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Fantasy Baseball: Second Half Buy and Sell Candidates

With the All-Star break underway, the second half of fantasy baseball is on the horizon. As select players are primed for a strong finish, others may fizzle towards the finish line. Here are a few buy and sell candidates for the second half of the 2018 season:

Jose Abreu: Abreu might have made the All-Star game as a starter, but he did so by limping into the final weeks leading up to it. Batting an appalling .168 the last month with only 4 extra base hits, which makes him a perfect buy-low candidate the second half of the season. He is a career .315 hitter with a .381 OBP in the second half, and especially heats up during the month of August, with a career .330/.393/.558 slash line. Expect him to heat up again after the All-Star break.

Final Verdict: Buy

Scooter Gennett: Arguably the best second baseman the first half of the year, Scooter Gennett has been a gem for fantasy owners, especially with his 3B and OF eligibility. On the other hand, his .371 BABIP combined with his .321 AVG on ground balls tells me he has been extremely lucky. If you also take into account the fact that his career OPS splits drop over 100 points the second half of the year, the numbers say you should sell high.

Final Verdict: Sell

Brian Dozier: If you drafted Brian Dozier this season at his preseason ADP, you may be feeling frustrated and on the verge of trading him, but fear not. His first half numbers are actually on par with every other first half in his career. The second half is where Dozier excels, with major increases in AVG, SLG, OPS, and HR rate. The strikeouts will keep coming, but expect him to mash the ball in the second half with a final AVG closer to .265 and an additional 20 HRs.

Final Verdict: Buy

Michael Brantley: A forgotten man the last two years after missing a significant chunk of time due to injuries, Brantley has broken out this season and is well on his way to a “Comeback Player of the Year” award. He has been an important cog in the Indians lineup, and in a league that is now striking out more than ever, Brantley sports an impressive 8.3% K rate, which is second-best in the league behind only Andrelton Simmons. The issue here isn’t about production, as it is more so about health. As we all know, injuries can happen to anyone, but you always have to be weary when it comes to someone with an injury history, because history tends to repeat itself. You can easily make an argument as to why you should keep Brantley, but I am all about getting the most value for a player when you can, especially at a position that is as deep as outfield, and his value is currently at an all-time high.

Final Verdict: Sell

Rhys Hoskins: Hoskins showed up to win at the Home Run Derby this past weekend, compiling 37 total home runs and falling just short of making it to the finals in what some would call a coming out party, but I believe his true coming out party will be during the second half of 2018. Last year, he came out of the gates running, hitting 18 HR in a mere 170 AB. Meanwhile this year, Hoskins has only hit 14 HR’s in 309 AB. I equate a lot of that to bad luck. If you look at his first half numbers, you’ll see that his FB% is actually 4% higher than last year, and he has a nearly identical Pull% at 49.1%, while being top five in the MLB in average hit distance, yet his HR/FB ratio is down from 31.6% to 12.8%, meaning deep fly balls that were HR’s in 2017 have turned into warning track outs in 2018. With a friendly second-half schedule, in terms of MLB Park Factors, I see a lot of HR’s and a top 50 ROS finish for Hoskins.

Final Verdict: Buy

Javier Baez: Another player who participated in the HR Derby this weekend, Javier Baez is on pace to have career highs in every major metric this year, but when it comes to managing a fantasy team, you have to put the first half behind you and prepare for a second-half playoff run. As productive as Baez has been up to this point, there are a lot of numbers that are concerning, especially in regards to his plate discipline. He currently holds a 14/91 BB-K ratio while leading the majors in Swing% at 60.9%, and ranks second in Swing% outside of the zone at 48.3%, while also ranking outside the top 150 in Contact%. Combine that with his newly found launch angle, which has led to a drastic drop in his ground ball rate, and I see a player due for a big second-half slump. Expect a drop in AVG and OPS with a consistent K rate in the second half.

Final Verdict: Sell

Jesse Winker: Currently owned in less than 30% of fantasy leagues, Reds rookie Jesse Winker has been quietly raking at the big league level. He has a slash line of .293/.404/.429 and has more walks than strikeouts in May, June and July, which have led to an astounding 48/44 BB-K ratio. He is heading into the All-Star break with a .459 AVG in the month of July and the odds are that he’s still floating around in your waiver wire.

Final Verdict: Buy

Nicholas Castellanos: The 26-year-old picked up where he left off in 2017, batting .305 (.418 AVG against lefties) with an impressive .368 BABIP and a career-high 30% line drive rate. With that said, I see a second-half drop off in numbers coming for Castellanos, as he currently has a .709 AVG on line drives. A number which is just not sustainable. That combined with his lack of plate discipline, ranking fifth in swinging strike%, and a walk rate of just 6.6%, puts him high on my list of sell-high candidates.

Final Verdict: Sell

Stephen Strasburg: The right-hander, who’s been on the DL since June 10th with right shoulder inflammation, will be activated Friday, and now is the perfect time to buy low on him. The Nationals are amidst a dogfight in the NL East divisional race, and Strasburg thrives in the second half. He sports a 2.84 career ERA with a WHIP of 0.98 in the second half, as opposed to his 3.25 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in the first half. He also sees an uptick in his K rate, while dropping his BB rate after the All-Star break. He will likely be on a pitch count early in his return, but the Nationals will need to get Strasburg back into form if they are likely to catch the Phillies and Braves in the NL East.

Final Verdict: Buy

Jon Lester: The Cubs ace has stumbled into the All-Star break with a 5.40 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, and 6/9 BB-K ratio his last two starts, and I fully believe that it is an outlier of things to come in the second half. His 12-2 record is attributed to his offense providing him with nearly 5 runs per game and a strand rate percentage of 83.6%, both of which are very lucky. Meanwhile, Lester has a 7.09 K/9, his lowest since his rookie year, and a 3.30 BB/9, his highest since 2011. He is also averaging the second-lowest ground ball rate of his career. Take all of those numbers into account, and they tell you to get off the Lester train while you still can.

Final Verdict: Sell

 

Image- Jason Miller/Getty Images North America

 

 

 

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