Sophomore Slump For Juan Soto? Not A Chance. (Three Up, Three Down)
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
For his first trick, Soto posted the highest OPS of any teenager in MLB history. For his next trick, he’s carrying a left-for-dead team down the stretch and into the postseason. The 20-year-old wunderkind has 11 home runs and a 1.262 OPS in his last 19 games, helping the Nationals solidify their hold on the National League’s first wild card spot and move closer to the Braves for the division lead. Overall, Soto is batting .293 with a .967 OPS in his sophomore campaign, showing his rookie year was hardly a fluke.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
The hoped-for Devers breakout is happening before our eyes. The longtime top prospect has developed into a full-fledged offensive force at age 22, leading the American League in hits (167), doubles (46), RBIs (101) and total bases (300) this season. He’s in the mix for a batting title with a .332 average, and he is getting better as the year progresses, posting a 1.075 OPS so far in August. It’s the type of season that once made Devers the No. 6 prospect in baseball, and he is beginning to fulfill his potential in grand fashion.
Jack Flaherty, RHP, Cardinals
Speaking of under-25 stars, none have been as dominant on the mound as Flaherty in recent weeks. Since his ERA ballooned for 4.90 on July 2, Flaherty has returned to ace-like form. The 23-year-old righthander has a 0.89 ERA in his last eight starts, with 61 strikeouts and 14 walks in 50.1 innings. Batters are hitting a miniscule .145/.221/.231 against him. Even with a pitching staff racked by injuries and ineffectiveness, the Cardinals find themselves in the playoff picture in no small part due to Flaherty’s recent performance.
Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants
No player has a lower OPS over the past month than Crawford’s .448, and his .172 batting average in that time is second worst. The three-time All-Star increasingly appears near the end, with a .224/.296/.348 slash line that would represent his worst showing in each category since his rookie year in 2011. He is still due $30.4 million over the next two years before his contract expires following the 2021 season.
Peter Lambert, RHP, Rockies
The Rockies turned to Lambert to help their pitching woes, but the club’s top pitching prospect has instead taken his lumps in his first taste of the majors. Lambert has a 7.12 ERA over his last six starts, with 15 walks and 21 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. Lambert’s lack of premium stuff was reason for concern as a prospect, and it’s been exposed early in the majors. Batters are slugging over .500 against Lambert’s four-seamer, curveball and changeup this season, and overall are hitting .301/.356/.543 against the young righthander.
Jordan Yamamoto, RHP, Marlins
Lambert is hardly the only rookie pitcher taking his lumps. After beginning his career 4-0, 1.59 in his first six starts, Yamamoto is 0-4, 7.34 in his last six outings. The 23-year-old righthander has been particularly victimized by the long ball, with 10 home runs allowed in his last 30.2 innings. Yamamoto isn’t allowing an overly high number of batters to reach in this recent stretch (.292 opponent on-base percentage), he’s just getting hit hard when they connect (.521 slugging percentage).