The players are back in action after the All-Star break and now is your time to capitalize in leagues. Today, we're rolling with breakout players at key positions. Do yourselves a favor and send out trade offers for them ASAP.
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 second-half breakout player (in the second half) at each of these positions: CI, MI, OF, SP, RP.
- Scott: Yoan Moncada moves back to second base. I'll admit this is just a hairbrained scheme to keep both Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets in the lineup even after Eloy Jimenez returns in the next week or two. Burger would take over at third base. Sheets would split time with Jose Abreu between DH and first base. Bada bing, bada boom. Granted, Burger did appear four times at second base at Triple-A, but it seems like less of a stretch to send Moncada back to the position he played full-time in 2018. The playoff-bound White Sox should be looking to maximize offense, right? It's a definite maybe!
- Chris: Kris Bryant is a top-10 hitter down the stretch -- It seems all but certain that Bryant is going to get traded, and someone is going to get a steal. He's struggled for the last month and a half or so, but it's worth remembering that these guys are human, and he's been the subject of trade rumors amidst a terrible stretch of baseball by the Cubs. He'll be rejuvenated by his new confines, no matter where they end up being. .
- Frank: Cody Bellinger will finish the season with less than 15 home runs. He currently has four home runs but something is clearly wrong with the 2019 National League MVP. He had shoulder surgery back in November and injured his calf earlier this season. I had Bellinger as a bust coming into the season because I worried about the shoulder affecting his power output. The batted ball data is all over the place. He's striking out more than ever. Bellinger still has massive upside based on his 2019. I'm just betting we don't see it this season.
- Scott: Trevor Story stays put in Colorado and enjoys a second-half surge that vaults him back into the top five at shortstop. It might not make sense for the fourth-place Rockies to cling to a star-caliber player in the final year of his contract, but as an organization, they're not exactly known for making sensible decisions. My suspicion is they'll simply demand too much or hold out in a misguided hope they re-sign him. They could always extend him a qualifying offer in the offseason and recoup a draft pick that way.
- Chris: Whit Merrifield hits .330 the rest of the season -- Merrifield's .273 average is the worst of his career, and I'm willing to go on record and say he's going to be much, much better from here on out. Merrifield's batted-ball data doesn't quite look like we're use to, but he's still an elite amount of contact, so consider this a vote of confidence in a guy who just so happens to have hit .351 in June.
- Frank: Gleyber Torres is a top-10 shortstop rest of season. I have absolutely no basis to project this. Torres has been quite bad since the start of last season and we had questions even before that. While he hit 38 home runs back in 2019, 13 of those came against a woeful Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. With all that being said, I find it unfathomable that he's just lost it. We saw a similar situation from Jose Ramirez where he was awful for a near calendar year between 2018 and 2019. And then something just clicked and he was back. That's the hope for Torres as well.
- Scott: Alex Kirilloff outperforms Cedric Mullins in the second half. It won't be a blowout, and I'm not saying Mullins comes down to Kirilloff's current level of production. But I do think -- and the Statcast data generally supports it -- that Kirilloff is equipped to be the kind of hitter Mullins was in the first half, minus the steals. And yes, some modest regression is to be expected from Mullins, who has outperformed his xBA by more than 40 points and xSLG by more than 100.
- Chris: Starling Marte is the best player traded at the deadline -- Don't take this as a back-handed compliment, or anything. Marte is an excellent player, hitting .285/.365/.439 with 13 homers and 29 steals in 117 games over the last two seasons -- a 19-homer, 41-steal pace for 162 games. With the Marlins heading nowhere fast and unwilling to give Marte a fourth-year in extension discussions, he seems likely to move to his fourth team in three seasons, and he'll be a heck of a stretch-run pickup for whoever gets him. The Yankees should be looking into it for sure.
- Frank: Teoscar Hernandez is a top-10 outfielder rest of season. I've cited Hernandez as a player to buy a few times over the past month or so. His combination of batted ball data and improved plate discipline lead me to believe big things are coming, especially in that Blue Jays lineup. Maybe moving back to Toronto on July 30 will do the trick. Whatever it is, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hernandez post a big batting average with power, speed, and counting numbers in that lineup over the next two months.
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- Scott: Trevor Rogers doesn't throw a pitch in September. Given how clubs have mostly gone pedal-to-the-metal with their starting pitchers, save for a six-man rotation here and there, a good number of them could face hard shutdowns toward the end of the season as the innings gap between 2020 and 2021 continues to swell. Rogers seems like an easy call, being a rookie who hasn't missed a turn for a club that's almost completely out of it. It might open the door for someone like Edward Cabrera to step, too.
- Chris: Max Scherzer wins the NL Cy Young -- Anytime you get a chance to double down on a bold prediction, you've gotta take it. In the spring, I gave a bold prediction for every team, and Scherzer winning the Cy Young was my pick for the Nationals. I entered the season with Scherzer as my No .4 pitcher and, while the NL has seen the emergence of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Kevin Gausman as legit contenders, Scherzer's gonna go on a run and win it -- unless Jacob deGrom's elbow lets him get back in the lead, of course.
- Frank: Eduardo Rodriguez is a top-30 starting pitcher rest of season. Despite a 5.19 ERA, we've cited Rodriguez's fantastic underlying numbers all season long. Currently, his FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and xERA are all 3.60 or lower. These are ERA indicators that tell us what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on factors that matter like strikeouts, ground balls, and suppressing hard contact. I'm thinking we get something like a mid 3's ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, with more than a strikeout per inning the rest of the way.
- Scott: Zack Britton leads the Yankees in saves from this point forward. I've made this suggestion a couple times already on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, so I might as well put it in writing as well, particularly under the "bold predictions" banner. It's obviously unlikely, but Aroldis Chapman has been a mess since the foreign substance crackdown began, his ERA rising from 0.39 to 4.40 in a little more than a month's time. Britton is fresh off the IL and will have to prove healthy and effective first, but he was an All-Star closer in his Orioles days and has been a capable fill-in for Chapman in the past. Aaron Boone might be more comfortable going to him than someone like Chad Green.
- Chris: Craig Kimbrel leads the majors in saves after the trade deadline -- The assumption here is Kimbrel does get traded, but maybe this isn't actually a bold call at all -- he's been the best reliever in baseball this season, after all, and he's tied for fourth in the league in saves. As much as anything, it's just an opportunity to recognize just how good Kimbrel has been after many left him for dead following a rough 2019 and 2020. He leads all relievers in strikeout rate at 46.8% with his best walk rate since 2017. Kimbrel had a lot of doubters, but it's starting to look like his struggles the previous two seasons were just a speed bump on the road to the Hall of Fame.
- Frank: Craig Kimbrel is traded to a team where he's not the closer. This doesn't really have much to do with production or underlying numbers. All of those things tell us that Kimbrel is having a Renaissance season for the ages. The problem is we've recently heard him linked to the Astros and Red Sox. I can foresee Kimbrel overtaking Matt Barnes in Boston. However, I'm not so sure about Houston. Ryan Pressly has been awesome for them and Dusty Baker doesn't strike me as a manager to make a big change just for optics. As somebody who has Kimbrel on multiple teams, I'm actually praying this doesn't happen.