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.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.