With the All-Star Break now upon us, teams have four days off before returning to action on Friday for the second half of the season. Likewise, in fantasy, we have four days to take a break, examine our rosters, and figure out who’s poised to have the best second half. It may be a break, but Tuesday’s All-Star Game is still worth watching. A road team has not won a game 7 of the World Series since 1979, meaning the winner of home field advantage on Tuesday is a big deal.
Looking at fantasy baseball implications from the break, the futures game on Sunday provided an insight into the next generation of fantasy studs. Standing out was Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, who has stolen 104 bases so far in the minors and showcased his speed in Sunday’s exhibition with a triple after jogging halfway to first base on what looked to be a fly-out. When his name appears next year on draft boards, he’ll be worth a spot on your team. Currently only four players in the majors have more than 20 steals so far this season, so Hamilton’s looking to make an immediate splash when he gets the call up.
Who to Add
Plouffe’s statistics for the first half of the season are good, but nothing great. He’s currently hitting .253 with 19 home runs and only 36 RBIs. However, he looks to be one of the best bets for power hitting in the second half of the season. According to the experts at Baseball HQ, only 3 players in the majors will have more second half home runs than Plouffe. And that aforementioned trio is composed of Bautista, Braun, and Trumbo, all three of which are going to be virtually impossible to trade for in any league. Plouffe’s batting average—not too great at the moment—has been trending upward recently, as has his slugging percentage.
A cause for concern with the emerging hitter is his BB%, which has been trending downward during his recent success, but that’s a risk worth taking when you can get a slugger at a discount: especially when you consider Jose Bautista is the only player in the majors with more homers since the start of June.
The Nationals franchise player has been struggling so far in 2012. Thus far, Zimmerman is only the 17th-best third baseman in the league; of late, though, he has been tearing up the diamond dating back to a cortisone shot he received in his injured shoulder on June 24th. In the week and a half following, Zimmerman was hitting .378 with 4 home runs. Look for him to rest his shoulder during the All-Star break and bring his average up from his current .242 mark to the .290 most experts had predicted in the second half.
Who to Drop
For Longoria fantasy owners that have been waiting for the superstar and their second round draft pick (Longoria’s average draft position was 14thoverall in ESPN.com leagues) to come back from his torn hamstring, the news out of Tampa isn’t pretty. Just when he seemed like he was getting close to returning, the Rays third baseman suffered a setback.
The team reported this week that his injury is likely to keep him out of the majors until August, meaning his usefulness in fantasy may be running out. Consider trying to swap Longoria and another player for the previously mentioned Zimmerman to make the best of this terrible situation at the hot corner.
Haren hit the DL this past week, but numbers indicate that his problems go beyond the lower back stiffness that is keeping him off the field. His BB/9 innings are at a career-high this season and his WAR (wins above replacement) is about 1/5 where it was last season. His average fastball velocity has also dropped to 88.7 mph from above 90 two seasons ago. It may just be wishful thinking to believe that Haren will come off the DL and start posting his normally consistent numbers from the past, but this appears to be a long shot. With an average velocity of less than 89 mph and the worse control of his career, Haren is tossing batting practice at this point.
If those stats aren’t convincing enough, Haren has historically faded in the second half of the season. The Angels’ ace has given up more home runs and earned runs in August than any other month in his career. Stay away from this normally reliable pitcher—he’s not making a comeback in 2012.