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Fantasy Baseball: Second Half Breakouts

The “halfway” point in major league baseball this year is even more relative than normal. The All-Star game was a week later then normal and the fact remains that most teams have played about 94 games already this season. That’s about 58% of the season in the books and if you play in a head to head league where the last couple of weeks make up the fantasy playoffs, some 70% of you regular season is has already been played out. In roto leagues, balance is no longer a goal. It’s time to stuff the stats. Head-to-head players should strive to fill in the areas in which they are struggling, but it’s no time to rock the boat if your weekly formula is working.

First-half/second-half splits can be a tricky beast to handle, though some players prove time and time again that they can turn it on down the stretch despite spending, more than half a season scuffling with mediocrity. The All-Star break may not be a true halfway point, but it is a chance for fantasy owner to rest up, re-evaluate and re-charge for the grind that is the stretch run.  The trade deadline is quickly approaching in both the reality of the MLB and for us fake baseballers so it’s time to zone in on the players who we expect to outperform their pre-break numbers. Again, team situation and needs play a large role as we get deeper into the season, but there is always time to improve.

Second Half Breakouts

Key: player (team) – pre-break numbers

Trevor Plouffe (MIN) – 64 games, .265 BA, 30 R, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB

Plouffe was a topic for discussion on the latest episode of the Box Score Baseball podcast and we maintain that his 18% ownership rate in standard Yahoo! formats is far to low. Plouffe has all the power that your could ask for in a second-tier corner man, slugging a home run every 23.8 at-bats, which would project to something like 25 bombs over the course of a full season. He’s capable of massive power streaks as evidenced by his 13 home runs in a 22-game span beginning in mid-May last year. Since returning form the disabled list on June 15 this year, Plouffe is a .279 hitter across 27 games with 13 runs, 17 RBI and six long balls and he’s capable of even better. The lack of respect for the 27-year-old slugger is somewhat baffling, though you could point to his poor .238/.300/.403 slash line against right-handed pitching and high strikeout rate as reason not to buy into the Twinkies third baseman. Still, the consistency he’s shown this season combined with his apparent ability to go on a massive hot streak has us buying heading into the August and the best part is, he may be just dangling out on waivers for many of you in standard leagues.

Corey Kluber (CLE) – 15 starts (17 games), 95.0 IP, 7 W, 3.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 94 K, 22 BB

Kluber has been getting it done over the past two months and despite a couple of rocky outings in there, the 27-year-old has posted a 3.34 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his past 73.2 inning while piling up 74 strikeouts and just 16 walks. His 3.41 FIP and 3.01 xFIP speak to a pitcher who has been subject to a bit of unfortunate luck and while he was never really a top prospect, Kluber showed a solid and steady strikeout rate throughout the minors. The Indians are very much alive in the AL-playoff race and one would think that Kluber’s emergence and continued success over the second half certainly be a boon to those tournament hopes.

Josh Hamilton (LAA) – 89 games, .224 BA, 48 R, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 3 SB

To say that Hamilton performance following his massive free agent deal is a disappointment is a bit obvious. The guy has turned back and walked to the dugout after 25.3% of his at-bats with nothing to show but a big fat K. His walk rate is down as well, and Hamilton is has more than double his career infield fly ball rate this season in Anaheim. His strikeout rate coupled with a 67-point drop in BABIP lets us know that that average isn’t coming anywhere near the .295 number he’s put up pber his career, but still, there’s some things to like about the recent performance.  Hamilton went hitless with four strikeouts in his last two games heading into the break, but in the 15 contests prior, he took some nice steps forward, batting .339 (small sample size alert!) and, more importantly, put together 19 hits and 7 walks in 65 plate appearances. Sure, the strikeout rate remains awful, but he collected 9 extra-base hits in those games while scoring 12 times and driving in 14 RBI. He remains in an awfully nice situation to pile up both runs and RBI in an improving Angels’ lineup and we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him match his home run total in the first half over a much shorted slate of games after the break.

Jake Peavy (CHW) – 11 starts, 67.0 IP, 6 W, 4.30 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 66 K, 15 BB

The oft-injured starter is finally recovered from a rib fracture that has had him sidelined since early June and after looking strong in a couple of rehab outings, Peavy is set to return to the White Sox’ rotation on Saturday. His ownership rate has dipped to 73% in standard leagues, indicating that some owners just did not have the patience or roster space to stash the former Cy Young. Peavy’s ERA leaves a little something to be desired, but he continues to be an effect strikeout pitcher when healthy. In 286.0 innings pitched over the past two season, Peavy has struck out over 4 batters for every walk he has issued while very quietly playing the part of a top-30 fantasy starter. Spin the injury issues and his poor ERA when grabbing the veteran righty on the cheap and you will enjoy the results as we head towards the fall.

Adam LaRoche (WAS) – 90 games, .249 BA, 42 R, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 3 SB

The poster-boy for the second-half surge, LaRoche has perennially provided top-tier numbers in the second half. Look no further than his career .766 OPS prior to the All-Star break and .886 number following the midsummer classic to have confidence that a solid stretch run is in the cards. All told, LaRoche’s performance has been a bit surprising after he was finally able to find some consistency last season in Washington and post his first career 30 home runs, 100 RBI season, but a warming trend in August and September could erase a lot of bad memories in the minds of owners who invested an early draft pick on LaRoche this spring.

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