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By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com
Fantasy Baseball is a game that is traditionally measured in seasons. Sometimes though, a player’s full-season stat line inaccurately portrays how well or badly they’ve actually performed of late. Using the All-Star Break as the midpoint of the season, this week we’re taking a look at some players who you may not have realized have either been very hot or very cold since the break, and how we think that streak effects their fantasy value for the end of the season as well as the fantasy playoffs.
Hot: Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds
Your OPS leaders since the all-star break are Buster Posey, Ryan Ludwick, and Miguel Cabrera. While he is clearly the name that doesn’t belong in a top 10 which also includes Mike Trout, Adrian Gonzalez, and Albert Pujols, Ludwick has lowered his K rate from the first half of the season and has also been moved up in the lineup. When batting 4th or 5th (as he has been recently), his strikeout rate is just 16.5%, while it’s 26.8% at any other spot in the lineup. Ludwick’s power has always been legitimate, and while these past couple years in Petco made us forget that, he could be the kind of bat that wins your fantasy team a few games in the second half of the season.
Cold: Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
When a player has as few true outcomes as Beltre (a mere 5.4% BB rate and 12.2% K rate), there’s bound to be a lot of variance in his performance. However, Beltre’s post-all star swoon has been more than just a cold month. His K rate has risen to its highest level since he was in Seattle, but the biggest decrease has been in his power. His fly ball rate has dropped to its lowest rate since 2005, making his few home runs a true measure of what they should be. While third base is in shreds right now with injuries to Bautista, A-Rod, and Brett Lawrie, Beltre is not the safe option that you may think he is.
Hot: Matt Moore, SP, Rays
Another big-time prospect, Matt Moore did not have the same level of instant success that Bryce Harper did. However, since the all-star break, there have been few pitchers in baseball better than him. While Moore posted an ERA over 4 before the break, he’s garnered a 1.43 ERA since then with a K/9 just south of 9. With a 1.79 FIP in August, Moore’s success definitely hasn’t been fluky. Moore’s great results shouldn’t shock anyone as he’s a pitcher who has dominated the minor leagues in the past and flashed ace-level stuff continually. The early season struggles seem to be a thing of the past for Moore as he’s looking very much like the 20th best starting pitcher that he was ranked as before the season at RotoAnalysis.com, and I believe that’s a fair valuation of him going forward, although he obviously won’t continue pitching to the tune of a 1.43 ERA.
Cold: Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
Harper debuted in the majors as one of the most hyped prospects of all time on April 28. Despite being only 19, Harper showed that he belonged by posting a .282 average with 8 home runs and 10 steals before the all-star break. However, it’s been a very different story for Harper since the break as he’s hit .181 with 3 homers and 3 steals. While Harper’s long-term outlook remains unchanged, I wouldn’t count on him helping your team in the playoffs this year. He’s only hit 6.3% of his balls for line drives in August in comparison to 22% in May. A balls-to-the-wall player like Harper is likely showing some signs of fatigue as he learns to play through the daily grind of the big leagues as a teenager. The issues will be fixed eventually, but not soon enough for fantasy owners to see the results this season.
Hot: Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
If it wasn’t for Mike Trout having (arguably) the best rookie season of all time, Yoenis Cespedes would easily be the American League’s Rookie of the Year. Besides his subpar April and May, Cespedes has been amazing this season, posting an average of at least .315 in every other month of the year. Since the break, he is hitting a whopping .376 with a .435 on-base percentage, and has stolen 5 bases to go along with 7 homers. In 33 games Cespedes has also managed to add 24 runs and 24 RBIs, placing him in the top 25 in both categories over that span. Additionally, his biggest flaw (strikeouts) has actually not been a problem for him, as his 26 strikeouts since the break would rank him outside of the top 50 in strikeouts over that span, and puts him well ahead of players like Carlos Beltran, Jay Bruce, Alex Gordon, Shin-Soo Choo, Ryan Braun, and Josh Hamilton. If Mike Trout didn’t exist, Cespedes’ preposterously great season would be much more widely covered, and if you’re in a race down the stretch run or if you own a keeper league team building for next year, Cespedes is a guy to acquire now rather than later as his second-half performance is much more indicative of his actual skill set than his first half performance.
Cold: James McDonald, SP, Pirates
After being a success story in the first half, James McDonald has dropped off a cliff since the All-Star Break. The key to McDonald’s success is simple: keep the ball in the zone. When he starts walking a ton of guys (24 walks in 37 innings so far in the second half), McDonald’s efficacy goes into the toilet, as can by seen by his putrid 7.30 ERA and 1.84 WHIP. While he is still striking guys out, McDonald’s strikeout to walk ratio went from a well above average 3.23 K/BB in the first half to a below replacement level 1.38 so far in the second half. Until he gets his walks under control, James McDonald went from a top 30 starting pitcher in the first half to one you can barely start against the Astros in the second. Stay away from Mickey D’s until he shows some level of competent control.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.