I really wanted to start this post with a quote, something like “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, or something like that. I figured that was a great way to offer hope and encouragement regarding the “second half” of the season. Let’s face it, with this whole “seamingly” out of nowhere spike in offense the last two seasons, there’s one inevitable conclusion. Pitching sucks!!! I mean we’ve been holding onto any shred of decency available. Look at Jason Vargas! Why am I ranking Jason Vargas? Does he have some sort of magnificent secret about these new Hi-C joints MLB is calling balls? Why the hell is he so much better than Justin Verlander? I have too many questions! I’m supposed to have answers! Here’s the truth, as if I’ve been lying to you before. There’s maybe 20 matchup proof starters in all of baseball, and then the rest of them you have to be careful with to varying degrees. Now, that’s not necessarily true for points formats, or deeper leagues with quality starts. Or even those with a greater emphasis on counting stats over ratios. But in our RCL formats, or any 5×5 roto with innings or starts limits, you must choose wisely. Around every corner lurks a roofie to your ratios. Just because Jordan Montgomery has been good more often than not, that doesn’t mean I’m up to a level of confidence that I’d start him in Colorado. Nah mean?  Nod along.  If you’re having trouble knowing which starts to avoid, check out Rudy’s Stream-O-Nator. It’s the perfect objective voice on those tough decisions you won’t get in your own head, or from your friends. That is, if you have friends with voices in your head and all. Anyway, be careful out there, and good luck in the second half.

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Yes, I know that title doesn’t really make sense, but my mind is clouded by the lack of meaningful box scores. I normally like to be on vacation during the All Star Break, especially ever since Major League Baseball cruelly lengthened it from three to four days. In my opinion, the only thing worse than having no baseball for four days in the middle of the summer is having fake baseball and something called the ESPYs on for three days in the middle of the summer, and I’d rather be as busy as possible during this time.  Sure, every once in a while something interesting will happen during the Home Run Derby, and occasionally the actual game is watchable, I suppose.  But seeing Yadier Molina hit a bomb that doesn’t count for any of the fantasy teams I own him on just makes me, well… sad.

Basically, watching baseball the last two days was just a few hours of waiting for things NOT to happen. It was worrying that a player crucial to one of my teams would screw up his swing trying to hit pretend homers, or pull a hammy running out an infield hit that wouldn’t even help his own batting average, let alone my fantasy team’s. It was also a painful reminder of why I’m not doing well in certain leagues – namely, having to watch the players I don’t own anywhere who came out of nowhere (and by nowhere, I mean the late rounds of a fantasy baseball draft) to become bona fide 2017 all stars, often leading their fantasy team owners to the top of the standings.

Drafting players in the middle and late rounds who outperform their draft position or auction cost is important in any fantasy league regardless of structure, but it is absolutely crucial in NL-only, AL-only, and other deep leagues. I’m sure Clayton Kershaw and Jose Altuve are on plenty of first place fantasy teams, but I suspect the real names you’ll find over and over again when looking at the top of the standings are more like Ryan Zimmerman, Ervin Santana, and Jason Vargas. With that in mind, and with no fringey deep league player playing to talk about picking up, I thought I’d use the break to take a look at the players who are some of the first half MVPs in deep fantasy leagues: those that have outperformed* their 2017 pre-season ranking** by the widest margins. We’ll also take a look at their second-half futures via Steamer projections for the rest of the season (with some completely unscientific, woman’s intuition-style guesses from me as to whether or not I agree). Obviously none these guys is likely to be available in a shallow league, let alone deep formats, but with most of us facing a fake baseball trading deadline around the same time the real one hits, we’ll need to be thinking about whether any of these players are worth buying… or selling, at the right price.

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G’day, Thursday crowd! I’m venturing beyond my usual Saturday DFS territory to bring you a brand-new series that straddles DFS and roto and, well, pretty much every category in between. Dr. Easy — my partner in fantasy baseball crime — and I will be taking a look at some differences in fantasy baseballers’ (Grey’s mom’s term) perception versus reality when it comes to the value of players, with the help of the Razzball Player Rater.

There are a few reasons for doing this. In no particular order other than the one they’re in: one, to help you out with trade targets — where to buy low and sell high (trade deadline is six weeks away, kids!). Two, to point you to some overlooked players that may even be able off the waiver wire, whether in the Razzball Commenter Leagues or others. (OKAY, let’s face it — more likely in other leagues.) Three, to highlight the value of the Player Rater — which is FREE! — and why you should be using it more than you likely are; trust me when I say that just combing through it for this post has been an enlightening experience, so much so that I want to sit cross-legged, light some incense and dust off my mantras. And four, for a little DFS action, we hope to throw you some ideas on zigging where others zag: to do well in DFS, you want to start players who are going to play well, but whom your competitors may not have thought of (e.g., if 50% of people start a player, 50% of you are going to get the same number of points for that player). Every week, we plan to look at one surprising player in each position. Feel free to hit us up with requests or questions in the comments — about specific players, trade ideas, anything you like.

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Origin Story Alert!  In the Roppongi district of Japan, which sits between Chichibunomiya and Akabanebashi, lives a puppeteer named Goshi.  For his entire life, Goshi worked in the medium of strings and miniature clothes.  Sometimes, due to all the opium he smokes, he’ll forget where he left off one day and start new the next day.  Due to a three-year process of forgetting and starting anew, he accidentally built a puppet that was 75-feet tall and named it Marcell Ozuna.  The puppet simply went by the name, OZUNA.  Elsewhere in Japan, on holiday, Giancarlo Stanton arrived with his family and me in his suitcase (how I’m able to relay the story).  Giancarlo was marveled at everywhere he went, due to sheer handsomeness and size.  One Japanese man said of Giancarlo, “You are like Mt. Fiji of GLOW.”  OZUNA and Giancarlo remained on separate paths for many moons, until one faithful day when an explosion at a nuclear plant caused a giant lizard to emerge from the ocean.  That lizard’s name was Allahzilla, because it originated in the Middle East, according to scientists.  Armed with merely bats, Giancarlo (3-for-4, 4 RBIs and his 22nd and 23rd homers) and OZUNA (2-for-5, 2 RBIs and his 23rd homer) beat back Allahzilla and the Cardinals while freeing all of humanity, and fantasy.  Thanks, heroes!  Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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How many of you remember the watershed 1993 film Dazed and Confused? In this coming of age saga, a young righty, with the flowing locks of Sampson himself, embarks on a journey that will change his life forever. It is in that film where we first meet Mike Clevinger. I could go on a lengthy diatribe about the film with the Indians righty supplanted as the protagonist, but I already did that a year and a half ago when I first introduced you to Mr. Clevinger. It’s like I’m watching my kids grow up right before my eyes. Either way Clevinger is long haired and goofy just like Mitch from Dazed and Confused. Not to toot my own horn, but to totally toot my own horn, I called this developing breakout a year ago. The Indians acquired the former 2011 4th rounder from the Angels back in 2014 for pen arm Vinny Pestano. Since then it’s been a classic Cleveland starter story, as the organization focused on bringing Clevinger along first as a pen arm, and now as a starter. With a 14.1% SwStr, and a 28.5% K%, there’s some signs that Clevinger, in a season of disappointing starters, could be a diamond in the rough. Let’s look under the hood, and then go pitch by pitch through his Sunday start vs. the division rival Detroit Tigers.

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Every time the calendar turns to July, Mets fans across the world cringe at the nearly $1.2 million that migrates from Fred Wilpon’s wallet into the $1,000 Gucci jeans Bobby Bonilla probably hasn’t washed since he left the Mets in 1999. It seems universal that massaging Bonilla’s contract was terrible in hindsight – these checks will keep coming until 2035 – but I was enlightened with information that one reason for deferral of the $5.9 million was to free up funds to sign Mike Hampton. One of the better hitting pitchers in history – Hampton hit .246 with 16 HRs in his career – Hampton went on to win the 2000 NLCS MVP for New York. The Metropolitans then selected David Wright eighth overall in the 2001 draft with the pick Colorado relinquished to sign Hampton. Why do we feel bad for Mets fans all the time, it could’ve been worse right? Wait… they promoted Tim Tebow and his .647 OPS to St. Lucie, yet Amed Rosario is still in Las Vegas? Syndergaard tore his lat muscle because the words “medical” and “staff” aren’t allowed to be paired in Flushing? Saturday Night was Asdrubal Cabrera bobblehead night – and somebody paid $40 for one? Alright, so maybe the Mets never got out of the woods.

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One of the things I love most about baseball, but particularly covering prospects, is when a guy I totally missed on pops up, and exceeds expectations. Sure, I could become obsessed with my own reputation, and shoot down any suggestion that I missed on a player. But what fun is that? So, when it comes to Nick Pivetta, I’m not ashamed to say I didn’t see this coming. Hell, I wrote up 15+ Phillies prospects, and name dropped another 7-8, and didn’t even mention Pivetta. Fangraphs covered 33 Phillies prospects, and Pivetta ranked in at 27! All this to say, that the “out of nowhere” label is somewhat appropriate when it comes to the Phil’s righthander. After an outstanding outing vs the Red Sox at home a few weeks ago, the strikeouts, and numbers in general seem to be trending in the right direction. So why not check him out, and see if we in fact have a breakout bubbling. Before we begin, big shouts to Oaktown Steve, who’s been hyping up Pivetta in the comments the past few weeks like a Sabermetrics Flavor Flav. Only he turned in his giant clock (read that fast), for an abacus, which I’ve heard can get a bit bulky when worn as a necklace. Anyway, let’s get into Pivetta’s last start vs the Cardinals at home, the second time he’s faced the Redbirds in four starts. He’s going today in Arizona, so maybe we’ll see if he’s worth rolling out… Actually no rookie pitcher with a heavy fly-ball approach should be started in Arizona, but that’s just common sense. On to the profile!

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Oakland promoted Franklin Barreto this weekend, and a friend of mine who I only see when he’s mowing my lawn said, “You got to go to The Mission if you really want a Barreto.”  Recalling my 1600 Yelp reviews of every Chipotle in Los Angeles county, I exclaimed, “No way, Jose!”  But he replied, “Mr. Grey, my name is Julio.”  Then we laughed, and, even though he laughed with jajajajaja and I laughed with hahahaha, we found a common ground.  As for fantasy, Prospector Ralph said, “Barreto offers hard contact, some speed.  Gets caught a lot, and who knows how much the A’s send him.  He’s exciting though.  Upside guy with a low floor this season.  Now can I go back to bitching about Tanaka?”  There ya go!  Right from the prospect whore’s mouth!  I tried to get Barreto in all of my leagues, but, alas, he was gone.  Yesterday, he went 2-for-5, 1 run, after homering in his first game on Saturday.  He’s worth a flyer in all leagues in case he sticks with Semien.  Ew.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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From the land of Pilgrims, Cranberries, Sachems, and Ocean Spray, it’s Middleborough, Massachusetts’ own Sean Newcomb. A true Masshole through and through, over the course of his time in the minors, he’s refused to throw strikes with any regularity. This all changed last week, as Newcomb crushed two XL Great One’s from Dunks, and a marble cruller, before crushing the souls of the Mets. I’ve long followed Newcomb’s career dating back to his high school days at Middleborough. As he’s the rare professional sports product from my corner of the world. After some ups and downs, mostly due to control, or lack there of. Newcomb made his triumphant major league debut a little over a week ago, and in the process looked phenomenal. Flashing control and command he never possessed before. So today, we dig into the second start from the young lefty, at home vs Miami, and Giancarlo. A tough task for the rookie… Oh yeah, then we rank some pitchers.

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It’s Peacock week here at Razzball, and I for one, have been trying my damnedest to use some of the lessons taught to me by my mentor, the sometimes debonair, but mostly creepy, world-renowned pickup artist Mystery. You might remember this sexual predator from MTV at some point in the last 10 years. MTV, ruining everything since 1981! You might not recall this, particularly if you’ve never been under the spell of a man dressed as the lead singer of Jamiroquai, but Mystery has long preached the word of “Peacocking”. I can’t be sure, but I’m almost certain that this is the act of pretending you’re Brad Peacock to pickup women. I mean how could this not work have you seen “The P-Cock” in all his glory? Gorgeous just like a horse is, to say the least. The 29 year old Peacock has spent parts of 5 seasons in the majors, mostly as a shuttle arm, between AAA and the majors. In 2017 however, the righty has been a bit of a revelation for the Astros, first in the bullpen, and now in the rotation. Grey wrote him up on Friday, and he’s been one of the more interesting streams over the last few weeks. If only due to that heavenly 15 K/9 over his first three starts. So let’s dig into Peacock and see what he’s doing on the mound, when not going into liquor store rages.

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