This is the weekly Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld Baseball in on a quick staff discussion. It's water cooler talk ... that we've decided to publish. Look for it every Tuesday.
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Drew Silva: We covered some first-half surprises last week. This week give me a player who was somewhat off the radar in the first half but should carry major fantasy value down the stretch. Could be a prospect, somebody who battled injuries, or somebody who simply got off to a slow start.
Jesse Pantuosco: The one that leaps out at me is Michael Brantley. Shoulder and biceps injuries limited Brantley to just 11 games in the first half but he’s been rehabbing at Double-A Akron and should be cleared to return as soon as he’s able to play in back-to-back games. Brantley’s numbers since the beginning of 2014 are staggering to say the least. During that span he’s hit .316 with 35 homers, 188 RBI and a .487 slugging percentage over 304 appearances. His contact rate is simply incredible as he’s struck out only 113 times over that stretch (9.6 percent of his at-bats). No one would ever confuse Brantley for Billy Hamilton but he’s an efficient base stealer with 39 thefts on 41 attempts over his last three seasons. Brantley isn’t dominant in any one area but he contributes in almost every category and he’ll be hitting in the middle of a Cleveland lineup that’s had no trouble putting up runs this season (sixth in MLB in runs scored).
I understand the skepticism. Brantley has already had a number of setbacks and the next one could end his season. But if Brantley stays healthy and performs at anywhere near the level he’s been at over the last few seasons, he could be a huge difference maker in the second half. Somehow Brantley is still available in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you’re in one of the leagues where he’s still sitting on the waiver wire, stop reading this and go grab him right now.
Ryan Boyer: The Reds are going to be sellers at the trade deadline, and a guy that seems likely to pick up extra playing time as a result of the team's moves is Jose Peraza. Peraza has already started games at four different positions for the Reds and could easily slide into a regular role here in a couple weeks whether it's at one position or a handful of them. The 22-year-old has batted only .224/.269/.255 over his first 105 plate appearances in the majors, but he's managed to steal 13 bases while being caught just once. He has the potential to be a difference-maker with his speed down the stretch and his history in the minors suggests that he's not going to be a zero at the plate over the long haul. Peraza is barely owned in any Yahoo leagues right now but is a sneaky stash.
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Nate Grimm: Before the season, there was a radar, and Randal Grichuk was squarely on it. Then he struggled in the first week, lost playing time to someone named Jeremy Hazelbaker and was eventually sent to Triple-A in mid-June. At the time of his demotion, Grichuk was hitting .206/.276/.392 and was striking out in 24 percent of his plate appearances. The struggles weren't a complete shock -- teams don't often virtually give away former first-round picks, as the Angels did with Grichuk in the trade for David Freese, if they think they have a high chance of success -- but after a promising 2015 campaign, they were a disappointment.
Grichuk used his time in the minors to get his swing right, and the effects have shown in recent results. Since being recalled on July 5, the 24-year-old is hitting .342 with a 1.096 OPS and four home runs in 10 games. He's still striking out plenty -- old dog, new tricks, etc. -- but that was always part of the package when buying on Grichuk's offensive upside. He's a guy who was on pace to hit 30 home runs a year ago and his exit velocity has always been among the best in baseball, so that upside still exists if he's in the lineup on a regular basis. Assuming he will be, Grichuk should provide in the second half what was promised in February.
Matthew Pouliot: There have been signs of Hanley Ramirez warming up again of late, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best he has to offer. It helps a bunch that he’s in the best situation for hitters outside of Coors Field, playing half his games in Fenway and hitting in the middle of baseball’s premier lineup. Ramirez’s exit velocity is in the 85th-90th percentile among major leaguers, suggesting that the power is still there for him to go on a homer tear. He’s bringing his average back up some recently, and he’s actually swiped seven bases this year. One can’t count on health with him, but if he does avoid the disabled list, I imagine an improved second half, maybe much improved, is on the way.
D.J. Short: Dee Gordon was handed a stunning 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs back in late April, but he began a minor league rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A New Orleans and will be eligible to rejoin the contending Marlins on July 28. Derek Dietrich owns a .290/.380/.420 batting line this season and deserves to not be forgotten in the Marlins’ infield, but Gordon figures to return to the starting second base job and leadoff spot for Miami.
Gordon was batting just .266/.289/.340 through 21 games prior to the suspension, but he won the National League batting crown last year and led the majors with 122 steals from 2014-2015. In case you haven’t noticed, speed is down around the game this year. Sure, there might be some questions about him coming off the suspension and he might need some time to shake the rust after such a lengthy absence, but he’s capable of making a major impact in fantasy leagues over the final two months of the season.
David Shovein: One guy that I think continues to fly under the radar that could be an impact addition in the second half is Matt Shoemaker. He's still available in over half of all Yahoo leagues and has been pitching like an ace since mid-May. Over his last eight starts, the 28-year-old right-hander owns a stellar 1.87 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 68/5 K/BB ratio over 57 2/3 innings. This isn't the first time that he has flashed this type of ability, as he was a difference maker in mixed leagues during his fantastic 2014 campaign as well. It's extremely difficult to find high-end starting pitching help on the waiver wire, especially with the huge strikeout upside that Shoemaker possesses.
Drew Silva: I'll add another pitcher to the mix, but in my case it's a reliever: Adam Ottavino of the Rockies. He has yielded just one hit over five scoreless appearances since returning from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in early July, and he got two big outs in a high-leverage situation Monday night against the Rays. Ottavino was on a great run last year before going under the knife -- he had racked up three saves over 10 1/3 scoreless innings as the Rockies' closer -- and I think the organization is ready to give him more and more responsibility. That doesn't necessarily mean an immediate return to the ninth-inning gig, but Carlos Estevez is not a big hurdle. It's going to happen at some point in the second half.