The second half of the 2022 season is still new and no doubt has plenty of surprises in store for us. But there are certain players who seem poised to make a bigger impact than they did in the first half, whether because they haven't made themselves known yet or simply underachieved.
You could call these eight buy-low candidates, though some will be easier to buy than others. I'm referring to them as my second-half breakouts and would at least check in to make sure they're being properly appreciated in my league.
Corey Seager SS
TEX Texas • #5 • Age: 29
Seager has already upped his power production, homering eight times in his past 15 games, but he has the most ground to make up in batting average, the .039-point difference between his actual mark (.250) and expected mark (.289) representing the fourth-biggest among full-time players. His combination of a low strikeout rate, high line-drive rate and premium exit velocities make him a natural for batting average in the same way Freddie Freeman is. He's known for his strong finishes, being a career .305 hitter in the second half and having twice salvaged an underwhelming season line with a monster September (2019, 2021). If the same happens this year, he's likely looking at career-best numbers that would make him a slam-dunk top-five shortstop.
Matt Olson 1B
ATL Atlanta • #28 • Age: 29
It's easy to mistake the first half of this season as an inevitable course correction for Olson after his career-best production of a year ago, but the data still makes him out to be a masher of the highest order, his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate each coming in higher than a year ago (94th percentile for both). What he needs to do more is put the ball over the fence, and between the reduced carry on the ball early on and his uncharacteristic struggles to elevate it, he's behind pace in that regard. Both have normalized in recent weeks, though, and he's quickly made up ground, having hit 12 home runs in his past 43 games compared to six in his first 54. I'm thinking the trend continues and he ends up topping 40.
Matt Chapman 3B
SF San Francisco • #26 • Age: 30
The other Matt traded by Oakland in the offseason got off to an even rockier start with his new team, but all the underlying data suggested you should keep the faith. Compared to last year, Chapman's average exit velocity has risen from 89.7 to 92.5 mph. His strikeout rate has fallen from 32.5 to 25.8 percent. Both are back in line with what Chapman was doing prior to his hip troubles in 2020, which resulted in surgery at the end of that season, and the production is beginning to follow suit. Over his past 39 games, he's batting .278 (40 for 144) with 10 homers and an .892 OPS. It's not the sort of epic hot streak that completely redeems his season batting line, but in a way, that's a good thing. It gives you more time to buy low.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #52 • Age: 33
Clevinger had a three-year run of Fantasy greatness, from 2017 through 2019, and even his truncated 2020 was solid. But after a year-long absence for Tommy John surgery, his 2022 return has been so disordered, interrupted by three separate IL stints unrelated to the elbow, that expectations are basically non-existent at this point. In the little bit we've seen of him, though, he's looked basically like the same old Clevinger. His velocity is down a little from its peak but better than at the start of that three-year run. His swinging-strike rate is solid. His control has been fine. He's thrown six innings in three of his past four starts, the latest being an absolute gem, and with all the time he's missed, the Padres won't have to manage his innings so closely down the stretch.
KC Kansas City • #9 • Age: 26
If you missed your chance to scoop up Pasquantino when he first got the call or in the weeks leading up to it, events have played out so that you may have another shot at it. Despite him having a higher hard-hit rate than everyone but Yordan Alvarez and Aaron Judge and despite him having better strikeout and walk rates than Mookie Betts, he's off to a slow start. Some might say impossibly slow. Some might say, given the way the data looks and how reliable he was in the minors the past two years, that Pasquantino is the ultimate buy-low player. Shoot, he's not even universally rostered. You may be able to get him for free. Considering the small sample of at-bats, the stat line could turn around almost instantly, so you'll want to act quickly.
MIN Minnesota • #19 • Age: 26
You knew Kirilloff was going to appear here. I've been banging the drum for him for basically his entire big-league career (which has now spanned about 100 games) with very little to show for it. Yet I maintain, given how many of those games were undermined by a wrist injury, that he hasn't gotten a fair shake even still. In 30 games since returning from a minor-league stint where he finally put the injury behind him and hit .359 (47 for 131) with 10 homers and an 1.106 OPS, he's batting .301 with an average exit velocity of 90.2 mph. He needs to elevate better to get to his power more, which will be critical since he's not a big walker or base-stealer, but the quality of contact is sufficient for him to become an offensive force.
Aaron Ashby SP
MIL Milwaukee • #26 • Age: 25
Between a bloated walk rate and a bout with forearm inflammation, Ashby has had a bumpy transition to the starting rotation. But the Brewers showed their faith by inking him to a five-year deal just this weekend, and the left-hander responded with arguably his best start of the season, allowing two runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts. Frankly, I was planning to feature him here even before that outing. Not only does he offer a power arsenal and all the bat-missing potential that goes with it, but his ground-ball rate would rank second among qualifiers, behind only Framber Valdez. That's a rare combination of skills that should make for league leader-type ERAs if he can get the walks under control. Throwing 73 percent of his pitches for strikes, as he did Monday, is a good first step.
TEX Texas • #3 • Age: 25
The signs of a breakout are already on full display for Taveras, who nonetheless remains available in nearly 40 percent of CBS Sports leagues. Though he had been a top prospect previously, it was mostly on the strength of his defense, and it wasn't clear that he'd ever be more than a light-hitting speed specialist in Fantasy. But after a surprisingly productive stint at Triple-A to begin the year, he got the call in mid-June and hasn't cooled off yet. He eventually will, of course, but the considerable improvements in strikeout rate (32.4 to 24.1 percent) and average exit velocity (87.2 to 90.9 mph) would suggest he's turned the corner at age 23. If he ends up delivering something like Randy Arozarena numbers, it wouldn't be a total shock.