One of the best/oldest ways to (properly) prepare for a fantasy baseball season is to look at the player stats from the second half of the season and see what’s up. Were there players who performed much better than in the first half? Were there rookies who got the call and auditioned for a couple months and performed well? Were there vets who returned from injury and finally got healthy?
Let’s look at the second half numbers and see whether we can find some useful players to draft that may be overlooked by folks who just look at full season numbers. We’ll sort by wRC+ for hitters, and FIP/xFIP for pitchers. (All statistics come from the internet’s best site, Fangraphs.com.)
(At least 150 plate appearances, around the time when walk rate and home run rate stabilize)
- Matt Olson, 1B/OAK, had the best wRC+ in the second half, 183 (20 homers in 158 ABs), followed by J.D. Martinez (31 home runs), Giancarlo Stanton (33 home runs and the National League MVP), Mike Trout (17 homers, 12 steals), and Joey Votto (10 home runs, .327 batting average, .486 OBP, 22.3% walk rate, Jesus!).
- Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia’s rookie, had the 9th best wRC+ in the second half, with 18 homers in 212 at bats. Anyone could’ve had him in fantasy last year. The lucky ones who picked him up can all burn in hell.
- Mike Zunino had a nice second half, ranking 15th overall in hitters with 13 bombs in 213 ABs, and a .281 average. He had a SERIOUSLY high BABIP, but folks have been waiting for Zunino’s breakout for a while now. Maybe this is it? If he can hit over 20 homers and maintain a batting average above .260, he’s a top 5 catcher. Zunino’s had inflated BABIPs and depressed BABIPs; if he averages a middle one, you probably won’t be disappointed. On the other hand, this dude has broken hearts before. On the other other hand, he’s 26, and plenty of players improve at their own pace and in their own time. It’s crazy that he’s still so young, but maybe that should be an indication that he’s finally matured into the player people thought he could be after 5 years in the Show. Catcher sucks, too, so don’t complain if he’s not an All Star, just be happy for production.
- Welington Castillo, another catcher, had a great second half: 12 home runs and a .313 average. Beef Welington may share catching duties in Chicago, but if that protects him from striking out too much, then hell yeah. 20 home runs from a catcher is still 20 home runs, especially in a two catcher league.
- Kevin Kiermaier, OF/TB, had a good second half, ranking 42nd with 8 home runs, 6 steals, and a .306 average. IF he can stay healthy, Kiermaier’s a threat for 15-15 or, please God please!, 20 homers and 20 steals. He’s 27 years old. Pray for rain and play for power, let’s go, Kevin Kiermaier, let’s go!
- Matt Chapman, 3B/OAK, went fairly unheralded but he had a damn good back nine. He’s known as a defensive player, but he hit 14 homers in under 300 ABs with a .250 average. If your projections can (optimistically) get you near 30 home runs, then I’m all ears. If he keeps the power, cuts down on the strikeouts, and raises the average, then this dude is beast. He has a near 10% walk rate, too, which is a good sign.
- I really hate to do this, but Randal Goddamn Grichuk actually had a decent average in the second half. In 200 ABs he had 13 HRs and a .265 average. Not bad! If he can keep up that in Toronto, then the Blue Jays acquired themselves some power to replace Jose Bautista on the cheap. By the way, he’s 26 years old. Could his power get even stronger?
- Eric Thames, 1B/MIL, had a good second half, too, despite all the hate thrown his way after he swooned for a bit in the middle of the season. Thames hit 8 home runs in 222 ABs with a .246 average, and an 11% walk rate. Thames isn’t his April, and he certainly isn’t his June, but he may be his September. A lot of players seem to be able to hit 20 home runs these days, so Thames’s value may not be that high, especially since Milwaukee’s depth chart is a little bit weird right now.
- Steve Pearce, 1B/TOR, and Ryan HeBrewer Braun, OF/MIL, were both Void Riders in the second half, meaning that they were exactly league average with a wRC+ of 100. That’s just about as boring as you can get, so I’m not going to go into boring-er detail. Braun may benefit from the new look Brewers. May.
- Kyle Seager, 3B/SEA, hit as many home runs (17) in the second half as Mike Trout. So did Kyle Schwarber and Ryan Zimmerman.
- Trevor Story hit 13 bombs and had a manageable .254 batting average, but Holy Ghost!, he had a 33.6% K rate (9th worst in MLB), and a .345 BABIP (so, he was pretty lucky). Story kills you when he’s off, and he saves you when he’s on. He’s the worst kind of fantasy boyfriend: atrocious and attractive in equal measure. He’ll buy you expensive jewelry but also ask you to co-sign on his new apartment because his credit’s so butt. He knows all the warps in Super Mario Bros. 3, but he’s never beaten the game. He loves Rom Coms but has never seen the best one, Sleeping with the Enemy. He confuses Supertramp and Sonic Youth. He’s the worst. But, he also helped you win your week in fantasy against one of your stupid friends. There’s really only one truth about a fantasy boyfriend like Story: if you let him go, he’ll be a Hall of Famer with someone else; if you keep him, he’ll never live up to your expectations. It’s probably better just to avoid him entirely, or quit fantasy baseball altogether. Unless, you’re me, in which case you’ll build your entire team around him and then drink another 40.
- Dom Smith, 1B/NYM, hit 9 home runs in 198 ABs, with a .198 batting average. Mets.
- Only three players stole 20 or more bags in the second half: Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, and Whit Merrifield. Who cares.
- Brian Dozier had the most runs (67) in the second half. Who cares x2.
(60 Innings Pitched, so at least 180 Batters Faced)
- Human Replicant Corey Kluber had the best xFIP, 2.41, in the second half. Eff him and his team of robots.
- Jimmy Nelson, SP/MIL, had the 5th best xFIP before he got injured. It SUPER DUPER SUCKS for Milwaukee that he won’t be back until July or August this season. He’s great. Hopefully, he gets back healthy and helps the Brewers make the postseason.
- Yu Darvish was 9th in xFIP. He’ll be fine.
- Chris Archer had the 11th best xFIP, 3.21, but a 4.27 ERA. The Tampa (ugh) Bay Rays will most likely trade him this season or in the winter. You know why? Because that’s what they do. I really, really, REALLY hate to say this, but can’t you see Chris Archer in St. Louis? Goddamnit. I hope that doesn’t happen.
- Justin Verlander, the former Lord and Savior of the Detroit Tigers, had the 15th best xFIP. Everyone who told me to drop him when he was recovering from his injuries a few years ago can sit on a cactus and spin. Verlander Forever. (Question: now that JV has a World Series championship, he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame, no?)
- Jon Gray, SP/COL, had the 17th best xFIP in the second half, 3.40, and a 3.65 ERA while pitching for the Rockies. Who knows how good he could be in a non-crazy stadium?
- Patrick Corbin, SP/ARI, had a top 50 xFIP of 3.91, and a top 25 ERA of 3.26. A fully healthy Corbin may be a top 30 pitcher this year, especially with the (groan) humidor addition to Arizona’s stadium. In CBS, Corbin is under 80% owned. You may be able to get him on the cheap.
- Stephen Strasburg had a sub-1.00 ERA in the second half. Jesus Christ!
- Sonny Gray, who every Yankees fan wants to marry, had a 3.12 ERA in the second half. But, spoiler alert, he actually sucks and had a 4.08 xFIP. I am not a believer, unless he can get his multiple breaking balls to be consistent. Yankee Stadium is a suboptimal park for him, but hey, who knows? Maybe it all comes together and he’s a top 30 pitcher. I’d bank on him being in the 50-75 range, though. Too many homers.
- Only 22 starting pitchers had a K rate of 10 or above in the second half last season. Dinelson Lamet was one of those 22 pitchers.
- Trevor Williams, SP/PIT, and Gio Gonzalez, SP/WAS, had eerily similar stats in the second half. I don’t know what to make of that. Is that a good thing for Trevor Williams? Or, a bad thing for Gio Gonzalez?
(20 Innings pitched)
Here’s the top 10 in xFIP for relievers in the second half of 2017:
- Kenley Janson (1.28 xFIP, 1.76 ERA)
- Craig Kimbrel
- Ryan Madsen
- Chad Green
- Ken Giles
- Dominic Leone
- Jesse Chavez
- Bryan Shaw
- David Robertson
- Edubray Ramos
Now, relief pitchers are very volatile, and you can’t really depend on them with small sample sizes (even less than with other players who play more). HOWEVER. I’m keeping my eye on Chad Green and Edubray Ramos. If you can’t get elite closers in your fantasy league, then you should have elite ratio guys, and Chad and Edubray might be sensational for that this year. Neither will close, but both will dominate.
- Fernando Rodney had a better ERA and xFIP than Chris Devenski and Dellin Betances. Rodney is one of the best examples of the universe not caring whether your life makes sense or not. If I start shooting arrows at the sun, will I have a lengthy, bewildering career, too? Because, I’m a professional archery amateur hobbyist who’s on the pro Renaissance Fair circuit, and I gotta tell ya: I’ve never won a tankard of ale, or doubloons, or a wench’s fancy, nor a grand prize pig at any archery contest wherein I shot an arrow straight up into the sky. Having said that, I’ve never won anything at any Ren Fair. Maybe I should transition to Juggalos Gatherings? Or, Lilith Fairs?
- Drew Steckenrider, RP/MIA, had the 4th best K/9 in the second half. Over 30 innings, Steckenrider (which means “rider of the stick” in German; less than ideal for a pitcher, methinks) threw for a 2.10 ERA and a 2.87 xFIP. Who the hell knows with the Marlins this year, but the Stick Rider should stay on your radar.
- David Robertson had a sub-1.00 ERA. That Yankees bullpen, man. Creeps can roll.