Three Up:

1. Minnesota Twins Center Fielder Byron Buxton — The player I predicted to win the American League MVP has had an inconsistent start to the season. Buxton started off the season strong, as he finished April batting .271 with six home runs and 11 RBIs. The outfielder struggled in May, hitting .169. However, Buxton has bounced back in June, as he’s hitting .344 with six home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored. For the season, Buxton is batting .231 with 17 home runs, 30 RBIs and 35 runs scored. Buxton has had a couple injuries this season, but has played in 45 of 62 games. The average needs to be higher and will improve if Buxton continues this strong stretch. Hopefully he remains healthy as well and we see MVP-type numbers at the end of the year.

2. Los Angeles Angels Center Fielder Mike Trout — As I predicted, Trout finds himself back on the “Three Up” portion after appearing on “Three Down” last week. Trout went hitless in 26 at-bats and also tweaked his groin, giving fantasy owners a scare. However, the outfielder has bounced back in a big way and hit three home runs finished with a .583 batting average this past week. Overall, Trout is batting .293 with 16 home runs, 34 RBIs and 42 runs scored.

3. Houston Astros Starting Pitcher Justin Verlander — It’s impressive to see the season Verlander is having. After missing last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, it was easy to be skeptical that vintage Verlander was long gone at the age of 39. However, vintage Verlander is still here. The right-hander is pitching to a 1.94 ERA and 0.81 WHIP while striking out 8.9 hitters per nine innings. In his last two starts, Verlander allowed one earned run and struck out 17. Will Verlander get tired as the year progresses after not pitching last year? It remains to be seen, but he’s pitching like the ace he’s always been, which is great to see.

Three Down:

1. Seattle Mariners Outfielder Jesse Winker — The struggles continue for Winker, as he finished this past week collecting just four hits while striking out nine times. For the season, Winker is batting .206 with only four home runs. Winker’s OPS is a career-low .616. To put that in perspective, Winker had an OPS over .900 in each of the past two seasons. I expected Winker to struggle in Seattle, but not like this. It’s hard to see him turning it around.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers Outfielder Cody Bellinger — I cannot wrap my head around a player in his prime just struggling as much as Bellinger has in recent years. It was another bad week for the 26-year-old, as he collected only four hits while striking out nine times. For the season, Bellinger is hitting .207 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. This is now a trend. As optimistic as I was that Bellinger was going to bounce back, it’s becoming apparent that it may not happen.

3. Seattle Mariners Outfielder Julio Rodriguez — Two Mariners crack this list, but for Rodriguez, it’s just a blip on a very strong rookie season. Rodriguez only collected four hits while striking out 10 times this past week. The 21-year-old could win American League Rookie of the Year, as he’s hitting .262 with eight home runs, 28 RBIs, 28 runs scored and an eye-popping 17 stolen bases. Rodriguez is an impact player in all five categories, but as a rookie, he will have some ups and downs during a long season.

Phil Backert

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