Fantasy

Weekly Top-10: Second Half Bounceback Fantasy Players

Carlos Gonzalez

In last week’s top 10, we took a look at some top closers in waiting that could help your team in saves if they get the closer role for their respective MLB team. This week, we profile 10 struggling players that could have resurgences over the second half of the fantasy season.

This been a weird fantasy baseball season so far. Stars like Manny Machado and Miguel Cabrera are struggling, yet Yonder Alonso and Justin Smoak are mashing. Those are just four instances, too. There are dozens more.

I’m leaving studs like Miguel Cabrera and Manny Machado off this list. I don’t need to explain why they’re going to get it going and start mashing like they usually do. They’re elite players for a reason.

10. Alex Bregman (3B – HOU)

Coming into this season, one of the hot names on everyone’s draft board was Alex Bregman. While the rest of his teammates have mostly flourished this season, Bregman hasn’t quite gotten it going yet. Through 218 at-bats, he’s hitting only .248 with seven home runs, four steals, and a mediocre .722 OPS. The low average is the most peculiar. Throughout his collegiate career at LSU and his minor league career in the Houston system, Bregman always posted high batting averages of around .300 or better.

While Bregman is still young at 23 years old, he’s more of a polished hitter than many second-year players after playing three seasons at LSU. Hitters like this don’t usually stay down for too long. Bregman has improved both his walk rate and strikeout rate this season, which is an encouraging sign. Stay patient with him if you have him on your team. If you don’t have him, you can probably get him at a discount for the rest of the season.

9. Kenta Maeda (SP – LAD)

Explaining why Kenta Maeda’s ERA has risen to 4.95 this season is actually pretty simple. His strikeout and walk rates are very similar to last year, as is how much hard contact he’s allowing. The one difference is that he’s allowing more home runs this season. His 1.6 HR/9 rate is .58 higher than last year’s 1.02 mark. That doesn’t seem like a huge jump, but it really is.

Giving up more home runs is always a recipe for disaster. Maeda’s 4.95 ERA isn’t terrible, but it’s much worse than what fantasy owners expected after his strong rookie season in 2016. If he can start limiting the home runs the rest of the season, that ERA is sure to drop quickly.

8. Kyle Schwarber (C/OF – CHC)

I know I’ve been pretty hard on Kyle Schwarber lately, but he’s deserved it. With that being said, he surely can’t get any worse, right? I’ve said that at least once this year and he figured out a way to make me eat my words and actually got worse. At this point, though, you’ve got to think he’s basically hit rock bottom. There, I just jinxed him again. It’s difficult to give up on players with this much power potential. Especially players that have catcher eligibility like Schwarber does.

Schwarber has shown some brief glimpses that he could be getting close to breaking out of his season-long funk. Over the last two weeks, he has hit a respectable .250 with four home runs and nine RBI. Fantasy owners would be very happy if he could keep that pace up for the rest of the season. He certainly has the skills to do so.

7. Jose Quintana (SP – CHW)

Over the past few seasons, Jose Quintana has been one of the most consistently good pitchers in all of baseball. Since his debut in 2012, he has quietly put up solid season after solid season. Just look at how consistently good his full-season numbers were entering this season.

Year

GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

BB/9

K/9

2013

33

200.0

3.51

1.22

2.5

7.4

2014

32

200.1

3.32

1.24

2.3

8.0

2015

32

206.1

3.36

1.27

1.9

7.7

2016

32

208.0

3.20

1.16

2.2

7.8

2017

13

74.2

5.30

1.41

3.6

8.9

This year has been a totally different story for Quintana. His ERA and WHIP have ballooned to 5.30 and 1.41, respectively, which would both be career-worst marks if the season ended today. Thankfully for Quintana, we still have over three good months of baseball left.

Outside of the higher walk rate, nothing really stands out as a reason for his struggles this season. In fact, his current 8.9 K/9 rate would be the highest of his young career. All indications are that he’s just been a little wild with his command and just generally unlucky. The track record and underlying stats hint that Quintana should figure it out soon and have a strong second half of the season.

6. Gregory Polanco (OF – PIT)

[the_ad id=”384″]It’s certainly been a tough year for an outfield that was widely regarded as one of the best in baseball coming into this season. Starling Marte won’t be back until July due to his suspension, and Gregory Polanco has greatly underperformed expectations.

The biggest difference is in his contact rates. Polanco’s hard-contact percentage has plummeted this season, while his soft-contact percentage has skyrocketed. That’s all on him too. He hasn’t been unlucky or facing better pitching; he’s simply just been worse.

Over the course of his career, Polanco has been a streaky player. Just take last year, for instance. He hit .287 in the first half of the season, but only .220 in the second half. That’s just the kind of player he is. As the temperatures continue to rise, expect a hot streak or two from him that should raise his numbers significantly.

5. Jonathan Villar (SS – MIL)

Out of all the breakout players in 2016, Jonathan Villar had to have been one of the most surprising ones. After not producing much of note in his career with Houston, Villar erupted in his first season with Milwaukee, hitting .285 with 19 home runs, 92 runs scored, and a league-best 62 steals. Those numbers made him a top-25 fantasy player last season.

Fantasy owners that drafted him based on last year’s numbers have been greatly disappointed this season. Villar’s average has slipped to .213 through 225 at-bats, but he still has six home runs and 14 steals, which have salvaged his season somewhat. His .294 BABIP is almost 80 points below last season and 45 points below his career .339 mark. Once he returns from the DL, expect that BABIP mark, and in turn his batting average, to rise closer to his career norms. If he starts getting on base more, his elite speed will again become a huge asset for fantasy owners.

4. Edwin Encarnacion (1B – CLE)

You’ll have a hard time finding a better power source over the last five seasons than Edwin Encarnacion. Over that stretch, he averaged 38.6 home runs and 110 RBI per season. He’s wasn’t an all-or-nothing hitter, either, as his average ranged from .263 to .280 in that time span.

Over the winter, Encarnacion signed with the Cleveland Indians and has been slow to get it going this season. He hit only .200 with four home runs through 85 April at-bats. The month of May was better than April, and so far June has been his best month yet with a .375 average and three long balls through just 32 at-bats. Maybe it just took him a little time to get used to playing in Cleveland, but his arrow is definitely pointing up.

3. Hanley Ramirez (1B – BOS)

I would love to know what it would take to keep Hanley Ramirez engaged and interested all season. There’s no doubting that he has some of the best raw tools in the game, but tends to either take a month off each season due to a random injury or lack of caring. This year is no different.

After starting the 2016 season with only eight home runs through the end of June, Ramirez went on a tear the last three months of the season with 22 home runs to bring his overall season total to an even 30. Over the course of his career, he’s been a better second-half hitter. Here are his splits by month.

Month

HR/AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

April

24.5

0.282

0.358

0.475

0.833

May

29.4

0.286

0.362

0.453

0.814

June

22.8

0.286

0.358

0.478

0.836

1st Half Total

25.4

0.285

0.359

0.468

0.827

July

22.0

0.290

0.360

0.502

0.862

August

23.0

0.304

0.370

0.519

0.889

September

19.4

0.317

0.390

0.545

0.934

2nd Half Total

21.5

0.303

0.372

0.520

0.892

You can see that Ramirez’s numbers get better across the board as the season progresses, and I wouldn’t put it past him to have another strong second half again this season.

2. Rougned Odor (2B – TEX)

One of the hottest names in drafts this spring was 23-year-old Venezuelan sensation, Rougned Odor. As a 22-year-old in 2016, he swatted 33 home runs, 33 doubles, and stole 14 bases to go along with a respectable .271 batting average. Those stats vaulted him up into the first few rounds of drafts this season. Unfortunately for those of us that drafted him, his 2017 performance has left a foul odor in the air.

Odor has shown some signs of life over the last two weeks by hitting .261 with four home runs. His 11 home runs and six steals this season don’t look bad, but it’s everything else that has been the problem. This Texas lineup is too good for Odor’s RBI and runs scored to stay on their current 70-75 pace, and there aren’t many second basemen with more promise than Odor. A strong second half should be on the horizon.

1. Carlos Gonzalez (OF – COL)

Wow, talk about a train wreck of a season. Carlos Gonzalez isn’t even hitting his weight as we approach the halfway point in the season. His current .215 average is over 70 points below his career .287 mark, and manager Bud Black has even started benching him here and there.

There are two reasons why I’m a believer in him the rest of the way. Firstly, he’s been pretty unlucky this season. His BABIP has dropped nearly 100 points from .346 last season to .251 this season. That is bound to rise somewhat as the season progresses. Secondly, he plays half his games at Coors Field, which seems to help hitters break out of slumps quicker than other ballparks.

Gonzalez is still only 31 years old and should have plenty of good baseball left in him. Look for him to showcase that over the next few months. If you can trade for him at a discount, it could pay serious dividends for you the rest of the way.

Thanks for reading another edition of the Fantrax weekly top 10 and check back next Saturday for another list. Got a player I didn’t cover? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter @EricCross04.

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