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Fantasy Baseball Update: The First Half
The first half of the season is over, and the National League was victorious for the second consecutive year in the annual All-Star Game. Here is a review of some of the players that stood out before the all-star break; some of these players may have been either make-or-break high draft picks for your team, or a team in your league, or they are players that you might consider picking up for the second half.
Stud of the first half, American League: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox
When Gonzalez was traded to the Red Sox last year, every non-Red Sox fan was terrified of how dangerous he could be offensively with the Green Monster as his home field. Gonzalez made sure that all of those fears were realized, as he has hit .354 with 17 home runs and 77 RBIs. This season is a perfect example of a power hitter making a transition from the National League to the American League, and finding massive success. A-Gon will finally get the recognition he deserves as a hitter by being in a lineup which allows him to drive in a huge amount of runs, and by playing in a stadium which turns fly balls that were previously opposite field fly-outs into home runs and doubles. This combination ensures that Gonzalez is going to be a high first round draft pick in every fantasy baseball league for years to come. (Honourable mentions: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, .336 AVG, 31 HR, 65 RBI; Curtis Granderson, Yankees, .271 AVG, 25 HR, 65 RBI)
Stud of the first half, National League: Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers
Center field is a position where offensive production is a bonus. Players like Peter Bourjos are serviceable center fielders for MLB teams because they offer value on defense in a position that demands it; Matt Kemp, however, has been somewhat of a fantasy baseball monster, hitting .313 with 22 homeruns and 27 stolen bases, while driving in 67 runs. He’s on pace for a 40 HR – 40 SB season, which is certainly something special for a player of any position. The fact that he plays a position without many strong offensive players makes him that much more valuable to your fantasy team. (Honourable mentions: Jose Reyes, Mets, .354 AVG, 15 3B, 30 SB; Prince Fielder, Brewers, .298 AVG, 22 HR, 73 RBI)
Bust of the first half, American League: Adam Dunn, 1B, White Sox
Before coming to the White Sox, Adam Dunn was a model of consistency: from 2005 to 2010, he hit no less than 38 homers and no more than 40 each year, while posting an on-base percentage in the high .300’s. Over the first half, however, Dunn has hit only 9 home runs with a .160 AVG and a .292 OBP. This is, quite obviously, a massive decline from his expected production that had been so consistent while he was playing for Washington and Cincinnati. (Dishonourable Mention: Hideki Matsui, Athletics, .209 AVG, 6 HR, 34 RBI)
Bust of the first half, National League: Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals
In the offseason Jayson Werth managed to sign the fifteenth most lucrative contract in baseball history, for $126,000,000 of total value. Needless to say, he should be performing at a premium level. Unfortunately for Nationals fans, they may have to wait for Bryce Harper to make the MLB roster before they can have another impact outfielder. Jayson Werth has batted .215 throughout the first half, which ties him with Manny Burriss of the Giants. Who? Exactly. Werth has also hit only 10 home runs, and his slugging percentage is down almost 200 points from last season. If he doesn’t find his old swing soon, he’s sure to be crowned as the second “Vernon Wells” of the 21st century (who, coincidentally, also signed for $126 million back in 2008 with the Blue Jays). (Dishonourable Mention: Dan Uggla, Braves, .185 AVG, 15 HR, 34 RBI)
Rookie of the first half, American League: Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners
Being successful in the MLB when you are 22-years-old is an accomplishment in itself, but Pineda has managed to put together a fantastic season with an all-star appearance. Pineda has been strong in all facets of pitching, already having thrown 113 innings of 3.03 ERA baseball with 113 strikeouts and only 37 walks. He’s also averaging 95.0 MPH on his fastball, which ties him for fourth in the majors. He’s looking like a fantastically talented young pitcher, and he is certainly the backup that King Felix needs and the Mariners have been lacking since Cliff Lee’s departure. (Honourable mention: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles, .260 AVG, 17 HR, 41 RBI)
Rookie of the first half, National League: Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals
While Werth has certainly been a complete letdown so far in Washington, Espinosa has been a sign of the team’s bright future. He has only posted a .242 AVG, but he has hit 16 homeruns and driven in 52 RBIs. He’s also managed to post an OPS of .793, which is impressive for such a young second baseman. While Espinosa has been striking out a fair bit (22.2% of his plate appearances are strikeouts), it is four percent lower than last year, and at 24 years of age he has a lot of time left to improve his plate discipline. He’s also stolen 12 bases, a welcome addition to any fantasy team. (Honourable mention: Freddie Freeman, Braves, .274 AVG, 13 HR, 43 RBI)
Player to watch for the second half, American League: Michael Brantley, CF, Indians
A lot of people have been wondering what exactly has allowed the Indians to win so many games throughout the first half, and while much of the praise has been (rightfully) directed toward the team’s fantastic pitching, Michael Brantley has provided solid production for them on offense. He has hit for a .270 AVG so far, with 36 RBIs and a very solid 51 runs scored. He’s also stolen 12 bases and received 34 walks. Brantley has also played quite a few games in left field this season, which allows him to be a fantastic bench player for anyone’s fantasy team. Brantley is only 61.7% owned in ESPN leagues, which means that there’s a good chance you could have him backing up, or even starting, on your fantasy team for the second half.
Player to watch for the second half, National League: Chase Headley, 3B/OF, Padres
Headley has put together a very productive season in San Diego, while flying under the radar. He’s hit .300 with a .390 OBP and a .791 OPS, through the first half, while driving in 32 RBIs and scoring 34 runs. The value that he loses from having only hit 2 home runs so far, he makes up in that fantastic on-base percentage. He’s also thrown in 8 stolen bases and taken 45 walks, which is solid for any bench player on a fantasy team. Headley’s positional versatility allows him to fill in for any of your injured (or slumping) starting players at third base and in the outfield. He’s also owned in only 66.9% of ESPN leagues, so pick him up if you’re in need of someone to backup your outfield, or to provide a lot of hits and walks.