It is indeed the All-Star break, and that means a little time to chill, some time with your ostensibly neglected family, and a respite from daily box scores.
However, like being a student, fantasy ownership never really goes away, irrespective of the time of year. So, since we are all likely thinking about our rosters and how to tweak all the time anyway, let's look at some names I think might be worth looking at during the second half.
I am going to start with some wishful thinking, and that goes with David Price. I do indeed have Price on my Tout Wars team and was looking to the lefty to anchor my pitching staff, and was surely looking for better than a 4.34 ERA and starts where he gives up six runs and just one whiff. Within all that, though, Price has pitched pretty well, and ideally his fantastic start against the Rays Sunday (eight shutout innings with ten whiffs) means he has settled in with a new team and big contract, looking to a bright second half.
While we are at it, I am not sure how long James Shields even stays with the White Sox, and a deadline swap might indeed mean bouncing stats, but after four awful starts that yielded 27 runs, Shields was summarily dumped across the board in shallower leagues. But, his last four starts have resulted in just eight total runs over 25.3 innings, including quality starts the last three, suggesting that Shields has settled into the South Side of Chicago. Shields is probably available everywhere thanks to his 4-10, 5.42, 1.599 line over 101.3 frames, but over the past three weeks the numbers are 2-1, 2.84, 1.303 and that is closer to what I would expect from here on out.
Yeah, we all ran from him like he has the plague, but maybe we dismissed Jose Reyes a bit early as far as building stats go. Reyes, now with the very competitive Mets who have trouble keeping players healthy, banged a couple of homers Sunday, reminding us that he still has some pop. But, aside from his body being rested for almost a year, Reyes likely has something to prove to those of us who had indeed decided the infielder was worthless.
It is hard to imagine why a guy with a .302-10-47 line would improve, but Brandon Belt not only has that line, but the first sacker and his .928 OPS have finally settled in where we thought his numbers should be when the Baby Giraffe became the everyday first sacker in San Francisco in 2012. Hitting lefties has always been Belt's Achilles Heel, but this year the first sacker has hit .284 with 20 walks to 28 whiffs, good for a .395 OBP. I think as the Giants try for their 2016 run, Belt will step it up and be the driving force of the team.
I always thought that Belt was to the NL what Eric Hosmer was to the American League, with Hosmer developing much more readily to the Majors, settling in as a star which culminated in last year's .297-18-83 mark that was part of the Royals championship season. At the break, Hosmer is hitting .299-13-49, which projects to potential .300-30-100 possibilities. The AL Central has just seven games separating first and fourth, but the Royals are the best team of the group, on paper anyway. I look to Hosmer to step it up and lead his team to the postseason, as I do Belt with the Giants.
A former first-round pick of the Astros (in 2010), Mike Foltynewicz has taken awhile to realize his skills, especially when we look at the right-hander's erratic entry into the rotation last year, when he posted 4-6, 5.79, 1.627 totals over 86 innings. But, Foltynewicz seems to have figured it out, returning from a month on the DL and notching a pair of quality starts. On Sunday, he shut out the White Sox over seven innings with ten whiffs, bringing his 2016 totals to 3-3, 3.67, with a 1.244 WHIP and 45 whiffs over 49 innings. Note that I wrote up Foltynewicz before he hit the DL at the end of May, but I like him even better now.
Mastersballer Perry Van Hook really shone the spotlight on the Cardinals' Seung-hwan Oh last week. With Trevor Rosenthal struggling with a 5.40 ERA and 2.00 WHIP over 30 innings, Oh, who amassed 357 saves over 11 seasons in Korea and Japan, seems to be the closer in St. Louis from here on out. The Cards always manage to squeeze into the postseason, making Oh a great second half grab.
Back to the Royals, Danny Duffy worked in 16 games as a reliever before working his way back into the rotation, but now there he is, and thriving. Over his 11 starts, Duffy is 4-1, 3.09 with a 1.06 WHIP and deadly 94 whiffs over 81.6 frames. I think the 27-year-old lefty is just coming into his prime and is worth grabbing everywhere, accordingly.
OK, so the one name on this list that makes me nervous is Aaron Nola, who rocketed to the top of the Phils rotation last year, going 6-2, 3.57 after his promotion. Nola started solidly, going 1-2, 3.55 in April, improved to 3-2, 2.31 in May, but in June the wheels fell off with a 1-3, 10.42 month. I will steer clear of Nola for the duration of this year as he settles in with hitters having a book on the former first rounder. It isn't that I don't think Nola has a bright future, but I would not think the rest of this season will produce the best totals for Nola or his Phillies mates.
Andrew McCutchen is sitting at .247-14-38 at the break, but Cutch has never hit below .286 over a full season, and I think he will take off in the second half and finish with a more normal Cutch line, around .295-25-90, as the Bucs try to make the second half iffy for the Cubs and Cards.
That is it for this time. Enjoy the break and All-Star Game, and make sure to hit me up @lawrmichaels and comment below.