Daily Dose: Sell high for the second half

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While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players who fantasy owners should be looking to cash in for
maximum value …

Jason Bartlett – Bartlett is batting .347 compared to his career
mark of .286 and has already homered eight times in 68 games after
never going deep even five times in a season previously, so he’s an
easy sell-high pick. His speed will give him plenty of value even if
his bat returns to career norms, so there’s no need to part with
Bartlett unless the offer is strong and someone is willing to overpay.

Nick Blackburn – Aside from great control there’s little in
Blackburn’s track record to suggest that he’ll keep up an ERA in the
low 3.00s. He entered this year with a 4.26 career mark, has the single
worst strikeout rate in the league at 3.9 per nine innings, and is far
from an extreme ground-ball pitcher. Blackburn is a solid starter, but
he’s just not this good and many people seem sold on him right now.

Ryan Franklin – Franklin has the absurd facial hair, sub-1.00 ERA,
and 21 saves of a shutout closer, but his low-90s fastball and modest
7.1 strikeouts per nine innings combined with an unsustainably amazing
.207 batting average on balls in play signal that he’s not long for the
unhittable category. If you can convince another owner to value him
like a truly elite closer, pounce on the offer.

J.A. Happ – Happ has gone from undervalued to overvalued in the span
of about two months, which is what happens when a rookie goes 6-0 with
a 2.90 ERA for the defending champs. In reality Happ is a 26-year-old
who had a 4.20 ERA with strong strikeout rates and poor control at
Triple-A. He’ll keep missing bats and should remain a solid starter,
but don’t expect his ERA to stay under 4.00.

Adam Kennedy – Kennedy came out of nowhere to bat .390 with a 1.084
OPS in May, but the 33-year-old career .276/.329/.392 hitter has batted
.237/.291/.349 since. He’s already fallen back down to earth, but
there’s still more to come and it makes sense to cash him in before the
inflated value completely dries up. He’s perhaps the least risky
sell-high player on this list, so just start shopping him.

Raul Ibanez – Setting aside his quarreling with a blogger and recent
return from a groin injury, Ibanez is having a career-year at the age
of 37 and those tend not to last. He never managed even a .900 OPS
prior to this season, yet is currently sporting a 1.015 OPS that ranks
third in the NL behind Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Ibanez is a
plenty good hitter, but he’s just not an MVP-caliber player.

Brandon Inge – Getting shut out in the Home Run Derby may be a sign
of things to come for Inge in the second half. He’s always had 20-homer
power, but going deep 21 times in 86 games is something entirely
different and maintaining a .268 batting average will also be difficult
given his .239 career mark. Catcher eligibility gives Inge plenty of
value no matter what, but a .240-10-35 second half is likely.

Jason Marquis – He came into this season with a 79-70 record and
4.55 ERA, so naturally Marquis has 11 wins and a 3.65 ERA in his first
year calling Coors Field home. Marquis has legitimately improved by
supplementing his usual horrendous strikeout rate and poor control by
inducing significantly more grounders, so he’s not doomed for a 6.00
post-break ERA, but there’s no first-half repeat coming.

Joe Mauer – You’ll never find a bigger Mauer fan than Yours Truly,
but the power that he displayed upon coming off the disabled list in
May was ultimately a fluke and while Mauer without power is still one
of the game’s elite all-around players in real life his fantasy value
will never be more inflated. If shouldn’t shock anyone if he wins a
third batting title, but he has just three homers in the past 35 games.

Kevin Millwood – After posting ERAs of 4.52, 5.16, and 5.07 during
his first three Rangers seasons Millwood is currently sporting a 3.46
mark that was under 3.00 as recently as last week. Nothing has changed
within the nuts and bolts of his performance, as Millwood’s strikeout,
walk, and ground-ball rates are all sub par while his ball-in-play
batting average is 35 points better than his career mark.

Scott Rolen – He’s stayed healthy enough to play in 77 of 90 games
while hitting .320 and one or both of those things figures to change in
the second half. Rolen has never hit even .300 before and 2003 was the
last time he missed fewer than 20 games in a season. Unless he
rediscovers the power stroke that appears to have vanished after 2006,
Rolen will disappoint a lot of owners down the stretch.

Ben Zobrist – Zobrist finally figured out big-league pitching and
added power to his resume last year, so what he’s done this season
isn’t quite as shocking as it first appears. With that said, whenever a
28-year-old career .222/.279/.370 hitter who slugged just 23 homers in
364 games in the minors goes off for 17 homers and a 1.012 OPS in the
first half … well, you can feel pretty safe selling high.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after hitting an RBI single to score Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.

Jake Arrieta flirts with no-hitter, pitches Cubs past Indians 5-1 in World Series Game 2

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gene Puskar - Pool/Getty Images)
Gene Puskar - Pool/Getty Images

Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitched into the sixth inning before allowing his first hit. Behind his strong performance, the Cubs were able to take down the Indians 5-1 in Game 2 of the World Series to even things up at one game apiece.

Unlike their Game 1 performance against Corey Kluber, the Cubs’ offense was ready early. Kris Bryant singled with one out in the first inning against Indians starter Trevor Bauer and promptly scored when Anthony Rizzo drilled a double down the right field line. The Cubs would score again in the third with a two-out rally as Rizzo walked, then Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber hit consecutive singles to center field, plating one run to make it 2-0.

With Zach McAllister returning to the mound for the fifth after relieving Bauer in the fourth, he walked Rizzo, then gave up a triple to Zobrist. The Cubs continued to press their foot on the gas, with Schwarber hitting another RBI single. After Jason Kipnis committed a fielding error on a Willson Contreras grounder — what should’ve been the final out of the inning — McAllister walked Jorge Soler to load the bases, then walked Addison Russell to force in a run, pushing the Cubs’ lead to 5-0.

Arrieta had a first-inning scare, issuing back-to-back two-out walks, but he escaped the jam and seemed to be on cruise control until the sixth inning. He got Carlos Santana to fly out to lead off the sixth, continuing his no-hit bid, but Kipnis broke it up with a double to right field. After getting Francisco Lindor to ground out, pushing Kipnis to third base, Arrieta uncorked a wild pitch, helping the Indians score their first run of the game. Arrieta then served up a single to Mike Napoli, which proved to be the end of the line. Manager Joe Maddon came out to replace him with lefty Mike Montgomery. Montgomery ended the bottom of the sixth by inducing a weak ground out from Jose Ramirez.

Montgomery struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh, then got into a bit of hot water by yielding a single to Brandon Guyer, then walking Game 1 hero Roberto Perez. Carlos Santana, however, struck out to end what would be the Indians’ last real chance to get back in the ballgame.

Montgomery remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Kipnis, got Lindor to ground out, then gave up a line drive single to Napoli before Maddon pulled the plug. Closer Aroldis Chapman entered to face Ramirez. As expected, Chapman got Ramirez to whiff on a fastball to send the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Chapman fanned Rajai Davis and got Coco Crisp to ground out for two quick outs. He walked Guyer on five pitches but ended the game as rain drizzled onto Progressive Field by getting Perez to ground out to shortstop.

The World Series is now headed back to Wrigley Field. The two clubs will enjoy a day off on Thursday to travel. Game Three will be played at 8:00 PM EDT on Friday. The Indians will send Josh Tomlin to the hill while the Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks.