Fantasy Baseball: What we learned from July's stat leaders

·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
·5-min read

July 2021 is one of the most memorable MLB months that I can remember. Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made the All-Star Game one of the most exciting in recent memory. And the Major League Trade Deadline featured a massive number of deals that included some of baseball’s biggest names.

Behind the major storylines, the regular season rolled along, with some players emerging as outstanding fantasy contributors. Here are some July stat leaders that fantasy managers should be aware of, as these statistics may influence August roster decisions.

Home Runs - Joey Votto (11), Pete Alonso (10)

Votto was one of baseball’s biggest July stories, rediscovering a power stroke that had mostly disappeared in recent years. The veteran had tallied just 38 homers across 341 games from 2018-20, but he claims to have recently benefited from putting more emphasis on hitting for power. Votto’s July surge is one of the best reminders that fantasy managers need to grind for improvements all season, as he was on waivers in the majority of Yahoo! leagues until just over a week ago. Meanwhile, Alonso seems to have rediscovered the form that led to 53 homers in his 2019 rookie season. The Mets slugger is among the best August trade targets for managers who are mainly focused on improving in power categories.

Stolen Bases - Starling Marte (11), Raimel Tapia (8), Fernando Tatis Jr. (7)

Just three players tallied more than five steals in July. Marte could be one of the most valuable players in the fantasy landscape during the stretch run, as he recently moved from a low-scoring Marlins lineup to a competent A’s offense. And the guess here is that Oakland’s coaching staff will let their new table-setter continue to run the bases aggressively. Tapia has quietly been one of this year’s best waiver-wire finds, producing a helpful average, scoring plenty of runs, and ranking among the steals leaders. He did struggle a bit at the dish in July, so he could be an affordable trade target for those who need to make a steals improvement down the stretch.

OPS - Juan Soto (1.176), Manny Machado (1.174), Rhys Hoskins (1.163), Kyle Farmer (1.147)

I don’t need to tell you that Soto and Machado are fantasy studs, so I’m going to use most of this space to highlight Hoskins. The Phillies' first baseman was terrific during July, and his advanced stats support a stellar month. Hoskins made major gains in his walk rate (18.9 percent), strikeout rate (20 percent), and hard-contact rate (42.6 percent). His BABIP and HR/FB rate were within normal range. Hoskins has become a solid trade target for those who are looking for a power bat. Meanwhile, Farmer has emerged as a solid waiver-wire target. He has unexpectedly secured the shortstop position in Cincinnati and should have regular playing time the rest of the way after using his red-hot July to dissuade the club from trading for a more proven shortstop.

Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies
Rhys Hoskins was red-hot in July. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Walks - Juan Soto (24), Robbie Grossman (20)

I don’t usually include walks in this monthly article, but I wanted to highlight Grossman. The outfielder stayed with the Tigers through the Trade Deadline, which is great news for his stretch-run playing time and fantasy value. I have been begging Yahoo! managers to add Grossman all season, and he remains available in many leagues. The 31-year-old is on pace for roughly 24 homers, 18 steals, 84 runs, and 74 RBIs. I bet those numbers can help your team!

Saves - Mark Melancon (7), Raisel Iglesias (7), Jake McGee (7), Heath Hembree (7)

Melancon paces the Majors in saves, and he is unlikely to be caught by anyone down the stretch. Meanwhile, Iglesias and McGee continue to be useful closers after their respective teams left them in charge of ninth-inning roles through the Trade Deadline. But Hembree was the biggest story in the closer landscape last month. The 32-year-old entered July with one save in 2021 and three in his entire Major League career, and he was part of a bullpen that had been directed by manager David Bell to use a closer committee all season. Hembree now seems like Cincinnati’s relief anchor, especially since the club failed to add an experienced closer at the Trade Deadline. Still widely available in Yahoo! leagues, Hembree should be added virtually everywhere.

Walks - Framber Valdez (24), Luis Castillo (18)

I’m a big fan of Valdez, which makes me disappointed to put him in this paragraph. When Valdez is at his best, he is the perfect mixture of a solid strikeout rate, plus control skills and a healthy groundball lean. But Valdez wasn’t at his best during July, walking more batters than he did during the entire 2020 season. The right-hander was able to mostly limit the damage of all those walks, and he benefits from the support of a quality Astros offense, but he needs to get his control in check this month. I can’t recommend trading Valdez, but I’ll put a pause on any recommendations to acquire him in a deal.

Strikeouts - Gerrit Cole (47), Lance McCullers Jr. (42)

Although Cole didn’t post his best ratios during July (4.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), he regained the swing-and-miss skills that disappeared in June and are a major key for his success. Cole opened and closed the month with subpar starts and was effective in between. Meanwhile, McCullers is a solid trade target for managers who are looking for more strikeouts but don’t want to pay for an ace. I also want to mention Patrick Sandoval, who missed this list by one strikeout. The Angels righty is emerging as a reliable fantasy starter, and he remains available in many Yahoo! leagues.

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