Major Leaguers have played more than five weeks of games since returning from the All-Star break, but the statistical trends from that period of time are sometimes clouded by the larger sample of work that came prior to the Midsummer Classic. This week, I will attempt to isolate some second-half stats that can help owners to make smart decisions with their lineups or waiver wire. There are also some useful tidbits for those who have a trade deadline looming at the end of this month.
.368 average – Ben Zobrist, Second baseman (Cubs): Zobrist is hitting .368 across 95 at-bats since the All-Star break, and just one player has produced a higher average while logging more at-bats. While the hot streak comes with an unsustainable .405 BABIP, the veteran utility man would still be faring quite well with normal batted-ball luck. Joe Maddon typically uses his bench players liberally, but Zobrist’s strong second-half numbers likely put him in position to play virtually every day in the coming weeks. After all, Chicago regulars Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Albert Almora Jr., and Ian Happ are all batting under .240 in the second half.
.333 average – Ian Kinsler, Second baseman (Red Sox): Kinsler endured awful batted-ball luck in the first half, but things have turned around of late. The second baseman has hit .333 in the second half, enjoying the fruits of a massive luck correction in the form of a .396 BABIP. His hot streak is coming at the right time, as he has ditched a mediocre Angels lineup and now hits in a Red Sox offense that leads the Majors in runs scored by a wide margin. By keeping a regular spot in Boston’s lineup, the veteran should continue to put up counting stats even when his good fortune wears off.
.341 average – Bryce Harper, Outfielder (Nationals): Don’t be fooled by Harper’s mediocre .249 average this season. The superstar has been on fire since the All-Star break, batting .341 while also drawing plenty of walks and logging an eye-popping 1.028 OPS. Harper ranks among the Major League leaders in the second half in homers, RBIs and runs scored, and he has even chipped in five swipes. Although the plodding Nats continue to sit around .500, the pending free agent is not part of their problem and is instead on course for a furious finish that could propel many fantasy teams to their league titles.
33 runs scored – Rougned Odor, Second baseman (Rangers): To put it mildly, Odor’s demise was greatly exaggerated. The youngster struggled mightily last season (.649 OPS), causing owners to gloss over the fact that he produced 30 homers and 15 steals. He also dealt with a hamstring injury in the first half of this year while posting an improved but still unremarkable .697 OPS. But everything changed in July, and the 24-year-old has slashed .326/.395/.645 while ranking first in baseball with 33 runs scored since the All-Star break. He has improved his walk rate in the second half, and the team has rewarded his patience by batting him second in their lineup. While Odor is not yet a safe source of batting average on a long-term basis, he is back to being a counting-stat monster.
12 steals – Adalberto Mondesi, Shortstop (Royals): To be clear, I do not believe that Mondesi has arrived as a Major League hitter. The youngster is hitting .256 in the second half, but his plate discipline has been awful, and he has benefited from a favorable BABIP. But there is no disputing that Mondesi can fly, as he leads the Majors with 12 second-half swipes. Sure, some batted-ball luck correction would have taken away a couple of those steals, but he would rank among the league leaders either way. Owners in shallow leagues who are looking for cheap speed should make sure Mondesi has already been plucked from their waiver wire.
Four steals – Starling Marte, Outfielder (Pirates): Marte’s fantasy profile is pretty straightforward; he is one of the fastest players in baseball and can hold his own in the non-steal categories. But since the All-Star break, the speedster has been disappointing all around. Sure, he has produced four homers, but his batting average has been bad (.248), his OBP has been worse (.295) and he has compiled just four steals. In fact, Marte has been caught stealing in the second half more often (six times) than he has been successful. While most owners will have no choice but to wait out this cold spell, those with other steals sources could attempt to move Marte prior to their deadline.
51 strikeouts – Yoan Moncada, Second baseman (White Sox): Just one Major Leaguer has struck out more often than Moncada (51 times) in the second half. The frequent whiffs have heavily contributed to a lowly .171 average, and even with a strong walk rate his second-half OBP is a dismal .280. Moncada has collected just 10 RBIs since the Midsummer Classic, and his contributions in homers (four) and steals (two) are nothing to write home about. While he still has long-term potential and could be a buy-low option next spring, Moncada shouldn’t be used in mixed leagues right now.
30 walks – Aaron Hicks, Outfielder (Yankees): Hicks is showing some serious plate skills in the second half, compiling a Major League-leading 30 walks, which has contributed to a lofty .418 OBP. In fact, the center fielder is one of the few qualified players to produce more walks than whiffs since the All-Star break. His other numbers are unlikely to attract major attention (five homers, 17 RBIs, two steals), but Hicks is poised to provide steady value as long as he is managing the strike zone at such an elite level. He is definitely someone who shallow-league owners can count on down the stretch.
2.1 BB:K ratio – Jose Ramirez, Third baseman (Indians): A BB:K ratio of 1.0 is remarkable, and a mark of 2.0 is obscene. Frankly, I don’t have a word to describe a player who can keep his BB:K ratio higher than 2.0 across an extended period of time. Ramirez is absolutely dominating opposing hurlers in the second half, and he has also provided eye-popping fantasy production by compiling eight homers and eight steals. When owners are preparing for their 2019 drafts, they will need to consider the infielder’s remarkable control over the strike zone before automatically slotting him behind the likes of Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.
.994 OPS – Mallex Smith, Outfielder (Rays): Smith is one of just four players to post a double-digit steals total in the second half, which should not come as much of a surprise to fantasy owners. But the speedster’s work at the dish is definitely surprising, as he has hit .368 while compiling nearly as many walks (14) as whiffs (17). Smith isn’t just smacking singles, he leads the Majors in second-half triples (four) and has also collected eight doubles. As he continues to evolve into a complete offense player, the 25-year-old should be valuable in September and coveted in 2019 drafts.