These 7 hitters are finding their stride in May

May 17th, 2022

Baseball’s a humbling sport. With 162 games spread across seven months, it’s only natural that almost every player will go through a slump at some point.

But there’s still nothing worse than starting the season off cold. Not only does it remove all the good vibes from Spring Training, but it also means that a player will spend the next month (or more) fighting to get to a respectable stat line.

As we get into the middle of May, here are seven hitters who are reclaiming their season after a slow start.

Note: All statistics are through Sunday's games.

Bryce Harper, DH, Phillies

Harper didn’t have a horrible April. In fact, his numbers for the month (.253 average, 3 homers, 13 RBIs) would have been just fine for most hitters who aren’t two-time MVPs with historically great April production over their careers. But what he’s doing in May can’t be ignored. Through 48 at-bats, Harper is batting .396 with 19 hits (13 for extra bases), 13 RBIs, three steals and four walks while leading baseball in May slugging (.917) and OPS (1.351). Oh, and he’s been doing all this with a small tear to the UCL in his right elbow that’s kept him from playing the field.

Thanks to that hot streak, this year now looks like more of the same for the reigning NL MVP, who is the 90th percentile or better in almost every offensive Statcast category. The biggest difference is the type of contact he’s making. Harper currently boasts a career-high line-drive rate (35.6%) and a career-low ground-ball rate (29.7%) while having a sweet-spot rate (42.6%) that’s nearly seven points better than his career average.

Even with those career-high hitting rates, he’s still found a way to use the whole field to his advantage. Seriously, look at this spray chart:

In Harper’s MVP season last year, he never managed to bat better than .337 in a single month. He’s on pace to breeze past that career high this month.

Franmil Reyes, DH, Guardians

Among qualified hitters, Reyes was the worst hitter in baseball in April. The slugger, who usually is known for his scoreboard-scraping home runs, spent the first month whiffing his way to the MLB lead in strikeouts (35) in April and ended the month slashing a measly .135/.169/.215.

That said, Reyes has been on fire since the calendar changed to May. After going hitless in more than half of the Guardians’ April games, Reyes has recorded a hit in eight of their 11 May games, en route to a .333 batting average for the month.

While Reyes only has two extra-base hits in May, his season stats still show that he’s hitting the ball hard (97th percentile in exit velocity) and using the whole field (41.5% of his hits have been straight up the middle), which are two signs that he’s beginning to feel like himself again. Reyes finding his swing would be a boon for a Guardians lineup that has the fourth-best average in baseball despite Reyes not looking like himself.

Jean Segura, 2B, Phillies

In a lineup featuring blue-chip hitters such as Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto, Segura can sometimes be overlooked. That won't be the case this month.

Segura’s been arguably the best hitter in baseball in May, batting .432 with a 1.217 OPS to go along with four home runs, nine RBIs and five walks while recording a hit in all 12 games he’s played.

One of the biggest keys to Segura’s success has been simple: He’s hitting the ball harder. So far this year, Segura’s average exit velocity is 92.9 mph -- nearly five mph above his career average of 88.0, all of which makes sense considering Segura’s batting .373 against fastballs. Additionally, Segura has a hard-hit rate of 52.7% and has an expected batting average of .320, both of which are in the top 6% of the league.

Ketel Marte, 2B, D-backs

The D-backs (18-17) have been one the biggest surprises of the year thus far, something that's even more surprising considering how much Marte struggled through the first month of the season. Through 22 games in April, Marte limped to a .146 batting average with only 12 hits and 22 strikeouts.

Marte has improved upon that production as the calendar has turned to May however. Through 12 games this month, the 2019 All-Star is batting .333 with 14 hits (eight for extra bases), eight walks and only seven strikeouts with an OPS of 1.035.

Whether Marte’s early-season struggles were due to the pressure of the five-year, $76 million contract he signed in the offseason or the eye infection he suffered right before the season started, it appears as if the switch-hitting second baseman has turned a corner. While he’s still not hitting the ball as hard as he has in years prior (his max exit velocity of 110.3 mph would be the lowest of his career), Marte’s begun putting the ball in play again and has already topped his production from April in half of the games.

Luis Robert, CF, White Sox

In the eighth inning of Chicago’s April 21 game against the Guardians, it looked as if Robert’s season might never get off the ground. After entering the aforementioned game batting .175, Robert left the game with a groin injury that ended up keeping him on the shelf for a week.

Ironically enough, that time away from the field might have helped Robert, who has been lights-out in the batter’s box since returning. In 12 games in May, Robert is batting .420 with 21 hits -- good enough for an OPS+ of 183.

Robert’s strong May aligns more with his metrics for the season; he sits in the top 10% of the league in expected batting average (.349), expected slugging percentage (.628) and expected wOBA (.425). Robert’s always been a bit of a streaky hitter, but even as he struggled at the beginning of the season, he’s still been able to keep his strikeout rate under control (13.9%), something that should help him even as he cools off.

Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Rockies

In 14 games in April, Rodgers only managed four hits. It took him three games in May to equal that total. After batting an anemic .078 in April, Rodgers has turned it around in May to the tune of a .370 average and 13 RBIs.

Rodgers’ success can be attributed in large part to a drastic reduction in his strikeout rate, which went from 27.6% in April to 15.2% in May. He’s also begun to find his rhythm against both the soft and hard stuff, going from batting .040 against fastballs and .059 against breaking balls in April to batting .333 against fastballs and .438 against breaking balls in May.

He’s also started driving in runs in bunches, tallying three games in May with four RBIs. While his walk rate (4.8%) is still an area of concern, Rodgers’ turnaround has provided the Rockies with some pop at the bottom of the lineup.

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Baseball is a sport notoriously filled with slow starters. Altuve (.309 career average in March/April) isn’t one of them, which is what made the veteran infielder’s .167 batting average this April all the more puzzling. While he’s never been someone who hits the ball hard, Altuve’s in the bottom 10% of the league in exit velocity (85.2), something that led to his slow start.

That said, Altuve’s been on fire since coming off the injured list on May 2, a reinstatement that kicked off an 11-game winning streak for the Astros. Not only is Altuve batting .333 in May, but he’s also getting on base more this month (15 hits, six walks) and has been doing more in his at-bats (six home runs, one double, 13 runs scored). Altuve’s been one of the sport’s most consistent players over the past decade, and all signs point toward him moving past his rocky April.