This week is the MLB All-Star break. After the Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star game on Tuesday, the players will receive a much deserved two days off before hitting the field on Friday.
For fantasy owners, the All-Star break isn’t just about some fun festivities, it’s a time where owners can reflect on their team’s first half. After the All-Star break, the push for the fantasy baseball playoffs begins; fantasy owners need to tune up their teams via trade, the free agent market, or the waiver wire in order to compete down the stretch.
With the MLB All-Star game being played last night, I think it is only appropriate to take a look at fantasy baseball’s All-Stars in 2014.
Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy MIL
Jonathan Lucroy has arguably been the best hitter in the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup. Lucroy has been raking all year, posting a .315 batting average to go with nine home runs and 44 RBIs. Although he’s extremely valuable in all fantasy baseball formats, he excels in leagues that factor in OBP – his is an impressive .385.
Lucroy should be in store for a good second half but, historically, he is a bit better before the All-Star break. Although a word of caution to Lucroy owners, his career batting line in September and October is a measly .234/.302/.342 so don’t be too surprised if he doesn’t perform well come fantasy playoff time.
Others considered: Devin Mesoraco CIN
First Base – Jose Abreu CWS
It’s hard to argue against the Chicago White Sox rookie being an All-Star. Abreu currently leads the league in home runs and is third in RBIs. For those fantasy baseball owners lucky enough to draft Abreu, he was an absolute steal. In ESPN Drafts, Abreu’s average draft pick was 135.8; he has played like a top ten pick.
Since Abreu is a rookie, there are no past stats to look at to project how well he’ll perform in the second half; however, his batting average and slugging percentage have only improved. His batting line was .241/.262/.552 in May – through 13 games in July, those numbers are up to .360/.418/.660.
Others considered: Paul Goldschmidt ARI and Miguel Cabrera DET
Second Base – Ian Kinsler DET
Ian Kinsler has been a true five-tool player in 2014 for fantasy owners. The Detroit Tigers’ All-Star second baseman has been productive in the five main categories, sporting a .303 batting average to accompany 64 runs scored, 11 long balls, 51 RBIs, and 10 steals.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Kinsler is known for his bad second halves. Although, coming into this season he wasn’t projected to have this good of a year; he may continue to break expectations.
Others considered: Jose Altuve HOU and Dee Gordon LAD
Third Base – Todd Frazier CIN
Todd Frazier has been one of the biggest surprises during the 2014 season, especially considering the fact that his average draft position in ESPN drafts was 231.2 and he has arguably been the best third baseman in all of the MLB. The home run derby finalist’s season has been incredible – a .290 batting average with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs, not to mention 14 stolen bases.
Frazier’s season has been so good that he ranks in the top five third baseman in the following categories: AVG, HR, RBI, SB, R, H, OBP, SLG, OPS, TB, XBH. With Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce finally figuring things out in the Cincinnati Reds’ lineup, Frazier’s numbers should stay consistent after the All-Star break.
Others considered: Anthony Rendon WAS, Adrian Beltre TEX, and Kyle Seager SEA
Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki COL
Colorado Rockies’ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is putting together the best season of his career in 2014. His .345/.435/.613 batting line is the best in the league, putting his MLB-leading OPS at 1.048. He is clearly the best shortstop around.
The biggest problem looming over the four-time All-Star’s second half is his injury history; Tulowitzki hasn’t played a full season since 2009 when he missed only 11 games. In 2014, Tulo has played in 89 of the Rockies 95 games. Barring injury, Tulowitzki is my pick for NL MVP.
Others considered: None
Outfield – Mike Trout LAA
Surprise, surprise. Mike Trout is an All-Star for the third time in his three-year career. Widely considered baseball’s best player, Trout has played like it, hitting .310 with 22 deep shots, 73 RBIs, and 10 steals. The two-time MVP runner up’s only downfall is that his stolen base numbers have gone down; he stole 49 bags in 2012, 33 in 2013, and is on pace for 20 in 2014.
In his first three seasons, Trout has performed better in the first half than he did in the second half. However, his second halves were still incredible – a combined .301 average with 35 homers and 97 RBIs in 177 games. Expect the usual from Trout. There won’t be any regression.
Outfield – Andrew McCutchen PIT
Like many of the other players mentioned in this article, the 2013 NL MVP is an all-around player, leading all outfielders with a .324 batting average and a ridiculous .420 on-base percentage. McCutchen is throwing his name into the MVP discussion again; he is on pace for 29 HR, 104 RBIs, 97 R, and 26 SB.
McCutchen’s career average is almost 30 points higher before the All-Star break, but his career batting line in the second half remains a respectable .282/.380/.475. Some good news for McCutchen owners is that he’ll almost certainly play in every game; over the last four years, he’s never played in less than 154 games.
Outfield – Nelson Cruz BAL
Just a year after getting suspended for performance-enhancing drug use, Nelson Cruz has proved that he’s the real deal. Cruz has helped the Baltimore Orioles to an AL East leading 52-42 record. Cruz is most valuable for his power but his other stats have been good as well. His .287 average is a nice addition to his 74 RBIs and 28 deep flies.
Like Troy Tulowitzki, the biggest problem Cruz faces is that he is prone to injury. The 34-year-old outfielder has played more than 128 games just one time in the first nine years of his big league career. It may be wise for Cruz owners to shop him around while his fantasy stock is still soaring.
Other considered: Michael Brantley CLE, Charlie Blackmon COL, Giancarlo Stanton MIA, Carlos Gomez MIL, Yasiel Puig LAD, and Adam Jones BAL
Starting Pitcher – Adam Wainwright STL
Adam Wainwright is putting together a Cy Young worthy season. At the midway point, Wainwright is tied for the MLB lead in wins with 12, leads the league in ERA with a 1.83 mark, and is third in WHIP (0.91) and batting average against (.201). He’s also a work horse, pitching the fourth highest amount of innings thus far into the season.
Any fantasy owners lucky enough to own Wainwright should be celebrating, because unlike most players, he hasn’t seen much second half regression over his nine year career. Unfortunately, his ERA and WHIP both rise a small amount in the second half, but it’s a small, insignificant amount. If the season ended today, I believe Wainwright would win his first ever Cy Young award.
Starting Pitcher – Felix Hernandez SEA
If Wainwright is the Cy Young winner in the National League, the award in the American League would have to be given to Felix Hernandez. The five-time All-Star is having the best season of his career, which is saying something coming from a guy who is consistently in the Cy Young discussion. At this point, Hernandez is ranked in the top three starting pitchers in the following categories: W, ERA, IP, K, WHIP, winning percentage, as well as OBP and OPS allowed.
Heading into the second half, Hernandez should continue his ridiculous year; in fact, he may even get better. For the first time in his career, Hernandez has a chance to make the playoffs – The Mariners currently hold the second AL Wild Card spot. With that in mind, it may give Hernandez something to pitch for, making his stats even better.
Others considered: Johnny Cueto CIN, Clayton Kershaw LAD, Garret Richards LAA, Masahiro Tanaka NYY, Chris Sale CWS, and Julio Teheran ATL
Closing Pitcher – Huston Street SD
Huston Street is quietly posting some of the best numbers of any closer in the league. He has converted 24 of 25 save opportunities, and didn’t blow his first save until July 5. His ERA is a stellar 1.09 and his WHIP is 0.76. Unfortunately for Huston Street and his fantasy owners, he pitches for one of the worst teams in the league, limiting the amount of save chances he will receive.
I don’t see Street keeping up this pace in the second half. If I had to project his final stats, I think it’d be safe to project him to finish with an ERA around 1.80 with his WHIP rising to 0.95. Don’t expect him to finish top five in saves, because currently the Padres rank last as a team in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. In all fantasy formats he is very valuable, but he does have a higher stock in roto leagues. In a points league, it may be a good idea to ship him out if someone will overpay for his incredible numbers.
Others considered: Craig Kimbrel ATL, Koji Uehara BOS, Fernando Rodney SEA, and Greg Holland KC
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