Daily Dose: Buy low for the second half

Leave a comment

While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players who fantasy owners should be looking to acquire with
their value low …

Scott Baker – Baker got off to a homerific start as he battled
shoulder soreness and inconsistent mechanics, going 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA
and eight long balls after four outings. He’s been his usual self since
then, going 7-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 66/16 K/BB ratio in 81 innings. As
an extreme fly-ball pitcher homers will always hurt Baker, but he
hasn’t served up more than two in a start since April 22.

Cole Hamels – On the surface it looks like Hamels has declined
significantly this season, going 5-5 with a 4.87 ERA after last year’s
3.07 mark. However, the bulk of his struggles stem from an
unsustainably terrible .348 batting average on balls in play that’s 53
points worse than his career rate. Once that number gets back to normal
his strikeout and walk rates are as strong as usual and he’ll be fine.

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick has plenty of flaws in his game, but
there’s no doubt that he can post big batting averages and when the
Angels demoted him to the minors last month it just made him
undervalued. He came back two weeks ago, has hit above .300 since
returning, and the 25-year-old career .294 hitter should post his usual
high-average, low-power, solid-speed numbers down the stretch.

Cliff Lee – He hasn’t pitched as well as he did while winning the Cy
Young award last season, but the difference isn’t nearly as huge as his
lowly 4-9 record would indicate. Lee has suffered from a severe lack of
bullpen and run support, but his luck can’t help but improve and his
record could reverse itself in the second half if he keeps pitching
like the guy with a 3.43 ERA and 93/33 K/BB ratio.

Ricky Nolasco – Much like Baker, Nolasco’s brutal start to the
season masks an otherwise solid performance. His secondary numbers were
strong even when the Marlins demoted him to the minors, and since
returning he’s gone 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA and 53/8 K/BB ratio in 47
innings spread over seven starts. Since the start of last year he has
the eighth-best strikeout rate for pitchers with 300 innings.

David Ortiz – By this point everyone surely realizes that Ortiz has
snapped out of his early slump, but with his OPS still at a modest .733
not everyone is aware of just how good he’s been while slugging .617
with 11 homers, six doubles, and 29 RBIs in 35 games since the calendar
flipped to June. It should surprise no one if Ortiz posts a 1.000 OPS
in the second half.

Alexei Ramirez – Batting under .200 through 30 games has left
Ramirez’s overall stats looking sickly, but he’s at .318/.378/.484 with
10 homers in 55 games since. Ramirez has already drawn nearly twice as
many non-intentional walks as he did last year and is on pace for twice
as many steals. Despite the early hiccups, by season’s end he’ll likely
be a top-three fantasy shortstop.

Alex Rios – Rios is on pace for 20 homers, 40 doubles, 85 RBIs, and
25 steals, which is better all-around production than he managed last
season, but his .262 batting average is a career-low after he hit .302,
.297, and .291 in the previous three seasons. All of which adds up to
an ideal buy-low candidate, as Rios was a top-30 outfielder in the
first half and has room to move into the top 20.

Jimmy Rollins – Arguably the largest disappointment of the first
half, Rollins had a .227 batting average and .642 OPS after batting at
least .277 with a .770 OPS in each of the past five seasons. Throughout
the struggles he still showed plenty of power and speed with 29
extra-base hits and 16 steals, but an NL-worst .207 mark on balls in
play doomed him. That should be closer to .307 after the break.

Max Scherzer – Scherzer was one of my preseason breakout picks and
has lived up to expectations with a 3.64 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 96.1
innings, but his 5-6 record leaves him undervalued. He’s starting to
pitch deeper into games and has walked more than three batters just
once in his last 15 outings, so the wins figure to come easier for
Scherzer in the second half.

B.J. Upton – Upton missed the first week and got off to a brutal
start as he came back from offseason shoulder surgery, but has batted
.276/.352/.453 with seven homers, 24 total extra-base hits, and 24
steals in 55 games since mid-May. He’s a good bet to show even more
power in the second half, and only Willy Taveras and Jacoby Ellsbury
have swiped more bases since the beginning of last year.

Matt Wieters – Don’t let predictably failing to live up to the crazy
immediate hype convince you of anything other than the fact that
Wieters is human. Owners who expected him to arrive in the majors as a
fully formed MVP candidate have been disappointed, but he’s quietly hit
.300 with three homers and four doubles in the past two dozen games and
is capable of being a top-10 catcher going forward.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:

Cubs 4, Blue Jays 3: The Blue Jays didn’t look any more comfortable at Wrigley Field on Saturday than they had during Friday’s series opener, dropping their second straight game after Anthony Rizzo sealed the go-ahead run on an RBI single in the seventh inning. The Cubs, meanwhile, reveled in Jose Quintana’s second quality start of the month and delighted the crowd with a two-RBI effort from Ian Happ and footage of David Ross jumping out of a plane — a stunt that would have doubled in entertainment value had Ross successfully convinced manager Joe Maddon to join in the fun.

Pirates 6, Cardinals 4: Neither the Pirates nor the Cardinals had relievers to spare when a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay disrupted their contest in the second inning. Chad Kuhl and Michael Wacha were forced to return to the mound after the downpour subsided, both to very different results. Wacha struggled to regain command of the strike zone, slipping on two home runs and a productive double play as the Pirates built a five-run lead in the second. Kuhl, on the other hand, limited the Cardinals to one run over five innings, setting down six strikeouts and clubbing a second-inning double en route to his sixth win of the season.

Dodgers 3, Tigers 0: Curtis Granderson made his Dodgers debut on Saturday, scoring on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI single in the seventh inning to put the club on the board. The win, capped by a smart Yasmani Grandal home run in the ninth, marked the Dodgers’ sixth straight victory and placed them in the history books alongside the 2004 Rays and 2006 Red Sox with 13 consecutive Interleague wins in a single season.

Mariners 7, Rays 6: Mitch Haniger is back from the disabled list, a point he emphasized in the third inning of Seattle’s win with his first career grand slam:

The Rays returned with three solo shots in the last third of the game, but fell just short of the tying run after Edwin Diaz shut down the top of the order in the ninth. With the win, the Mariners positioned themselves half a game back of a wild card spot, though they’ll need to edge the Angels and Twins to avoid any potential tie-breakers.

Angels 5, Orioles 1: Albert Pujols didn’t get any closer to tying Jim Thome’s home run record on Saturday, but that didn’t stop teammate Mike Trout from entering the history books. Trout clubbed two home runs in the Angels’ first win of the weekend, becoming the third Major League player with six consecutive 25+ homer campaigns before his age-26 season. Luis Valbuena, while a good 511 home runs shy of Pujols’ career record and 94 home runs and six years too late to match Trout’s milestone, also collected two home runs to back a solid effort from JC Ramirez.

Twins 5, Diamondbacks 0: The Diamondbacks were toppled in a rare shutout on Saturday, taking their second consecutive loss after an even rarer implosion from ace right-hander Zack Greinke. Greinke expended 96 pitches and a season-high four walks in four innings, while Minnesota trounced the D-backs with a five-run spread in the fourth. The righty’s early exit will put a strain on Arizona’s bullpen during their series finale as the club tries to stop their skid and retake their one-game lead over the Rockies in the NL wild card race.

Reds 11, Braves 8: It looked like Robert Stephenson‘s luck may have finally taken a turn for the better. The rookie right-hander grabbed hold of his first win of the year on Saturday, backing the team’s 11-run outburst with five innings of two-run, three-strikeout ball. Cincinnati’s bullpen was far from flawless, especially after Blake Wood surrendered four runs in the ninth, but Scooter Gennett‘s go-ahead grand slam in the top of the inning gave the Reds enough of a cushion to pull off the series win.

Mets 8, Marlins 1: Marcell Ozuna wore several hats during Saturday’s loss to the Mets, from sole run producer to professional outfield field balloon patrol.

Despite his best efforts, the Marlins couldn’t rally against Rafael Montero, who helped snap a five-game losing streak after scattering one run and five strikeouts over six innings.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Newly-returned from the disabled list, CC Sabathia stifled the rival Red Sox through six innings while Todd Frazier belted the winning run with a 363-footer in the sixth. The Sox still sit four games up in the NL East, however, and commemorated the loss with a solo shot by 20-year-old Rafael Devers, who bounced a home run off the Green Monster for the third homer he’s collected in as many games against the Yankees. For the record, no Major League player under the age of 21 has managed the feat since Babe Ruth in 1915.

Astros 3, Athletics 0: Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman learned an invaluable lesson during the club’s 3-0 shutout on Saturday: If you’re thinking of running on Boog Powell, don’t.

Indians 5, Royals 0: Trevor Bauer may not understand why he dominated during the Indians’ shutout on Saturday, but that didn’t make him any less grateful for the win. “It’s backward,” Bauer was quoted by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “I wasn’t sharp. I didn’t punch people out. I had a lot of balls hit hard. And no runs. So I don’t know. I’ll take it.” Bauer flummoxed the Royals through 6 1/3 innings, granting seven hits and two free passes while the Indians put up a modest five-run backing against Jason Vargas.

Rangers 17, White Sox 7: The Rangers hit season highs in almost every category on Saturday, dismantling Derek Holland and the rest of the White Sox with a whopping 17 runs, 20 hits and 36 bases. Home runs from Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli and Shin-Soo Choo crowned their efforts as the White Sox took their sixth loss in seven games and dropped to a disappointing 21.5 games back of the division lead.

Brewers 6, Rockies 3: Jesus Aguilar hasn’t been pencilled into the starting lineup since August 16, but that didn’t stop the rookie pinch-hitter from making his presence felt. He cranked a two-RBI home run off of Greg Holland in the ninth, giving the Brewers an edge as they tried to stay ahead of the Diamondbacks for the first wild card spot in the National League. Key defensive moves also played a role in the win, not the least of which was a rare 2-6-2 double play to nab Neil Walker at the plate and close out the first inning:

Padres 3, Nationals 1: Yangervis Solarte played spoiler to Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, taking the right-hander deep on a 1-2 pitch in the first inning for his 13th home run of the season. It was the fatal flaw in an otherwise pristine outing, during which Strasburg distributed four hits, two runs and eight strikeouts in six innings. That’s not too shabby for a pitcher coming off the disabled list with elbow issues, and certainly enough to put the Nats’ minds at ease as they push into the postseason. The Padres still have a 12-game gap to close if they want to contend this October, which will require them to scoot past the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers and Diamondbacks for a wild card spot.

Phillies 12, Giants 9: Denard Span didn’t come to mess around. The Giants’ centerfielder squared up the first pitch he saw from the Phillies’ Jared Eickhoff, postmarking it to the right field corner in the first inning. He needed just 15.79 seconds to touch home plate again, logging his first inside-the-park home run since he legged one out in Little League.

The Giants’ offense mustered up an additional eight runs behind Span’s initial effort, but had no way of preventing Ty Blach and Josh Osich from returning all nine runs and then some. The Phillies’ win, powered by a seven-run explosion in the sixth inning and Ty Kelly‘s go-ahead grand slam, was their second in 10 games and snapped a six-game skid.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

Getty Images
3 Comments

It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.