in May. It's not enough justification to start him yet, but maybe the reason to stash him away if you're hurting on offense. There remains a playing time concern, given that he has sat against four of the five left-handers the Mets have faced, but if he gets back to swinging the bat like he's capable, I suspect it'll take care of itself. Not like he's struggled against lefties the past two years, after all.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #25 • Age: 24
After being in and out of the lineup while learning the ropes in left field early this year, Andrew Vaughn has suddenly started eight straight, settling in about the time Luis Robert went down. At the plate, he's been looking better for a while now, batting .308 (16 for 52) over his past 16 games, and he capped it off with his first home run Wednesday. The much-ballyhooed rookie has demonstrated high exit velocity and strong plate disciplined throughout, so he's still well positioned to take off.
MIN Minnesota • #11 • Age: 28
I liked Jorge Polanco as a sleeper coming into the year, viewing his 2020 as an aberration given that he still had the sort of strikeout and line-drive rates that would normally yield a high batting average. I haven't been proven right yet, but his batting average does seem to be coming out of the doldrums. He delivered his fourth straight multi-hit game Wednesday and is batting .366 (15 for 41) with three homers over his past 11 games. His strikeout and line-drive rates aren't quite up to their usual standard, but they aren't so far off that he can't turn them around, too.
Gavin Lux 2B
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #9 • Age: 24
After waffling over him last year, the Dodgers have been fully committed to Gavin Lux this year, playing him virtually every day he's been healthy, against both lefties and righties. And while it was going disastrously at first, he's rewarding their faith now, delivering five multi-hit games already in May to give him a .316 batting average for the month. Perhaps more revealing is his 15 percent strikeout rate, down from 31 percent in April. He's only 23, so there's still plenty of time for him to make good on his potential.
SEA Seattle • #36 • Age: 25
Logan Gilbert has been featured prominently elsewhere, but I'd be remiss not to mention him here, in the column that's singular purpose is to recommend players to pick up. For him, it's recommended everywhere. The Mariners announced that their top pitching prospect would debut alongside their top hitting prospect, Jarred Kelenic, on Thursday. With a fastball that plays beyond its velocity, two distinct breaking balls, an improved changeup and plus control, Gilbert has the kind of skill set that could make him the top rookie pitcher this year.
OAK Oakland • #32 • Age: 28
James Kaprielian's stat line from his first major-league start Wednesday is all the more impressive when you consider he was working through nerves in the first inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Clearly, he calmed down from there, delivering the sort of outing that should earn him at least a couple more turns with Jesus Luzardo sidelined. Most impressive wasn't just the 15 swinging strikes but that three different pitches -- the fastball, slider and changeup -- were responsible for four or more. The 27-year-old has been out of the prospect discussion since 2017 because of injuries, but there's still talent there.