Three Up, Three Down: Alex Bregman Ascends To Stardom
Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros
In just his second full season as a big leaguer, the 24-year-old is ascending to superstar status. Bregman has kept the Astros' offense afloat as Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jose Altuve dealt with injuries, delivering an MVP-caliber season defined by a sensational mid-season surge. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick leads the majors in extra-base hits (46), total bases (168), doubles (27), slugging percentage (.675) and OPS (1.111) since June 25, a 12-week stretch during which he’s hit .336 and also won All-Star Game MVP. Altogether, Bregman leads the majors with 49 doubles and 80 extra-base hits, ranks fifth in runs, sixth in OPS and seventh in RBIs, and he has reached base more times this season than any player other than Mike Trout. Two years after stealing the show at the Futures Game and one year after delivering a dramatic walk-off in Game 5 of the World Series, Bregman has transformed into one of the game’s elite.
Clay Buchholz, RHP, D-backs
The mercurial righthander has found the fountain of youth and is pitching like it’s 2013. Buchholz has quietly put together a Comeback Player of the Year-worthy season in Arizona, going 7-2, 2.01 in 16 starts to help the D-backs stay alive in the National League West title race. As the stakes have gotten higher, Buchholz has gotten better. His 1.66 ERA since the All-Star break is the third-lowest in MLB, and he’s currently working on a stretch of five consecutive starts with one earned run or less allowed. This after Buchholz signed a minor league deal with the D-backs on May 5, a transaction that is slowly becoming one of the bargains of the year.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
After taking his lumps as a rookie, the four-time Top 100 Prospect is starting to figure it out. Renfroe has been one of the majors’ most impactful hitters since the trade deadline, batting .298 with 13 homers and 31 RBIs in 36 games. His 13 homers in that span are tied for the second-most behind only Ronald Acuna Jr.'s 14, and Acuna has played five more games. Renfroe has made huge strides in a number of aspects this year, but the most important has come hitting against same-side pitching. After batting .202/.244/.393 against righthanders last year, Renfroe has hit .259/.300/.537 against them this year, a substantial improvement that has made him an impact everyday player rather than just a platoon option against lefties.
Jake Bauers, 1B, Rays
Every rookie faces their adjustment period once big league pitchers get familiar with them. Bauers is dealing with his right now. After batting .255/.350/.500 through his first 40 games, Bauers has hit .126/.268/.236 in his last 41 games. Overall, the 22-year-old has the lowest batting average and OPS of any player since the trade deadline. Bauers has hit fastballs fine in the majors, but he’s batted .167 against breaking balls and .094 against offspeed pitches, according to Statcast. Getting a handle on the slow stuff is part of the development process and one Bauers will have to master.
The Phillies are 6-16 in their last 22 games, the worst record in the NL during that time as they’ve fallen from a half-game back in the NL East to 6 ½ games back. The offense hasn’t exactly been punishing (3.7 runs/game) but the pitching bears most of the blame. Pivetta is 0-3, 6.08 in his last five starts and Arrieta is 1-2, 5.27 in his, combining for one quality start between them as the Phillies' season circles the drain. Altogether, the Phillies' staff has a 4.90 ERA in their last 22 games, including seven games where they allowed at least seven earned runs.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners
Speaking of falls, the Mariners' precipitous dive hasn’t been helped by the regression of their former All-Star and MVP candidate. The 30-year-old Seager is batting .216/.268/.392 this year, all the worst marks of his career, and it’s not getting better. Since the All-Star break, Seager has hit .174 with a .553 OPS, both third-lowest in the majors. The Mariners are 21-26 in that time and have fallen from holding a wild card spot to 8 ½ games out. Though Seager is by no means the only reason for that fall, he’s become a microcosm of the Mariners’ summer scuffles.