Second Half Stock Watch (8/15)
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Courtesy of Fred Zinkie:
Wise fantasy owners have noticed that a strong first half can mask a second-half slide. In contrast, players that fail to impress prior to the All-Star break can have a tough time turning the heads of fantasy owners during the stretch run.
At the conclusion of play on August 14, we have experienced exactly one month of Major League action since players received a few days to clear their heads in the middle of July. Astute owners will use the month-long data to identify the following five players that have performed surprisingly well and the quintet that have performed surprisingly poorly to this point in the second half.
Trea Turner, 2B/OF: After spending most of the first half in the Minors, Turner has forced his way into the Nats lineup by hitting .311 with 20 runs and 10 steals across 110 plate appearances since the All-Star break.
Looking forward: Now a fixture atop the Nats’ lineup, Turner has the potential to rank among the National League second-half leaders in steals and runs. The 23-year-old should be a lineup fixture in all leagues.
Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B/SS/OF: After playing well enough (.295 average, four homers, 10 steals across 316 plate appearances) to earn a regular role in the first half, Ramirez has taken his game to another level (.365 average, four homers, eight steals across 114 plate appearances) in the initial month of second-half action.
Looking forward: Hitting .444 during an active 18-game hitting streak, Ramirez is likely to be a major batting average asset during the second half. But the 23-year-old is unlikely to maintain a second-half steals pace that includes a three-swipe game during which the Indians stole a total of eight bases.
Hernan Perez, 2B/3B/OF: After spending much of the first half as a reserve player, Perez has hit .330 with five homers and 10 steals across 112 plate appearances since the All-Star break.
Looking forward: Perez has the fleet feet to help in the steals category down the stretch, but his .387 BABIP in the second half urges owners to keep their batting average expectations in check. With five homers across 473 career at-bats prior to the All-Star break, the versatile fielder is also unlikely to continue his recent power production.
Danny Duffy, SP/RP: Following a productive first half that included a 3.09 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP across 27 appearances (11 starts), the southpaw has been arguably the most effective starter in the American League (5-0 record, 2.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) across his six second-half outings.
Looking forward: Backed by a Royals lineup that ranks 27th in baseball with 457 runs scored, Duffy may not compile a notable stretch-run win total. But with a 138-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 124 1/3 innings this season, the southpaw is showing the necessary skills to be projected as a frontline mixed-league starter.
Dan Straily, starter: When he arrived at the All-Star break with a 4.35 ERA on a rebuilding Reds squad that plays in a hitter-friendly home park, Straily seemed to be an unlikely candidate to pitch like a mixed-league ace (4-0 record, 2.13 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) across his initial six second-half starts.
Looking forward: With two walks across his past four outings, Straily has demonstrated improved control. But the right-hander lacks the swing-and-miss arsenal (7.2 K/9 rate in ‘16) to be more than a serviceable mixed-league starter when his .223 second-half BABIP regresses to the mean.
Bryce Harper, outfielder: Although Harper’s struggles began prior to the All-Star break, he still managed to compile 19 homers, 52 RBIs and 13 steals across 368 first-half plate appearances. Hitting .143 with one homer, six RBIs and two steals across 85 plate appearances in the second half, the top pick in many 2016 drafts has not warranted a mixed-league lineup spot.
Looking forward: Much of Harper’s ‘16 struggles can be traced to a .239 BABIP that is 94 points below the .333 mark he registered from 2012-15. If the 23-year-old can move past the neck injury that has plagued him in recent days, he could bounce back in a big way down the stretch.
Chris Davis, 1B/OF: Known as a streaky slugger, Davis compiled 22 homers and 58 RBIs across 316 at-bats in the first half before enduring a major second-half slump — .160 average, two homers and four RBIs across 94 at-bats.
Looking forward: This is life for Davis owners. The slugger has whiffed in 31.5 percent of his plate appearances since the outset of 2013, which has contributed to some wild ups and downs. Equally likely to hit 15 homers or bat .150 across the final seven weeks of the season, the 30-year-old ranks among the biggest wildcards for the stretch run.
Michael Saunders, outfielder: After flying to San Diego for the All-Star Game on the strength of a .298 batting average, 16 homers and 42 RBIs across 305 at-bats, the lefty slugger has batted .157 with four homers and six RBIs across 83 at-bats since returning from the Midsummer Classic.
Looking forward: Having benefited from a .377 first-half BABIP, Saunders has been plagued by a .191 mark since the All-Star break. Even though the outfielder may not fully recapture his first-half form, he is an excellent buy-low trade target for those who can grab him at a substantial discount.
Carlos Martinez, starter: Arguably the Cardinals ace in the first half (2.85 ERA, 1.16 WHIP), Martinez has produced a 5.10 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP across five second-half starts.
Looking forward: Martinez has produced an unimpressive 21-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 33 second-half innings. After posting a 4.33 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP across his final 11 starts last season, the right-hander is once again showing signs that he cannot remain effective across a six-month season.
Noah Syndergaard, starter: Although Syndergaard boasts impressive season-long statistics (2.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 163 whiffs across 134 1/3 innings), the right-hander has produced a 3.45 ERA and 1.57 WHIP across five second-half outings.
Looking forward: With a late-June acknowledgement that he is pitching with a bone spur in his elbow, Syndergaard has posted a 4.20 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP across nine starts since June 22. He has also allowed 36 stolen bases this season, which is 14 more than any other starter. Even though he has dealt with a .407 BABIP in the second half, Syndergaard offers multiple reasons to be scratched off the buy-low list.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB