Yeah, I know. It’s cliché. It’s hack. But it’s that time of year and page 54 of the “So-Called Experts Manual” requires us to write a piece with an All-Star or an MVP/Cy Young/Rookie-of-the-Year theme. However, I’ll do it a little differently and focus on the rest of the season in an attempt to identify some under the radar players that will have a strong or weak second half of have simply gone unnoticed thus far. Work with me here, I know we’re past the halfway point. Today will feature the National League, next week the spotlight will be on the American League.
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals: Short-term, Ramos is likely to stay in a time share with Kurt Suzuki, but as the second half progresses. Ramos should play more and more. If his lack of present playing time is frustrating his owner, be a pal and relieve him of that undo stress and take Ramos off their hands.
Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks: I know I said I’d talk about some under the radar guys, but really, now many catchers are under the radar? Everything in Montero’s numbers screams BOUNCE BACK. His contact is normal. His line drive rate is normal. His hard hit ball percent is actually up. But his BABIP is 50 points lower than expected. Some may suggest that’s payback for last season’s being 50 points higher than normal but things don’t work that way. His final average will still be low, but Montero is a great candidate for a second half surge and is an absolute bargain when facing a right-hander in a daily contest.
Tim Federowicz, Los Angeles Dodgers: OK, here’s your stealth pick. The scenario in LA is awfully reminiscent of Cincinnati with Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco with A.J. Ellis playing the part of Hanigan, the cagey vet that isn’t ready to cede the gig to the talented youngster. But if Ellis gets hurt again or struggles a little, expect Federowicz to see more playing time and his bat has more pop than Ellis’. Ellis’ forte is getting on base, which is well and good, but he had a whopping 44 runs to show for last season’s .373 OBP.
Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies: Last season’s second half darling is back. Before going too nuts, note Ruf was slashing a rather pedestrian .266/.343/.407 at Triple-A Lehigh. If you’re in an NL-only league and aren’t leading the pack in FAAB, Ruf is certainly worth a solid bid instead of waiting for a crossover at the deadline. As an aside, I expect this to be a very quiet trading season so hoarding FAAB isn’t likely to pay off in single league formats.
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies: Just a quick note to point out what is happening this season isn’t really surprising, what is surprising is it didn’t happen last year. Remember, this is a guy that hit 20 homers his last season in Target Field and 32 two years previous.
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: Murphy has gone from a guy with a vacuous high average to someone with strong across the board counting stats but with a lower average. I think he’s the real deal and will continue to produce.
Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies: I learned something very important and it’s a mistake I won’t make again. While defense doesn’t count in fantasy, it goes a long way towards deciding if you stay on the field in the throes of a slump. While I still feel Rutledge can hit, he hasn’t received the bounces this season and is likely to be the off man out again when Troy Tulowitski returns. My mistake wasn’t in anticipating a high skill level for Rutledge, but rather assigning him a full season’s worth of at bats that had him ranked quite high. Lesson learned.
Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres: Assuming he’s healthy, I like Cabrera to pick up where he left off and that is hit .300 while running every chance he gets. He even has a little latent pop. Not Jean Segura pop, but I bet he finds the seats a couple of times the second half.
Omar Quintanilla, New York Mets: Look, I’m not saying Quintanilla is the next Cal Ripken but I do think he can play enough – and well enough, to keep the shortstop job in Queens. And as I like to say, at bats are currency in deep leagues.
Juan Francisco, Milwaukee Brewers: Finally, Francisco should see consistent playing time over the second half and is capable of high teens homers the rest of the way. In fact, I like him to match Pedro Alvarez but hit for a higher average.
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres: Given that last season’s power was a fluke (he hit an inordinate number of balls right down the line from both side of the plate), he’s not nearly as bad as the numbers look. He’s actually a lot like Montero in that everything from a skills perspective is fine; he’s just been snake bit with a poor BABIP.
Adam Eaton, Arizona Diamondbacks: Nothing more than a call from my more than ample gut, but my sense is Eaton struggles and is sent down to Triple-A. While we’re in the desert, the emergence of A.J. Pollock makes both Jason Kubel and Cody Ross expendable.
Jose Tabata, Pittsburgh Pirates: Another hunch, but I bet the Pirates look to shore up right field, but in the interim, Tabata is getting the run and at bats equal currency.
Dave Sappelt, Chicago Cubs: With Scott Hairston gone and Alfonso Soriano a possibility to leave as well, Sappelt could be regular at bats and you know the deal – currency.
Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh Pirates: In the immortal words of Mortimer Duke, “SELL, SELL.”
Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks: Skills catching up to the surface stats whereas it is usually the other way around. I still think he falls back, but he’s better than I thought.
Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds and Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs: Honestly, I’m flummoxed. My gut says Leake is more Locke while Wood is more Corbin.
Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates: I’m concerned about the workload plus there is a good chance his opportunities drop, just due to law of averages.
SECOND HALF NL HITTING MVP: Paul Goldschmidt – so reminiscent of Jeff Bagwell.
SECOND HALF NL CY YOUNG: Until someone knocks Clayton Kershaw off his perch, he’s the guy though Adam Wainwright will challenge.
SECOND HALF NL HITTING BUST: I’ve already alienated one site’s fan base with this, why not two - Jay Bruce.
SECOND HALF NL PITCHING BUST: Matt Harvey – yeah, I said it. As innings add up, strikeouts will go down.
SECOND HALF NL SURPISE: If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it? OK, OK, how about Blake Parker taking over the closing role for the Cubs and getting double digit saves.
Rounding The Bases - Todd Zola Looks At The First 10 Rounds of a Likely 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft
Master Fantasy Baseball Notes From Todd Zola - Looking Ahead To The 2014 Fantasy Baseball Season
Rounding The Bases - Master Fantasy Baseball Notes From Todd Zola
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (20 Prospects for '14)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 24
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (September Call-Ups)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 23
Rounding the Bases: A Day For the Little Man
Rounding The Bases: Morse, Willingham On the Move?
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (Roster Expansion)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 22
Rounding the Bases: Five Surging Pitchers & Hitters
Rounding the Bases: Rookies, Veterans & Roster Movement
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (Pitching Help On The Way!)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 21
Master Notes From Todd Zola - Taking A Look at Starting Pitching In Keeper Leagues
Rounding the Bases: Small Names, Big Production?
Rounding the Bases: A First for Stephen Strasburg and the (Near) Final Round-Up
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (Hitting Help On The Way!)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week Twenty