The first half of the season is officially over as we head into the All-Star break. Tonight’s Homerun Derby will be exciting for fans of the National League, as only one of the eight competitors, Astros 3B Alex Bregman, comes from the American League, but, for those who aren’t interested in this event, you may be seeking help in the second half of your fantasy baseball season.
Here are five players to watch in the second half of the 2018 season, who could even out their statistics to become the players everyone wants early in 2019 drafts!
Marlins RHP Jose Urena
Urena is 2-9 with a 4.39 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. So, why would he be someone to acquire? The 26-year-old has some positive things to keep in mind for gains going forward in his 3.70 FIP, which ranks just behind the ranks of Lance McCullers, Jr., Jameson Taillon, and Eduardo Rodriguez. He also is striking out more (7.37 vs. 5.99) and walking fewer (2.32 vs. 3.39) batters per nine this season, while posting a near league-average BABIP of .304. Not to mention he has significantly increased his groundball percentage (from 43.1 last year to 53.1 this year), while cutting his HR/FB rate from 13.1% to 11.1% this season. Sure, he was 14-7 last year and the wins won’t be coming from the team behind him in Miami, but he should look better over the second half AND he could get traded since Miami doesn’t like talent!
Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta
Pivetta is an interesting case. He has absurd strikeout totals this season, posting a 10.57 K:9, leading to a sexy 113:30 K:BB over 96.1 innings in the first half. Like Urena, this puts him in the top 30 in FIP with a 3.74 FIP, but that goes with a ghastly 4.63 ERA. The 6’5″ 25-year-old has been bitten by the longball, which has severely damaged his value, allowing 14 bombs on a 15.4% HR/FB rate, which is actually lower than last season. He has been a bit unlucky on the BABIP side of things, as that stat stands at .329. Could he be trade bait as the Phillies go for a veteran arm or another bat? Possibly. Is he a future ace? Unlikely. But he misses enough bats at the major league level to warrant several looks, and his numbers, with a little help, could look much nicer at the end of the season.
Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland
Can you really trust a Rockies’ pitcher? Well, that 3.11 ERA is likely to increase…likely…but – maybe not! Why would Freeland be any different? He has a 4.08 FIP, a lucky .269 BABIP, and has an elevated 82.5 LOB%, so he screams regression, right? Wrong! The 25-year-old lefty strikes out a little over seven per nine, but the reason that he could keep it up is the inability of opposing batters to make hard contact. In spacious Coor’s Field, you may think that doesn’t matter much, but Freeland has a 29.9% hard contact rate (12th lowest in MLB) and a 21.5% soft contact rate (11th highest in MLB). With a talented infield and over 70% of baseballs not getting hit hard, Freeland could continue to stifle the competition…even pitching half of his games in Coor’s Field!
Twins OF Max Kepler
Kepler hasn’t had a great season, slashing just .227/.317/.407 in 366 plate appearances. He has hit better against LHP than RHP this season (.263 vs. .211), but the ball just hasn’t been falling in for him, evidenced by his .243 BABIP. He makes more hard contact and less soft contact than Orioles’ SS Manny Machado, but he just doesn’t have the numbers to match…not even close. However, Kepler is showing some positive gains in 2018 that warrant his spot here. He has cut his K rate from 20.1% to 15.6%, while increasing his BB rate from 8.3% to 11.7%. He is showing signs of breaking out of his season-long slump this month, posting a .255/.367/.490 triple-slash in 60 July plate appearances. Kepler, just 25, could lead the Twins to a strong finish, while the likes of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano struggle with injuries and lack of production…yet again.
Indians 2B Jason Kipnis
Everything about the 2018 season for Kipnis screams bad luck. Sure, there have been times where he wasn’t very good, but the .222/.312/.360 line is a far cry from his .264/.337/.416 career line. Not to mention, this is the same guy who had 23 HR and 82 RBI in 2016! At 31, Kipnis is walking at a 10.8% clip (9.5% for career) and striking out at a 19.7% clip (19.1% for career), but it’s the .258 BABIP (.309 career) that has plagued him this season, and the last two seasons (he hit .232/.291/.414 last year with a .256 BABIP). Since getting moved towards the bottom of the order on May 15th, Kipnis is hitting .267/.360/.459, and his BABIP is closer to the league average at .297. How bad was the start of the season, then? He hit .170/.256/.248 with a .216 BABIP prior to that! So the .937 OPS that he has in the month of July is a nice sign of this continued slump-busting that Kipnis is partaking in…and you should, too!