I trust you all had a happy and healthy Fourth of July chock full of family, friends, barbecue, fireworks and of course, baseball. Believe it or not, the 2012 season has already reached its midpoint. Sigh. And it feels like just yesterday we were getting up extra early to watch the Opening Series in Japan between the Athletics and Mariners.
Anyway, with the All-Star break right around the corner, I figured this was a good time to hand out a couple first half superlatives.
First Half Waiver Wire Position Player MVP
Mike Trout OF, Angels - I had higher expectations for Trout than Bryce Harper for this season, but I certainly didn't see this coming. The 20-year-old phenom currently leads the American League with a .343 batting average to go along with 10 homers, 15 doubles, three triples, 36 RBI, 52 runs scored and a .950 OPS in 60 games. His 23 stolen bases also lead the American League. It's still early, but the South Jersey native has a chance to be the first player since Ichiro Suzuki (2001) to win the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the very same season. Not bad for someone who went undrafted in most standard mixed leagues.
Also of note: Carlos Ruiz C, Phillies; Josh Reddick OF, Athletics; Alejandro De Aza OF, White Sox; Aaron Hill 2B, Diamondbacks; Jose Altuve 2B, Astros; A.J. Pierzynski C, White Sox; Rafael Furcal SS, Cardinals; Angel Pagan OF, Giants; Chase Headley 3B, Padres; Trevor Plouffe, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Twins
First Half Waiver Wire Cy Young
R.A. Dickey SP, Mets - Who else? When I recommended Dickey in Waiver Wired back on April 26, he was owned in just 24 percent of Y! leagues and 8.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Of course, the 37-year-old knuckleballer has gone on an incredible run since then, posting a microscopic 1.52 ERA over his last 12 starts. He's averaging 9.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 this season while his 12 wins lead the majors. From the waiver wire to the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game? Maybe.
Also of note: James McDonald SP, Pirates; Fernando Rodney RP, Rays; Chris Capuano SP, Dodgers; Wade Miley SP, Diamondbacks, Ernesto Frieri RP, Angels; Kyle Lohse SP, Cardinals; Jason Hammel SP, Orioles; Lance Lynn SP/RP, Cardinals; Tyler Clippard RP, Nationals; Matt Harrison SP, Rangers
Yasmani Grandal C, Padres (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 4.7 percent)
Grandal's first stint in the big leagues didn't last very long, but it's safe to say he's up to stay now. The 23-year-old backstop was called up from the minors last Saturday following Nick Hundley's demotion and made history by becoming the first player to homer from each side of the plate for his first two career hits. He has slugged two more homers this week. Granted, those home runs might be tougher to come by once Grandal returns home to PETCO Park, but the 2010 first-round pick showed an ability to hit for average in the minors and owned a solid 136/100 K/BB ratio over 709 plate appearances. He's well worth a look in all formats.
Franklin Morales SP/RP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 37.8 percent)
Morales has really impressed since moving into Boston's starting rotation last month, allowing just four runs over 18 innings while striking out 24 and walking only three. This includes seven shutout innings against the Mariners in Safeco Field during his last start. Of course, things will get much tougher this weekend when the 26-year-old faces the Yankees during Saturday's doubleheader in Boston. I frankly wouldn't blame those who shy away from the tough matchup, but the hard-throwing southpaw has an excellent chance to keep a rotation spot even after Clay Buchholz returns from the disabled list.
Adam Lind 1B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 25 percent owned, ESPN: 23.8 percent)
Will Lind ever return to his 2009 form? Unlikely. But he does have three homers and seven RBI in nine games since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas late last month. The 28-year-old was moved up to fifth in the lineup for Wednesday's game and went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. And that would obviously be a really nice spot for him for fantasy purposes. It's important to note that Lind has a .175 batting average and a .488 OPS over 332 plate appearances against southpaws dating back to 2010, so he should strictly be used against right-handed pitchers. He's a more logical option in deeper leagues where you can make daily lineup changes.
Quintin Berry OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 29.7 percent)
Berry was a nice waiver wire find while Austin Jackson was on the disabled list, but his continued strong play has allowed him to stick around much longer than originally expected. The 27-year-old owns an impressive .295/.388/.394 batting line through 154 plate appearances and has 12 steals and 26 runs scored in 38 games. I still think regression is likely around the corner, as it will be impossible for him to sustain his .404 batting average on plays in play (BABIP) for the long haul, but he should continue to play pretty regularly in left field until Andy Dirks returns or the Tigers make an addition before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He's a fine option if you're looking for speed.
Clayton Richard SP, Padres (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 21 percent)
Richard has shown no ill effects following season-ending shoulder surgery last year, posting a 3.64 ERA and 66/28 K/BB ratio over 113 2/3 innings so far this season. This includes a stingy 1.70 ERA over his last five starts. While he has enjoyed more success at home (2.91 ERA) than on the road (4.14 ERA) this season, four out of those five starts were away from PETCO Park. Richard will wrap up the first half Friday with a start against the Reds at home, so he makes for a pretty nice streaming option in most formats.
Tommy Milone SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 21.3 percent)
Milone has been absolute money at home this season, going 5-1 with a ridiculous 0.99 ERA over six starts. Away from O.co Coliseum? Well, that's a different story. The 25-year-old southpaw has a 5.98 ERA in 10 starts. And that's including his recent solid efforts in Texas and Seattle. Fortunately Milone returns home Friday to take on the Mariners, who have the worst offense in the American League. If you're looking for a streaming option this weekend, this is a pretty easy call.
Juan Pierre OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 29.6 percent)
Fine, I'll admit it, Pierre has actually been pretty useful in fantasy leagues this season. The 34-year-old slap-hitter is hitting .322 through 70 games, his highest batting average since he batted .326 with the Marlins way back in 2004. Sure, only 10 of his 73 hits have been for extra bases, but he has made up for it by going 20-for-23 in stolen base attempts. Only Mike Trout, Michael Bourn, Tony Campana and Dee Gordon have swiped more bags. The composition of the Phillies' lineup will change a bit once Ryan Howard returns from the disabled list, but the left-handed hitting Pierre should still get most of the at-bats in left field even if he ends up in a strict platoon with the right-handed hitting John Mayberry, Jr.
Erick Aybar SS, Angels (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 36.9 percent)
I mentioned Aybar in Waiver Wired way back on the morning of May 17 when he was hitting just .190 over his first 35 games. Sure enough, he has turned things around pretty dramatically since then, hitting .327 over his last 43 games and .436 (24-for-55) over his last 15 contests. The 28-year-old shortstop has been very quiet on the basepaths this season (5-for-7 in stolen base attempts) and he isn't nearly as valuable hitting in the bottom-third of the order as opposed to the leadoff spot, but he can still help most mixed league rosters.
Garrett Jones 1B/OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 10.5 percent)
Jones is currently enjoying his most productive season since his surprising 2009 campaign. The 31-year-old is hitting .275 with 12 homers, 36 RBI and an .825 OPS through 67 games while splitting playing time between first base and right field. His walk rate has completely disappeared and his strikeout rate is up, so there are some warning signs, but he should continue to get pretty regular playing time now that Jose Tabata is in the minors. Just remember that his struggles against left-handers (.595 career OPS) render him as a platoon option in fantasy leagues.
Wilin Rosario C, Rockies (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 20.5 percent)
I mentioned Rosario in Waiver Wired back on May 31 just when Ramon Hernandez was placed on the disabled list with a hand injury. The rookie backstop has run away with the opportunity at regular playing time by batting .267 with seven homers, four doubles, 18 RBI and an .842 OPS over his past 24 games. He's currently third among fantasy catchers with 14 home runs, despite logging only 182 plate appearances. Rosario has only walked just 10 times over 250 plate appearances in the majors and strikes out too much to hit for a high batting average, so his flaws are obvious, but he has shown enough in a limited sample to warrant the bulk of the playing time behind the plate once Hernandez returns after the All-Star break.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Jim Thome UTIL, Orioles (Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 2.2 percent)
The Phillies did Thome a solid last weekend by trading him to the Orioles. While the future Hall of Famer was headed toward irrelevancy as a bench player in Philadelphia, semi-regular at-bats in Baltimore should put him back on the radar in deeper mixed leagues. The 41-year-old slugger is a bit of a tough sell since he only qualifies out of the utility spot and has a chronic back condition, but his recent nine-game stretch during interleague play (12-for-36 with four homers, two doubles, 14 RBI, four walks and a 1.137 OPS) shows that he probably isn't done mashing those taters. Power-starved owners could do a lot worse.
Tyler Colvin 1B/OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 9 percent owned, ESPN: 7.6 percent)
It's about time we start paying more attention to this guy. Colvin has been very productive as a part-time player with the Rockies this season, hitting .302/.331/.599 with 10 homers, 35 RBI and a .930 OPS through 61 games. Not surprisingly, he has enjoyed most of his success at home, amassing seven home runs and a 1.104 OPS. There's no clear path to regular playing time in the Rockies' outfield right now, but we could see more of Michael Cuddyer at first base in the days ahead, especially if Todd Helton's recent hip issue results in a trip to the disabled list.
Brett Anderson SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)
Here's a little bit of a bonus pick. Anderson is set to throw to hitters Friday for the first time since Tommy John surgery, which means he isn't far off from a minor league rehab assignment. The 24-year-old southpaw will likely need all of July to shake the rust against live competition, but he should join Oakland's rotation in August if all goes well. I like Anderson more for 2013 than I do this year, but he could surprise in deeper formats down the stretch. If you have an open DL spot and some roster flexibility, he makes for an intriguing stash.