One look at this week’s most added player list in ESPN fantasy baseball leagues causes me to reminisce about my younger days in the early-mid 2000s. I can vaguely remember the bar-hopping, insane amounts of alcohol consumption, and late nights that frequently occurred during that time period. One thing that I can clearly recall from those days is closing time at those various establishments when the ugly lights would come on and that Semisonic song would be blaring over the speakers, signaling that it was time to pack up and go. Stumbling out the door and finding a local diner to satiate my pork roll, egg, and cheese fix meant that it was a good night. When no diner was to be found, man was that an annoying song! Why’d you have to ruin a perfectly good evening, Semisonic? It’s all your fault. Drunken logic! But I digress. The point is that this week could easily be dubbed closing time in fantasy baseball, as there were serious changes in the late inning pecking order of several teams. Injuries to Wade Davis and Huston Street created opportunities for Kelvin Herrera (39.2% owned; +10.8% over the past week) and Cam Bedrosian (22.8%; +17.2%) in the 9th inning in Kansas City and LA respectively. The trade of Jeremy Jeffress to Texas opened the door for Tyler Thornburg (31.0%; +16.8%) to close games in Milwaukee. But the biggest gainers of the week were the new stoppers in Seattle and Houston, Edwin Diaz (57.9% owned; +44.7%) and Ken Giles (57.0% owned; +37.9%). Diaz claimed the role for the Mariners after incumbent Steve Cishek hit the disabled list, and Giles took over for the Astros for a struggling Will Harris, and fantasy owners quickly pounced on the explosive duo. Over the last 30 days, Diaz and Giles have combined for 43 strikeouts against just 5 walks and have allowed just one earned run over that span. Their swinging strike rates are 24.1% and 25.4% respectively, and they’ve each averaged over 97.5 mph on their fastballs. There might not be more than five or six closers that I’d want more than these guys right now, so grab them if the other owners in your league have been asleep at the wheel.

Here are a couple of other interesting adds/drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Hype is nothing new for Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. At just 16 years of age, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and labeled “Baseball’s Chosen One.” He was profiled in his own ESPN special prior to being eligible for the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Just a few weeks ago, he was shockingly listed as one of the top 100 MLB players of all-time. In a local radio interview this past offseason, he suggested that the interviewer shouldn’t sell him short when projecting him as MLB’s first $400 million player, and some within the industry even believe that he might still be a bargain at $500 million. At 23 years old, Harper is basically expected to maintain this lofty career trajectory, become the most highly paid player in MLB history, and waltz into the Hall of Fame twenty years from now. No pressure, kid. Except that the former #1 overall pick and youngest unanimous MVP in baseball history hasn’t quite lived up to expectations this season. This season’s .234/.378/.443 slash line pales in comparison to the .330/.460/.649 line that he produced last season. So what gives? Is it a down year? Bad luck? Or has Harper just been overhyped?

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After producing disappointing results over the first four months of the 2016 season, it was pretty clear that the Los Angeles Angels would be sellers prior to this year’s trading deadline. The problem was that, outside of Mike Trout, there didn’t appear to be too many desirable players to sell off to contending teams. Jered Weaver and Huston Street have been absolutely terrible. Garrett Richards and C.J. Cron are currently injured. Perhaps Kole Calhoun could be moved for something of value, though it’s unlikely that any serious contenders would view him as a significant upgrade for their teams. Getting another team to take on even a fraction of Albert Pujols’ massive contract would be an effort in futility. Outside of Trout, the Angels have basically been the Bad News Bears of Major League Baseball. However, there has been one bright spot for the Halos recently. This week’s most added fantasy player, 25-year-old starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs (37.4% owned; +28.4% over the past week), looks to be a potential building block for the Angels going forward. Since returning from Tommy John surgery earlier this summer, Skaggs has looked like a different pitcher from the one that he was pre-injury. The velocity on his fourseam fastball has spiked to a career high 93.46 mph, and his curveball looks as good as ever. He’s followed up seven dynamite rehab starts in triple A (12.53 K/9, 1.67 ERA) with two scoreless outings (0 ER and 13 Ks in 12.1 IP) following his big league promotion just over a week ago. The big southpaw has always kept the ball on the ground (46.4% career GB%), and he’s only allowed 2 homers in 51.2 combined innings across all levels this season. If you’re looking for an upside arm down the stretch, take a flier on Skaggs.

Here are a couple of other interesting adds/drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Entering the 2016 season, there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Miami Marlins superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Pitcher-friendly Marlins Park underwent renovations to move in and lower the outfield fences. One of the greatest hitters in MLB history, Barry Bonds, was hired as the team’s new hitting coach. His supporting cast was largely constructed of players such as Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon who were entering their peak years. He appeared to be fully recovered from the devastating facial and hand injuries that he suffered over the previous two seasons, and even switched to a new bat in order to ease the pressure on his hands when he swings. Everything seemed to be in place for a career year for the 26-year-old slugger. However, things didn’t exactly go according to plan early on. What went wrong and has Stanton righted the ship?

Let’s take a look at Stanton’s profile to determine what’s going on with the young slugger. Here are a few thoughts and observations:

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This week’s most added fantasy player, Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin (51.5% owned; +33.1% over the past week), isn’t like the majority of the most popular fantasy players to be plucked off of the waiver wire throughout the course of the MLB regular season. Despite being a mid-first round pick out of Texas A&M in the 2012 MLB draft, he was never really considered to be a top prospect. His skillset and minor league statistics suggested that he was likely to have a Gerardo Parra type of career in the majors, meaning that he fit the high floor, low ceiling mold rather than that of a true difference maker. Despite the blistering offensive start to his MLB career (.321/.380/.626 slash line), Naquin has been buried in the bottom third of the lineup for 193 of his 207 plate appearances this season. It seems as though his own team has been as slow to embrace him as the fantasy community. For those of you who are familiar with the X-Men franchise, he kind of reminds me of the Bobby Drake character, who’s also known as “Iceman.” Iceman isn’t one of the leaders of the group, nor is the most powerful mutant in the bunch. He’s one of the younger, newer members who just does his job without much fanfare. When in pressure situations, Naquin has proven to be one cool customer as well (1.094 OPS with men on base; .984 OPS in “high leverage” situations). Plus, since the Iceman had a bit of a romantic dalliance with the Rogue in the early X-Men films, there’s the obvious Naquin/Paquin connection to be made. I already discussed Naquin a couple of weeks ago here, so be sure to add him if he’s still hanging around on your waiver wire.

Here are a few other interesting adds/drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The surname Quintana is listed as having a Spanish origin and meaning “dweller on a piece of land whose rent is one-fifth its produce.” In the case of Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana, this definition seems to be fairly accurate. After all, he starts one-fifth of his team’s games and is compensated roughly one-fifth of what a pitcher his caliber would be on the free agent market. If my math is accurate, this would make him the equivalent of an indentured servant or a government mule in the MLB pecking order. There’s no need to start a fundraiser for this mule, however, as his listed salary of $5.4 million this season is hardly chump change, but the truth is that Quintana has been undervalued and underappreciated for quite some time now. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Quintana has produced the 6th highest WAR (16.3) among all MLB pitchers, placing him directly above established aces Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, and Jon Lester over that span. He’s also in the midst of arguably his best season to date, as his 3.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 8.15 K/9 rates represent career best marks in those respective categories. With impressive numbers like these, Quintana is starting to gain more traction in fantasy circles, as his name has been popping up on a lot of top 20 starting pitcher lists around the web in recent weeks. Quintana just might be one of the top dozen or so MLB pitchers in real life, but has his fantasy value followed suit?

Let’s take a look at Quintana’s profile to see if his ascension into the fantasy elite is sustainable moving forward. Here are a few observations:

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Howdy Razzballero, and welcome to the second half of the MLB (and fantasy) season. Hopefully, you were all able to recharge the batteries a bit over the All Star break and prepare yourselves for the fantasy baseball stretch run. I enjoyed a random viewing of the movie Minority Report last week during the down time and, when looking at the reboot-happy nature of Hollywood these days with projects like the new Ghostbusters movie, it got me thinking about a fantasy themed reboot of the 2002 Stephen Spielberg film. It can be called Majority Report starring Grey in the Tom Cruise protagonist role where he can be credited as Ice Tumors or Crime Oust (because a Tom Cruise anagram as an alias to protect his alias somehow makes sense to me) and I could have a cameo role as one of the lesser precogs who is occasionally (but not usually) able to predict the future of the fantasy landscape. I haven’t figured out the plot yet, though it would probably involve Grey stalking Giancarlo for one reason or another. Ok, so it’s more of just an extremely lazy re-imagining than anything else, but last week would’ve been one of those rare scenes that my character was able to predict the transaction future of the fantasy baseball landscape. As of yesterday, the five most added players in ESPN leagues over the past seven days (Koji Uehara, Randal Grichuk, Brandon McCarthy, Hector Santiago, and Yangervis Solarte) as well as two out of the next four most added players (Anthony DeSclafani and Max Kepler) are ones that I discussed in my second half difference maker articles last week (the hitters can be found here while the pitchers can be found here). In short, if these players are still available in your league, add them!

Anyway, let’s move on to a few players who are more likely to still be sitting on the waiver wire, shall we? Here are a few other interesting adds/drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Earlier this week, we looked at some lightly owned hitters in ESPN leagues who could be potential difference makers in fantasy baseball over the second half of the season. Today, it’s time to focus on some pitchers who can give your fake teams a boost down the stretch. Even if your team’s ratios look more unsightly than a Meg Ryan facelift, there’s still plenty of time remaining to fix those issues. So put down those Francisco Liriano and James Shields voodoo dolls people, and let’s go to work.

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If your fantasy portfolio is anything like mine, it probably means that there’s some work to be done to ensure you’re sitting at the top of the standings at the end of the season. Sure, there have been some good calls along the way. Drafting Mookie Betts looks like it’ll work out just fine. That late round SAGNOF pick of Jonathan Villar is making you look like Nostradamus right about now. But it hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and katydids for your fake teams. That Stanton/Upton/Heyward monster outfield that you assembled on draft day has put up some scary numbers this year (and not in a good way). Perhaps you decided to go the two ace route since a Harvey/Archer combo was just too good to pass up back in March. And just like that, you went from feeling like Nostradamus to Nostradumbass. Fantasy can be so cruel sometimes. The point is that things don’t always go according to plan. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time to turn things around, and plenty of widely available players with which to do so. The purpose of this article is to identify some of those players who have the potential to provide significant fantasy value in the second half of the season as well as a few of the expendable players who might be burning holes in your roster.

Today, we’re going to look at some hitters of interest while focusing on pitchers in the near future. Without further ado, here are some potential second half treasures on the hitting side who are widely available in ESPN leagues (ownership percentage in parentheses):

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With just over half of the MLB season in the rear view mirror, you should have a pretty good idea of where your fantasy team stands at the moment. The seasonal sample size is sufficient to properly evaluate the majority of the everyday players, and now is a good time to try to swing a deal to strengthen any weaknesses and make a push for the league title. The players on the extreme ends of the talent/production spectrum are fairly easy to identify. Who doesn’t want Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw on their fake teams? At the same time, it might be better to leave a lineup slot empty than to use either Alexei Ramirez or Yonder Alonso at any given time. Those are the easy decisions. The tough ones involve the players who are hovering somewhere in the middle, teetering on the edge of breakout or bust. Philadelphia Phillies 23-year-old third baseman Maikel Franco is such a player. After leading the Grapefruit League in homers and RBIs this spring, Franco looked as appetizing to fantasy players as an authentic Philly cheesesteak wiz wit. The first couple of months of the regular season weren’t all fresh Amoroso rolls and grilled onions for the second year player though. Through June 19th (263 plate appearances), Franco was sporting a .236/.281/.409 triple slash line with 19 runs, 11 homers, 33 RBIs, and zero steals. Not exactly the type of production that his owners had in mind. However, in his last 15 games and 66 PAs since then, Franco has slashed .375/.470/.786 with 14 runs, 6 homers, and 16 RBIs. So who is the real Franco? The mediocre three category liability that opened the season or the Miguel Cabrera clone of the last few weeks?

Let’s take a look at Franco’s profile to determine what can be expected from him over the remainder of the 2016 season. Here are a few observations:

Please, blog, may I have some more?