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We're inching closer and closer to the MLB's All Star break and the grind that is the Fantasy Baseball season rolls on. I choose the word grind lovingly in this regard. You have to love it, and sticking with it can give you an edge over other managers in your league. One easy way to get an edge is by staying ahead of the market -- buying and selling players via trade at appropriate times. A great time to do so is just prior to the All Star break, and that brings us to today's theme.

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.

  1. Who is the one hitter you're looking to buy before the All-Star break?

  • Scott: It only makes sense to zero in on a particular player in a trade (rather than matching up needs) if you believe he's eminently attainable, and Luke Voit would seem to fit the bill. Between two IL stints, the person who drafted him has probably grown accustomed to life without him, and it's not like he's made himself indispensable since returning. But it's coming. The major-league leader in home runs last year may be a little rusty, which is why the strikeouts are up, but his swing is still intact. He crushed it on his rehab assignment and has similar batted-ball readings to last year.
  • Chris: Michael Conforto. This has been a tough season for Conforto so far, as he has struggled with injuries and underperformance since Opening Day, more or less. However, the underlying numbers don't look that much different than what we've gotten used to in the past -- his average exit velocity is down a tick, sure, but but his expected wOBA is still .356, compared to between .377 and .338 in each of the previous three seasons. Conforto is due to get hot, and you can get him for dirt cheap right now. 
  • Frank: Pete Alonso. In 35 games since returning from the IL back on May 31, Alonso is batting .257 with seven home runs and an .857 OPS. The overall numbers still seem suppressed based on a bad April, which might make it easier to acquire Alonso. On top of all that, he's hitting the ball harder than ever before with the lowest strikeout rate of his career at 21.6%.

2. Who is the one pitcher you're looking to buy before the All-Star break?

  • Scott: As spin rates have spun out across the league, Charlie Morton, who was the original Astros pitching success story, has held steady with his 3,000-rpm curveball. His xFIP and SIERA have liked him to bounce back all along, which tells you all you need to know about the underlying numbers. He seemed well on his way during a recent three-start stretch in which he ditched his sinker but then reintroduced it with predictably lousy results last time out. The misstep presents you with one last chance to buy low on a pitcher equipped to perform like an ace the rest of the way.
  • Chris: Gerrit Cole. Preferably before he makes his next start. Yes, Cole has been pretty awful since the foreign substances crackdown began, and while correlation does not always equal causation, in this case, the two sure seem linked. But the thing is: Cole still throws 97-100 mph. He's still got two excellent breaking balls and a changeup he is more confident in than ever. And his spin rate is still right around where it was in 2018 -- you know, when he had a 2.88 ERA and 276 strikeouts for the Astros. He's surely not a bad pitcher, and if anyone is panicking, I'm still trying to buy. I expect he'll be a top-five pitcher the rest of the way. 
  • Frank: We waited a long time for Framber Valdez this season and he's done nothing but deliver in his seven starts. To this point he has a 2.18 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP. As a rule of thumb for pitchers, I prefer a high ground ball rate with solid control. Valdez's 71% ground ball rate would be the highest among starting pitchers, had he qualified. He's also incorporated more changeups, which has helped his other pitches play up.

3. Who is the one hitter you're looking to sell before the All-Star break?

  • Scott: Jared Walsh built up a lot of good will as one of the few hitters to do anything worthwhile in April, particularly after such a strong September last year. But those promising two months were built on an uncharacteristically low strikeout rate that has since normalized in a big way. It's why the 27-year-old is batting .248 with an .825 OPS since May 2, which I think is a fairer expectation for him going forward. His year-to-date numbers still make him out to be a stud, though.
  • Chris: Marcus Semien. I've been calling Semien a sell high for about a month now, and he hasn't slowed down much, but I'm going to keep doubling down. Despite his excellent production, the underlying numbers don't really back it up -- he's been one of the biggest overperformers by xwOBA in the league, with a .331 mark compared to his .379 actual wOBA. The strikeout rate remains elevated and the walk rate remains down, and while he is hitting the ball well, there's regression coming sooner or later. He's been one of the best players in Fantasy so far, and if someone values him that way, call them up. 
  • Frank: Last week on the podcast I brought up Jared Walsh as a sell-high candidate, and then he hit a grand slam off Aroldis Chapman. I'm sticking with it, though. Since the beginning of May, Walsh has an .875 OPS, which is still great. However, he's doing that with a 31% strikeout rate, 54% ground ball rate, and a 38% HR/FB ratio. Walsh has had to maintain a massive HR/FB ratio because of how many ground balls he's been hitting. Don't just sell for the sake of it, but if you can get a top-20 starting pitcher or a top-10 option at a hitter position, I would look into it.

4. Who is the one pitcher you're looking to sell before the All-Star break?

  • Scott: Trevor Rogers. There are obvious regression cases like Kyle Gibson and Anthony DeSclafani, but I think they're so obvious that they'll be difficult to move for fair value. I'm worried more about workload restrictions, particularly for up-and-comers who handled far less than a typical workload last year (as every pitcher did), and among them, Rogers stands out. The rookie hasn't missed a single turn yet, and a non-contender like the Marlins can just hit the brakes if they so choose. Meanwhile, the numbers are such that he should still fetch a haul.
  • Chris: Casey Mize. I hope it's not too late. The Tigers have talked about wanting to limit Mize's pitches and innings in the second half, and he threw just 56 pitches in two innings in his most recent start. I was excited about Mize coming into the season, but that excitement has diminished as he still just isn't getting many strikeouts -- since the start of June, he has a 20.3% strikeout rate, three points below average. I still like Mize's potential for the future, but he's a few tweaks away from being someone I really trust in Fantasy, and the workload concerns only make him an even easier sell. 
  • Frank: German Marquez is on some run right now but nobody beats Coors Field. Over Marquez's past 11 starts, he has a 2.38 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. He's flying up my rankings! He's just not going to maintain that. The Rockies just shot down any trade rumors involving Marquez, too, so he isn't going anywhere. If you can get a viable hitter or a pitcher you trust more, I think you should. 

5. Which hitter or pitcher will have a post All-Star breakout?

  • Scott: Brendan Rodgers. At long last, the No.3 pick in the 2015 draft is contributing something in the majors. It hasn't been so splashy as to attract much notice (and it hasn't helped that he's sitting every fourth or fifth game), but since the start of June, he's batting .287 with an .875 OPS, all with an ordinary BABIP and a low strikeout rate. His road splits are actually better than his home splits, which means he hasn't even taken full advantage of Coors Field yet. When he goes off -- like, really goes off -- there may be no looking back.
  • Chris: Andrew Vaughn. We might look back on it and say the breakout started just before the All-Star game, as he enters play Tuesday with 11 hits, including two homers, over his previous seven games. Vaughn has been a pretty significant disappointment, but I think he's closer to figuring it out faster than you might think. He's sported very, very good batted-ball numbers all season long, but his production has lagged thanks to some strikeout issues, as well as some issues with consistency in his launch angle. However, he has been trending in the right direction when it comes to his contact issues, and I still think there's another level left for him to unlock. It's entirely possible we're talking about Vaughn as a top-five first baseman by the end of this season.
  • Frank: I'm going to stay on brand here with Dominic Smith. I was huge on Smith coming into the season following what he did in 2019 and 2020 but he's been a huge let down to this point. Recently he's showing signs of life, though! Over his past five games, Smith has eight hits, three homers, seven runs scored, and seven RBI. He might even be available on some shallower waiver wires.