Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Look Into the Second Half PART TWO

As promised part of my look into the 2nd half...

Don't ever tell me players on a contract year aren't worth a heavy investment on draft day. Jacoby Ellsbury has regained his old form (of course sans his 2011 power burst which is not really who he is). He is on pace to score 100+ runs and steal 60+ bases and should continue to be a huge asset in any format. If an owner is disappointed with the fact he has but one home run on the season, by all means put together a package for him right now. Carlos Beltran was undervalued in drafts this year and he continues to be productive in St. Louis. However, his body did wear down as the season went on in '12 and it may be wise to shop him around. Mike Trout is clearly the number one guy here and has surprised me with his 30/30 pace for the second year in a row. The real surprise though has been Dominic Brown. He has grown into the player the Phillies envisioned and perhaps will allow them to retool and turnover this aging roster with the hope of being a contender again sooner rather than later. Hunter Pence continues to be the model of "productive outfielder" in all formats with his power and moderate combo. Hohum...just another 25/25 season with a .280 BA 90R and 90 RBI for Pence on the horizon. Can Raul Ibanez keep up this power tirade? No, sell high when you can. There may not be a better time to buy low on Ryan Braun between his injury and the controversy that follows him. Austin Jackson is another name whose stats don't match his talent year to date based on injuries. If you can get him on the cheap you would be wise to do so. Eric Young is getting a real look with the Mets and could be a steal in deep leagues or NL only formats. The talent is there and finally he has no one standing in his way (owned in just 20% of leagues). Leonys Martin is owned in about half of all leagues and is poised to have a nice second half with a nice blend of power and speed. You should not allow him to sit on your waiver wire. As far as Yasiel Puig goes...I can tell you he won't hit .400 the rest of the year and his value may never be higher. He has a flaw somewhere and is going to get found out. He should still be a productive player, but a more human version than what we have seen so far. If you get a super human offer for him I would entertain it strongly.

Justin Verlander has been more less dominant this year and his innings totals were bound to catch up with him eventually. No matter, he is bound to go on a hot streak so buy low when you can. His rotation-mates Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer have been other worldly and if they stay healthy could compete for the AL Cy Young. The tales of Cliff Lee's demise were grossly overstated as he continues to be one of the most underrated fantasy aces in the game. A possible move to a contender would give him a slight boost in value. Jordan Zimmerman's win total is finally matching his win total, but he still has a lower K rate than most aces. We have all been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Patrick Corbin, but with each start he looks more like the real deal. Keeper league owners might want to pursue hard before he becomes untouchable. Hisashi Iwakama is clearly the most underrated AL starter and his numbers compare favorably to Clayton Kershaw over his short time as a starter. That should make you take notice of this hidden gem. Shelby Miller is a great young asset, but he is already starting to hit a bit of a wall and I would be shocked if he wasn't in for a rough second half and a possible innings limit. One year only league owners now is the time to jump ship. Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey may also have restrictions come fantasy playoff time. Jeff Locke has been another surprise that I would attempt to turn into a more established arm. Adding an guy like Michael Pineda or Brandon Beachy from injury could pay nice dividends. I would be concerned with Alex Cobb returning to his outstanding form after being hit in the head a few weeks back. Those are tricky injuries both mentally and physically. If you asked me who would I rather own in the second half: Johnny Cueto or Tony Cingrani...I would go with Cingrani. Three times with the same injury is enough for any owner to lose patience. Cole Hamels, David Price, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke have all had rough first halves and are due for a correction.

Jason Grilli is the best reliever in the game right now and that is why you should never worry or invest too heavily in closers. They will all come and go the trick is to stay ahead of the trend and your peers. Watch the trade market and look for 8th inning guys set to inherit roles when their closers get dealt to contenders and monitor some young arms that will get a shot in September. As always...saves are saves.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Look into the Second Half PART ONE

For those in leagues with playoff formats in September we have reached the end of the "first half" of the fantasy season. There have been some feel good stories, some controversies and a myriad of great performances. What do they all mean for the second half? Absolutely nothing. As the season drags on hot starts cool off, rising stars come back to earth and slow starters heat up. Yes, it is true most players do "play to the back of their baseball card and players are who think they are most of the time.

Here is a look position by position at what to consider when approaching your second half.

Overall, this position has been a bit of a disappointment even from the top performers like Buster Posey and Carlos Santana. They have certainly been above average, but the average has been underwhelming. Looking ahead there are a few guys who can be had cheap that stick out to me that have potential to outperform the majority. Jonathan Lucroy had a dreadful April, but has steadily improved and so far in June (.316/.333.553) is showing himself to be the steady force he was in 2012. Yasmani Grandal in San Diego is another intriguing option and is only owned in 30% of leagues. Coming off the suspension for PED's he missed time and is bound to be slow out of the gate, but down the stretch he has potential to contribute in power and batting average. I love the Evan Gattis story but I find it hard to believe he will continue to perform at this level second time around the league and at bats will continue to be scarce as the Braves outfield gets healthy and on track. It is normal for young players to have success and then hit the skids.

Brandon Belt is owned in about 50% of leagues and unlike seasons past he is the undisputed first baseman. I now he has yet to match his hype, but he is at the tail end of the "adjustment phase" that players like Gattis are just entering. He has 20 homer power and great on base skills. His average will climb as well as the summer heats up. He can be acquired at a minimal cost and has terrific upside. I warned in this year's Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2013 that Ryan Howard was no longer a serviceable option. When he was having 45/120 seasons you could live with his strikeout totals, but now he is a shell of his former self and no longer a string fantasy play in any format. Don't look now but Eric Hosmer is becoming the reincarnation of James Loney. A much hyped "future batting champion" whose lack of power is disturbing for a corner player and being asked to be a run producer too soon in his career...stop me if you heard this before. Loney crumbled under the expectation in LA and only now after a change of scenery in his prime at 29 is he showing the glimmer of fulfilling his promise.

Unlike many fantasy writers I am not big on "I told you so", but Matt Carpenter was my shining sleeper heading into 2013 and he has fulfilled my lofty expectations. He's an on base machine and the Cardinals have been smart to hit him at the top of the order. Carpenter's skill set should allow him to maintain a very high level of production even if he tails off slightly in his first full season. His versatility makes him even more valuable. In keeper leagues I would try and acquire him now even if that meant changing over from the old elite types like Ian Kinsler. On the flip side I railed against Dustin Ackley and he fell off the map as I predicted and landed back in AAA. Now he is tearing it up again in the PCL and being converted into an outfielder. He will be back up sometime soon with the Mariners and that versatility makes him interesting. Even players that you may not like sometimes hit a point when their value is so low it is crazy not to take a shot on him. Ackley is young and should rebound enough to have sleeper value in the second half and he will cost you nothing. Martin Prado has been on a decline ever since the all star break last year. His value is his versatility but there are better offensive options out there.

From Moustakas to Middlebrooks to Lawrie to Headley third base has been a disaster. The silver lining has been Manny Machado whom I must admit is outperforming my modest projections heading into the season. I would try to buy low on Hanley or Aramis Ramirez and try the veteran play over the young bucks who have disappointed. Edwin Encarnacion gaining eligibility is a huge boost for his 2014 keeper value. Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado I think are still a bit green to be any significant lift in the second half.

I keep waiting for Jean Segura to hit a wall and it has yet to happen. If you asked me right now I would probably take him over Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki heading into 2014 simply based off the injury history of these top performers. Josh Rutledge will get another long look with Tulo out for 6 weeks in Colorado. he has some pop, but is always going to be more productive at home. Eric Aybar is having a repeat of last season's slow start and injury bug campaign. However, he can once again become a smart pick up (still available in 50% of leagues) for your stretch run.


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