If you need some help on your team, this is a good time to look for players who struggled in the first half, and could come cheap and help in the second half. We’ll take a look at each position and what to expect as well as what level of talent to give up.
|MLB: JUL 05 Braves at Nationals
5 July 2009: Atlanta Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones in action against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The Nationals defeated the Braves 5-3, to take the rubber game of their 3-game weekend series. (Icon/SMI)
Catcher: Chris Iannetta
I was planning to use Geovany Soto for this one until he was injured; he was headed for a much better second half and had started to turn it around already. Iannetta on the other has been limited by injuries this year, and his BABIP is currently 40 points below his career average. His average won’t be great, but expect it to be above .250 in the second half. That should also come with solid power, as the ZiPS projection system calls for seven more homers. I could see up to 10 more as his at-bats have been fairly consistent lately. We’re talking about a mid-level catcher, so don’t go over board with an offer, but a mid-level pitcher or extra closer could get the trade done.
First base: Hank Blalock
Sure the power is there, but a low average and playing time concerns had even dropped his ownership in CBS leagues to 71 percent just a few weeks ago. This is another player with an average dragged down by a BABIP that is 50 points below career levels. He is also now in a full time role after splitting time with the disappointing Chris Davis. Here is a solid chance to add power to your lineup and he should cost you much less than other first basemen. You should be able to get Blalock on the cheap via trade, as he is likely not a team’s first choice at the corners.
Second base: Ian Stewart
Here is another surprise power source who was probably a backup on most teams and is currently hurting teams in batting average. I discussed him last week and he won’t be a great average guy, but his numbers suggest a .270 hitter with plenty of power and a couple steals. His playing time is currently limited, but a Garrett Atkins trade appears in the works, and would open up a full time spot for Stewart. Again he should be fairly cheap in most leagues based on disappointing average and uncertain amount of playing time.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins
How bad could things get for Rollins this year? The team who owns him probably paid heavily for him, so I can’t expect he would come as cheap as his numbers have shown, but he’s still good value if you can get him. His contact numbers all look fine and his BABIP is only .241, and should be on the rise. The 30-home run power is gone, but he’s still got some pop and can steal at least another 20 bases this year if he gets on base more. I’ve seen Rollins traded for Nate McLouth, which seems fair if you have the depth in the outfield.
Third base: Chipper Jones
Can’t say what is up with Chipper this year, but his ISO is down to its lowest level since 1997. Perhaps the injuries are piling up, or he has just had a poor start. This one is based on more of a feel that any stats, but his doubles total are still on pace with last year’s. Most owners probably expected him to miss a few games, so teams that drafted him probably had a backup plan at third base. This might make him more available, but he still has name value and I wouldn’t overpay.
Outfield – Nick Markakis and Denard Span
Nick Markakis has consistently produced over the past two years, but is off his normal pace this year, which could be frustrating his current owner. With no reason to think he is injured, I can see him returning his normal numbers of around 10 homers, 5 steals and .300 average over the second half of the season.
Denard Span might be overlooked this season thanks to a short DL stint, but he has the ability to post a Shane Victorino-like season if he is given enough at-bats. His plate discipline is better than Victorino’s, and he gets on base extremely well. This is great for accumulating runs and steal opportunities. He is only owned in 70 percent of CBS leagues so he might even be available for free; if not, he could probably be had for a back of the rotation pitcher.
Starting pitcher: Ricky Nolasco
Pitchers can be prone to extremely good or bad luck, but Nolasco has been unbelievably unlucky, with an ERA almost two runs higher than his xFIP. He had been getting better results recently, but got lit up the other night for seven runs in six innings. He still had eight strikeouts to one walk, so I still expect his numbers to improve in the second half. His K/BB still stands at 4.29, which is eighth in the majors. Expect a top 20—if not top 10—second half performance. Given his season to date, he could come for very cheap via trade; I would offer a third outfielder or perhaps a spare closer.
Closer: J.P. Howell
You have to love it when you can start a closer and expect him to contribute more than just saves. Howell had OK rates as a starter, but had bad results. Since becoming a closer, his K/BB has settled around three and his K/9 is up to almost 11. This is the kind of stuff you want out of a closer, but unfortunately he is still in a closer by committee situation in Tampa Bay. This could work to your advantage, as he could come quite cheap. Even if he moves to a setup role he is going to be a good source of strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. I saw him traded for Brad Penny the other day and that seems like a good starting point.