Recent hot and cold streaks by hitters worth fantasy attention

Los Angeles DodgersMax Muncy has been a surprise fantasy performer over the past month. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Similar to what we did earlier in the week with examining pitcher trends, let’s look at one-month splits for some especially hot and cold hitters, courtesy of our friends at MLB-stat-provider Inside Edge.

You have to start with the most surprising hot hitter in baseball, Max Muncy. He’s the rare A+ hitter among Inside Edge’s 24 stats. The key is being one of the best off-speed hitters in baseball (.304 batting average on these pitches vs. .228 for MLB average). The last 30 days (through Tuesday), he’s tied for third in the majors with 10 homers. The others in the top six: Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi (also with 10), Matt Olson (9) and Jesus Aguilar (8).

Benintendi alert readers will note is someone who I was skeptical of being 20/20 again this year given his minor league numbers. But after a very slow first month-and-a-half with power, he’s exploded of late (he has 12 homers and 11 steals). I don’t want to take the loss here because it would feel really stupid if Benintendi’s power faded again like it did earlier in the year. But this sure feels like a loss.

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Muncy’s well-hit overall is .227 but he’s not among the leaders the past 30 days. Those well-hit (of at bats) players are Mookie Betts (.340 but in just 53 plate appearances), Olson (.303), Paul Goldschmidt (.299), Kendrys Morales (.297) and Trout (.283). The fact that we never wavered on Goldschmidt here is a triumph of the well-hit stats.

The lowest hitters (league average in the period is .157) are Billy Hamilton (.025, about his full-season rate), Maikel Franco (.030) and Travis Jankowski (.034). Every time I think Franco has turned a corner he ends up right back where he was in Bustville.

We tend to think of the best hitters as ones who hit to all fields. But that’s not the case with Jose Ramirez and Betts — especially of late.

Ramirez the past 30 days has pulled 69.1% of balls in play (56 of 81). That’s the highest rate in baseball. League average is 45.6%. Yet teams are only shifting Ramirez 29.2% of the time for the season (tied for 40th). Note Chris Davis leads MLB in being shifted in 72.1% of plate appearances; league average is about 19%. Ramirez is on pace to have the best third-base season in history, according to Baseball Reference WAR. But there is a good chance he’ll either have to alter his approach or suffer batting average declines via the shift.

Betts is shifted just 6.9% of the time (128th). Yet he’s pulled the ball 65.2% of the time in his injury-interrupted last 30 days (pulled 30 of 46 balls in play).

RBI is such a frustrating fantasy stat because the opportunities with runners in scoring position are so variable. For example, the Mets some of you may be unaware last had a runner in scoring position in 1979. Their inability to get on base has crushed Brandon Nimmo’s RBI chances, not uncommon for leadoff hitters in the NL (even though the Mets bat the pitcher 8th). Nimmo has RISP just 13.6% of the time the last month. Only Mac Williamson (12.5%) and Marcus Semien (12.6%) are lower. Ozzie Albies (13.8%) and Christian Villanueva (14.3%) round out the bottom five. The league average is 24.1%.

But at the other end of the spectrum, the ducks are on the pond with great frequency for Addison Russell (40%), Ian Desmond (36.7%), Dixon Machado (36.2%), Tyler Flowers (36.1%) and Jeimer Candelario (36%). Every time I look at this stat, Tigers are up top and yet Detroit is 10th in the AL in scoring.

Marcell Ozuna has turned things around dramatically and the key has been great contact ability, with a K% the past 30 days of just 8.2%. Compare that to trailers Mike Zunino (44.3%), Joey Gallo (38%), Javier Baez (34%), Bryce Harper (34%), Yoan Moncada (33.6%), and Aaron Judge (32.3%). I thought Ozuna was basically a 112 career OPS+ OF when he was slumping a while back and thus was droppable in 12 teams. That turned out to be really bad advice. The last 14 days, he’s .390/.457/.732. Yet overall this year, he’s 102 OPS+. So the jury is still out on whether last year was a fluke.

Zunino has put just 19.9% of is swings in play (41 of 206) the past 30 days, the lowest rate in baseball (average is 37.8%). He has power but this is ridiculously bad even by today’s standards for making contact.

I’ve always been a fan of Joc Pederson but even I had pretty much given up on him despite his tantalizing power. Yet he’s posted 18 extra-base hits the last month and has seven homers in June. Pederson’s rate of 78.3% of hits being for extra bases is the best in baseball the past 30 days (league average is 36.9%).

You look at the top batting averages the last month and there really are no surprises (we talked about Brandon Crawford, who leads the league at .429 in our line-drive column last week). But Brian Anderson is just 44% owned and is just ripping it up of late (.377 the last 30 days). So you know what to do now if you need that category.

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