The Dynasty Guru’s All Second-Half Team
It’s hard to believe that the baseball season is already half over. The good news for all of us is that there is a lot more ball to play after the All-Star Break. When we look back at the first half, it has been defined by the otherworldly performances of guys like Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts as much as it has been a joy-ride steered by the unexpected greatness of Max Muncy, Juan Soto, and Trevor Bauer. Each of the latter trio has ascended to near untradable levels in a very short time. It is in the spirit of the neverending quest to identify value that the Dynasty Guru staff has come together to pick our All Second-Half Team. These players are all poised to close out 2018 on high notes, so get them where you can.
Catcher- Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (EJ Fagan)
Catcher is a bottomless pit of despair. Gary Sanchez was supposed to be the rare elite bat at the position but hit .190/.291/.433 with 14 HR before missing time with a minor groin injury. The Sanchez Slump is a story with a very predictable plot twist: he has a .191 BABIP. All peripheral signs point to a nearly identical level of performance from his 2017 season: strikeout and walk rates, isolated power, playing time, xwOBA. Gary Sanchez is going to rake in the second half.
First Base: Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays (Jonathan Merkel)
Jake Bauers is entering the break on a tear. As a prospect, Bauers was lauded for his advanced approach at the plate as often as he was criticized for a lack of power. He has arrived in the majors with his stellar plate approach intact, as evidenced both by a strong .264/.383/.520 line, and his role in the heart of Tampa’s order. And so far he has shown enough power to reward investors. While homers might be sparse, Bauers will still drive Tampa’s offense with doubles and walks. He is capable of providing those helpful homers and stolen bases as well. I think he’ll be an excellent peripheral piece on many championship rosters.
Second Base: Alen Hanson, San Francisco Giants (Ryne Alber)
Hanson has been seeing time in the outfield as well as filling in for the oft-injured Joe Panik at the keystone. Hanson is no Ozzie Albies (six homers and four bags for Hanson versus 20 and 9 for Albies) but a closer look reveals some interesting similarities between the two youngsters (Hanson is 25 and only has 170 plate appearances as of this writing):
Plus, Hanson stole more than 20 bases in each of his seven minor league seasons! Joe Panik is out for at least two more weeks with a groin injury, and even when he returns Hanson’s bat will play. Those looking for an Ozzie Albies-like addition to their fantasy keystone this second half may need to look no further than Mr. MMMBop himself.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (Brady Childs)
You won’t be blamed for forgetting how young Bogaerts is. Still only 25, he’s made long strides since his debut in 2013. Various injuries have caused him to get lost in the shuffle with other superstar shortstops like Manny Machado, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor. But Bogaerts’ bat still has plenty of thunder in it. Injury free, he’s posting career highs in ISO and wOBA through the All-Star Break. Barring another injury, he’s going to blow past his career high in home runs and RBI, and with a little bit of luck could do more than the .284/.355/.529 he’s slashed so far this season.
Third Base: Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers (Ian Hudson)
If anyone can have an under the radar .306//362/.523 season, it’s Castellanos. Posting similar peripherals as last season (including near identical K%, BB% and ISO), he’s currently sitting at 139 wRC+ and is the 7th best third baseman by Fantrax scoring in the TDGX2. Unfortunately, his days at third appear to be over, but he’s got eligibility this season and I’ve seen nothing to lead me to believe that he’s slowing down (aside from the .366 BABIP).
Outfield: Ronald Acuna, Jr., Atlanta Braves (Mitch Bannon)
If I had said four months ago that Ronald Acuna, Jr. was a second-half value pick, people would call me crazy. A .255/.311/.448 slashline, good for a mediocre 106 OPS+, is far from what fantasy owners expected out of the consensus top prospect in baseball. While Acuna’s seven homers (a 162-game pace of 27) have been at the high end of people’s expectations, the young stars two stolen bases on three attempts are FAR from expected. However, Acuna is no longer a teenager (barely), and every reason that people were buying in four months is still present. While babip suggests Acuna’s slash line isn’t the fault of bad luck, he hits in a great young lineup. And if/when he starts to get on base more, the 30/30 potential he was thought to have will start to show. If you are able to get Acuna at anything less than what his value was on Opening Day, it is in your best interest to take a look.
Outfield: Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (Jonathan Merkel)
Max Kepler emerged in 2016 as a solid outfielder capable of providing both power and value. Folks who drafted him aggressively in 2017 were almost certainly disappointed with his final results and a lack of clear development. So far in 2018, Kepler is moving in the right direction. He has cut his strikeout rate by almost 5% (to a career-best 15.6%) and increased his walk rate to 11.7%. Most importantly, Kepler has managed to maintain his power and is posting another ISO in the .180s. Finally, remember how I said Kepler didn’t develop much last year? Well, he did quietly improve his GB/FB ratio from 1.29 to 1.08. That development has continued into this year as well, as Kepler is now posting a GB/FB ratio of 0.83. He’s doing all this while also improving his hard-hit percentage to 38.7%. A player that hits 45.5% of everything into the air, with plate discipline, and above-average power? Baby, you’ve got a stew going!
Outfield: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (Kyler Jesanis)
Did you know over the last 30 days, Polanco is third among all outfielders in WRC+? He’s had a down year, mostly because of a low BABIP combined with an increased K-rate. Thenewfoundd power is legit though, the speed is still there, and xstats suggests his BABIP should at least be .030 points higher. He could hit .260, with 12-15 homers and 5-7 steals in the second half, with potential for a good deal more. He’s currently quietly hot, now may finally be the long awaited breakout.
Starting Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros (Adam Lawler)
Dallas Keuchel has been a bit of an oddity.
|Sinker Usage %||56.40%||50.85%||40.58%||40.55%||34.19%|
|Soft Hit %||25.40%||28.30%||23.60%||17.24%||28.63%|
|K – BB %||13.40%||10.13%||14.73%||9.92%||10.40%|
*One wrinkle, and perhaps something to monitor: Keuchel used his changeup at a 23.64% clip during July with marked success.
You’ll notice right off the bat that Keuchel’s elite ground ball rate – which is absolutely necessary for him to succeed – has been diminished this year. Why? It seems that the Astros pitching staff is attempting to nudge Keuchel off the sinker. This has led to a strange situation wherein he’s far below his career average in long balls and the soft hit% is at or below career norms. However, his GB% has suffered and more balls have been put in play by a considerable amount. Either the Astros stick with the plan and the core numbers adjust with what the peripheral numbers are telling us, or Keuchel resumes the sinker-heavy approach. Either way, he’s going to improve and you should reap the benefits.
Starting Pitcher: Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (Kyler Jesanis)
Castillo has gotten off to a rough start for the year: his velocity has declined from last year, leading many to label him a bust and dropping him in some leagues. I foresee a second half rebound towards his preseason hype. His strand and hr/fb rate are due for positive regression, his sw/strk% is actually higher than it was last year suggesting an increase in strikeouts. I think a strong second half is coming and believe Castillo will re-establish himself as a top 30/35 dynasty pitcher.
Starting Pitcher: Nick Kingham, Pittsburgh Pirates (Jonathan Merkel)
Kingham’s first 50 MLB innings have been somewhat of a mixed-bag. He has been both very good (his debut was a seven inning, one-hit, nine strikeout gem), and very bad (the Dodgers chased him after three innings when he gave up five earned runs, walked three, and only struckout two). I think the kid will be more good than bad moving forward. His composition is defined by solid a K/BB ratio, a swinging-strike percentage of 11.4%, and groundball percentage of 41.8%. As a result, he comps well with a couple arms who have excelled in the first half. I think he’ll surprise a lot of players moving forward. Go get him.
Relief Pitcher: Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates (Kyler Jesanis)
Vazquez has had a seemingly rocky year. His 3.05 ERA is good; his 4 blown saves aren’t. He had a rough stretch in May where he had a 5.73 ERA. He seems to be valued as a second-tier closer, but he’s got the skills and underlying numbers to leap into the first tier. Among relievers with at least 30 innings, he’s 7th in FIP, 11th in XFIP, and 14th in K/9. The most exciting part is that since the calendar flipped to June he is striking out more than 45% of batters. Get in on him now before perceived value catches up to his production and potential.