Searching for Second-Half Saviors

Written by: Adam Ehrenreich (@mel_reich)

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For season-long redraft leagues, the All Star break is the perfect time to look at your roster, find a need and make a move. Whether it’s dissecting the waiver wire or making a trade, now is the time. I think I discussed this last season, but for those who don’t remember, let’s reminisce: Chase Headley was good at baseball for half a season, the summer of 2012, and picking him up at the All Star break won me my league. Headley had a second half line of 23 home runs, 73 RBI, 7 steals and a .308 AVG in 75 games. Those numbers are simply insane, and something he never did before and will never do again. So how did I even think to pick him up? I read an article on FanGraphs suggesting players to pick up for the second half, and Headley stuck out to me as available and worth a flier, and it paid off big time. Some of the players on my list below will be obvious, but maybe your league mates are ready to move on. Some of them will be available for free, and I have taken advantage of their price and you should too. These are the hitters to target for the second half;

Brian Dozier – Dozier is in a tier of his own, and I’ve rostered shares of him since draft day, waiting for this moment. I even traded Ozzie Albies to address two areas of need because I am expecting big things from Dozier down the stretch. Dozier is a bonafide, track-record proven second half player. Common fantasy baseballers look at his stats from 2017 and see a guy who had an amazing season, when in truth, he broke out and won fantasy leagues from July on. After a solid yet uninspiring first half with 13 HR, 41 RBI, 10 SBs and a .242 AVG, Dozier turned on the jets after the break with 21 HR, 52 RBI and a .304 AVG. Those are the type of stats that on a weekly basis can win you matchups single-handedly. This season, Dozier cruised into the break with 16 HR, 48 RBI, 5 SBs and a .230 AVG. Feels eerily similar to his line last season, so be warned. In the two weeks of baseball in July, Dozier has 5 of his 16 HRs with 17 RBI and a .298 AVG. If someone in your league has lost patience, the buy-low window is cracked open just a bit. The time is now to make a strong bid.

The injured – Injuries happen. I believe the best discount is a player coming off an injury, but they also present the most risk. Look at Arodys Vizcaino, who went on the DL, returned, and now finds himself back on the shelf. It happens more often than you’d think, but if you are in a position of strength, acquiring these guys cheaper than their typical retail price could change the outcome of your season.

Kris Bryant – The former MVP has a strong second half track-record of his own. In my league, Bryant is sitting on a 10 loss team where the only chance to make the playoffs is to win out. I offered him depth for his attempted run, but he understands that Bryant is a league winner in his own right. If you’re in a league with a disgruntled owner, make your move.

Gary Sanchez – My approach here is simple, treat Sanchez like the second round pick he was and make an offer as if he is healthy. Sanchez will be fine, and he has a lot of power left in the tank this season. If you discount his ability, the offer will be for naught. But if you respect the owner and make a solid offer, you may come away with an absolute monster. Offer this owner a catcher and a hot bat and see what happens.

Yoenis Cespedes/ Jay Bruce/ Todd Frazier – The Mets have a ton of positive regression to attain, and I think this trio will do a lot of damage in the second half. Cespedes should be back on Friday with a chance to break open the start of the second half in fashion against the Yankees. I love his second half outlook. Jay Bruce has been in the MLB since 2008, and only once did he hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season. Historically, Bruce has some extremely-hot and extremely-cold months. Consider Bruce’s injury plagued first half as the “cold months”. That leaves three months of hot baseball left in the tank. I’m a believer that hitters don’t forget how to hit, and once Bruce hits the field, there is a lot left for him to do this season. He can be picked up for free in many leagues. The same can be said for Todd Frazier. Frazier has never been a big batting average guy, but power has never seemed to stray from his final line. With 10 home runs on the year to date, this is a guy who can easily hit 20 the rest of the way, something he has consistently done most years in the first half. Not many other waiver wire bats can say that.

Justin Turner – Like everyone else in this section, injuries have derailed Turner’s season. The difference is, Turner has come back but has not performed to his standard. He’s consistently batted over .300, yet this season, he’s hovering below .260. Look for Turner to put together a strong second half.

Daniel Murphy– Murphy is another player coming off an injury that really changed the way he has played his game. The track record has been so solid on Murphy that it might be hard to now pry him from an owner who waited this long to get him back, but if you can somehow swing a deal, Murphy could be a league winner in the second half.

The Track Record – Baseball is a game of streaks. Players go through the season like it’s a roller coaster ride instead of a long, methodical marathon. Hitters who start slow, and even endure a three-month slump, can still break free. While the names above are obvious to target, the names below will be more easy to shy away from. Here’s why you should do the opposite and grab your piece of the pie.

Rougned Odor – How many players in the league go from hitting 30 homers with 75 RBI and 15 SBs to an absolute bust? Yes, I know Odor had negative regression written all over him at the beginning of last season with his terrible walk rate and pitch selection, but he still finished the season with the aforementioned line. This season, Odor has 6 home runs and 24 RBI after the first half. My moniker still stands: hitters don’t forget how to hit. The last month of baseball has been kinder to Odor to the tune of 5 HR, 10 RBI and 4 SBs. Those numbers account for a massive chunk of his overall production. Odor is hitting his stride, breaking free of the slump he has been stuck in all season long, and I just plucked him off the wire for nothing. The summer air in Texas historically leads to balls flying all over Arlington, so don’t be scared to take the plunge on Odor.

Jonathan Schoop – An All Star one year, a drop candidate the next, Schoop has done the improbable. He broke out in 2017, only to go back in his shell this season. After hitting 32 home runs and driving in 105 runs last season, a lot of fantasy gamers were all over the young second baseman. So far this season, Schoop has rewarded his owners with a whopping 10 home runs and 25 RBI. Talk about putrid. He has been dropped all over, but there’s a case to buy. Schoop is 21-57 in the month of July with only 2 homers and 4 RBI, but he has moved up to the top third of the lineup and has 7 multi-hit games in that span. Manny Machado is about to be moved to greener pastures, and Schoop is going to be looked at the carry whatever load is left. I can see him having a rejuvenated second half for the price of the last man on your team’s bench.

Anthony Rizzo/ Wilson Contreras – If the owner is selling these slow starts, you better be the one buying. Rizzo is the definition of consistency and should see major positive regression, and Contreras thrives in the dog day summer months. Buy, buy, buy!

Tommy Pham/ Marcell Ozuna – The Cardinals outfield went from Tommy Pham, Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler: an exciting and formidable trio for years to come, to Tommy Pham, Marcel Ozuna and Dexter Fowler: a slew of automatic outs. Harrison Bader, a former top 100 prospect, has carved himself a nice role for the Cards, playing hard and impressing coaches and fans. I believe Pham and Ozuna have the best chance to right the ship. Pham has looked abysmal of late, but he still possesses a great power/speed combo that could be useful in the fantasy world. Ozuna is living on his name value, but he has been swinging the bat better lately. Mark these guys down for much better bottom-lines come October, and if the price is right, acquire these guys at a discount.

The (Potential) League Winners

Michael Conforto – Conforto has a beautiful swing, and while he’s been on the field practically all season, he returned early from his dislocated shoulder, which required surgery in the offseason. Conforto, rightfully so, has not looked like himself. Time heals, and Conforto’s swing has been evidently getting better as the season progresses. I think it’s only a matter of time before he hits his full stride, and the break should help. See if you can land him on the cheap and enjoy the benefits that will come with a healthy Conforto.

Josh Bell – Bell is another player who just hasn’t gotten it going so far this season, but we have seen subtle improvements of late, and I can see Bell repeating his strong second half from last season. The first baseman had 26 homers and 90 RBI in 2017. So far this season, he’s totaled 4 home runs. I think he can get to 20 before season’s end, proving to be major value at this point in time.

Yonder Alonso – Last season, was the Alonso breakout campaign, but even then he finished the year with only 67 RBI and a .266 AVG. This season, we see Alonso owned in less leagues than 2017, but he’s already up to 13 home runs and 53 RBI, putting him on pace for a near 30 HR, 100 RBI campaign. I’m not sure if I need to say anything more to convince people to trust him in their lineups. That value plays in all leagues.

Chris Davis – Players who hit rock bottom are not usually league winners, but Davis is an exception. No one on this list has the potential to go on an unexpected tear like Chris Davis. His stat lines make no sense. This is a guy who’s never really hit for average but has never had an issue with the long ball. He has seasons with 53 and 47 home runs, and hasn’t hit less than 26 in a season since 2012. So while he has not been consistent overall, his power numbers have been huge consistently. This season, he’s hit new lows, totaling 9 home runs, 28 RBI and a mere .158 AVG to this point. That’s insane! The instant drop off makes zero sense! If you have the guts to pick up Davis when he hits his first bomb of the second half, you never know what kind of run he may go on and how far your team can go while riding his back.

Jesse Winker – The former top prospect in the Reds system has been overlooked for the lack of excitement that comes with his game. But if you love OBP, it’s time to get pumped. Winker has been fantastic, sporting a .404 on base percentage this season. And while defense has held him from the lineup at times, the Reds are in rebuild mode and will give Winker every opportunity to thrive. The outfielder has 20 HR-pop playing in the sandbox of Cincinnati, and he’s been scoring and producing runs over the last month at an elite clip. Over the last month, since taking a full time job in Cincy, Winker is batting .400 with a .517 OBP, 4 home runs and 23 RBI. Those are notable counting numbers, which I believe to be sustainable. If he’s available or acquirable for cheap, see how he impacts your fantasy team. He could be the league winner of 2018.

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Featured image courtesy of the New York Post

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