By The Numbers: Max Muncy, Alex Bregman, Lance Lynn
Max Muncy has hit .275/.387/.566 with 39 home runs, 97 runs, and 94 RBIs in 159 games over the past calendar year.
That arbitrary endpoint actually cuts off the journeyman’s rise to glory. Few took his solid May too seriously, but he demanded a closer look when crushing six home runs from June 3 to June 12. The breakout sensation hasn’t slowed down since. Dating back to June 20, 2018, as of Wednesday evening, Muncy’s 154 wRC+ ranks seventh among all qualified hitters between J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts. His .291 ISO places fifth around baseball, and he has circled the bases as often as Joey Gallo and Rhys Hoskins. In 121 fewer plate appearances than the Philadelphia slugger, the Dodgers infielder has fared better in just about every category besides RBIs and strikeouts.
Hoskins ranks No. 30 in FantasyPros’ rest-of-season ECR while Muncy slots in at No. 94. This discrepancy made sense heading into 2019, as the former possessed a far higher floor in a loaded Phillies lineup than a player who levied an out-of-nowhere breakout during his age-27 season. Muncy also gave adversaries an opening to adjust with a concerning 32.7% strikeout rate after the All-Streak break, a problem that extended into the playoffs. And despite hitting lefties well, he found himself in a misguided platoon.
None of those worries have come to fruition in 2019. Muncy has played in 72 of the Dodgers’ 75 games, guiding him to 45 runs and RBIs apiece. He has contained his strikeout rate to reasonable 24.0%, so while his .284 batting average will likely dip a bit, last year’s .263 looks like a realistic baseline rather than an optimistic projection. Adding a cherry on top of his immense fantasy value, Muncy is eligible at first, second, and third base.
Furthermore, Muncy is batting .307 with 12 home runs and three steals since the start of May. He’s been raking long enough to treat as the real deal.
Alex Bregman: 41 HRs in Last 158 Games Played
Bregman’s numbers also popped off the page when examining stats from the last calendar year. He’s third in wRC+ behind Mike Trout and Christian Yelich and right above Muncy for fifth in long balls. He leads all infielders in each category.
Houston’s star has done this all while maintaining an elite plate approach. Bregman has drawn more walks than strikeouts with one of baseball’s best contact rates. Only the injured Andrew McCutchen has chased fewer pitches off the plate this season.
Few could have expected the 25-year-old to already blast 20 home runs, matching last year’s first-half tally. He ended 2018 with 31 taters, which hardly seemed like a floor heading into his third full season. Bregman instead permeated 2019 drafts as a safe top-15 selection who didn’t have as much power or speed upside as Trevor Story, Javier Baez, or Francisco Lindor.
The speed part has come true. Bregman has stolen just three bases in four attempts, putting him on pace to fall short of last year’s subdued 10 after swiping 17 in 2017. The power, however, keeps rising. He has maintained nearly the same slugging percentage (.533) as last year despite his average tumbling from .286 to .264. Repairing that mark is paramount to Bregman validating his cost as a late-first, early-second-round cornerstone. A rise in launch angle that has fueled his power costs him a shot at hitting as well the plate discipline indicates he should. As a career .279 hitter carrying a .275 xBA, it’s still fair to assume he’ll gain some ground.
While it’s usually unfair to point to a 158-game sample size for raw outputs, Bregman has played in all but two of Houston’s 75 games this season. Barring an injury, he will have no trouble once again eclipsing 100 runs and RBIs each. This time, it could come with 35-40 long balls. I faded him as a top-15 pick this spring, but I’d feel more comfortable grabbing him to open the second if drafting today.
Lance Lynn: 2.99 FIP
Only seven qualified starters have a lower FIP than Lynn. The Rangers righty’s 4.16 ERA is by far the highest of that group, and runner-up Chris Sale’s 3.46 is comfortably larger than the rest. No starter in baseball has a more disadvantageous differential between ERA and FIP than Lynn.
Like Sale, the 32-year-old can blame a rough start marred by blow-up outings. Weeks after opening 2019 by permitting seven runs to the Cubs, he relinquished eight more to the A’s. In his last eight starts, Lynn has corraled a 2.92 ERA — still above his 2.46 FIP — with 66 strikeouts and eight walks in 52.1 innings. His 27.6 K-BB% ranks sixth during that span.
While he also endured some misfortune to post a 4.77 ERA with a 3.84 FIP last season, this is a far cry from the man who ended 2018 with a 1.53 WHIP and 10.9% walk rate. He has issued more than one free pass in just one of those last eight stellar outings. Although he’s unlikely to remain so precise while opening just 59.9% of his plate appearances with a strike, he should at least steer no higher than a career 9.0% mark.
Some sensible pitch-mix alterations also help to explain his underlying improvements. Lynn, like many other hurlers, has cut down on a sinker that yielded the worst results (.362 wOBA) of all his offering last year. He has sliced its usage from 32.5 to 19.7%, per Baseball Savant, and thrown more of a cutter (18%) that has netted a .217 wOBA.
Here’s another notable number for Lynn: 52. That’s his consensus ownership percentage in ESPN and Yahoo leagues. This ace impersonation probably won’t last all summer in the Arington heat, but he’s performing way too well to sit on any waiver wires.