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):
Young Outfielders: If you’re looking for offensive upside over the next few months, the outfield is a good place to find it. Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler (24.4% owned) has produced an 18/8/31/2/.250 line over the past month and has displayed some serious power (.310 ISO) for a 23-year-old rookie. Randal Grichuk (24.5%) is another solid source of power who has raked (9/22 with 2 homers in 6 games) since being recalled from the minors by the Cardinals a week ago. Tyler Naquin (13.8%) has slashed .315/.400/.728 with 16 runs, 9 homers, 19 RBI, and 3 steals for the Indians since June 3rd (107 PA). Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski (4.0%) is a solid SAGNOF option if you have a need for speed (14 steals in 63 games). Two other players to keep an eye on are Padres prospect Hunter Renfroe (3.6%) and Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (17.5%), who are patiently awaiting their calls (or recall in Conforto’s case) to the majors.
Masters of Versatility: These are the players who are eligible at a minimum of three different positions and are especially valuable in formats with shallow benches (like RCLs). Mets superutility man Wilmer Flores (9.4% owned) is 1B/2B/SS/3B eligible and is the hottest schmotato in the land after slashing .440/.464/1.080 with 5 homers and 10 RBI over his last eight games (28 PA). Padres cleanup hitter Yangervis Solarte (38.4%) is nearly as hot as Flores with a .353/.389/.824 line including 4 homers and 12 RBI over his last eight games. Javier Baez (37.9%) has seen regular playing time for the Cubs over the last few weeks and has a .314/.364/.549 slash line to show for it over his past 13 games. Finally, Steve Pearce (25.8%) is still working his way back to full health following a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list, but his 1B/2B/OF eligibility and production this season (.322/.393/.540) ensures that he’s likely to be useful for the fantasy owners who exercised patience.
Corner Infidels: While Flores, Solarte, Baez, and Pearce are all CI eligible, there are also a couple of veterans who merit some attention over the next few weeks. Rockies donkey Mark Reynolds (23.4% owned) is 1B/3B eligible and has produced the lowest K-rate (25.4% K%) and highest batting average (.283) of his 10 year career this season thanks to the cozy confines of Coors Field. Pirates 1B/3B David Freese (16.7% owned) has enjoyed a similar resurgence in his age 33 season and is on pace to duplicate his career best 2012 season when he hit .293 with 20 homers.
Behind the Plate: Can’t forget about everybody’s favorite position: catchers, of course! While the catching position has predictably been a fantasy wasteland for the most part this season, there are two widely available players who project to be solid contributors at this weak position over the remainder of the season. Travis d’Arnaud (25.4% owned) hasn’t quite lived up to expectations mostly due to durability issues, but the 27-year-old Mets backstop has slashed .341/.370/.477 with 2 homers and 8 RBI over his last 13 games (46 PA). Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp (10.6% owned) has produced a .314/.367/.602 slash line with 15 runs, 8 homers, and 17 RBI over his last 32 games (128 PA). Both players appear to be solid additions for the stretch run.
As promised, here are a few players who have underwhelmed in recent weeks and are likely to continue to do so for the rest of the season (aka trashes):
Joe Mauer (32.2% owned): Remember the prime Mauer, the guy who hit .320 with elite counting stats year after year? That player is gone. The current 33-year-old version of Mauer has hit .225 with zero homers and 2 RBI in his last 19 games (82 PA). Mauer hasn’t hit more than 11 home runs since 2009 or knocked in more than 66 runs since 2012. The .320+ hitter has settled into the .270 average range in his thirties as well.
Brandon Phillips (40.2% owned): The 35-year-old Phillips hasn’t homered since May 7th and has just two steals since April 25th. Oh and he just suffered a hairline fracture in his hand (that he’s apparently going to attempt to play through) a few days ago. Run far away.
Mark Teixeira (17.7% owned): After smashing 31 homers in just 111 games last season, the 36-year-old Teixeira has struggled to stay healthy and has produced a paltry .193/.272/.317 slash line with 7 homers in 61 games this season. His sore knee appears to still be an issue as well.
Yadier Molina (71.1% owned): Are you sensing a theme yet with these underperforming players? Molina is yet another thirty-something (turns 34 tomorrow, to be exact) whose most productive seasons appear to be firmly in the rear-view mirror. He’s hitting .259 with 2 homers and 2 steals in 82 games this season, and his offensive numbers have been declining for three consecutive seasons. In one catcher leagues, you can do better.