The All-Star break came and went like a blur. Pete Alonso is your repeat Derby champion and the AL won the actual All-Star game yet again. What else is new? Well, the second half of the Fantasy Baseball season is about to kick off and now is the most important time to make a playoff push in H2H and a categories push in Roto.
To kick off each week of the season, I'll be reaching out to Fantasy Baseball Today's Chris Towers, Scott White and Frank Stampfl to ask them a few big questions that can hopefully help lead to actionable advice. If you are reading this and have specific questions you'd love to see Chris, Scott and Frank answer, please DM me @DanSchneierNFL. And remember that if you don't like any of the answers, I'm just the messenger, and you know what they say about the messenger.
We're rolling with a theme for this week and here it is: Name one key bounce-back player (in the second half) at each of these positions: CI, MI, OF, SP, RP.
- Who was your best first-half value draft pick in any league?
- Scott: Give it up for Shohei Ohtani! Crazy to think the most buzzed-about player in baseball was a value pick at one point, but it turns out I was one of the few people who believed Angels manager Joe Maddon when he said the two-way star would remain in the lineup the day before, the day after and perhaps even the day when he pitched. Restrictions were always the drawback for Ohtani, keeping him from becoming the Fantasy monster we're seeing now. And yet even late in Draft Prep season, he was often available outside of the top 130 picks.
- Chris: I think it has to be Trevor Rogers, who I took a flier on in many leagues and who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. He looked excellent in spring training with his velocity hitting levels the Marlins had never seen before, and that was coming off a very brief seven-start debut in 2020 where his underlying numbers looked a lot better than his ugly ERA did. He's been an ace for Fantasy, though I'm also looking to move him if I can in the next few weeks, because I do worry the Marlins may shut him down as their chances of making the playoffs continue to shrink.
- Frank: It has to be Shohei Ohtani, who I selected in my 15-team Roto NFBC Main Event league at pick 197! Ohtani is currently the second ranked player in 5x5 Roto leagues given his five-category production. At the break Ohtani is batting .279 with 33 home runs, 65 runs scored, 70 RBI, and 12 steals. He would be a top-five pick if we were redrafting today.
2. Who was your best first-half free agent acquisition?
- Scott: I'll go with Carlos Rodon in a close call over Trevor Rogers. There are a few leagues where I managed to nab both on the first run of waivers, and suffice it to say I'm holding my own in them. The two serve as prominent reminders why spring training matters in Fantasy Baseball -- not so much for measuring performance, but for identifying changes. In Rodon's case, it was a more efficient delivery that better incorporated his lower half for improved life and command on his fastball.
- Chris: Freddy Peralta. I added him early in some H2H points leagues, and he's been a legitimate difference maker there, ranking as the top scoring relief pitcher so far. I have some concerns about whether he'll be able to continue racking up innings at the pace he has, and his mediocre control could always come back to haunt him, but he's throwing four pitches with confidence, helping his natural deceptiveness play up even more.
- Frank: I'm headed back to one of my deeper leagues where I added Adolis Garcia back in April in a different 15-team Roto league. Garcia currently ranks as the fifth best outfielder in this format and the 22nd best player overall. He currently has a .270 batting average to go along with 22 home runs and eight steals. He's definitely slowed down since the start of June, but that was expected. Given the sum of his parts, Garcia's been my most valuable add.
3. Which player you roster will have the best bounce-back second half?
- Scott: Aaron Nola. I mentioned Luke Voit and Charlie Morton in last week's Q&A, but Nola is the one I'm most confident in. I don't think there's a thing wrong with him. His 3.35 xFIP is in line with past seasons. His walk rate is the best of his career and his strikeout rate the second-best. His velocity is fine, and his spin rates have held steady even as so many around the league have declined in recent weeks. Particularly in light of his track record, his 4.53 ERA stands out as one of the first half's biggest aberrations.
- Chris: Boy, I sure hope it's Anthony Rendon. This is one of those situations where you don't really have a good reason to believe they'll bounce back, except for the fact that it's Anthony Rendon and he's been so good for so long. His underlying numbers don't exactly suggest Rendon has been unlucky, but he's been such a consistent contributor for Fantasy that I have to believe the track record still matters. Plus, it's not like his underlying numbers are terrible. Once he's healthy, Rendon has a big second half coming up.
- Frank: I'm going with Aaron Nola here. He's been a pretty big disappointment with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP at the break. There isn't much in the underlying numbers, however, that prove he's just bad all of a sudden. Even with that ERA, Nola is rocking a 3.36 xFIP and a 3.72 xERA, which tell us he's been very unlucky to this point. Nola likely won't live up to where you drafted him, but I would bet on him having an ERA closer to 3.50 in the second half.
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4. How should Ronald Acuna Jr. managers try to replace him?
- Scott: Fortunately, it's not like Fantasy Football where your team's fate is so closely tied to one player, meaning it's possible you don't need to resort to some dramatic stunt. Still, the best replacement for a superstar is someone who can at least approach superstar production. Eloy Jimenez was a popular pickup last week, but Luis Robert is still somewhat available. Both are on track to return much earlier than expected from what were potential season-ending injuries. Meanwhile, Mariners outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic is set to return from the minors at the start of the second half, and Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran just beat him to it.
- Chris: I wrote about this Monday and I think your best bet is to try to find superstar potential at a discount. I'm not sure I believe Christian Yelich or Cody Bellinger will turn it around this season, but I know if they do, you won't miss Acuña nearly as much. Otherwise, try to acquire guys like Ketel Marte, Byron Buxton, and Luis Robert and just hope you can stay afloat until they are healthy.
- Frank: I think it depends on format and need. If you play in a points league, I like Brandon Nimmo as a high-floor play and Alex Kiriloff as an upside play. If you play in H2H categories or the Roto format, Akil Baddoo and Myles Straw are two names who can offer speed off the waiver wire. If you're looking for a trade candidate, I'm sticking with Teoscar Hernandez. His plate discipline is much improved this season and he's still crushing the ball. Hernandez could have a monster second half if everything clicks in the middle of that Blue Jays lineup.
5. Which player are you most worried about heading into the second half?
- Scott: Corbin Burnes has become a source of paranoia of late. Not only are the innings piling up for a pitcher who hasn't taken on a starter's workload since 2017 but also his spin rates are down -- like, way down. And unlike some pitchers who've lost spin amid the foreign substance crackdown, he's getting worse results. It's most notable in the swinging-strike rate, which has gone from an other-worldly 19 percent in his first 10 starts to a more pedestrian 12 percent in his past five. Meanwhile, his K/9 has gone from 14.3 to 10.8 and his BB/9 from 1.1 to 2.5 -- still fine numbers, but plainly worse.
- Chris: I think it's probably Blake Snell. He was drafted as a top-15 pitcher and I'm not sure I even view him as a top-50 guy at this point. You could always live with Snell's shaky control because he was such an elite swing-and-miss pitcher and he did such a good job limiting damage on contact. He's still getting plenty of swings and misses, but Snell is also getting hit harder than ever, while his control has also taken a significant step back. Snell's arm slot has dropped in the recent years, and his effectiveness has dimmed along with it. I don't know if there's an injury at play here, or something, but he's now a low-volume pitcher who isn't even all that effective. Yuck.
- Frank: Aroldis Chapman. Since the start of June, he has a 13.03 ERA with a 3.00 WHIP. This dip in production has correlated with the league's crack down on foreign substances. That could be the reason or perhaps Chapman is just dealing with something internally (injury or mechanics). I'm interested to see who gets the Yankees' first save opportunity in the second half of the season.