The All-Star break is upon us, baseball’s very own intermission. While I hardly ever consider the All-Star game a midsummer “classic,” it is not without its important purpose.
No, I am not talking about its impact on which league will have home field advantage during the World Series. I’m referring to the period of time it gives us to re-charge our batteries.
Fantasy baseball is fun, but whether you want to admit it or not, winning takes month after month of discipline and hard work. If you’re not addicted, you probably aren’t winning, and I can tell you I am absolutely addicted. So, if you are anything like me, these few days will actually be a welcomed hiatus from the game because they allow you to re-group and come back strong for the stretch run.
In this addition of “Moves I Made,” I will cover five players who I think will re-charge their batteries and put forth a strong second-half campaign. Some of these are players I recently picked up, some are already owned, and others I am attempting to acquire via trade.
He has been a whole heck of a lot better since mid-May than he was in April. The second half of May was spent down in the minor leagues, but hitting 6 HR and batting .439 in those 15 AAA games seemed to have served him well and really helped him regain his confidence. Since returning to the major leagues he has played like a top 10 catcher, and I don’t see why he can’t maintain that level of play or even improve over the next two months. At worst, I think he makes for a lovely fill in for the injured Evan Gattis, Yadier Molina, and Joe Mauer or a roster-mate for any A’s catcher, who each have playing time woes. I am not going to go as far as saying I believe he will be more valuable than the struggling Wilin Rosario, who I was extremely down on at the beginning of the season, but surpassing Brian McCann would not totally shock me.
Matt Adams is surging like the price of an Uber cab ride just after last call. His 8 HR over the last 30 days are second only to The Machine, also known as Jose Abreu (sorry, Sir Albert). While I do see a big second half in store for Adams, on a hunch, I believe the more valuable player over the second half will be Mike Napoli. He is suffering a career low ISO right now, but given his LD% is five points higher than his career average I believe he is making great contact. Plus, his HR/FB rate is four points below his career average and the first time it has been below 19% since 2009. I think a big rebound is coming his way. Napoli has never hit less than 20 HR when he has played 100 games in a season. He is more than capable of hitting homers in bunches and I say he continues that 20 HR streak this year.
I don’t know what is more weird, the fact that Kolten Wong has hit two fewer home runs this week than Robinson Cano has hit all season or Jason Kipnis has as many home runs as Alexi Amarista. I expect both of these little oddities to become a thing of the past. Wong will be just fine, but Cano is going to be the second best second baseman over the second half, only trailing the aforementioned Kipnis. Not only has Kipnis raised his average 30 points since returning from injury, but his five steals in the last week give me confidence he is still committed to running and will reach 30 pilfers on the season. All that’s left for him to get back on track is the power, and I think we will see a 7 HR month after the break that will set things right.
I can’t believe I am going to say this, but if Headley commits to the same grip he used during his career year in 2012 that could be a big deal. I had no idea his grip was to blame for his sudden terribleness, but let’s hope it was. I do fear that his grip was changed to spare him from injury, but what is the point of keeping him healthy if this is the type of production he will offer? My guess is the Padres have instituted code “grip it and rip it,” which is the name of their mission for the next few weeks — get Headley hot and trade him off this rebound. For fantasy, he seemed to have bottomed out, but he has already been much better lately, so if there is something real to this grip change business and he does get out of the shackles of Petco Park, I just might be willing to place some moderate bets on him for the rest of the season.
I guess I am going down with the ship on this one, which is probably more relevant in NL-only leagues but potentially in mixed leagues with five outfield starting rosters as well. Ruggiano has been much better lately compared to his dreadful start to the season and long absence due to injury. Over the last 30 days he is hitting .333, slugging close to .900 and has three bombs with 14 RBI. I am not happy about the lone steal, but I trust the pedigree. In each of the last few seasons, with far less than regular playing time, Ruggiano has reached double digits in steals, and the same goes for home runs. It might not come easy, but I am not going to write off his chances of getting there again, in fact I say he does it!