Attempting to project how any given big-leaguer will perform for a full season is difficult in April. But once May turns toof June arrives on the MLB calendar, “small-sample size” arguments lose their credibility.
MVP and Cy Young front-runners can now be proclaimed, but it goes both ways. Players who have failed to meet expectations through two months of the campaign are officially on the clock. Considering this past MLB offseason saw a number of high-profile players change their ZIP code, it’s that time of the year where an early performance evaluation can be made.
WATCH: Logan Lockhart and Tyler Milliken pick their studs and duds from the month of May, and examine the recurring issues of potential cheating in Major League Baseball on Prime Time Sport Talk’s “The Squeeze”
Stud 1: Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays
Semien has been the Blue Jays’ leadoff hitter for most of 2021. It’s a surprise role for the Bay Area native, and only because of the extended absence of the team’s prized free agent-acquisition George Springer.
After a relatively pedestrian start in April, Semien burst onto the scene in May. The now-second baseman surpassed his home run total from 2020 in May alone. Along with successfully protecting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette in the lineup, Semien has individually recaptured his MVP-caliber form of 2019.
The 30-year-old has an OPS+ of 153, one of several offensive categories that would be career-high totals for him.
Dud 1: Elvis Andrus, Oakland Athletics
It’s hard to believe that only two years ago, Andrus was a core piece for the Texas Rangers. The shortstop’s performance in 2021 is the sole cause of the disbelief. The 32-year-old was traded in the offseason to Oakland in a deal that saw right-handed slugger Khris Davis go the other way to Arlington.
The hope from the Athletics’ perspective was that Andrus would fill the void at the shortstop position after the departure of Semien. After a homer-less start to the 2021 season, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Andrus has slashed .211/.259/.269 so far this year. Oakland has remained as a division-winning contender, despite Andrus’ struggles. But without a sharp turnaround from the veteran shortstop, it would be no surprise to see the A’s explore the idea of adding an infielder at the trade deadline.
Stud 2: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers first baseman spent the month of April drawing walks at an incredible rate. But the 30-year old slugger showed his strong hit tool all throughout May. It has really been the best of both worlds as far as his play at the plate is concerned.
Muncy currently leads the majors in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for position players (3.3). While doing so, the native of Texas only trails the Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. in OBP. Without a healthy Cody Bellinger for most of the year, and a slow start from Mookie Betts, Muncy has been the anchor of Dodgers’ lineup.
For a team that many publications labeled as the “next ones” to challenge the 2001 Seattle Mariners’ 116-46 record, Los Angeles has continued to thrive due in large part to the offensive production of Muncy.
Dud 2: Francisco Lindor, New York Mets
To be fair, Lindor is gradually recovering from his slow offensive start in New York. That doesn’t change the fact that the coveted shortstop has failed to meet the sky-high expectations that were placed on him prior to the campaign.
Lindor’s OBP has still managed to reach the .300 mark as of early June. From the Mets’ perspective, their offseason trade acquisition was the key to competing with the Atlanta Braves in the ultra-competitive National League East. But things haven’t gone as planned for either club. In fact, no one in the division has separated themselves as the odds-on-favorite through two months.
The former Cleveland Indians infielder has slashed .211/.304/.317 with the Mets. As expected with Lindor, his defensive value has remained high, but the two-month offensive slump has turned Queens into a state of panic over their shortstop.
Stud 3: Rich Hill, Tampa Bay Rays
Hill’s performance as a starter in Tampa is becoming one of the great stories in 2021. The 41-year-old has impressed on the mound, and has done so in a year where two-former Rays pitchers haven’t met expectations with their new clubs.
San Diego Padres hurler Blake Snell has struggled in his new uniform, and Braves right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton has yet to find his 2019 form in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Hill has recaptured his effectiveness with the Dodgers from 2016-2019.
Hill made six starts in the month of May, posting a sub-one ERA, and allowing a .194 average to opposing hitters. His emergence on Tampa’s staff has propelled the Rays to the first-place spot in the American League East.
Dud 3: Jackie Bradley Jr., Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers’ pitching staff has carried the team into playoff contention thus far. With that said, the concerns in giving those same pitchers run support has remained an issue.
Bradley Jr. departed from the Boston Red Sox to Milwaukee this past offseason. The center fielder’s defensive traits still apply, but the bat has slumped for the first two months of the season.
The outfielder has an OPS+ of 42, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 58:9. Pitching is the clear strength of the Brewers. But the glaring issues that have plagued the Brewers lineup have continued to remain a talking point in June. Bradley Jr.’s offensive output is one of the driving forces that contributes to that conversation.
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