We’ve reached it folks, the All-Star break. Though not really the halfway point of the season, it’s a good time to assess our teams and start thinking about how to make the final push for championship glory. Use this in tandem with Grey’s list of top-100 for the second half. I’m writing this assuming Grey is writing his. While Grey is quite the dependable guy, I don’t fully trust that mustache. Shhh. Wait, is it staring at me? Quick, hide! Does it see me? I think it hears us. I’m getting the ef out of here bro. You go left, I’ll go right. If I don’t ever see you again, let Grey know that Braun has a great line of shavers and trimmers, as stated here.
Brandon Belt — Yes, I know we’ve all been Belted before. Well, I guess technically we could call it being Aubrey Huffed, but there are some encouraging signs nonetheless. Wait, maybe it’s being Bochy’d? So hard to decide! After starting slow, Belt started picking things up in May, hitting four home runs, doubling the amount of walks drawn, and hitting .266. After hitting .289 in June, Belt still has a bit of room to grow. His deflated BABIP and improved Contact% might be enough to give you something like Adam LaRoche, not bad, considering.
Yoenis Cespedes — His underwhelming year so far looks heavily BABIP driven. Both Contact% and SwStrk% look okay. He doesn’t seem to be hacking wildly, in fact, he’s actually taking less swings on pitches outside of the zone AND making more contact on those pitches when he does swing, by nearly three percent. Pitchers are still throwing the same way to him. FB% is up, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. K% is a bit high, but not many other red flags. The biggest worry is his LD%, but that takes a looooong time to stabilize, so I’m not worried. Perfect buy-low.
R.A. Dickey — Yes, I know, at this point, you must be convinced it’s my number one goal to Dickey you around by handcuffing you to this bandwagon. Technically, I’m still writing my epic love letter on the guy I started back in April. Hey man, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Or, ya know, more specifically, hate the back injuries. Look at this way: I’d rather have an injured pitcher with a high ceiling that’s recovering, than a healthy pitcher with an average ceiling. Splitting hairs? Maybe. While the results haven’t shown through yet, his velocity is returning slowly, so Dickey should be primed for a stronger second-half.
Nick Franklin — Consider this a pity gift for the fact that he just barely missed my recent Top 100 Keepers post. I like Franklin, I do. And I think he’ll do just fine. But the greatest strength is that he does everything well. That’s also his greatest weakness, because he doesn’t do anything special. So what’s he doing here? Well, Franklin, along with Brad Miller, who I also dig, and would recommend picking up, will get plenty of at-bats as Seattle continues to fade. And while I don’t think Franklin has this much power, I believe in the hitting profile. 270/330/420 seems reasonable, which, in terms of the MI, is a pretty good effort. And hey, best case scenario, I’m wrong, and the guy pulls a Kyle Seager. You can’t lose here. I mean, I guess I can, but my loss is your gain. And that’s okay with me. What can I say? I’m a really great guy. Now go tell all your lady friends that.
Cole Hamels — The mystery of Cole Hamels has yet to be discovered. While he hasn’t been useless, a 4.38 ERA and 3 wins was not exactly what was expected. Is he hurt? Is he on the downward slope of career? I think it’s Obama’s fault. Hamels represents an interesting case study in pitching entirely the same way as you’ve always done, but getting entirely different results. K/9, BB/9, BABIP, GB%, HR/FB, velocity, Contact%, you name the stat, I’ll show you numbers that are all within career norms. Could be a sneaky buy-low.
Josh Hamilton — Remember me? I’m the guy who told you early on to drop Hambone like it’s, um, hot? No, that doesn’t make any sense. Like it’s ham? Hot ham? Hot ham water? Told you to drop Hambone like it’s hot ham water. Errr. Regardless, give heed, now is the time to pick Hambone off the floor, wipe off all the hairs and dirt and, eww, what is that? Just Purell it and put him back on your team. Is he going to be the Hamilton we once knew and loved? No, absolutely not. That’s why I’m here. I will love you. Ultimately, I just can’t believe that he will continue doing his best impersonation of Pete Kozma for another 70 or so games. There will certainly be some regression, so why not take a chance while he’s in the bargain bin? In the last couple of weeks, he’s hit .260 with a four home runs and doubled his BB% from June. Just saying.
Tim Lincecum — So far, Lincecum has been who I thought he was going to be. And that’s a mid-rotation starter with some K’s. Granted, plenty of the shine has been wiped away since his 5.18 ERA showing last year, and the 4.61 ERA this season is nothing to squint at. Wait, why are we squinting? Believe it or not, there is still room to grow here. His FIP is sitting at 3.48, and the K/9 and BB/9 have improved from last season. His BABIP is also a bit inflated. We probably won’t ever see vintage Lincecum again, but the peripherals are showing a solid starter hidden under all the muck.
Chase Headley — Homer alert! Hey buddy, I’ve advocated two Giants already, so I’ve earned this blurb. I will admit, the disappearance of Chase has me all shivery and sweaty. And yes, we are on a first name basis. Have no fear, the outburst last year was no fluke. I’m not sure if I meant that to rhyme, but it certainly sounds snazzy. One only has to look at his career .333 BABIP compared to his .281 BABIP this season to feel better. You are the one, so go look. After a putrid June, Chase is already hitting close to .300 the last few weeks with improved plate discipline. And there doesn’t seem to be any huge discrepancies with his batted ball profile either. Don’t forget, last season, in the first half, Headley hit 267/368/413. Second half? 308/386/592. Not saying that’s a ‘how’. More like, ‘it’s happened before.’
Jeremy Hellickson — After years of over-performing his peripherals, Hellboy now finds himself in the opposite situation. While I don’t believe for a minute he’s a true talent 3.00 ERA guy, his BABIP is 50 points higher than his career number, combine that with his improved K/9 and BB/9, there’s no reason not to consider him an above average option from here on out. In fact, after a solid June with a FIP of 2.87, he’s started July on fire.
Eric Hosmer — I really did not want to write about another possible Hosmer resurgence. I feel like he burned this bridge quite a while ago. In fact, enjoy this wonderful haiku I wrote about him. He must have read it, because in the last few weeks, he’s hit about as many home runs as Chris Davis. In the same period, he’s only struck out three times, or once every eleven at-bats. Previously, he had been striking out in every six at-bats. Hosmer’s biggest problem has always been his GB%, which already has dropped by five percent since June. This might be something. Please?
Nick Markakis — Yes, not really the most impact-guy in fantasy baseball, I understand. But keep in mind that Andre Ethier was drafted, on average, around three rounds earlier. Markakis has put up a solid year and no one has really noticed. He’s on a pace for a career high in home runs and over 100 runs. While the speed isn’t there, he’ll provide a stable average hedge and drip-drop production for the second half. A solid if not spectacular #4 outfielder, a good value for a low cost.
Miguel Montero — I’m pretty sure he’s already been mass dropped in most leagues, but I think there’s a rebound around here somewhere. If you have an underwhelming option at the backstop position, I’d pick him up. The BB% and K% are within career norms, and while his batted ball profile shows he’s hitting the balls into the dirt a bit more than usual, the Contact% and SwStr% are right in line with what he’s done before. Coming off a solid June where he hit .278 with a couple dingers, there is a bit more room to grow.
Rick Porcello — Bacon here was a last minute add. I wanted to go with him OR Jeremy Hellickson, not both. The simple reason is I didn’t want to play with fire, sorta speak. In this case, fire means multiple starts of 3 innings or less with 7 earned runs or more from the both of them. But I just have this feeling about Bacon. I mean Porcello. Well, both actually. Remember, money can’t by happiness. But it can by a lot of bacon, which is pretty effing close. Anyhow, yes, I know Grey has been off and on this bandwagon for quite a while. I’m here now, and I’m begging you to get on and stay on this time. We’ll get through it together, I promise. Porcello’s K/9 is the highest it’s ever been at 7.25, combined with the lowest BB/9 of his career, 1.72. With a FIP of 3.52, something’s going to give. Not to mention there’s evidence that Porcello may be an entirely new pitcher this year. He’s changed the sequencing, throwing more curveballs and changeups, with less sliders. And he’s shifted over on the rubber, which has shown in his effectiveness against righties. In June, he had a K/9 of 7.13 which has raised to 8.31 in July with a FIP of 2.68. Seriously, just trust me on this one.
Martin Prado — Everything I said about Miguel Montero can be applied to Martin Prado. The only difference being, Prado is already on pace to have a career high in home runs, so the opportunity to buy low is intriguing. The plate discipline and batted ball numbers all line up, so expect some second half regression for another D’back.
David Price — This window may be closing fast, but there’s still a shot to land an ace pitcher at a discounted rate from owners who are still wary from his 4.18 ERA, 3 wins, and recent injury, for which we will not speak of (just in case), shhhh. Technically, I was bit worried too, as his velocity had been down from last season. But in his last two starts, the fastball is back at around 94 MPH… so far. While the sample is small, I would call the velocity uptick encouraging. His K/9 and BB/9 look fine, and Price’s FIP of 3.59 and career high BABIP of .328 compared to a career mark of .280 show better days lay ahead.
Anthony Rizzo — I like the improved BB% and FB%. His plate discipline looks the same as last year, except he’s actually swinging less and improved his SwStr%. Rizzo’s ISO has actually gone up from last year, and really, the only thing holding him back is a lower than normal BABIP. Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before Rizzo goes Rza on us. That’s a good thing. Unless it’s a movie. Then, not so much. Stick to the rapping bro.
Patrick Corbin — I like Corbin just fine. I’d actually prefer Korben Dallas, but Patrick will do. MULTI-PASS. I liked him more than most, as I saw a mid-rotation starter where others might have seen a back-end pitcher. Heh, back-end. Obviously, he hasn’t pitched like any one of those neat labels. In fact, he’s going for the label of staff ace. I’m just not fully convinced yet. His entire profile is roughly the same one he had last year, except for two things: 1) 2012 BABIP– .317. 2013 BABIP– .238. 2) 2012 LOB%– 71.2%, 2013 LOB%– 81.1. So while the velocity is up a tick, and yeah, that is one nasty slider, there will be regression. He’s a very fine pitcher, and will continue to be one. But just not as fine as he is now, so make use of that fact.
Michael Cuddyer — Batted ball, same as always. Plate discipline is actually worse, as Cuddyer is making less contact, SwStr% is up. And, OH MY GOD, look at that BABIP. It’s sitting at .370 right now. Actually, that’s not sitting, that’s doing jumping jacks. While a 27-game hit streak is laudable, that does nothing for you in the second half, when I’m sure his career .309 BABIP will conjure the regression gods to smite and whatever else it is they do. Drink milkshakes maybe.
Carlos Gonzalez — The most ‘gut’ call on this list, besides ordering pizza for dinner while typing said list… I just have this nagging feeling that he’s due for an ef-me hamstring pull, or, I don’t know, his oblique will explode. Point is, I foresee some DL time ahead. If you need a legitimate reason, silly you, his batted ball profile is a little strange, in that his GB% and FB% have flipped and he’s only hitting the ball about four feet further this year than last. Don’t get me wrong, he’s having an amazing year and I still think he’s a great, if not risky, long-term asset. But for this year, and more specifically, for this second-half, the power and some of the batting average might be a bit fluky. So if you can net top dollar, I’m certainly selling.
Adam Lind — Do I really need to explain this one? It’s Adam Lind. That should be good enough for you. What, it isn’t? I’m pretending I’m you right now. Just go with it. Yes, I’m actually typing this out to myself pretending I’m you, pretending to tell me while pretending this is all normal. Uhhh. Right. Anyhow, this looks entirely BABIP driven, as it’s currently sitting at .349. It was .282 last year and his career BABIP stands at .298. And believe it or not, even with the numbers Lind has put up, he’s done it with a lower Contact% and higher SwStrk% than last season. Consider yourself warned.
Jeff Locke — So yeah, Jeff Locke is went to the All-Star game and Stephen Strasburg did not. Fascinating. Then I remember I don’t really care about the All-Star game. And I’m sure you don’t care that I don’t care about the All-Star game. Uh, what were we talking about again? Oh, right, selling Jeff Locke. I’m open to the idea that mediocre fastball guys can succeed and outperform their peripherals, ala Brandon McCarthy, but there is little room for error when your BB/9 is 3.88. Oh, and his .228 BABIP this season is lower than Clayton Kershaw. Call me crazy, but I don’t see that continuing.
Matt Moore — Just in time for this post, Moore has just finished throwing his 5th quality start in a row. I’m selling now because I just don’t trust the command yet. The 9.06 K/9 is encouraging, but the 4.61 BB/9 is not. His BABIP is 20 points lower than his career mark and his velocity is down almost two miles per hour from last season. Combine that with the fact hitters have a higher Contact% and lower SwStr%, and, anecdotally, if you’ve seen some of his starts this year, he hasn’t exactly been the model of stability. I think his future is still bright, but I’m not motivated to hold onto him during the eventual second-half regression.
Jhonny Peralta — I’ve considered Peralta dead to me on several occasions. First in 2006, then 2009, then 2012. So really, I’m pretty sure we should be avoiding any contact with him in 2015. That being said, while he’s putting up a strong showing so far, it looks to be all smoke and mirrors. He’s posting the second highest K% of his career and making almost five percent less contact. Can I get a BABIP check brotha? .383? Yeah… I rest my case.
Jaywrong is a 30-year old Korish writer who finds solace using Makers Mark as a vehicle to impress average-looking women, and also has an affinity for making Jennifer Lawrence GIFs. You can follow him @jaywrong, read his blog Desultory Thoughts of a Longfellow, or, you can find his GIFs at his tumblr, named Siuijeonseo.