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Head-to-Head Risers and Fallers: All-Star Edition

Alex Kantecki identifies three risers and three fallers in head-to-head points leagues, including J.J. Hardy, Jason Castro and Michael Cuddyer.


J.J. Hardy

The two-time All-Star enters the break tied with American League All-Star teammate, Ben Zobrist, for the second most points (219) at shortstop in the Official Fake Teams Head-to-Head Points League, trailing only Jean Segura (269), another ALL-STAR! Hardy finished the first half batting .251/.293/.428 with 16 home runs, 36 runs, 52 RBIs and one steal, but it's his declining strikeout rate that makes him sneaky dangerous in points leagues. For the third straight season, Hardy's strikeout rate has gone down -- from 16.2% to 14.9% to 12.1% -- while his walk rate has remained steady. That means fewer point deductions for the homer-friendly shortstop and more happy times for you. ZiPS projects Hardy to hit a total of 25 home runs, which could very well lead the pack at short. He's still available in 20% of Yahoo! leagues, but he should be owned in all leagues by now.

Jason Castro

Jason Castro isn't the Castro I expected to see in the 2013 All-Star Game when the season started (that would be the Cubs' Starlin Castro), but the nod for Houston's second-year catcher is well deserved. In the Fake Teams Midseason Consensus Rankings released on Monday, Castro was our No. 11 catcher -- Jason ranked Castro the highest at No. 7, while Ray ranked him the lowest at No. 14. As Ray points out, Castro is on pace for 20-plus home runs after hitting 12 long balls in the first half. Only eight catchers have more home runs, and only three have topped Castro's 40 runs -- he's tied with fellow All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. In roto leagues, Castro has outperformed preseason favorites Victor Martinez, Matt Wieters and Salvador Perez, but you wouldn't know it by the ownership percentages -- he's owned in just 47% of Yahoo! leagues and 32.1% of ESPN leagues. Castro spends most of his time batting third in a surprisingly OK offense in Houston, and with a .205 ISO, he should be owned in all leagues. He's the No. 10 catcher in points leagues.

Michael Cuddyer

You could say that, Cuddyer, a two-time All-Star, is happy to call Coors Field his home. The 34-year old outfielder is batting an insane .362/.423/.646 with nine home runs, 23 runs and 27 RBIs in 127 Colorado at-bats, and he's added another seven homers on the road. But really, Cuddyer's power shouldn't be a surprise to anyone -- in 2012, he hit 16 home runs in 394 at-bats (.229 ISO) in his first season with the Rockies. This year, Cuddyer's ISO has gone up even further (.239), while his current .330 batting average blows away his previous high of .284. A crazy high .366 BABIP is definitely aiding his career-best average, but it would take a lot of bad luck to derail a 25-homer season, at the least, from Cuddyer. He's the 17th ranked outfielder in the FT H2H Points League, and he's still available in 10% of Yahoo! leagues.


Marco Scutaro

Among the position players, Scutaro was my, "Huh?" All-Star selection, until it clicked that his everyday manager, Bruce Bochy, was also the NL All-Star skipper. Scutaro's remarkable 2013 postseason run has paid off in more ways than one, but the veteran infielder isn't quite the same force as he was in 2012. Last season, he was a borderline top-25 batter; this season, he's No. 80 at the halfway point. Scutaro still does all the things that make him more valuable in points league player than in roto: He's walking more than he strikes out, and his strikeout rate (6.7%) is second best in the league behind Norichika Aoki (5.0%). The problem, though, is that Scutaro's power is down -- last year he hit seven home runs with the Rockies before being traded to the Giants -- and he's not running anymore. With just 37 runs and 22 RBIs, Scutaro will come no where close to matching last year's 87 and 74, respectively, and his only saving grace is a .315 batting average. Meh.

Salvador Perez

Perez was a preseason favorite of mine. If I couldn't get my hands on Buster Posey, I was the last guy drafting a backstop and hoping the Kansas City catcher fell to me. While being selected to your first All-Star Game is all fine and dandy, Perez hasn't backed up his strong finish to 2012, when he hit .298 to go along with 9 home runs, 36 runs and 34 RBIs in the final three months. At the break, Perez is batting .284/.314/.396 with just four home runs, 25 runs and 38 RBIs. His power is noticeably down (.170 ISO in 2012; .112 in 2013), while his line drive percentage is down and his ground ball percentage is up. I'm afraid those looking for Perez to maintain or grow on last year's power numbers will have to readjust their thinking for the second half of the season. Ten home runs appear to be the line for Perez in 2013.

Alex Gordon

This one hurts because Alex Gordon is one of my favorite players, but the Royals outfielder is having a down year. I wrote about Gordon recently, in Week 14, so I won't go deep into things here, but Gordon's ISO has dropped significantly for the third straight season -- from .200 to .160 to .134. With nine homers at the break, he's on pace to beat last year's total of 14, but the doubles-happy outfielder is experiencing a letdown in two-base hits (51 in 2012; 16 in 2013), which is what made him such a valuable asset in points leagues in the past. He's also running less (five steals in seven attempts), and hitting leadoff will hurt his RBI chances in the second half. I still like Gordon, but my expectations have lessened considerably.

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Alex Kantecki is a fantasy baseball writer for Fake Teams. He also writes the "Closer Chronicle" for Vigilante Baseball every Thursday, ranking and tiering all 30 MLB closers. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @rotodealer.