Fantasy Baseball: Five hitting upgrades to make while watching the All-Star game
Looking to make a splash? The All-Star break is the right time to do it. Chris Towers has five hitters who can carry you in the second half if they get hot.
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Looking to make a second-half run? If you're reading Fantasy baseball articles in mid-July, of course you are! The best way to do that is with a big trade, and now is the perfect time to do it. Here are five players to target who are going to carry you to a championshop in the second half of the season.
We'll get into peripherals and advanced stats shortly, but let's start off with a couple of easy ones. George Springer is good. Remarkably good, in fact. He has been somewhat less than good this season, which might leave his owner frustrated after investing an early-round pick in the Astros' outfielder. You should try to take advantage. Reach out, see how Springer's owner is feeling about this slow start, especially with Springer hitting below .250 since the start of June. He's a better hitter than this, that much should be obvious. If it isn't to whoever has Springer right now, pounce.
With Joey Votto, at least a little more skepticism might be warranted, given his advanced age. There are signs of decline, from an increase strikeout rate to a power drought that extends to the second half of last season — Votto has just 19 homers over the last calendar year.
Of course, he's also hitting .306 in that span with a .922 OPS, so there's only so much concern you can have. Votto has been known to heat up in the second half of seasons, using the first half to work through his weaknesses before destroying the scouting report on him. There's no guarantee that happens again, and Votto may already have reached his decline phase. On the other hand, Votto has the lowest soft-contact rate of his career to go with an otherworldly 34.6 percent line-drive rate, signs that the bat hasn't slowed down as much as you might think. Personally, I'm willing to bet on an elite talent, especially if his owner is willing to give him up for a discounted price.
Things get a bit more interesting with Rhys Hoskins, who doesn't have the track record Votto or Springer do. He was incredible last season in a cup of coffee, but has been merely decent in his first full season, hitting .258/.368/.474 through 81 games. The most disappointing thing has been the power, as Hoskins has seen his Isolated slugging percentage drop from .359 to .216 since last season. He was never going to keep up a nearly 60-homer pace like he had in 2017, but Hoskins is a longshot to get to 30 at his current pace. Hoskins isn't hitting the ball as hard in 2018 as he did a year ago, but it's not like he's some slap hitter, either; out of 148 players with at least 200 batted ball events, he ranks 48th in average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls. Despite that, he has a middling 13.6 percent HR/FB rate. Given his raw power, I'm willing to bet on Hoskins improving that, and good things should happen. It wouldn't surprise me to see Hoskins hit 20 homers from this point on.
It may not be surprising to see Justin Turner struggling, hitting just .266/.361/.405, a year removed from a .945 OPS over 130 games. After all, he fractured his wrist in the spring, an injury that left Freddie Freeman swinging "a wet newspaper" by the end of last season. That Turner might not have the strength to drive the ball wouldn't be terribly surprising. Of course, that might also be the kind of issue that could get better as he gets further away from the injury, and we might be seeing signs of that. Turner posted a .209 ISO in June, in line with what we've come to expect, and he's been north of a 50 percent hard-hit rate in the first third of July. When at full strength last season, Turner was a second-round caliber hitter, and if I'm looking to make a run, I want that on my team.
I made the argument before the season that Gary Sanchez could be worth a first-round pick this season, and it's safe to say that hasn't worked out. Even before his groin injury, Sanchez was hitting just .190, with good but not great power and run production numbers. It was a disappointing start.
But I haven't softened my stance. There isn't a player at any position who can give you the kind of edge Sanchez can when he's at his best. Evan Gattis has been the No. 1 catcher in Fantasy this season, with numbers Sanchez could easily dwarf – he did so last season. Sanchez had some red flags in his line before the injury, specifically with a 21.1 percent infield fly ball rate that makes his .194 BABIP look at least slightly less unlucky than it might be at first glance. But we're still talking about a hitter who has shown the ability to be an elite, first-base caliber bat behind the plate. That's one of the most valuable assets in Fantasy when he's right, and he should be back on the field after the break.
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