Congrats! We’ve made it to the All-Star break, and now teams who are still in the running need to fight tooth and nail to get ahead of their competitors. Though the guy with Aaron Judge is probably going to be tough to beat. It’s hard to believe that this year that the homer happy game has been so crazy that there’s still new values to find as some of the old stalwarts fade faster from fantasy relevance. Most of these guys have been written up in previous installments, but are still quite under-owned, but maybe you can help fix that.
Ian Happ (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs) – Earlier in the year, I hopped off the Happ train and now I’m hopping back on Happ. He’s alleviated my concerns about his strikeout rate as he’s brought it down to 30%, which is acceptable given his power. And it’s big power, as he’s among the league leaders in Barrel/BBE with 16.1%. He may still hurt in average, but with a touch of speed and multi-position eligibility, he should be owned all over. even in 10-team formats. Make your team more Happ-y.
Wilson Ramos (C, Tampa Bay Rays) – Speaking of players that are underowned, Ramos is still only owned in 33% of leagues, which is crazy when you remember the numbers he put up in 2016 before he went down. And, you know, how catcher is a completely dumpster fire. He has no serious competition for the position, and can provide Top-5 backstop numbers the rest of the way even if he’s just 75% of his 2016 self. Pick him up in all 10-teamers.
Brian Dozier (2b, Minnesota Twins) – After the second half he had last year, of course I’d recommend him mid-July. But actually, that’s not why. He’s just been performing better than the numbers have indicated, with an xAVG of .255 and a xSLG of .462, a notable bump up from his current AVG of .242 and SLG% of .417. He’s been mired in an ugly slump for the last month that is finally cutting into his previously near-universal ownership rates, meaning he may be on your wire. Still, he has 10 SB to go with his numbers, so you’re getting value even without the positive regression, but he can go 30-20 by the end of the year with an average that won’t kill you. I may be bullish, but in all 10-team mixed leagues (especially OBP) you should ride the bullDozier.
Nick Castellanos (3B, Detroit Tigers) – I can only bang the drum for Nick so many times, but now that he’s finally hitting more so I don’t look bad I’ll do it once more. He still deserves better power numbers, but the average has been steadily climbing since the start of June, and is still barrelling the ball well at 11.4%. He’s only owned in about 37% of ESPN leagues, and he should be owned in all 12-teamers.
Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics) – I understand that he was struggling when he went down on the DL, but it’s still kinda crazy that he’s only owned in 9.9% of leagues after his 2016 season. With Pinder on the mend for now, he has more time to re-establish himself as the starter, and a trade will likely open up some more room. He should be owned in all deeper 12-team OBP, and at least on a bench for AVG leagues to see if he can get it going. With his power/speed combo at a weak position, that’s Semien like a wise move.
Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals) – Whit’s name is a good fit, because Whit gets his team the W with the hit. He’s provided all-around value, hitting .281 with 7 HR and 14 SB in 289 PA. And it’s looking legit, as he cut his K rate down from 21.7% in 2016 to 13.8% this year, and an excellent 93.1 mph FB/LD eV for a player of his position. He should be owned in all 12-team formats, and with the dearth of speed this year, is worth consideration in 10-team batting average leagues. You’ll be Merrifielding him on your roster.
Welington Castillo (C, Baltimore Orioles) – Welington hasn’t exactly beefed it since he came back from his early season injury, but he hasn’t exaclty lit the world on fire. With a .258 AVG and 8 HR in 205 PA, he’s on pace to slightly outproduce his disappointing 2016 season in Arizona, although some of that improvement is BABIP-driven. But his 8.6% Barrel/BBE is above-average for a catcher, and even though Joseph’s hot bat may take away a bit of his playing time, he’s still underrated in a depleted catching pool.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics) – I tell ya, he gets no respect. Despite producing like a mid-tier second sacker, he’s getting owned at the rate of a low-end guy. Everybody’s waiting for the second-half slump which he admittedly has had for several years after strong starts, but Travis Sawchik wrote a great piece about him struggling for years with sleep apnea which robbed him of his energy as the season wears on. Hey, it’s not fluff if he’s showing the stuff. xStats suggests that his expected average and power based on his hitting have not been lucky at all, and if anything, ever so slightly unlucky. He should be owned in all 15-team formats and deeper 12-team. From now on, I’m calling him Jed Power-y.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – After a bombastic debut, the enthusiasm for Bell didn’t keep ringing. But I think we should still Taco ’bout Bell. He’s been an excellent run producer, with 45 R and 44 RBI, and nobody’s going to complain about the 16 Homers. While the .239 average is a disappointment, xStats believes his .253 BABIP is mostly bad luck, as his xAVG is a much better .272 Not only that, he could be in line for more pop, as his xSLG is a powerful .473. While he could wear down in the second half of his first full season, I trust in the bat because he’s always been a disciplined hitter. Pick him up in all 12-team mixed leagues in which he’s still available, and if he carries 3b eligibility, he’s worth a pickup in 10-team as well because the upside is so high.
Raimel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies) – Raimel agrees with me that nothing breaks you out of a funk like Colorado air. The Top 100 prospect was having a punchless year in Triple-A this year after several years of all-around power-speed success, but now he’s settling in, hitting .323 with 2 HR and 3 SB in 105 PA. With a .397 BABIP, it’s true that luck has helped him out, but he’s also a player with speed and a history of unusually high minor league BABIPs, so it’s not unreasonable to expect him to hold a .330 BABIP, which should help him hit for average and speed with 5 homers the rest of the way. It’s a lot easier to bet on a rookie when half his games are made easier by his home park. Pick him up in all NL-only and 15-team formats, but 12-teamers should monitor him as he climbs his way to the Tapia.
Luke Voit (1B, St. Louis Cardinals) – Hot hand Luke has made quite the splash. He’s hitting .316 with 3 Home Runs and a .361 ISO in just 41 PA, and despite the small sample size it doesn’t seem like a total fluke. He has an excellent 45.2% Hard% along with an also great 9.7% Soft%, to go, and has amazing 93.1 ,ph eV,and a 95.9 mph FB/LD eV with a 13.3% Barrel/BBE. Combine that with a low 17.1% strikeout rate, and that’s someone who even at 1B is a must-own in 15-team leagues. But I’d monitor him or even add him in 12-teams with a deep bench since he could be lightning in a bottle… Danger, High Voitage!
Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels) – It may sound like heresy to say to drop a player who at one point was considered a lock for the Hall of Fame, but the current version of him is just really not cutting it. With his litany of foot issues, he’s now officially the slowest player in the major leagues (even slower than all the catchers), and his current 69.0% Ownership rate is just too high for 10 and 12-team leagues. He’s only hitting 5.0% Barrel/BBE, with 87.9 eV (although his 92.6 FB/LD eV isn’t bad), but he’s a power-only player with not-great power at his position in this jacked-up power environment. He’s passable in 15-team, but in shallow leagues, his name is not worth the Pujols in his game.
Javier Baez (SS/2B/3B, Chicago) – Add him to the long list of disappointments in Chicago this year. Chalk it up to a year-long World Series hangover? I understand he has massive upside, but he really hasn’t delivered a lot of it, not enough to be rostered in 63.2% of leagues. His power hasn’t even been that special, with an 87.6 eV, 92.6 eV on FB/LD, and 8.1 Barrel/BBE, which don’t get me wrong, are good numbers for a shortstop, but not so much when it’s your primary carrying tool, as his speed has declined with just 3 SB, and a 26.0% K rate. In 12-team formats, it’s time to wave goodbye to good Baez.
Mitch Haniger (OF, Seattle Mariners) – Now that he’s back from the DL, he can’t seem to recapture his early-season magic. However, even then, a large part of his performance was driven by luck. xStats considered him one of the biggest overperformers, with an xAVG of .242 and xSLG of .419. With the speed, that’s not terrible, but it’s not someone you want starting everyday in a 10-teamer or even 12-teamer. Hopefully you sold early on him, but if not, there’s no blame in dropping him now, because otherwise you’ll have Resting Mitch Face.
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