On its All-Star break, KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market goes around the horn to prep your fantasy baseball team for the second half.
What a catch
Albert Pujols' post-April performance has him on his way to another 30-homer season, with a BA that might regress to close to .300, if not his mean. That's a stretch, though, considering his eroding components there.
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have shown beyond-their-years acumen. Though pitchers may easily adjust to both thoroughbreds, and there's always a risk in season-long consistency with young players. But Harper's competency versus southpaws and Trout's five-category game should ease any fall that'll come.
Already nearly matching his 2011 HR total, 35-year-old Carlos Beltran is this year's Lance Berkman for the St. Louis Cardinals. Lower-body health and strength are back; Beltran's thump followed. He battled a little knee soreness earlier this year, and there's still a flicker of doubt about whether he can hold up another few months. Considering it's been more than two years since the arthroscopic surgery, you have less to worry about than in recent seasons.
Oh, brothers: Neither Justin Upton nor B.J. Upton has performed to his respective expectations. J-Up should've hit the DL earlier this season to tend to his thumb woes. The dinged digit still might be limiting his lift. Trade rumors also cloud his value. Chase Field is still hitter-friendly, so leaving there might hurt. There's plenty of talent to bank on here, however. Try to buy low if you still can.
When you consider his history of .300-plus BAs and return to his previous patience profile, David Wright shouldn't be hit that hard by a clip regression.
Paul Konerko's crash has already started but probably won't dip him far below .300. But the vet, who had a minor wrist procedure in early June, has homered just once since June 18, so matching last year's 30-homer plateau may not be as easy as many expect.
- Adam L. Jones' backslide might have finished, but there's a solid chance he won't even reach 30 homers this year. His power was a tad inflated. ... Josh Reddick's was, as well ... Mark Trumbo's isn't. If you can handle his likely dip back to .270 in exchange for him stuffing the homer column, he won't disappoint you.
At age 36, David Ortiz has carbon-copied his 2011 contact revelation while bolstering his fence-clearing. Even with his positional limitation, it's hard to sell a known commodity in a lineup that might only be getting better post-KC.
Though he'll probably drift back toward his career .264 BA, Edwin Encarnacion has a realistic shot at 40 taters. The Toronto Blue Jays have perfected his best skill by letting him be his pull-happy self. It worked for Jose Bautista, and it should continue carrying TO's latest find.
Left-handed hurlers still give Jason Heyward trouble, but he's getting more exposure against them. His all-fields approach is blossoming, and he'll turn 23 in a few weeks. There's a lot to like for the rest of the season, and his career.
Jason Kipnis should continue testing opponents on the base paths, but even if his pace slows there, he'll still finish as a top-five second baseman because he offers enough potential in the other four cats. Lower the bar when he faces southpaws, though.
- Carlos Santana's mechanical trials make him a buy-low target, but will his back hold up? ... Those who endured the first-half absences, injury- and performance-fueled, of Mike Morse and Eric Hosmer should be handsomely rewarded in the coming months. ... Place a call on Alex Gordon, but don't pay last year's price.
Beware how men of Giancarlo Stanton's stature can be nagged by lower-body injuries. Plan to wait out the longer end of his return estimate.
Speaking of Miami Marlins, when Hanley Ramirez stands near the top among fantasy shortstops, that tells you the condition of the position. As long as his finger heals and he controls his temper, he should deliver on his 20-20-or-better profile, but his .248 BA looks closer to his new baseline than his past years of .300 ball.
Blaming a failed finger for Dustin Pedroia's woes makes sense, too. Unfortunately, with his potentially physical and approach maladies, Adrian Gonzalez will be lucky if he reaches 20 homers.
A challenger to Han-Ram for position superiority, surprisingly, is 26-year-old Ian Desmond. His peripherals aren't all that far off from last year's, but his natural power growth has counteracted his hacker ways. Even if he cools a little, he'll still offer an advantage among shorties.
Every-other-year enigma Alex Rios has smacked the rawhide and swiped bags with more authority, likely outcomes from the subsiding of the chronic toe pain that dogged him last year. The issue can crop up again, but he's learning to deal with it.
Colby Rasmus, another Blue Jays reclamation project, has turned back the clock to move forward as a player. He's hardly a BA rock, but he's showing us what St. Louis hoped he'd become and should remain a mixed-league asset all year.
Matt Kemp's return might not be enough to save Andre Ethier's second half or the Dodgers' flimsy lineup on the whole. Ethier will have to keep crushing righties, and his value relies heavily on RBIs. He'll probably be intentionally and unintentionally walked nearly as often as his lineup predecessor. Oh, and oblique injuries sometimes stick.
The Rays' lineup will also continue serving as a decent matchup for opposing SPs with Evan Longoria (hamstring) out at least another few weeks, possibly longer. And Desmond Jennings' June 29 two-homer effort was nice, but he still has plenty to learn in the rest of his dish work before he's counted on as anything but a speedster.
- Ike Davis' power has already resurfaced. The rest is shaky. ... Paul Goldschmidt still relies on obliterating southpaws, but increased aggressiveness is amplifying the positive (power) aspects of his game.
After a late-May power outburst, Michael Bourn has only two taters in his last 140 at-bats. Reaching 10 on the season is still very much in play, but there's nothing wrong if he remains the typical base gatherer you drafted.
Alejandro De Aza's waning patience could be the start of a return to earth, but his speed and place in a potent White Sox lineup mean you can wait him out.
Breaking out ... slumping ... breaking out. Welcome to the latest schizophrenic season from Dexter Fowler. He's on the upswing but will probably have his share of ... rocky stretches.
We saw the power growth Austin Jackson has been waiting for. Expect that to continue but for his .332 average and .417 BABIP to dip.
Jason Kubel loves the dry heat. His home-road splits lean on Chase Field, but he's once again succeeding against southpaws. Will he keep sizzling to remain a lineup fixture? Bet on that being snuffed out, but at least it looks like he's eliminating one splits weakness.
- Adam Dunn is being Adam Dunn, so you know where you stand on how much you need his three-true-outcomes profile ... Not a bad chance to call the owner of a slumping Nick Swisher or locate a dirt-cheap Adam Lind, either. ... Carlos Ruiz, .350? More like the .302 and .283 in previous years.
R.A. Dickey has stumbled a bit more of late and could be justifiably sold high in the right situation, but his peripherals remain sturdy. He won't drop far out of the top 10 mixed SPs even if he does come back to earth a little.
James McDonald's more authoritative use of his tantalizing slider earns much of the credit for the right-hander's breakout and has made him more of a K arm. He's hard to hit, but not "justify an 80-point BABIP drop" difficult. Also, though he maintained a high LOB percentage last year, that 78.6 is a bit tenuous, too.
Given their previously decreed IP limits, Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg are in jeopardy of losing starts. Both squads stand in their respective postseason races, but they might get creative to ease their SPs' workloads.
Strasburg and Sale remain fatigue risks. You'd probably be OK with holding on to them until they play out the string, but with their uncertain immediate futures, selling high and getting a guaranteed commodity for September isn't crazy.
If someone's foolish enough to sell Cliff Lee at a discount because he has only one win, make that owner pay dearly.
Jake Peavy's a little over his head right now - especially with his dangerous fly-ball percentage and home park - but he's got his dominance back, which should make up for any corrections that may come.
Gio Gonzalez has endured more comeuppance from his shaky control lately, and though the K's are killer, his free passes could continue complicating his second half.
Freakishly frustrating Tim Lincecum hasn't shown signs of getting over his flat fastball, tedious working and mechanical kinks. If you're gonna buy low, you might not get much more than a matchup play in return.
The Cardinals are writing off a shutdown of Lance Lynn. His peripherals don't precipitate a drop-off, but fatigue keeps the possibility firm enough that he should be made available in the right fantasy swap.
- Returning to the National League helped A.J. Burnett regain the confidence to attack the strike zone. He's a changed pitcher with a clearer head. ... For all of Phil Hughes' progress, he'll still serve up taters - fried, mashed, but definitely fattening for his numbers. ... We've already seen Jason Hammel's correction. He should emulate a more K-friendly Doug Fister from here on out and isn't a must-trade in deep setups. Believe in the breakthrough. ... Johan Santana's false dominance comes from pitch sequencing and health. He's dinged up, and he's a prime sell candidate.
Dan Haren's back injury, which he finally came clean on recently, aren't his only problems, though they might've exacerbated his performance slip-ups. Either way, the righty doesn't deserve to be bought for his draft price if you're rolling the dice on him regaining form.
Maybe we have to accept that Ryan Vogelsong is a late bloomer, not an utter fluke, because of his diverse arsenal and seemingly growing propensity to outshine his peripherals. Naturally, it's risky to believe this'll continue at its current pace, but you don't have to sell in deep mixers as he'll still be serviceable.
Quickie ranking of four out-of-nowhere soft-tossers:
- Wade Miley
- Michael Fiers
- Scott Diamond
- Jose Quintana
Ryan Dempster's 27-stanza shutout streak marks a good time to shop him around. He's not nibbling as much, but he's had some beneficial in-play fortune that could tarnish his second half.
James Shields has looked a bit changeup-happy but still has excellent peripherals. If his owner is putting him on the market, the righty could be a fine get for the stretch run. Sometimes an approach change could help stats correct themselves.
Expect more sightings of the old, ace-like Adam Wainwright in the second half, too. His efficiency and location should catch up to his up-to-date K/9 and BB/9.
- Buy Ian Kennedy. ... Place a call on Jon Lester, too; his stuff looked better this past weekend. ... Tommy Hanson's peripherals aren't sunny. He's still laboring through his starts and could start seeing worse consequences.
Jump over to our Closer Hot Seat round-up to see what's to come in each team's bullpen.
We aren't ignoring the youngsters, either. Chris Hadorn will have more on the pups, including those who headlined Sunday's Futures Game, in our Player Prospecting series.
Have questions about any other players or strategies heading into the second half? Give us a nudge on Twitter or Facebook.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.