Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
June is a pivitol month for a baseball player.
Though April and May set the foundation for the entire season, there is still time for things to change going into the season's third month because a player hasn't accumulated enough at-bats yet to reach a level of permanence. Because of that, a two-month slump can be reversed, a hot start can be undone quickly and a merely average season can be turned into a great one.
Instead of simply taking a look at who succeeded or failed, let's explore players who exited June having made a 180-degree turn from where they were when they came into the month.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays - Bautista looked like his old-old self (the one who toiled for Pittsburgh) in April, hitting three home runs with 10 RBIs and a .181 batting average. Though he belted nine home runs in May, his average going into June was just .223 and his OPS was .779. Everything changed last month, as the Blue Jays outfielder crushed 14 home runs in 27 games and raised his average to .239, his OPS to .908 and his home run total to 26. The surge has me thinking that Bautista could take a crack at 60 homers this season, and I can assure you nobody had that in mind after the first two months of the season.
Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox - It is difficult to prognosticate an Alex Rios season. The outfielder hit .296 and averaged 19 homers, 82 RBIs and 21 steals with Toronto from 2006-08 and .284 with 21 round-trippers, 88 RBIs and 34 steals in 2010 for Chicago, but he also hit .247 with 17 homers in 149 games in 2009 and .227 with 13 home runs in 145 games last season. Rios had a .267 batting average with one homer on May 16, but he started his turnaround soon thereafter, going 16-for-49 (.326) with three home runs in the final 13 games of the month. He solidified his resurgence in June by hitting .346 with six bombs, 16 RBIs and eight stolen bases to vault himself into the top 50 overall in Yahoo! fantasy leagues with a .306/10/41/43/13 line.
Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins - Plouffe was off the fantasy radar completely after he hit under .200 in each of the first two months this season. However, his stretch of nine homers in 12 games to start June allowed him to venture into July with a .245 batting average, 16 home runs and 29 RBIs.
Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks - Hill hit .286 with 36 home runs in 158 games with Toronto in 2009, but it's not really a stretch to say that he's been irrelevant in fantasy leagues since then. Hill was an afterthought again when he hit under .270 with five homers combined in the first two months, but he came alive in June, hitting .370 (37-for-100) with six home runs, 20 RBIs and two steals to bring his season line to .301/11/38/35/7 and his name back to fantasy rosters. Hill's most amazing feat of the month was hitting for the cycle twice in a 10-game span after coming a double shy of one on June 5.
Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves - Heyward had an .849 OPS as a 20-year-old rookie in 2010, but he hit .227 last season and .233 in April and May 2012. That made us wonder if Heyward was another over-hyped underachiever, but he changed our minds again (we're a fickle bunch) in June, hitting .348 with six home runs, 15 RBIs and a 1.053 OPS. Suddenly, the 22-year-old looks like a phenom again.
Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves - Uggla didn't get his batting average to permanently stay over .200 until July 27 of last season, so as long as he didn't do that again, fantasy owners were going to be satisfied. In April and May this season, he looked a lot like the player he was with the Marlins from 2006-2010 -- a .270 hitter with some serious pop -- as he was hitting .267 with eight homers and an .834 OPS going into the month of June. However, June 2012 was just as unkind to Uggla as the first three months of the 2011 season were. The second baseman hit .160 with three home runs and a .648 OPS in 24 games, sinking his season average down to .235.
Rafael Furcal, St, Louis Cardinals - Not only was Furcal resurgent in the first two months of 2012, he was extraordinary. The shortstop looked to be in the midst of a career year at age 34 as he went into June batting .333 (66-for-198) with five home runs and eight stolen bases. However, he hit .176 with a .477 OPS in 26 games last month, putting his numbers back in line with his career averages.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox - Pedroia tore an abductor muscle in his thumb at the end of May, but he opted to play through it after a few games off. Because of that, nobody will question the Red Sox second baseman's toughness, but toughness doesn't win fantasy leagues. Pedroia hit .194 with a .538 OPS and zero home runs in 23 June games, bringing his choice to endure the pain into question.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers - Fantasy owners were singing Hamilton's praises after he hit .395 with nine home runs in May and .344 with 12 homers in June. Hamilton also had 57 RBIs in those two months combined, so it wasn't unrealistic to consider Hamilton one of the strongest Triple Crown contenders in years. However, he hit .223 with four big flies and 16 RBIs in 25 games last month, showing that he is human after all.