Have no fear, the extra-long All-Star break is almost over. While going four days without watching your favorite team can be pretty tough after you've been in a routine for the previous three months, this week provides an excellent opportunity to take an honest look at your fantasy squad and evaluate your chances of success moving forward.
Maybe you can still make a run if you can catch up in stolen bases or find some saves. Or maybe a few home runs or strikeouts could put your team into first place. Perhaps you are in a keeper league and have realized it's time to cash in your chips on this season and focus on buying low on undervalued assets. Folks scan the waiver wire for all sorts of reasons and I'm here to help make some suggestions. I'll continue have my share of misses along the way (my apologies about Jose Tabata and Hector Noesi), but hopefully the good outweighs the bad.
Let's get ready for the second half.
Michael Fiers SP/RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 46.7 percent)
While the first half of the season didn't go according to plan for the Brewers, Fiers qualifies as a pleasant surprise. Called up due to injuries in the starting rotation, the 27-year-old right-hander has a 2.31 ERA and 50/9 K/BB ratio over his first 46 2/3 innings in the big leagues. Not too shabby for a guy who averages 88 mph on his fastball. Fiers owes some of his success to his deceptive overhand delivery, so the league may catch up to him eventually, but he's well worth using in mixed leagues until they do.
Cameron Maybin OF, Padres (Yahoo: 45 percent owned, ESPN: 45.5 percent)
One of the biggest disappointments of the first half, Maybin is hitting just .212 with four homers, 24 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .596 OPS through 80 games. His struggles have found him dropped to the seventh spot in the batting order in recent weeks. And don't blame PETCO Park, as he's actually been better at home (.237 batting average, .689 OPS) than on the road (.184 batting average, .488 OPS). While things look pretty rough right now, Maybin is actually making contact at a career-high rate of 79.3 percent. Should he get a little better luck on balls in play, not impossible given his speed and career BABIP, he should find himself back near the top of the Padres' lineup and the stolen bases and runs scored should follow.
Jonathan Lucroy C, Brewers (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 11.7 percent)
Lucroy was looking like a top-10 fantasy catcher through the first two months of the season, but everything came to a screeching half in late May after he required surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand. The good news is that he began taking some dry swings late last week and has tentatively set July 20 as his goal date to return from the disabled list. That may be overly optimistic, as Lucroy may need a few extra days to get ready, but he should still be a useful catcher in most formats during the second half. Go ahead and stash him away in a DL-spot.
Mike Leake SP, Reds (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 10.1 percent)
Leake had a 7.11 ERA over his first six starts of the season, but he has turned things around in dramatic fashion since, posting an outstanding 2.55 ERA and 51/11 K/BB ratio in 67 innings across 10 starts. His recent run of success includes nine starts of three earned runs or less and seven of at least seven innings pitched. Leake isn't going to strike out a ton of batters (6.14 K/9), but he throws strikes (2.03 BB/9 since 2011) and has a career ground ball rate approaching 50 percent. The 24-year-old right-hander makes for a fine staff anchor in most formats.
Jhonny Peralta SS, Tigers (Yahoo: 43 percent owned, ESPN: 44.2 percent)
Coming off his most productive offensive season since 2008, Peralta is hitting just .260 with five homers, 27 RBI and a .728 OPS through 77 games this year. While he's actually hitting line drives at a career-high rate, his fly ball rate has tumbled from 44.2 percent last year to just 32.4 percent this season, his lowest since 2009. He'll need to hit more fly balls to provide the power fantasy owners expected from him on draft day, but those hungry for offense from the shortstop position can afford to take the risk.
Delmon Young OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 33.8 percent)
While Young would probably like to forget everything that happened during the first half of the season, both on and off the field, he at least finished things off on a high note by homering in four straight games going into the All-Star break. He's actually hitting .279 with nine homers and 32 RBI in 60 games since returning from the restricted list on May 5. Not terrible. You know, as long as you can overlook his complete inability to draw walks and his underwhelming production against right-handed pitching (.653 OPS this season). Chances are he'll continue to frustrate the heck out of us, but he should still be owned outside of shallow leagues.
Justin Ruggiano OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 45.5 percent)
Through 96 plate appearances, Ruggiano is hitting .390/.457/.756 with six homers, 17 RBI, three stolen bases and a 1.214 OPS. Where the heck did this come from? We're talking about a guy with an unsustainable .448 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and a home run-to-fly ball rate of 25 percent, so it's fair to chalk this up to the small sample size. Then again, the 30-year-old has shown some pop and speed in the minor leagues, so there's a chance he could remain helpful even after regression comes calling. While Emilio Bonifacio is expected to take back center field this weekend, Ruggiano should see most of the playing time in right field as Giancarlo Stanton recovers from knee surgery. I wouldn't drop anyone important for him in a shallow league, but he should be owned in all five-outfielder formats.
Doug Fister SP, Tigers (Yahoo: 49 percent owned, ESPN: 48.6 percent)
It's been pretty tough to get a read on Fister this season, as he owns a 4.75 ERA in 11 starts in between two stints of the disabled list with a strained side. While the 28-year-old right-hander is walking a few more hitters this year (2.23 BB/9 as compared to 1.54 BB/9 last year), he has improved both his strikeout and ground ball rates. The big bugaboo has been the home run ball, as he has already served up eight in 60 2/3 innings after allowing only 11 in 216 1/3 innings last year. However, his 3.45 xFIP is pretty intriguing and hints at better days ahead during the second half.
Elliot Johnson 2B/SS, Rays (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 9.7 percent)
Johnson has been pretty useful in fantasy leagues this season by batting .275 with four homers, 15 stolen bases and a .726 OPS through 73 games. Believe it or not, he's eighth among major league shortstops (with at least 200 plate appearances) in wOBA (weighted on-base average), ahead of high-profile names like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal and Starlin Castro. While this I have my doubts about his ability to maintain his .353 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over the long haul, Johnson should continue to be an asset as long as he steals bases.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Wil Myers C/OF, Royals (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 0.4 percent)
The Royals' outfield will get a bit more crowded this week, as Lorenzo Cain is coming off the disabled list and should take the starting center field job back in short order. This means the best chance for Myers to get into the lineup is if the Royals find a taker for Jeff Francoeur before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. While a deal looks unlikely right now, those in deeper formats would do well to stash Myers just in case. Widely regarded as one of the top hitting prospects in the minors, the 21-year-old has 27 home runs and a 1.079 OPS in 83 games this season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. The catcher eligibility could make him quite a find down the stretch.
Greg Holland RP, Royals (Yahoo: 9 percent owned, ESPN: 1.1 percent)
Jonathan Broxton is likely to be dealt to a contender before the trade deadline, so it's time to look ahead at some potential replacements for the closer gig. Holland's walk rate has doubled this season, but he is throwing harder than ever and has struck out 44 batters over 29 2/3 innings. He may see some better luck once his unusually high .425 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) evens out. Ned Yost could also turn to Aaron Crow, Tim Collins or Kelvin Herrera, but my money is on Holland getting the nod.
Mark Ellis 2B, Dodgers (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 1.7 percent)
Ellis was off to a nice start as the Dodgers' No. 2 hitter this season until Cardinals' infielder Tyler Greene took him out during a play at second base on May 18. The 35-year-old ended up needing emergency surgery on his leg and also suffered some damage to the MCL in his knee. Fortunately he made a quick recovery and rejoined the Dodgers' starting lineup earlier this month. Ellis isn't going to wow you in any one category, but his modest power-speed combo fits the bill for a MI (middle infielder) option and he should score plenty of runs if he maintains his career-high walk rate.
Juan Carlos Oviedo RP, Marlins (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent)
Heath Bell has been a complete disaster in the first year of a three-year, $27 million contract with the Marlins, posting a 6.75 ERA and 32/20 K/BB ratio over 34 2/3 innings while blowing six saves in 25 chances. With time running out for the Marlins to make a playoff run, manager Ozzie Guillen announced this week that he will implement a closer-by-committee approach coming out of the All-Star break. Steve Cishek (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 4.2 percent) is the one to own in the short-term, but Oviedo should be back from his eight-week suspension on July 23. Don't forget that he saved 92 games for the club from 2009-2011.