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

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

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

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Zach’s Two-Start Pitcher Notes – Week of 8/15

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Hey everyone,

It’s another Friday, and it’s another blog-only week for my two-start pitcher series. Let’s get to it.

Standard mixed leagues

Jeff Samardzija (vs. PIT, vs. NYM)

Heading into the season, who would’ve thought that pitching Samardzija in a two-start week in August would be far from a no-brainer? Well, the veteran righty has been far from consistent during his first season with the Giants. Samardzija’s recent results are particularly troubling, as he’s notched just one quality start across his last nine outings. Also of concern is his strikeout rate, which has steadily declined over the past few years. But Samardzija is coming off a stellar performance on Wednesday in which he held the Marlins scoreless over 5 2/3 innings, and next week’s matchups are promising. The Mets and Pirates rank among the bottom three teams in the NL in both runs scored and OPS since the All-Star break. Starting Samardzija next week is a risk worth taking.

Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon (@ARI, @SF)

The usually reliable Colon struggled in July, registering a 5.51 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over six starts. August has been a different story, however, as the ageless righty has allowed a combined two runs through two starts this month spanning 13 2/3 innings. Next week, Colon will face the same Diamondbacks squad that he dominated on Wednesday (7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K) before traveling to San Francisco to pitch against a Giants team that ranks 14th in the NL in runs scored since the All-Star break. Owners should not hesitate to start him.

Robbie Ray (vs. NYM, @SD)

Although Ray has been a consistent source of strikeouts this season (11.0 K/9), his overall performance from one start to the next has been entirely unpredictable. But the Diamondbacks southpaw is coming off a very impressive outing against the Mets on Wednesday (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER) and will get to face the Mets again next week. As for his matchup on the road against the Padres, San Diego ranks 12th in the NL in OPS and Ray’s road ERA is 3.80, this compared to his 5.40 ERA at home.

Deeper mixed leagues

Drew Smyly (vs. SD, vs. TEX)

Like Ray, Smyly has had little difficulty posting high strikeout totals this year (9.0 K/9). But the Rays lefty owns a disappointing 5.04 ERA through 22 starts, allowing more than a hit per inning in the process. On the bright side, however, Smyly boasts a 2.52 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over his last four starts, so perhaps he has finally found his groove. Next week’s matchup against the Rangers is a dangerous one, as Texas ranks 4th in the AL in runs scored this season. And the Rangers recently beefed up their offense with the trade deadline additions of Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy. But the upgraded lineup ranks only 7th in the AL in runs scored so far in August. The Padres, meanwhile, rank 24th in the Majors in OPS this season. Smyly is certainly an intriguing two-start option for those in deeper formats.

Brandon Finnegan (vs. MIA, vs. LAD)

While Finnegan still has plenty of work to do in the control department (4.5 BB/9 this season), the 23-year-old is fresh off his third straight quality start. The Marlins and Dodgers both rank among the top eight teams in the Majors in runs scored since the All-Star break, so Finnegan will be challenged next week. But his strong recent pitching should not be discounted, and Finnegan limited the Dodgers to just one run over eight innings in a May 23rd outing in Los Angeles.

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Pitch or Ditch for Saturday-Monday, August 13-15

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Adam Conley

ZACH’S PICKS

SATURDAY

Andriese @ Tanaka – Andriese worth monitoring though.

McHugh @ Ar. Sanchez – Dangerous matchup for McHugh. I’ll play it safe.

L. Weaver @ Hendricks

Cole @ McCarthy – Dodgers hoping McCarthy can make this start.

Whalen @ TBD (WAS)

T. Anderson @ Eickhoff – Favorable matchup for Anderson.

Bradley @ Buchholz – Bradley has been shaky lately.

Shields @ Conley – I’m back to not trusting Shields. I’ll take a chance on Conley versus White Sox offense that ranks in the bottom third of the Majors in both runs scored and OPS.

Straily @ Davies – Seven straight quality starts for Straily and this matchup is far from scary.

Gee @ Duffey

Shoemaker @ Clevinger

Cosart @ deGrom

Boyd @ Hamels

Gausman @ Bumgarner

Iwakuma @ Graveman – Iwakuma 14 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 15 K over his last two starts. Graveman a decent option in deeper formats.

SUNDAY

Odorizzi @ TBD (NYY)

Fiers @ Stroman – Stroman a little risky though.

Sale @ Koehler – Koehler has been dominant of late.

J. Weaver @ Bauer – Bauer too inconsistent these days.

Richard @ Matz

Greinke @ Porcello

Jenkins @ Roark

Chatwood @ Buchanan – Chatwood is 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA in nine road starts this season.

Reed @ Peralta

Volquez @ Santiago – Favorable matchup for Santiago but he’s been so-so since trade to Twins. This one is a toss-up.

Fulmer @ Griffin

Miley @ Cueto

LeBlanc @ Neal

Kuhl @ B. Anderson – Kuhl an intriguing deep-league option though.

Leake @ Lackey – Leake hard to trust in this matchup.

MONDAY

Dickey @ Green

Pomeranz @ Tomlin – Sticking with Pomeranz.

Kennedy @ D. Norris – Norris a fairly safe play here.

Phelps @ Finnegan – Finnegan pitching well recently but I still wouldn’t start him in 12-team mixed leagues.

Perdomo @ Smyly – Smyly finally putting together a strong stretch.

Detwiler @ M. Perez – Perez is 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA in 12 home starts this season and this is a favorable matchup. He’s worth a try here.

Scherzer @ J. De La Rosa

Colon @ Ray – Great matchup for Ray.

King Felix @ Nolasco

Vogelsong @ Moore

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Pitch or Ditch for Friday, August 12

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Andrew Cashner

ZACH’S PICKS

Wainwright @ Arrieta – Wouldn’t blame you for benching Wainwright though.

Foltynewicz @ Strasburg

J. Gray @ Thompson – I’m expecting a bounceback outing from Gray here.

Archer @ Sabathia

Musgrove @ Liriano – Too tough of a matchup for Musgrove.

Corbin @ Price

Rodon @ Cashner – Rodon hard to trust right now. Cashner worth a try versus White Sox offense that ranks in the bottom third of the Majors in both runs scored and OPS.

Skaggs @ Carrasco – Skaggs a little risky but I’ll go for it.

Clemens @ Verrett

An. Sanchez @ Darvish

Bailey @ Nelson – Nelson really struggling lately. Continue to monitor Bailey.

Ventura @ Gibson – Ventura mildly tempting.

Miranda @ Manaea

Nova @ Stripling

Bundy @ Cain – Bundy getting it done.

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Pitch or Ditch for Thursday, August 11

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Miguel Gonzalez

ZACH’S PICKS

Shipley @ Syndergaard – Shipley worth considering in deeper leagues but the walks are a concern.

Friedrich @ Taillon – Taillon sports a 2.62 ERA since the beginning of July.

Fister @ Berrios (Gm 1) – Keep an eye on Berrios going forward though.

Devenski @ Milone (Gm 2)

Bettis @ Harrell

R. Hernandez @ Garza

Tillman @ Triggs

Chacin @ Kluber

Pineda @ E. Rodriguez – Scary matchup for Pineda.

C. Martinez @ Lester

M. Gonzalez @ Duffy – Seven straight quality starts for Gonzalez and the Royals rank among the bottom two teams in the Majors in both runs scored and OPS since the All-Star break.

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Pitch or Ditch for Wednesday, August 10

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Robbie Ray

ZACH’S PICKS

Samardzija @ Phelps – The inconsistency continues for Samardzija. Pitch only in deeper formats.

Hellickson @ Kazmir

Tomlin @ G. Gonzalez – Tomlin coming off rough outing and this is a tough matchup.

Jackson @ Vogelsong

Snell @ Happ – Snell pitching well lately but I’ll play it safe in this matchup.

Ray @ Colon – Ray always a fine source of K’s and the Mets offense ranks 14th in the NL in runs and 5th in strikeouts.

Eovaldi @ Pomeranz

DeSclafani @ Garcia – Garcia has been far from consistent this season but I’ll take a chance on him here.

J. De La Rosa @ M. Perez

Nolasco @ Hammel

De La Cruz @ Ch. Anderson

Keuchel @ Big Erv – Erv sports a 2.02 ERA since the beginning of July.

Quintana @ Kennedy

Gallardo @ Detwiler

Verlander @ King Felix

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Pitch or Ditch for Tuesday, August 9

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Tom Koehler

ZACH’S PICKS

Griffin @ Chatwood – There’s nothing to like about this matchup for Chatwood.

Bauer @ Scherzer

Perdomo @ Kuhl – Kuhl worth a look in deeper formats.

Smyly @ Estrada – Smyly has pitched well lately but this is a very tough matchup.

Greinke @ Matz

Severino @ Porcello – Keep an eye on Severino but I’m not pitching him at Fenway.

Moore @ Koehler – Koehler’s home ERA (3.70) is more than half of a run lower than his road mark (4.29) and the Giants rank 14th in the NL in runs scored since the All-Star break.

Weaver @ Lackey

Jenkins @ Peralta

Fiers @ Santiago – Both are decent options but I’ll play it safe in 12-team mixed leagues.

Sale @ Volquez

Finnegan @ Leake – Leake really struggling of late. I still don’t fully trust Finnegan.

Miley @ Neal – Miley an intriguing deep-league option here.

D. Norris @ LeBlanc – Taking a wait and see approach with Norris.

Velasquez @ Maeda

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Zach’s Two-Start Pitcher Notes – Week of 8/8

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Zach Davies

Hey everyone,

Hot off the press is a fresh batch of my two-start pitcher notes. And better yet, the full version is right here on the blog, so let’s get started.

Standard mixed leagues

Zach Davies (vs. ATL, vs. CIN)

The owner of a solid 3.57 ERA and 1.19 WHIP through 19 starts in his first full big league season, Davies is well deserving of a secure spot on most mixed league rosters. Unlike many young hurlers, the Brewers righty has been very consistent, allowing two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts dating back to the beginning of May. Look for the 23-year-old to turn in two more quality performances next week, as the Reds and Braves rank 25th and 30th, respectively, in the Majors in OPS. Plus, in two starts versus the Reds this season, Davies boasts a 1.42 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.

Kevin Gausman (@OAK, @SF)

After allowing six runs over three innings in a loss to the Blue Jays on July 29, Gausman bounced back on Wednesday, limiting a dangerous Rangers lineup to two runs across seven innings while tallying seven strikeouts. Do not be surprised if the Orioles righty finds further success in next week’s Bay Area tour. Gausman will take the mound in a pair of pitcher-friendly ballparks to face a pair of teams that rank in the bottom half of the Majors in both runs scored and OPS at home.

Hector Santiago (vs. HOU, vs. KC)

Santiago’s outstanding July (6-0, 1.78 ERA) has helped to salvage what had been a disappointing 2016 season. Now pitching for the Twins, the 28-year-old southpaw was not overly impressive in his debut for his new club (5 IP, 4 ER), but the matchup was a tough one, versus an Indians team that ranks 2nd in the AL in runs scored. Santiago will be rewarded with two favorable matchups next week, as the Royals rank last in the AL in runs while the Astros rank 10th in the Junior Circuit in both runs and OPS. Santiago’s ability to miss bats (career 8.2 K/9) only adds to his two-start week appeal, and the Astros just so happen to lead the AL in strikeouts.

Deeper mixed leagues

Tyler Anderson (vs. TEX, @PHI)

At this point, it is clear that Anderson belongs in the Majors. His first ten big league starts have resulted in a stellar 3.25 ERA and 52-to-12 K/BB ratio across 61 innings. The Rockies southpaw does not have the luxury of two favorable matchups next week, as an already strong Rangers lineup was further bolstered at the trade deadline with the additions of Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy. For this reason, Anderson is more of a deep-league option. But the Phillies rank among the bottom two teams in the Majors in both runs scored and OPS. In addition, Anderson fared well in a start against Philadelphia last month, tossing six innings of two-run ball while whiffing six.

Wade Miley (@OAK, @SF)

Although inconsistency has been an issue for Miley this season, prior to his outing on Thursday, the veteran southpaw was in the midst of a strong three-start stretch during which he registered a 2.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 7.9 K/9 rate. And his Thursday performance was against a tough Rangers lineup. Next week’s matchups are far more favorable. The A’s rank 23rd in the Majors in OPS while the Giants place in the bottom third of the league in both runs scored and OPS since the All-Star break. The new Oriole makes for an intriguing two-start option for those in deeper formats.

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Pitch or Ditch for Saturday-Monday, August 6-8

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Tyler Skaggs

ZACH’S PICKS

SATURDAY

Kluber @ Sabathia

E. Rodriguez @ Stripling

Arrieta @ S. Gray – Gray has been a huge disappointment this year.

Berrios @ Archer – Archer finally showing some consistency.

Bailey @ Nova – I need to see more than just one start from Bailey.

Cain @ Strasburg

Tillman @ Rodon – Not a good matchup for the up and down Rodon.

Verrett @ Boyd

Harrell @ Fister – Fister has fared well versus Rangers this season (2.25 ERA over two starts) but he’s still too risky here.

R. Hernandez @ C. Martinez

Ar. Sanchez @ Duffy – Challenging matchup for Duffy but he’s earned must-start status.

Cashner @ Bettis – Not chancing it with Cashner at Coors.

Garza @ Corbin

Thompson @ Clemens

Skaggs @ Walker – Skaggs has yet to allow a run through 12 1/3 innings this season and the Mariners rank 24th in the Majors in OPS since the All-Star break. Let’s see how Walker does in his first start back.

SUNDAY

Carrasco @ Tanaka

Gibson @ Andriese – Andriese worth a shot in deeper formats though.

deGrom @ An. Sanchez

Straily @ Cole – Six straight quality starts for Straily.

Bumgarner @ Roark

Bundy @ Shields – Bundy deserves the nod. Scary matchup for Shields.

Darvish @ Musgrove

Foltynewicz @ Wainwright

Stroman @ Ventura – Stroman pitching better of late and I like this matchup.

Hendricks @ Manaea

Shoemaker @ Paxton – Paxton a borderline call but the Angels offense has been hot lately.

Conley @ J. Gray – I’ll steer clear of Conley at Coors just to be safe, though home runs have not been a problem for him this year.

Nelson @ Bradley – Not overly enthusiastic about either pitcher here.

Eickhoff @ Cosart

Price @ McCarthy – Hard to trust McCarthy right now, especially in this matchup.

MONDAY

Odorizzi @ Dickey

Cueto @ Fernandez

Whalen @ Davies – Tasty matchup for Davies.

McHugh @ Duffey – McHugh coming off solid bounceback outing.

Reed @ Wacha

Hamels @ T. Anderson – Anderson continues to impress but this matchup scares me.

Gausman @ Graveman

Fulmer @ Iwakuma

Eflin @ Urias

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Pitch or Ditch for Friday, August 5

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Jeremy Hellickson

ZACH’S PICKS

DeSclafani @ Taillon – Taillon has been impressive so far.

Tomlin @ Pineda – Pineda cannot be trusted.

Samardzija @ G. Gonzalez – Tough matchup for the inconsistent Samardzija. I’ll sit this one out.

Big Erv @ Snell

Syndergaard @ Verlander

Gallardo @ M. Gonzalez

M. Perez @ Keuchel – Keuchel coming off his worst outing in awhile, but I’ll stick with him.

De La Cruz @ Garcia – I’m expecting a solid bounceback performance from Garcia.

Liriano @ Gee

Phelps @ J. De La Rosa

Ch. Anderson @ Shipley

Lester @ Overton

S. Wright @ Kazmir

Lincecum @ King Felix

Hellickson @ Friedrich – Hellickson has allowed 3 ER or fewer in seven of his last eight starts and the Padres rank 13th in the NL in OPS.

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