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MLB Top 10s: Posey, Abreu, Kershaw, Kluber brightest of second-half stars

by | Baseball Writer
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In the Eye On Baseball Top 10s, here's what we do: rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10s will always be informed by some angle or another, painfully contrived or otherwise.

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who have been the stars of the second half of the 2014 season?

As the question strongly implies, this is about post-All-Star break performance in 2014 and nothing else. Performance in the first half of the season doesn't matter, and future outlook doesn't matter, either. Second half of 2014 -- period, paragraph. As always, defense and base-running are very much part of the calculus for position players.

Omissions? Derek Jeter will not be among those honored, in large part because he hasn't been very good in the second half. But there his name is -- Derek Jeter -- just the same. Derek Jeter.

And now let us recite baseball names for the dual purposes of SEO and making you angry. Feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.

Weapons-grade complaints and spleen-venting? By all means, reach out to the author at hotmail@hotmail.jpg.

Batters
1. Buster Posey, C - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 20
Clayton Kershaw Posey has keyed the Giants' return to playoff position and put himself in the NL MVP discussion with a second-half line of .363/.409/.592. That's outstanding production from any player, let alone a primary catcher.
Key Stats: 512 AB, 20 HR, .311 AVG, 85 RBI, 68 R, 0 SB
2. Josh Harrison, 3B - Pittsburgh Pirates
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 52
Corey Kluber Most of us keep waiting for Harrison to regress, but he's just not cooperating with our pessimism. Instead, he just keeps hitting. The current NL batting leader owns a slash line of .341/.372/.575 in the second half, and that's to say nothing of his plus defense and base-running.
Key Stats: 463 AB, 13 HR, .317 AVG, 51 RBI, 71 R, 17 SB
3. Jose Abreu, 1B - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 4
Alex Cobb Before the break, Jose Abreu was a one-dimensional hitter with tremendous power. Since the break, he's been a complete hitter with tremendous power. At present, he owns a line of .374/.452/558 in the second half.
Key Stats: 517 AB, 35 HR, .323 AVG, 102 RBI, 76 R, 2 SB
4. Russell Martin, C - Pittsburgh Pirates
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 18
Chris Sale We know about Martin's elite defensive skills, and this season his bat has been at career-best levels. A line of .314/.414/.462 in the second half, with as many walks as strikeouts, tells the story of his recent performance.
Key Stats: 346 AB, 9 HR, .295 AVG, 61 RBI, 43 R, 4 SB
5. Giancarlo Stanton, RF - Miami Marlins
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Madison Bumgarner Stanton is of course not likely to play again this season after taking a pitch to the face in terrifying fashion. So his post-break efforts will likely conclude with a .982 OPS and 16 homers. Here's hoping he's back to vintage form for 2015.
Key Stats: 539 AB, 37 HR, .288 AVG, 105 RBI, 89 R, 13 SB
6. Chris Carter, DH - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 77
Matt Shoemaker Carter is known as a feast-or-famine kind of slugger, but since the break he?s been gorging himself. In the second half, he?s mashing .285/.364/.591 with 17 homers. That comes to a homer every 11.4 at-bats.
Key Stats: 470 AB, 36 HR, .236 AVG, 85 RBI, 66 R, 5 SB
7. Matt Kemp, LF - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 31
Jon Lester Kemp may not be happy about the crowded outfield situation in L.A., but you wouldn?t know it from his recent numbers: .307/.374/.587 in the second half with 28 extra-base hits in 189 at-bats.
Key Stats: 499 AB, 21 HR, .283 AVG, 76 RBI, 67 R, 8 SB
8. Denard Span, CF - Washington Nationals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 44
Cole Hamels The Nats? slick-fielding center fielder since the second half began? He?s batting .347/.403/.458 with 16 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts. The typically light-hitting Span already has three homers this month.
Key Stats: 582 AB, 5 HR, .299 AVG, 35 RBI, 93 R, 31 SB
9. Carlos Santana, 1B - Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Lance Lynn Santana?s slow start to 2014 seems long ago indeed. Since the All-Star Game, he?s authored a line of .274/.392/.533 with 13 homers and more walks than strikeouts.
Key Stats: 500 AB, 27 HR, .234 AVG, 80 RBI, 65 R, 4 SB
10. Josh Donaldson, 3B - Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Drew Smyly Donaldson carries on as perhaps the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball, and in the second half he?s batting .282/.383/.467. Considering his run-suppressing home park and how much value he contributes with the glove, those numbers are worthy of this list.
Key Stats: 560 AB, 27 HR, .254 AVG, 95 RBI, 86 R, 8 SB
Pitchers
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Clayton Kershaw Shocking, no? Kershaw was dominant in the first half, much as he has been throughout almost his entire career, and he's been dominant in the second half. In 89 post-break innings, he's logged an ERA of 1.62, and only 16 of 327 batters faced have managed to notch an extra-base hit.
Key Stats: 185.1 IP, 19-3 W-L, 0 SV, 1.7 ERA, 219 Ks, 28 BB
2. Corey Kluber, SP - Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 13
Corey Kluber Kluber's a Cy candidate in the AL in part because he's been excellent in the second half. Over 11 starts, Kluber's logged an ERA of 1.56, and he's struck out 88 batters against only 14 unintentional walks. Still waiting for him to fade?
Key Stats: 212.2 IP, 15-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.45 ERA, 230 Ks, 46 BB
3. Alex Cobb, SP - Tampa Bay Rays
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 21
Alex Cobb He's made 11 starts in the second half, and, tidily enough, he's allowed 11 runs. Over that same span, Cobb's also run a K/BB ratio of 3.89, and opposing hitters are slugging .238 against him.
Key Stats: 147.1 IP, 9-7 W-L, 0 SV, 2.75 ERA, 138 Ks, 42 BB
4. Chris Sale, SP - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Chris Sale Sale's another one who's mounting a compelling AL Cy Young case, and his second-half excellence is very much in character. He's worked 68 innings since the All-Star Game, and in said span he's pitched to a 1.85 ERA and struck out 90 batters.
Key Stats: 163.0 IP, 12-3 W-L, 0 SV, 1.99 ERA, 192 Ks, 34 BB
5. Madison Bumgarner, SP - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 9
Madison Bumgarner Sub-2.00 ERA and sub-.200 opponents' batting average: Bumgarner has both going for him in the second half. In August, "Mad Bum" managed to strike out 56 batters against just three walks.
Key Stats: 204.0 IP, 18-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.91 ERA, 208 Ks, 41 BB
6. Matt Shoemaker, SP - Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 68
Matt Shoemaker Shoemaker's been an essential stabilizer in the Angels' rotation since Garrett Richards went down. In the second half, he's walked just 3.6 percent of opposing hitters, and he's allowed just 15 runs in 64 2/3 innings.
Key Stats: 136.0 IP, 16-4 W-L, 0 SV, 3.04 ERA, 124 Ks, 24 BB
7. Jon Lester, SP - Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 14
Jon Lester Despite the upheavals of a late July trade to Oakland, Lester keeps pitching like the ace that he is. Post-ASG, he's got a 2.11 ERA and a 4.24 K/BB ratio, and he's averaging seven innings per start. His last non-quality start came on June 7.
Key Stats: 205.2 IP, 15-10 W-L, 0 SV, 2.45 ERA, 206 Ks, 46 BB
8. Cole Hamels, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Cole Hamels Hamels' strong season has indeed extended into the second half. He's got a 1.91 ERA, and he's recorded four times as many strikeouts as walks. Hamels hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start since late May.
Key Stats: 182.2 IP, 8-7 W-L, 0 SV, 2.51 ERA, 178 Ks, 56 BB
9. Lance Lynn, SP - St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 44
Lance Lynn In 70 innings since the break, Lynn has allowed exactly one home run. In large part, that's what's helped him log an ERA of 2.06 in the second half. As ace Adam Wainwright has struggled at times of late, Lynn has stepped into the breach.
Key Stats: 184.2 IP, 15-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.73 ERA, 162 Ks, 68 BB
10. Drew Smyly, SP - Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Smyly As a preemptive measure, Smyly's been shut down in this, his first season as a big-league starter. But not before the Guy Who Was Traded for David Price logged a second-half ERA of 2.20 with 53 strikeouts against only 12 unintentional walks.
Key Stats: 153.0 IP, 9-10 W-L, 0 SV, 3.24 ERA, 133 Ks, 42 BB
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