Bold prediction articles are hard. This article will likely be wrong, but I’m hoping you learn new information on a player that makes you think differently than you did prior to reading this. You can find me on Twitter at @_jameskohout_ .
Renato Nunez becomes a must-own corner infielder
The Baltimore Orioles don’t have many bright spots on their team right now, and the ones they do have will likely be on the move by the trade deadline. But Renato Nunez and his long-term team control are here to stay. Nunez has been pretty good, with 21 home runs and a .813 OPS in 341 plate appearances at the time of this writing, but I think those numbers should be even better. He ranks in the 89th percentile of all hitters in both Hard Hit rate and Exit Velocity, and playing in Camden Yards during the summer with the ability to hit the ball extremely hard should pay big dividends. Nunez’s pull-heavy swings could lead to a 40-homer season, and at just 23% owned in Yahoo leagues, he’s someone I would be adding now because a big time hot stretch is coming.
JD Martinez is the best player in fantasy
JD Martinez was a first round pick in fantasy drafts, and despite him being very good, I think some owners view his first half as a disappointment. His .901 OPS and 19 homers are very good, but in the second half I think we will see the version of JD that we saw last year. All of his expected stats on Baseball Savant have his performance being fairly unlucky this season, and in a year where it feels like everybody’s HR/FB rate is approaching new highs, Martinez’s has dropped 10 percent from where it was a season ago. He’s still the same JD Martinez that fantasy owners were valuing in the first round entering 2019, and if you can get him at any sort of discount, I would be paying up.
Colin Poche leads the Rays in saves
This one is a matter of hoping Kevin Cash realizes who the best reliever in his bullpen is. Colin Poche has been downright filthy since getting called up, his 27:1 K:BB ratio in 17 ⅓ innings is incredible. Right now the main pitcher he has to beat out for those chances is Emilio Pagan, who has been great in his own right with a 1.69 ERA and a 50:9 K:BB ratio in 37 ⅓ innings. But Pagan has also struggled with home runs in his past and has benefited from a good amount of luck in 2019, with a .221 BABIP, 90.8% left on base rate, and a 11.4% HR/FB rate.
Cavan Biggio is a league winner
Cavan Biggio has been a unique player so far in his first stint against major league pitching. His plate discipline is borderline elite, as shown by his 16.4% walk rate. Unfortunately that discipline goes along with a .228 average and a 28.5% strikeout rate. However, that may be overstated, as Biggio in his time in the majors has had the highest percentage of pitches out of the zone being called strikes. The more I look into Biggio’s approach since he joined the majors, the more I think he might be one of the most interesting players in fantasy. We’re dealing with a very small sample, but he has hit the ball incredibly hard consistently—a 50% mark—and has just a .298 BABIP. I think he’s more than likely a .270 hitter with above-average pop and speed. This is definitely more of a best-case scenario prediction, but I don’t think it’s impossible.
Domingo Santana turns back into 2018 Domingo Santana
I’m just not a believer in Domingo Santana. Maybe that’s unfair given this season and 2017, but I just don’t buy a 30% strikeout rate, a .370 BABIP, and a 24.1% HR/FB rate. It’s a bit simplistic, but I just don’t think that is sustainable. We’ve seen what happens when regression hits Santana, and I believe that regression will hit hard this second half and he will be dropped in the majority of Yahoo leagues.
Griffin Canning is a top-20 pitcher...
Griffin Canning has been pretty good since getting called up. A 4.43 ERA isn’t amazing, but when you pair that with a 1.09 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, and a 69:17 K:BB ratio across 65 ⅓ innings, you get a pretty solid pitcher. I think in the second half Canning has the ability to be way better than that. Normally for strikeout rate you can double a pitcher’s swinging strike rate. Canning has an elite 14.5% swinging strike rate, but just a 25.7% strikeout rate. We only have a 129 1⁄3 inning sample of Griffin Canning as a minor leaguer—so this one is a bit iffy—but in those 129 ⅓ innings Canning showed solid home run suppression, giving up eight home runs in that sample. However, in the majors home runs have been a bit of an issue for Canning, surrendering 13 home runs in 65 innings. If that number drops to closer to what it was in his minor league career then we are talking about a legitimate breakout pitcher. There is one rookie pitcher who I believe will make even more noise in the second half...
...and Dylan Cease is even better
Dylan Cease is a superstar in the making. His fastball is instantly one of the fastest in baseball, and with two electric breaking pitches he has a chance to instantly become one of the most fun pitchers to watch work. In Cease’s first start he struggled with some obvious early jitters, but the upside is clear. I believe Cease will tear up a fairly easy schedule and become one of the most exciting pitchers in all of baseball in the second half.
Kyle Schwarber is the best hitter in the Cubs lineup
Kyle Schwarber has been very Kyle Schwarber-ish in 2019: a low batting average with a lot of pop and too many strikeouts. However, Schwarber ranks in the 98th percentile in Hard Hit rate and Exit Velocity. He’s hitting more fly balls and making better contact than he ever has, yet his HR/FB rate has dipped. And while he certainly doesn’t project to have a high BABIP, a mark of .266 is far lower than I would expect it to be. Schwarber has a super-hot stretch in him, and once it starts it may last the rest of the season.
Noah Syndergaard doesn’t turn it around
In a lot of second half bounceback articles you’ll see Noah Syndergaard’s name, but I don’t see it happening. It’s fair to say he’s been a bit unlucky so far this season, but overall his numbers look fairly pedestrian. If I told you a starting pitcher on a bad team had a 8.79 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and a 12.3% swinging strike rate with the worst defense in baseball behind him, you wouldn’t expect that guy to be an elite pitcher in the second half. His slider’s performance has plummeted, and with the way the rest of the Mets’ sliders have plummeted in a similar manner I wouldn’t expect him to turn it around. If Syndergaard gets traded that’s a different story, but if he remains with the Mets I wouldn’t be expecting much more than a low 4.00’s ERA and a strikeout per inning.
Robinson Cano remembers how to hit
I’m not sure how bold this is, but given Cano’s ownership has dropped to just 38% on Yahoo, I figure this is pretty bold. This one is a bit narrative driven, but after Cano’s recent stretch of homering in back-to-back games he credited a hand injury for being a big part of his struggles. Given that he has been hit on the hand multiple times this year, I can buy that. You’re not going to see regression due for Cano based on batted ball numbers, because they’re not great. But this is one where I believe it just because of what Cano has normally been in his career, and this is so far from his regular performance that I have to believe a big second half is coming.