Last week's 5 biggest fantasy surprises: Is Max Muncy finally back to form?

If you drafted Max Muncy in 2022, you drafted a bust. Muncy is still hitting under .200 and hasn't produced the power numbers fantasy managers expected. It was pretty easy to cut bait. Muncy is 31 and was coming off an elbow injury that kept him from playing in the postseason last year.

If you were among those to part ways with Muncy in June, hopefully you can get him back now. Muncy appears to have turned things around and could be a major boon for fantasy teams the rest of the way. Over his last 14 games, Muncy is hitting .354 with five home runs.

Ranks are based on standard Yahoo fantasy leagues

Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers 1B, 2B, 3B

Fantasy rank over the last seven days: 14

Season-long fantasy rank: 463

It's taken months, but Muncy has finally rounded into form. Muncy started putting the ball in the air over 50 percent of the time in June. With that accomplished, Muncy focused on pulling the ball in July. He also rediscovered his hard-hit rate during the month, with 53.2 percent of his batted balls being classified as hard hits.

All of that carried over into August, fueling Muncy's latest surge. Given how gradually Muncy built his way back to form, it's easier to believe this recent stretch is more than just a small-sample hot streak. Muncy probably isn't going to help the fantasy manager who drafted him, but he could sway some leagues down the stretch now that he's finally found his old swing and approach.

Cal Quantrill, Cleveland Guardians SP

Fantasy rank over the last seven days: 19

Season-long fantasy rank: 463

Cal Quantrill opened eyes in his two most recent starts, hurling scoreless outings against the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays. Shutting down those teams should garner attention from fantasy managers. Can Quantrill be a sneaky pickup down the stretch?

That depends on whether you believe Quantrill is doing something different in August. While Quantrill has made changes this season, they haven't been the type to increase his fantasy value. Quantrill has cut down on his four-seam fastball use in favor of his sinker. It was a good real-life decision, as Quantrill's four-seamer isn't a great pitch. The sinker is better, but it doesn't get as many whiffs, which explains Quantrill's poor strikeout numbers this season.

Things have changed slightly in his last two starts. Quantrill has utilized the four-seam fastball even less in favor of the sinker. He's also been willing to pitch backward against lefties, surprising them with a curveball to lead off at-bats.

Cal Quantrill with the Guardians.
Can Cal Quantrill be a useful fantasy asset down the stretch? (Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)

The increased use of the sinker should lead to poor strikeout numbers, but Quantrill has upped his velocity in August. He averaged 93.44 mph on his sinker prior to his last two starts. Against the Astros and Blue Jays, Quantrill averaged 94.22 mph on the pitch. The pitch registered at 95 mph on the radar gun during some of his strikeouts against the Blue Jays. The velocity gain has led to Quantrill striking out 11 batters in 13 innings over his last two starts.

Quantrill's sinker averaged 94.3 mph last year when he struck out 19.6 percent of batters he faced. That's far from an elite number, but it is useful. Quantrill can provide some value for fantasy managers down the stretch if he can maintain his rediscovered velocity. Given his lack of strikeouts, managers may want to pick and choose matchups carefully if they plan to use Quantrill in the final months of the season.

Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals 1B

Fantasy rank over the last seven days: 1

Season-long fantasy rank: 1005

It's always tough to evaluate a rookie a few months into their first season in the majors. By all accounts, though, Vinnie Pasquantino is someone fantasy managers should have an eye on. He was the No. 1 player in standard Yahoo leagues last week. Hitting .440 with five home runs will do that.

When Pasquantino inevitably cools down, he should still provide value. There's a lot to like about his profile. Pasquantino is showing strong plate discipline, walking in more than 10 percent of his plate appearances. He's striking out just 14.4 percent of the time, which could help him post a high average the rest of the way.

Pasquantino's biggest strength is his ability to make contact with the ball. He has a contact rate of 86.3 percent, 10 percentage points higher than the league average. On pitches in the zone, his contact rate jumps to 92.4 percent. When he does hit the ball, Pasquantino is barreling it up at a high 12.4 percent rate and hitting it hard more than 50 percent of the time.

If you're looking for some extra pop and hopefully a solid average, Pasquantino is a strong pickup option in most fantasy leagues. He won't continue to produce at this rate, but his skills are good enough to ensure he's a useful fantasy asset moving forward.

Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins SP

Fantasy rank over the last seven days: 746

Season-long fantasy rank: 205

Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Ryan lived up to his status as everyone's favorite sleeper pitcher early in the season, but things have been far less rosy since June. Over his last 11 starts, Ryan has a 5.15 ERA over 57 2/3 innings.

What changed over that period? Ryan missed 20 games after contracting COVID-19. We can't be certain how much of an impact the virus, and the absence, had on Ryan's season, but he wouldn't be the first pitcher to see drastic splits after spending time on the COVID-19 list.

Ryan has seen a decline in fastball velocity since his return. The pitch is down to 91.44 mph after averaging 92.45 mph through May. Ryan's fastball remains an excellent pitch, so credit to him for being able to adapt despite losing velocity.

Joe Ryan with the Twins.
Joe Ryan has struggled in the second half. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While those two factors are alarming and provide a reasonable excuse for Ryan's struggles, his slump is probably being overstated. Ryan had one disaster start — in which he allowed 10 earned runs against the San Diego Padres — that is weighing heavily on his second-half numbers. Take out that start, and Ryan has a 3.91 ERA over 53 innings since missing time with COVID-19. That's still a decline from his early-season heights, but it's manageable.

There are still a few reasons for concern — Ryan isn't going as deep into games anymore — but the second-half slump probably isn't as bad as most fantasy managers think. He's not the star he looked like early in the season, but Ryan still has the ability to put up strong numbers in the closing months.

Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies OF

Fantasy rank over the last seven days: 524

Season-long fantasy rank: 106

Regression has finally come for Charlie Blackmon. After a surprising start to the season, Blackmon has bottomed out over his last 19 games, hitting .176 during that stretch.

None of the indicators liked Blackmon even when things were going well. He has a career-worst average exit velocity and one of the lowest hard-hit rates of his career. His plate discipline has also taken a step backward. Blackmon is reaching at pitches out of the zone more frequently and walking less. Those are worrisome signs for a 36-year-old.

Blackmon won't continue to be this bad. He's better than a .176 hitter. But once things fully rebound, it's tough to see Blackmon recapture his early-season success. His early production always looked fluky considering all the troubling trends in his profile. Fantasy managers might be better off finding another hot hand in the outfield to ride the rest of the way.