We're halfway home.
Actually, we're more than halfway, but if all of major media doesn't care to be precise on the matter, doggone it, neither do I. And I'll take those liberties a step further: Anthony Rendon is the greatest player who ever lived!
You'll see what I mean if you click here. Those are my rankings. And that big green arrow next to his name means I've moved him up. Because he's (roughly) the greatest player who ever lived.
Not every change is reflected by an arrow, and not every change is discussed here. But hopefully between the two, I touch on the most interesting ones. And I specify "most" interesting because, by their very nature, changes in player value are interesting.
If not always precise.
- Time to stop pretending Stephen Vogt doesn't exist and give him the credit he deserves in Fantasy. Sure, he's 29 and has spent most of his professional career in the minors, but he compiled a .305 batting average and .833 OPS in parts of eight seasons there. If the Athletics didn't trust his bat, they wouldn't keep playing him out of position.
- Basically, all of the catcher position after the the undowngradable duo of Jason Castro and Wilson Ramos (I'm just not ready to discount what they did last year) gets a healthy reshuffling, making anyone ranked 17th or better a viable replacement for Yadier Molina. Personally, I'd just go with the hot hand in a one-catcher league.
- Mark Trumbo is back and better than ever! OK, so we shouldn't assume the latter. In fact, his 1-for-9 performance since his return is a sobering reminder that he's streaky as all get-out. Still, ranking him 17th (or 14th in Rotisserie) at a position as deep as first base is intended as optimism. I mean, he's ahead of near All-Star Justin Morneau and Fantasy mainstay Adrian Gonzalez, so clearly, he's must-own.
- Eric Hosmer is still well behind Trumbo, but he's back ahead of position scarcity darlings Lonnie Chisenhall and Brian McCann and the free-falling Michael Morse after hitting safely in each of his first 12 games this month, with more walks than strikeouts and two of his six home runs. I don't have much of an explanation for it other than "well, he's done it before," but I get the feeling he's going to have a huge second half.
- Between the underachieving mainstays and the all-too-believable newcomers, second and third base have become positively annoying to rank. More good players might seem like a good thing in Fantasy since, you know, they're good, but when every team has something good, how do you differentiate yours?
- Does Anthony Rendon deserve to rank fourth at both second base? Yeah, probably. He's been must-start from the beginning and has only gotten better as the season has gone on. But Dustin Pedroia and Matt Carpenter aren't as far behind as you'd think for as disappointing as their numbers look. They have the better peripherals and longer track record, so unless you rule out an extended hot streak for both -- and anyone who's followed baseball for any length of time should know better than that -- you can't rule out them overtaking Rendon in the second half. So yeah, Rendon has earned top-five status at the position, but 3-9 are hopelessly jumbled.
- What about third base? A look at Evan Longoria's week-by-week breakdown will tell you he hasn't been as bad as his .257 batting average and .719 OPS would have you believe, and David Wright seems to be waking up as well. Would I rather have Rendon than both? I have to admit I would, but if I'm being completely honest, I could see it getting flipped around before the end of July. And don't even get me started on Todd Frazier. Deciding between him and Rendon was the biggest challenge of this entire exercise.
- I'd like to move Kolten Wong higher than 20th, but until I can trust the Cardinals to play him every day, I can't move him ahead of players like Aaron Hill and Jed Lowrie. His stock is on the rise, though. In leagues that require an extra middle infielder, I'd be looking to clear a spot for him.
- The same goes for Arismendy Alcantara, who has earned his spot on the big-league club with his performance during Darwin Barney's paternity leave. I suspect his poor plate discipline will catch up to him sooner or later, but his power-speed combo at shortstop is worth passing up another round of Brad Miller roulette.
- All right, time to stop playing scared with Carlos Gonzalez. He's back and has proven as much as he able in three games that he's better post-tumor. I'm not saying he's the safest outfielder you can own, but you're only hurting yourself if you value him as less than a top-10 player at the position. OK, so I have him 11th in Head-to-Head, but close enough.
- Last year, a mechanical change (holding his hands higher) propelled Jayson Werth to an MVP-level performance in the second half. This year, another mechanical change has him hitting .375 (15 for 40) with six home runs already in July. I almost wonder if moving him back into the top 25 is enough.
- I've held out as long as I could for Shin-Soo Choo, knowing the kind of player he was last year and has been throughout his career. But now more than halfway home, it's become clear to me we're seeing the same version we saw in 2011. Maybe he's just on the decline at age 32. Dropping him to 26 shouldn't motivate anyone to cut him in Fantasy, but considering he was 12th, I acknowledge it was overdue.
- Meanwhile, J.D. Martinez, Kole Calhoun, Steve Pearce and Lucas Duda continue to rise up the outfield rankings. Duda is the lowest of the four as a platoon player, but would you believe he's played the same number of games as Alex Gordon this season? Even when the Mets sit him, they like to bring him off the bench, which could make him more than just a matchups type in the second half.
- What a mess starting pitcher has become after the top 24 -- and I'm not even including James Shields in that group. Garrett Richards, Sonny Gray and Corey Kluber have now earned the trust that Mike Minor, Anibal Sanchez and Alex Cobb have lost, which isn't to say they're hot garbage now, but their continued struggles have prompted a re-tiering at the position, lumping them in the Justin Verlander and Matt Cain category of "I don't want to give up on them, but man ..."
- Jake Arrieta's rise from unranked to 34th, which has come during the span of about a month, suggests two things: just how dominant he's been during that time (or a little longer, actually) and just how much the position has thinned out between the struggling mainstays and long-term injuries. Beyond the true aces, who can you trust?
- Ian Kennedy and Josh Beckett haven't been quite as dominant as Arrieta, but they deserve special distinction as well. Ace-like ratios for those three.
- The thinning out at starting pitcher also impacts the back end of mixed-league rosters, where early favorites Phil Hughes, Jesse Chavez, Nathan Eovaldi and Wily Peralta have shown their true colors. Unspectacular types like Mark Buehrle, Dillon Gee, Mike Leake and Jose Quintana now seem like good bets in comparison. Jason Vargas would be, too, if not for his recent appendectomy.
- If you haven't caught on to Jake Odorizzi, Danny Duffy and Jacob deGrom yet, you should, probably in that order. Not only do all three have legitimate strikeout potential, but Odorizzi has a 2.95 ERA in his last 13 starts, Duffy has a 2.19 ERA in his last eight starts and deGrom has a 1.65 ERA in his last five starts.
- It's funny the difference one extra start can make. I was completely dismissive of Tim Lincecum after his July 6 start, in which he issued four walks against a Padres lineup he has thoroughly dominated over the last couple years, but then came is seven-inning gem against the Diamondbacks over the weekend. That's four great starts in a row, including three of seven-plus innings. By ranking him 76th in Head-to-Head points leagues, I'm acknowledging his renewed sleeper appeal.
- Before you jump all over Jimmy Nelson's ugly start Saturday, remember it wasn't his big-league debut. He made two starts before then, and both of them were good. He's not eligible at starting pitcher yet, but I rank him 30th at reliever, just behind fellow SPARP Kevin Gausman.
- I haven't bought into Joe Smith as a closer yet because Mike Scioscia has indicated on more than one occasion that he doesn't want to confine him to the ninth inning, valuing his versatility. But the way the right-hander has piled up saves with Ernesto Frieri out of the picture might change his manager's perspective. I still rank him conservatively, but I don't rule out the possibility of him keeping the job the rest of the way and would value him on the level of Mark Melancon if he does.