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Second half specialists - American League
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's All-Star week which gives fantasy owners a chance to take a break from the daily grind of lineups, injuries and keeping track of rising and falling trends.

But it's also a great time to look at the big picture.

Who has been underachieving and who has been overachieving?

More importantly, who is ready to have a big second half to put your team over the top?

Of course, that's a much more difficult question to answer than who played well in the first half.

Unless you have a crystal ball or a DeLorean built by Dr. Emmett Brown with a working flux capacitor, one of the best ways to evaluate players is based on their past production.

It won't work for rookies and some second-year players, who have little or no history for evaluation, but for the majority of major leaguers, it's the best way.

There are some players who simply are better second-half hitters than in the first half. The reason may be weather-related, or it may take them longer to find their swing, but whatever the case, you can benefit from knowing who will play better in the heat of the summer.

Below we have listed the top six AL hitters with the best history of improvement in their OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) from the first half of the season to the second half.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland (+165) - Cespedes has only played a season and a half, so he's difficult to evaluate based on just 208 total games in the majors. However, he had a very productive second half in 2012 (14 HR, 46 RBI, .909 OPS) and his confidence level after winning the 2013 Home Run Derby should be at an all-time high.

David Murphy, OF, Texas (+95) - Murphy has always been an overshadowed figure in the Rangers lineup, but he's a career .277 hitter who is currently batting .219. With a history of playing well in the second half (.838 OPS vs. .743 in the first half), he could be a solid fantasy performer over the final two and a half months.

Alex Avila, C, Detroit (+94) - Avila has really only had one fantasy-worthy season (2011), so this is a tough one to believe. He's batting .177 and also been splitting time (70 percent/30 percent in July) with backup Brayan Pena. With plenty of quality catching around the league, this probably is a poor gamble despite the numbers.

Mike Napoli, 1B, Boston (+86) - Napoli was a force in April when he knocked in 27 runs in his first 26 games as a member of the Red Sox. Since then, however, he's knocked in 31 runs in 61 games and leads the AL in strikeouts (123). If past history is an indicator of future performance, Napoli owns a pretty .909 OPS after the All-Star break.

Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore (+72) - The Orioles' right fielder has below average numbers, for him, over his first 94 games (.283, 8 HR, 43 RBI, 55 runs, .727 OPS). Given his history of second-half explosions (career second half OPS .853), his cushy spot in the lineup in front of Adam Jones and Chris Davis and the potent Baltimore offense, Markakis could put up very nice second half statistics and be worthy of a starting spot in your fantasy lineup.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas (+70) - Beltre is batting a scalding .440 in July and having an above average season, hitting .316 with 21 HR, 55 RBI and a .901 OPS at the break. It looks like his second half power surge has already started.

Just missed: Brett Butler, DH, Kansas City (+66); Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore (+64); Robinson Cano, 2B, New York (+61); Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles (+61).




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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