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Fantasy baseball buy & sell: What to make of Aristides Aquino’s breakout

The second-half-breakout players to buy, and those to sell.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

We’re about a month into the second half of the season, and there are players we’ve significantly changed our outlook on. In this second half we’ve already seen guys come out of nowhere to give great production for fantasy teams as the regular season winds down and teams begin to prepare for the playoffs. In this article, I’ll be looking to figure out the rest of season outlook for each of the second half breakouts, and tell you if I am buying or selling them being able to sustain this breakout.

OF, Aristides Aquino, Cincinnati Reds

Second Half Stats: 63 PA .333/.397/.930 11 HR 22 RBI 15 R 0 SB 6:14 BB:K

The Aristides Aquino breakout has been one that has carried fantasy teams over his first few weeks in the big leagues. His power is undeniable. He has broken the record for the most home runs over 17 games with an eye-popping 11. The question is “Is this for real?.” The correct answer is probably somewhere between yes and no, but I’m leaning further towards the latter than the former of those two answers.

Aquino has never been this good a hitter. His 28 home runs in 78 Triple-A games this season is where Aquino’s changes as a hitter are most notable, as he never hit more than 23 in a full season before 2019. His strikeout rate in Triple-A this year was alarmingly high at 25.1%, and his walk rate was slightly below average at 7.1%. It’s really hard for players with bad plate discipline at advanced ages who show their first signs of being an above average hitter to maintain those kind of skill improvements.

However, this has been an outlier level of production from Aquino, which is why I’m not completely selling him as a legitimate fantasy contributor. It’s really hard to put together this kind of sample—although we’re still only talking about 1/9th of a season—and completely be faking it. My legitimate answer to this “buy or sell” is somewhere in the middle, which isn’t entirely helpful, but is entirely honest.

I don’t think Aquino can possibly be a help at batting average over a more drawn out sample given his plate discipline and the fact that he hits so many fly balls, but I also think he’s a legitimate power source for the rest of this season. If you asked me to give a comparison I would say he ends up in the Franmil Reyes or Renato Nunez tier of hitter, which is useful. But if people are buying like they were for Austin Riley when he first came up and put up outlier numbers, then I’m selling. Otherwise, I’m probably just holding him and enjoying the ride, he’s a fun player and there’s a chance I’m wrong and he’s instantly the post-breakout version of Joey Gallo.

3B, Giovanny Urshela, New York Yankees

Second Half Stats: 129 PA .395/.419/.766 11 HR 27 RBI 27 R 0 SB 5:21 BB:K

Giovanny Urshela hasn’t really come out of nowhere just in the second half like other players in this article have. Urshela’s profile is one that sort of makes sense as a breakout. He makes extremely good contact as shown by his 87th percentile exit velocity, and he makes a lot of contact as shown by his 16.4% strikeout rate. That profile perfectly adds up to a breakout in a year where anybody who makes a lot of contact is going to back into some solid power production.

I buy Urshela’s production for the most part. He’s not going to hit .338, but his RBI and run production is going to be great hitting in the middle of the Yankees lineup. The .366 BABIP will go down, but if he continues to make great contact it may not go drastically down, and for the most part the power breakthrough seems legitimate.

It’s a really unique profile, Urshela doesn’t walk or strike out a lot, hits the ball exceptionally hard, and has average to above average power. The best comparison I can think of is what we expected Miguel Andujar to be if he had stayed healthy, with slightly better plate discipline. He’s a must-own in all leagues and I’m buying into this breakout being legitimate.

OF, Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants

Second Half Stats: 144 PA .308/.357/.662 11 HR 29 RBI 25 R 0 SB 10:29 BB:K

A 28-year-old rookie, Mike Yastrzemski’s power production has carried his second half breakout. Unfortunately, I’m completely selling Yastrzemski as a fantasy contributor in standard 10-15 team leagues.

The leading factor in my selling of Yastrzemski’s long-term contributions is that he’s a 28-year-old breakout who has never shown any signs of being an above-average hitter until this season. After six years in the minors, Yastrzemski had never hit more than 15 home runs in a full season, until 2019 in which he’s hit 28.

A 20.5% HR/FB rate in the unfriendly confines of Oracle park also leads me to believe this power breakthrough isn’t legitimate—as does the below-average plate discipline. His 24.7% strikeout rate is bad enough on its own, but it is combined with an even worse 6.7% walk rate. It all adds up to me not believing in Yastrzemski’s profile being one that is sustainable. He’s a fine hot-hand play, but be ready to drop once the regression gets to him.

IF/OF, JD Davis, New York Mets

Second Half Stats: 111 PA .381/.441/.608 5 HR 16 RBI 16 R 2 SB 11:23 BB:K

JD Davis’s rise to fantasy production came from an injury to Robinson Cano. Since then, Davis has seen steady everyday work, and has proven himself to be a great hitter. In that span, Davis has a .391/.450/.696 slash line and that goes along with solid production in spotty playing time throughout the season.

Davis backs up this hot stretch with some of the best Statcast data of anybody in baseball. Davis ranks in the 94th percentile or better in Exit Velocity, Hard Hit%, XWOBA, XSlugging Percentage, and X Batting Average (100th percentile!). The combination of the batted ball data and the results in an everyday role have me fully buying in on Davis’s production. He’s a must-own in all fantasy leagues and may be having a Justin Turner-esque breakout.

SP, Ryan Yarbrough, Tampa Bay Rays

Second Half Stats: 41⅔ IP, 4-0, 1.51 ERA, 0.62 WHIP 41 Ks, 2 BBs,

Ryan Yarbrough has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since the second half of the season started. His 41:2 strikeout to walk ratio is insane, and highlights the best part of Yarbrough’s profile, his command.

Yarbrough’s ability to locate his pitches perfectly helps make up for what he lacks in overpowering velocity. His 50.9% ground ball rate in the second half is among the best in baseball. Yarbrough has also shown an overwhelming ability to lower the quality of contact against him. The 18.7% hard contact rate showcases dominance from Yarbrough’s profile.

Yarbrough did similar things at times a year ago, which is why I don’t completely buy what he’s doing. However, he’s a remarkably good ground ball pitcher and should maintain above average WHIPs thanks to his fantastic control. Ultimately, Yarbrough is a pitcher performing well, which means his value is through the roof. He’s a good source of ratios help with wins, and in the right matchup, strikeout upside. He’s more of a back-end fantasy starter, but he should definitely have a place on fantasy rosters following this recent stretch.


Which breakout player are you buying?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Aristides Aquino
    (119 votes)
  • 26%
    Giovanny Urshela
    (141 votes)
  • 2%
    Mike Yastrzemski
    (12 votes)
  • 33%
    JD Davis
    (173 votes)
  • 14%
    Ryan Yarbrough
    (78 votes)
523 votes total Vote Now