7 big names who should turn things around

July 10th, 2022

Last year, at the All-Star break, Joey Votto’s season would have been considered a disappointment, at least by his historical standards. He had just 11 homers, with a .463 slugging percentage. Was the old Canadian done? Were his best days behind him?

In the second half, Votto hit 25 homers and slugged .657. He had a 1.057 OPS. He was a monster. By the end of the year, no one remembered he’d ever struggled in the second half.

Votto’s numbers this year are even lower than they were in the first half last year, but if anybody knows how a second half can erase a first half, it’s him. He’s not the only terrific player who had a rough first half but seems primed to put it together in the second half. Here’s a look at seven other guys whose first half struggles may be gone from our minds by season’s end.

Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros

Gurriel led the American League in batting average last year and had a .383 OBP (not to mention a Gold Glove). But the first two months of the season made you wonder if the 38-year-old had gotten, suddenly, dramatically, over the hill. He hit .224 in April with no homers, and only .214 in May. The rest of the Astros were hitting the ball well, but the guy who has been as consistent as anyone in their lineup had fallen off; his OBP right now is a full 100 points lower than it was last year. But there are signs he’s coming out of it. He’s hitting .293 with two homers in the last couple of weeks, and he has traditionally put up better numbers in the second half than the first half throughout his career. That’s all the Astros need: Gurriel hitting like he always does.

Jonathan India, 2B, Reds

India won the National League Rookie of the Year last year, and he deserved it, hitting 21 homers, stealing 12 bases and generally being the sparkplug for a Reds team that was in the Wild Card chase until late in the year. He was also a joy to watch: He looked ready from his very first game. But this sophomore year has been a disappointment. India has suffered with hamstring issues all year, missing the entire month of May, and he’s only hitting .145 since he returned on June 13. This seems more a case of a player facing his first bit of injury adversity in the Majors, but India is too joyous of a player, and too talented of one, to stay down for long.

Lance Lynn, RHP, White Sox

By the time the rest of baseball figured out it was time to start paying attention to how fantastic a pitcher Lance Lynn was -- he finished in the top six in Cy Young voting for the third straight year last year, hitting his high point of third -- injuries finally attacked the notoriously durable innings eater. He finally made his first start after having knee surgery back in April on June 13, and he’s neither eating innings nor pitching particularly well. He has given up five runs in three of his last four starts, and his ERA is an ugly 5.33. But that seems more like a guy getting his sea legs back than a guy who has lost anything. He had an excellent start against the Giants on July 1 (6 innings, zero runs), and his peripherals are pointing toward a clear turning of the corner soon. (Though a stinker against the Giants on Wednesday was disappointing.) The White Sox and Lynn have had a cursed first half. The second half, for both, should be better.

Yoán Moncada, 3B, White Sox

Yep, another struggling White Sox player. In 2019, it looked like Moncada might end up being the star among a team of young stars, and though he took a step back during the shortened 2020 season, he was back up to a career high .375 OBP last year. (While still of course striking out like crazy.) But injuries have ravaged his season so far, and after finally being activated last week, he fouled a ball off his foot. He’s day-to-day, but X-rays were negative and it doesn’t seem like a serious injury. The guy still oozes talent, and if he can get straight in the second half, he could be a driver for a White Sox playoff push … just like Lynn.

Tyler O’Neill, OF, Cardinals

It might seem strange now, but coming into the season, O’Neill was a stealth MVP candidate last year. The guy had 34 homers in 2021, stole 15 bases and won a Gold Glove, and it was his second half when he truly ascended, putting together a .942 OPS. He was particularly key to the Cardinals’ 17-game win streak in September, notching a 1.108 OPS and winning September’s Player of the Month honors. But when you have a bulky body like O’Neill does, sometimes it breaks down, and that’s what has happened this year: He has only played 45 games and hit only four homers. He’s on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Memphis right now with a hamstring issue (after dealing with a shoulder issue earlier in the year) and he could be back as soon as this weekend. When he’s healthy, he’s a monster. The Cardinals could very much use that monster right now.

Blake Snell, LHP, Padres

By many accounts, the Padres are frustrated with Snell’s performance, and you can see why: The Cy Young winner they thought they were getting has had a 4.42 ERA in San Diego and has gone 0-5 with a 5.13 ERA in eight starts this season. (There are even rumors he might be traded.) But there are signs of life. His last start against the Dodgers was his best of the year, striking out 12 hitters in one of the best lineups in the game in just five innings. He’s still walking too many guy -- and hitting too many, if you ask Bryce Harper -- but you can see that the stuff is still there. He may be pitching for his Padres career. But you can still see that Cy Young guy in there, if you look closely.

Juan Soto, RF, Nationals

All right, so it’s kind of weird to have Soto in here. He does have a .388 OBP after all, and he leads the Majors (again) with 69 walks. But, somehow, Soto is hitting .231, which is a shocking number; he hit .351 two years ago, and .313 last year. How is “the next Ted Williams” somehow hitting .231? (With only 34 RBIs … in 82 games!) Soto has a tendency to take off in the second half, and if he can keep his focus while playing for one of the worst teams in baseball, there’s little reason to think he won’t do the same this year. He’s still good; he’s Juan Soto. But we all miss that super-duper star.