The 2015 MLB All-Star Game has come and gone, so now we have two full days before the second half of the season begins. It's a long time, but we're going to make it through this together. I promise. In an attempt to tide us over, I decided to drop this column a day earlier than normal for this week. Scouring the waiver wire might not cure your boredom, but it could make a real difference in the standings. We might as well get a head start.
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Jim Johnson RP, Braves (Yahoo: 49 percent owned)
With Jason Grilli out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured left Achilles, Johnson is the no-brainer add of the week. After a nightmare 2014 with the Athletics and Tigers, the 32-year-old has bounced back with a 2.09 ERA over 44 appearances this season. As you might remember from his time with the Orioles, Johnson isn't a big strikeout guy, but his control is much-improved from last year and his ground ball rate sits at 60 percent. Grilli would have been a natural trade candidate if he stayed healthy, so perhaps the Braves will consider dealing Johnson as well, but he's a must-own as long as he's getting saves here. Arodys Vizcaino (Yahoo: 3 percent owned) is worth keeping an eye on for the long-term.
Rougned Odor 2B, Rangers (Yahoo: 36 percent owned)
A preseason breakout pick for many, Odor struggled in a big way prior to a demotion in May, but he's been excellent since rejoining the Rangers last month. Through 23 games, the 21-year-old is batting .350 with nine extra-base hits (including three home runs), 15 RBI, and four stolen bases. Perhaps most encouraging, he has only struck out 10 times in 90 plate appearances. He had 25 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances prior to his demotion. I'm hoping for big things in the second half.
Adam Eaton OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)
Eaton didn't live up to expectations during the first half, but his production has been a bit obscured by a truly awful April. He's batting .262/.330/.423 with 22 extra-base hits (including six home runs), 18 RBI, four steals, and 39 runs scored over 62 games since the start of May, which are pretty useful numbers. There are some things I don't like about Eaton, namely that he isn't all that good at stealing bases and his plate discipline has taken a step back. However, he's still hitting leadoff for the White Sox (who can't be worse than they were during the first half) and possesses enough upside to be owned in most leagues.
Erasmo Ramirez SP/RP, Rays (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)
The Rays have had some bad luck on the injury front with their rotation, but Ramirez has turned out to be quite the find. Acquired from the Mariners for Mike Montgomery at the end of spring training, the 25-year-old has a 2.07 ERA dating back to April 19. Only Sonny Gray and Zack Greinke have a lower ERA (min. 70 IP) in the same timespan. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last eight starts. While Ramirez doesn't light up radar guns, he has good control and induces grounders while getting plenty of whiffs on his secondary pitches. He also calls a pitcher-friendly ballpark home. It's surprising he's still available in so many leagues.
Martin Prado 2B/3B/OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)
There was some speculation that Prado would come off the disabled list for the final game before the All-Star break, but he's now on track to be activated when the second half of the season begins on Friday. Sidelined since June 14 with a right shoulder sprain, the 31-year-old was batting .272/.311/.370 with four home runs and 24 RBI over 63 games prior to the injury. Those numbers admittedly aren't very exciting, but Prado is multi-position eligible and has a long track record of being useful. He's still a nice player to have around.
Kyle Gibson SP, Twins (Yahoo: 29 percent owned)
It's taken me a while, but I'm starting to become a believer in Gibson. The 27-year-old was the best starter on the surprising Twins during the first half, posting a 2.85 ERA over 18 starts. He has averaged just 6.2 K/9 along the way, but his strikeouts have been on the rise of late. The control is good and his ground ball rate is well above 50 percent, so there are some interesting ingredients here. He deserves more respect.
Kevin Siegrist RP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
After being used heavily in recent days and getting hit hard on Saturday and Sunday, Trevor Rosenthal was inactive for Tuesday's All-Star Game due to a sore throwing arm. He expects to be ready to go when the second half of the season begins on Friday, but after missing a few days last month with a "knot" in his biceps, stashing Siegrist as an insurance policy makes a lot of sense. After a rough 2014, the 25-year-old has been awesome this year, posting a 1.55 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 14 walks over 40 2/3 innings.
Kyle Schwarber C/OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)
Schwarber impressed during his first stint in the majors last month while the Cubs were playing in American League ballparks, but the Cubs have had him in Triple-A for the past couple of weeks in order to get him some more experience behind the plate. In an ideal world, the Cubs would probably prefer to keep him there for now, but the timeline could change if Miguel Montero's thumb injury lands him on the disabled list. The alternative would be to go with a combination of David Ross and Taylor Teagarden, but count me in for taking a chance on upside in deeper formats.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Rob Refsnyder 2B, Yankees (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
After making his major league debut over the weekend to play against a pair of left-handers against the Red Sox, Refsnyder is now expected to remain with the Yankees coming out of the All-Star break. Chances are he's not sticking around to sit on the bench, so look for him to get a shot as the regular second baseman and Stephen Drew to take on a part-time role. The 24-year-old Refsnyder is still a work in progress defensively, but he was hitting .290/.387/.413 with seven homers and 10 steals over 81 games in Triple-A prior to his call-up. He had just as many walks (44) as strikeouts (44), which is always nice to see. I'm playing in a number of deeper formats where the middle infielder spot is a revolving door for some teams, so keep him on your radar.
Jed Lowrie SS, Astros (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
Lowrie was off to a fantastic start at the plate prior before undergoing surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament in late April, but he's getting closer to rejoining the Astros. The latest word from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle is that he has yet to face live pitching, but he's taking flips and fielding grounders. As of now, the expectation is that he'll be ready by the end of the month or the early part of August. Of course, Carlos Correa has taken over at shortstop during his absence, but the Astros need some help in the corner infield spots. Lowrie could have some value as a highly-active utility man down the stretch.
Justin Bour 1B, Marlins (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
Bour mashed after his call-up in late April before struggling miserably in May, but he went into the All-Star break on a high note by amassing five home runs, six doubles, and 15 RBI over his final 17 games. The sample isn't as large as a lot of other players, but Bour currently ranks 10th in the majors in average exit velocity. He's sandwiched between Mike Trout and Prince Fielder and ahead of big names like Paul Goldschmidt and Josh Donaldson. That's a pretty nice place to be. With the Marlins out of the race, they have every reason to continue to give him regular at-bats. Keep in mind that Bour will likely sit against most left-handed starters, but he's worth a flier if you need some pop.
Jake Peavy SP, Giants (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
Fresh off missing two and a half months with a back injury, Peavy has allowed four runs (three earned) in 13 1/3 innings over his first two starts since coming off the disabled list. Granted, his 9/5 K/BB ratio in that time isn't all that impressive, but his velocity has been higher than where it was in April. The veteran right-hander was awesome after being traded to the Giants last July and more owners should be willing to see whether he can have another strong finish this year.
Brian Johnson SP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
With Clay Buchholz out indefinitely due to a flexor strain, the Red Sox are set to give Johnson an opportunity in their starting rotation. Ranked as the No. 82 prospect by Baseball America over the winter, the 24-year-old southpaw had a 2.73 ERA and 81/26 K/BB ratio in 85 2/3 innings this season with Triple-A Pawtucket. Armed with a four-pitch mix, the stuff isn't overpowering, but he has the potential to be a mid-rotation type in the long run. He's a fine pickup as long as expectations are kept in check. Navigating the AL East as a rookie isn't easy.
Tyler Saladino 3B, White Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
White Sox third basemen rank 29th in the majors with a .627 OPS, so the opportunity is there for the recently-promoted Saladino to make an impact in the second half. After seeing his 2014 season come to an end due to Tommy John surgery, the 25-year-old was batting .255/.332/.372 with four home runs, 29 RBI, and 25 stolen bases over 52 games with Triple-A Charlotte prior to his call-up. I'm not sure how much he'll hit, but the versatility and speed makes him interesting.
Luis Avilan RP, Braves (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
I mentioned Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino under the mixed league recommendations this week, but Avilan is another name to keep in mind for potential save chances during the second half. After a rough 2014 season, the 25-year-old southpaw has pitched much better this year while posting a 3.71 ERA and 29/8 K/BB ratio over 34 innings. While he was knocked around a bit the other day, it looks like he's going to take on an increased role with Jason Grilli out.
Peter O'Brien C, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
The Diamondbacks have given up on O'Brien as a catcher, but he could make his major league debut as an outfielder at some point during the second half. Acquired from the Yankees last July in the Martin Prado deal, the 24-year-old is batting .277/.319/.503 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI over 84 games this season with Triple-A Reno. A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas aren't going anywhere, so playing time could be tricky assuming David Peralta and Ender Inciarte stay put, but the power and catcher-eligibility makes him worth a stash just in case.