Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The first half of the MLB season came to a close Sunday night in Boston, 102 days after it started March 28 in Tokyo.
And while the baseball world fixated on Kansas City Tuesday night for the All- Star Game, we fantasy owners were already looking ahead, only checking back on the high-stakes exhibition (notice the oxymoron, Bud Selig?) to make sure none of our players had suffered an ill-timed injury.
Though the second half can sometimes unfold like a completely different season than the first, the previous three months can be a useful guide as to what we should expect. Whereas the MLB offseason (including spring training) lasts six full months for most teams, the All-Star break is just four days long, leaving less time for things to drastically change.
With that in mind, I've compiled what I think a re-draft would look like if we were able to start over during the All-Star break. This should help you gauge the value of the players on your roster going into the second half.
If you recall, fellow Sports Network fantasy columnist Jesse Pantuosco put together a first-round re-draft in mid-May. Now that it's July, we have three full months of statistics to consider when putting this re-draft together, so we can stretch it out to include four rounds.
You'll notice the first four rounds are devoid of closers, as I think it is a waste of an early draft choice to select a reliever who will throw 40 innings at best in the second half. You won't find any catchers in my four-round re- draft, either, because there won't be enough separation between catcher No. 1 and catcher No. 10 in the second half to warrant reaching for a backstop this early.
A crop of above-average starting pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison, Kyle Lohse, Johnny Cueto, Ryan Dempster, C.J. Wilson, Jordan Zimmermann, Johan Santana -- also was left out because they are all so similar in ability and upside that it doesn't pay to burn a top-four draft pick on any of them.
Now that you know the method to my madness, I present my second half fantasy baseball re-draft:
1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Detroit Tigers (.324, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 52 R, 3 SB) - Cabrera was the average No. 1 overall pick in Yahoo! leagues in the preseason, and I doubt fantasy owners would want to change that. The infielder is second in baseball in RBI and has a .324 batting average despite some uncharacteristic extended slumps. Expect a monster second half from the superstar.
2. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (.306, 24 HR, 61 RBI, 56 R, 15 SB) - Fantasy owners were clearly deterred from drafting Braun due to his performance-enhancing drug scandal in the offseason -- he was drafted 15th overall on average. But Braun has provided top-three fantasy numbers and should continue to do so in the second half.
3. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers (.308, 27 HR, 75 RBI, 54 R, 6 SB) - Hamilton's otherworldly May -- .344, 12 homers, 32 RBI -- vaulted him to the top of the fantasy leaderboard and had people talking Triple Crown. However, he hit just .223 in June and has started off July at .174 in seven games. While there is always an injury concern with Hamilton, the outfielder is too talented to struggle like this for much longer, so expect an explosion when games resume.
4. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (.362, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 58 R, 14 SB) - McCutchen seized the No. 1 spot from Hamilton on the final day of the first half and he blasted two homers and drove in four runs to finish up a breakout start to 2012. McCutchen may very well rank No. 1 again in the second half, but he goes fourth in my re-draft because he hit .216 post-break last season and is less proven than the three players above.
5. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies (.330, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 61 R, 11 SB) - The high altitudes of Colorado may be a pitcher's worst nightmare, but you won't hear any gripes from CarGo owners. The talented outfielder might be an average fantasy talent with another team, but playing at Coors Field, where he is a .390 hitter with 12 homers and 41 RBIs, elevates him to an elite level.
6. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (.341, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 57 R, 26 SB) - Despite missing all but three games in April, the superhuman 20-year-old ends the first half ranked sixth overall in Yahoo! leagues. Trout doesn't seem to be slowing down, either, as he's crushed four homers and stolen four bags already in July.
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees (.313, 20 HR, 51 RBI, 57 R, 1 SB) - The Yankees second baseman hit .267 in April, but he's rebounded to put up 19 homers and a .331 batting average since. He's still the best fantasy option at second base and should easily eclipse 30 homers for the first time in his career.
8. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (.355, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 30 R, 2 SB) - Kemp might be No. 1 on this list if a hamstring injury didn't submarine his first half, because opposing pitchers certainly weren't going to stop him. The outfielder hit just one homer in Monday's Home Run Derby, but he should be ready to go soon after the second half begins.
9. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays (.244, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 59 R, 4 SB) - Like Cano, Bautista struggled in April, hitting .181 with three homers. Since then, the slugger has exceeded our still lofty expectations by crushing 24 homers in 63 games. He has an outside shot at becoming the first player to hit 60 homers since Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001.
10. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (.348, 14 HR, 48 RBI, 50 R, 5 SB) - Votto is arguably the best pure hitter in baseball, but he's slowed just enough as of late -- one RBI in his last 12 games -- that he wouldn't be drafted above any of the previous nine players.
11. Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers (132 2/3 IP, 9 W, 2.58 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 128 K) - R.A. Dickey may be ranked higher right now, but Verlander is still the pitcher I'd most want to own in the second half.
12. David Ortiz, 1B, Boston Red Sox (.312, 22 HR, 57 RBI, 62 R, 0 SB) - Ortiz returned to fantasy prominence with a .309 average and 29 homers last season, but that appeared to be his ceiling going into this season. Ortiz has destroyed expectations again, however, and he should easily post his highest homer and run totals since he hit 35 and scored 116 in 2007.
13. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (120 2/3 IP, 6 W, 2.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 119 K) - The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has been slightly underwhelming this season, and yet he's still the 12th best pitcher in Yahoo! leagues. On upside alone, I'd still take him as the second pitcher after Verlander.
14. Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers (.299, 15 HR, 63 RBI, 48 R, 1 SB) - Like Kershaw, Fielder has seemingly disappointed this season because his home run total is lower than expected. However, he's managed to drive in 63 runs while keeping his average around .300. He also hit three homers and drove in 10 runs in his final five games of the first half and will come out of the All-Star break fresh off a second-career Home Run Derby crown.
15. Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels (96 2/3 IP, 10 W, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 73 K) - Weaver has finished the first half with a sub-2.00 ERA in each of the last two seasons. He recorded a 3.21 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in the second half last year, and fantasy owners would be satisfied if he did that again, but I think those numbers are Weaver's floor for the 2012 second half.
16. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (.268, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 44 R, 6 SB) - Take away April from Pujols and you get a .288 average, 14 homers and 47 RBIs in 62 games. I'm willing to bet on 11 years and 62 games of excellence that those first 23 games this season were simply the result of Pujols getting comfortable with American League pitchers.
17. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians (.277, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 53 R, 20 SB) - Kipnis was the No. 1 second baseman for much of the first half, but Robinson Cano has seized that spot with a torrid two months. Still, the Indians second baseman has already exceeded expectations -- we thought his floor would be 20 homers and 20 steals, he already has 11 and 20 -- and could finish with a 20/35 season.
18. Michael Bourn, OF Atlanta Braves (.311, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 60 R, 25 SB) - Bourn has stolen 25 bases, no surprise there. But seven homers? The outfielder never hit more than five in a season and had seven in his last three seasons combined. While I don't expect him to keep up the power surge, there's no reason to think he won't hit around .300 with 20-plus stolen bases and 40-plus runs in the second half.
19. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers (.326, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 51 R, 1 SB) - Beltre's 2004 outburst -- .334, 48 HR, 121 RBIs -- looked to be a contract- season fluke when he hit .266 in 2823 at-bats over his next five seasons. However, the third baseman has hit .313 with 75 homers in his last 1395 at- bats. Aside from injury concerns, there is no longer any risk here; Beltre is legit.
20. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets (.351, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 56 R, 9 SB) - Wright has been a resurgent force for New York, but so much of his value is tied to batting average so I'd prefer to have Beltre if I had a choice between the two hot corner studs. Regardless, Wright's 47/50 K/BB is the best of his career, which should allow him to continue to rake in the second half.
21. Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B/OF, Los Angeles Angels (.306, 22 HR, 57 RBI, 42 R, 4 SB) - Amazingly, Trumbo was a man without a position in April, but he quickly forced himself into the everyday lineup by hitting while others struggled. Now, he's a staple of the Angels' starting nine and fantasy lineups everywhere. His versatility doesn't hurt either.
22. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays (.295, 23 HR, 58 RBI, 55 R, 9 SB) - The Blue Jays' lineup is seemingly made up entirely of reclamation projects. Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Rajai Davis and Encarnacion all washed out with other ballclubs before finding fantasy relevance in Toronto. Encarnacion is three homers away from tying his career high, and he's already set a new career standard in stolen bases. The infielder's walk rate is higher than it's been in three years, and his BABIP of .293 is right around the league average, so there's little reason to think this renaissance won't continue.
23. Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals (.285, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 46 R, 11 SB) - Desmond flirted with fantasy relevance in 2010 when he hit 10 homers and stole 17 bases, numbers that make you a wanted man when you play shortstop. However, nobody expected Desmond to suddenly become the best shortstop in fantasy baseball, belting a career high 17 homers and hitting .285 in the first half. There is a risk here, but the talent is too great to ignore, especially at this position.
24. Matt Cain, SP, San Francisco Giants (120 1/3 IP, 9 W, 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 118 K) - Cain has made the leap from above average to elite by trimming his walk rate to 1.80 (3.11 BB/9 in his career) and increasing his K/9 to 8.83 (7.53 career).
25. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals (101 2/3, 12 W, 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 118 K) - The Nationals lefty still struggles with control (42 BB), but he's fanning batters at a career-high rate of 10.4 per nine innings while holding opposing batters to a .192 BAA.
26. R.A. Dickey, SP, New York Mets (120 IP, 12 W, 2.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 123 K) - It may seem like Dickey has just arrived at age 37, but the knuckleballer has put up a 3.08 ERA in the two seasons prior to this one. What he has managed to do this season is command his knuckleball better than anyone in recent history, walking just 26 batters while striking out 9.2 per nine.
27. Carlos Beltran, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (.296, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 50 R, 8 SB) - Coming into this season, it appeared that Beltran's ceiling was that of a third or fourth outfielder in deeper mixed leagues, but the 35-year-old has been one of the better run producers in the league. He's hitting .327 with 12 homers at Busch Stadium and is surrounded by above average bats all around in the Cardinals' lineup, so barring an injury he should easily top 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the first time since 2007.
28. James McDonald, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (110 IP, 9 W, 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 100 K) - Other than Andrew McCutchen, no player has meant more to Pittsburgh's surprising success this season than starter James McDonald. The right-hander always had the talent to succeed, but he didn't develop the command until this season, registering a K/BB of 100/31. He has also been one of the most consistent aces in the league, allowing three runs or less and throwing six innings or more in 16 of 17 starts.
29. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (.317, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 56 R, 4 SB) - The outfielder never developed into the 40-homer threat he appeared to be in Colorado, but he's a sure-fire bet to hit .300 with a .900 OPS every season.
30. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers (.279, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 63 R, 15 SB) - Kinsler was a 30-30 player last season, so it's a bit disappointing that he's only belted nine round-trippers this year. He's also walking less and striking out more than last year, but he is an elite contributor in two categories -- stolen bases and runs -- at a shallow position.
31. Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles (.289, 20 HR, 44 RBI, 54 R, 11 SB) - Jones looked like he was going to threaten to take the top spot from Matt Holliday in May, but he's hit just four homers with a .252 average in his last 34 games, including .188 in July. He also has a career .723 OPS in the second half, but I think he's coming into his prime and should be able to avoid that kind of slump in the second half this season.
32. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners (123 2/3 IP, 6 W, 3.13 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 128 K) - Hernandez had some back trouble in May, which contributed to a six-game stretch in which he allowed 25 earned runs on 51 hits in 35 1/3 innings. He's since rebounded to go 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his last five turns. He should be one of the top pitchers in the game in the second half.
33. Zack Greinke, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (110 IP, 9 W, 3.32 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 111 K) - Greinke has been rocky at times this season, but he has struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings in 282 2/3 innings with the Brewers and may be dealt to a contender at the trade deadline.
34. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox (.192, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB) - A sublaxed right shoulder ended Ellsbury's first half on April 13, but the Red Sox center fielder will be back Friday to help fantasy owners for the stretch run.
35. Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (118 IP, 10 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 118 K) - Hamels has been extremely similar to Greinke this season, both in output and in trade rumors.
36. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (.248, 23 HR, 48 RBI, 61 R, 6 SB) - Granderson has been every bit as impressive as last season in the power department, but he only attempted nine steals in the first half and also struck out 99 times.
37. David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (111 2/3 IP, 11 W, 2.82 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 105 K) - Price went 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA in his final seven starts of the first half and could exceed 20 wins for the first time in his young career.
38. Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox (120 IP, 7 W, 2.85 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 108 K) - Don't let a lack of run support shroud just how good Peavy has been this season. The right-hander has held opposing batters to a .213 BAA while registering a 108/26 K/BB. The only concern with Peavy is how he'll hold up in the second half, as he's already fired more innings than he did in each of the previous three seasons.
39. Melky Cabrera, OF, San Francisco Giants (.353, 8 HR, 44 RBI, 55 R, 10 SB) - Cabrera's transcendent first half was capped with an All-Star Game MVP Award this past Tuesday. While the outfielder has proven that he's a No. 2 fantasy outfielder with No. 1 upside over the past two seasons, his value is too closely linked to batting average to draft him higher than this.
40. CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees (107 IP, 9 W, 3.45 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 105 K) - Before the big lefty went on the DL with a groin strain, it was business as usual. Sabathia will be back for the second half, and there is room for improvement on his first half totals -- the lefty allowed 30 runs on 56 hits in innings 1-3 over 15 starts in the first half. If he can start dominating from the get-go in the second half we'll be talking Cy Young Award again at the end of the year.
41. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs (.291, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 41 R, 16 SB) - Castro lacks plate discipline (61/12 K/BB) and can go into extended slumps, but he's still the second best fantasy shortstop. He also hit .314 in the second half his first two seasons in the league.
42. Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox (102 2/3 IP, 10 W, 2.19 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 98 K) - Sale was a popular sleeper after dominating out of the bullpen in the past two years, but nobody could have expected this type of excellence. On potential alone Sale should be drafted higher than this but there are concerns that Chicago will try to limit his innings in the second half. Also, the lefty had a tender elbow in May which prompted the White Sox to move him to the closer role for a few days before reconsidering.
43. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (99 IP, 9 W, 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 128 K) - Everything I said about Sale above also applies to Strasburg. He's a second-round talent but the Nationals have set an innings cap of 160, so the right-hander may only have nine or 10 starts left. Still, he's so dominant that his 10 starts are just as valuable as 15 from other pitchers.
44. Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (72 1/3 IP, 4 W, 3.98 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 56 K) - Halladay was drafted as a top-three starting pitcher but a strained lat knocked him out in late May. However, the right-hander is ahead of schedule and will be back soon after the second half begins, so there's still time for owners to get a return on their investment.
45. Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (.273, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 54 R, 10 SB) - Upton broke out with 31 homers last season, but the 24-year-old left us feeling that he could still climb higher. He's gone in the other direction this season, but he's still supremely talented and is worth a gamble for the second half.
46. Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox (.318, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 50 R, 13 SB) - Rios is just as likely to hit .220 as he is to hit .318 like he did in the first half, but he presents a rare combination of power and speed that makes him a must-own when he's trending in the right direction. Since June 1, the outfielder is hitting .366 with eight homers and eight steals.
47. Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (.259, 17 HR, 53 RBI, 46 R, 4 SB) - Rasmus has displayed great potential in the past, but he had a falling out with the Cardinals' coaching staff last season and hit .173 after Toronto acquired him. The outfielder appeared to solidify his status as a bust with a batting average under .240 in the first two months of 2012, but he's found his groove batting second (and feasting on a healthy diet of fastballs) in front of Jose Bautista. In that spot in the order, Rasmus is hitting .312 with 14 bombs and 38 RBIs.
48. Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (.332, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 54 R, 7 SB) - Jackson has busted out in his third season, slugging .545 and getting on base at a .408 clip. A major factor behind the outfielder's success is a 2.03 K/BB ratio, down from 3.28 over his first two seasons.