It was the middle of June and I was sitting in my doctor’s office, patiently trying to explain to him the intricacies of fantasy baseball. A native of Texas, he’s a Ranger fan, and when the subject of Tout Wars came up, and I mentioned that Nelson Cruz was hands down my best value pick this year, my Ranger fan doctor had some advice. “Be careful. Cruz is very streaky”, he warned. And I knew this, of course. But at the same time, it just seemed like this year was going to be a special year for the PED tainted slugger. Maybe this year, the cold spell wouldn’t be that cold and wouldn’t last too long. Well, that turned out to be wishful thinking. After hitting .287 with 28 homers, 74 RBI and a .923 OPS in 356 pre All-Star break at-bats, Cruz has managed a miserable .170 average to go along with three homers, nine RBI and a .571 OPS over his first 94 at-bats since the Midsummer Classic. Although the window of opportunity to sell high on Cruz is firmly shut, I’m not regretting my decision to hold onto him. The Orioles’ bargain basement off-season acquisition has already given me way more production than I could have possibly expected, and as we all know, he’s very streaky, which can be a good thing sometimes.
Cruz ranked 2nd in the Majors in pre All-Star break home runs, behind only Jose Abreu, and 2nd in RBI, trailing only Miguel Cabrera, so let’s now check in on the current state of some other top roto performers from the first half.
Jose Abreu – There was a great deal of mystery surrounding Abreu heading into his rookie season in the big leagues, as we just didn’t know how accurately his elite stats from Cuba would translate to the Majors. The new White Sox first baseman was taken outside of the top-10 at his position in the vast majority of mixed league drafts, and it’s fairly safe to assume that the vast majority of Abreu owners are doing quite well in their fantasy leagues. Abreu led the Majors in first half homers, this despite missing two weeks due to injury. His home run rate has plummeted since the break (only two homers), but owners who are legitimately worried about this need to relax. Let’s face it, all of you guys are spoiled.
Troy Tulowitzki – What a surprise, another injury-ravaged season for Tulo. Back in the day, I used to target him in all of my drafts. That was back in the day. Look, it’s unfair to say that the headache isn’t worth it, because even in a half-season, Tulowitzki will outproduce almost every other shortstop. In fact, his 71 runs scored in the first half this season led all players in baseball. The problem is that he doesn’t come at much of a discount on draft day. In Mixed Auction Tout Wars this year, he went for $30. I usually restrict myself to no more than one $30 player, and if I’m going to spend $30 on a single player, I’d prefer it if his total games played number is closer to 162 than 81.
Brian Dozier – Even though he posted solid power and speed numbers in his first full big league season last year, I wasn’t buying into Dozier at all this spring, scared off by his low batting average and the fact that at 26, he wasn’t exactly a promising young prospect. Maybe I should have bought into him. The Twins second baseman is piecing together an even better stat line this year, already only one stolen base shy of a 20/20 campaign. Dozier is once again a batting average liability, but in addition to the homers and steals, he’s currently tied with Anthony Rendon for the major league lead in runs, this after finishing 2nd in the category in the first half, behind none other than Troy Tulowitzki.
Dee Gordon – If you had to pick one player who you think resides on the roster of the largest percentage of first place fantasy teams, who would it be? My choice is Gordon, who went undrafted in most mixed leagues yet is on pace to finish the season with a .293 batting average, 90 runs scored and 73 steals. After swiping a major league high 43 bags in the first half, he’s already racked up 13 steals in 26 second half contests. Stolen base specialists of Gordon’s caliber carry a hefty price tag in fantasy, but Gordon’s price tag in Mixed Auction Tout Wars this year was zero. That’s right, Ray Guilfoyle selected Dee in the reserve rounds, and unsurprisingly, Ray is leading the league in thefts by a wide margin.
Robinson Cano – Yeah, Cano’s home run total is disappointing, but I sort of expected this, moving from longball-friendly Yankee Stadium to cavernous Safeco Field. However, I did not expect a mere 11 homers through 116 games. But aside from the home run category, it’s been another typical Cano year. His 118 first half hits ranked 2nd behind Jose Altuve’s 130, and his four homers since the All-Star break suggests that perhaps a power surge is in store.
Power can be tricky. It can come and go and then come again.
At least that’s what I’m hoping for with Nelson Cruz.