With the All-Star break right around the corner, we have reached the point in the schedule where every team is more than halfway through the season. Hopefully you are off to a strong start in your respective league(s), but if not, there's still time to make a push. The season is a long slog and diligence is the biggest key finding your name at the top of the standings at the end of the year. With this week's column, I tried to put a strong focus on a combination of widely-available names and upside plays for the second half. Good luck out there and enjoy the All-Star break.
(Just a quick note that next week's column will come out on Wednesday)
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
Mat Latos SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)
Latos' season got off to a nightmare start and he struggled to the tune of a 6.12 ERA over nine outings prior to landing on the disabled list with left knee inflammation, but he's been a different pitcher since his return last month. Over five starts, the 27-year-old has a 3.31 ERA and 31/8 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. There's something tangible to this recent run of success, as his velocity is higher than where it was earlier this season and even last year. Who knows if he can maintain it, but it's encouraging to see. Chances are we'll see him traded to a contender by the end of the month. He should be owned in most leagues right now.
Ken Giles RP, Phillies (Yahoo: 37 percent owned)
Jonathan Papelbon was named to the National League All-Star team this week, but it's clear that his days in Philadelphia are nearing an end. He has made no secret of the fact that he'd like to be traded to a contender. Teams like the Blue Jays and Cubs are obvious fits, so it's time to pick up Papelbon's potential replacement if you haven't already. Giles' velocity was down a bit to begin the season, but it has bounced back quite nicely and he's been pretty much lights out since a rough patch from mid-to-late May. There might not be a ton of save chances here in the second half, but he needs to be owned.
Andrew Heaney SP, Angels (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)
Jered Weaver is due to return from left hip inflammation after the All-Star break, but Heaney is making a strong case to remain in the Angels' rotation. Through his first three starts, the 24-year-old has a 1.77 ERA with 17 strikeouts and just three walks over 20 1/3 innings. I considered Heaney as a wait-and-see option after mixed results in Triple-A this year, but the Pacific Coast League can make it difficult to evaluate pitchers in the first place. The Angels have fixed his mechanics and he's throwing harder than he was with the Marlins last year. Matt Shoemaker is most vulnerable to lose his spot when Weaver returns, but it's no sure thing. Still, Heaney has the potential to make a big impact during the second half.
Nick Castellanos 3B, Tigers (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)
I saw Castellanos as a potential breakout player coming into this season, but he really struggled out of the gate and lost some playing time to Andrew Romine last month. It looked like a demotion was a real possibility for a little while, but Castellanos has turned things around in a hurry by batting .364 with six extra-base hits (including two home runs), 12 RBI, and six runs scored over his last 14 games. The 23-year-old has hit safely in each of his last eight games. His plate discipline is still a work in progress, so I'm not sure the switch has flipped completely, but he's worth another look if you need a corner infielder.
Kevin Gausman SP, Orioles (Yahoo: 11 percent owned)
Gausman was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after being blasted for eight runs (seven earned) over 3 2/3 innings against the Twins on Tuesday. I get why he was dropped in a bunch of leagues, but don't look too much into the roster move, as he's expected to make a start in minors during the All-Star break before rejoining the Orioles' rotation in the second half. The struggling Bud Norris was recently moved to the bullpen, so Gausman should get an extended opportunity. If you're looking for upside, he's one of the top widely-available options.
Joe Smith RP, Angels (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
Huston Street tweaked his left groin during the final batter of Wednesday's game against the Rockies and while he doesn't think it's serious enough to end him to the disabled list, he could miss the four-game series against the Mariners leading into the All-Star break. With that in mind, Smith makes for a logical stash. The 31-year-old saved 15 games for the Angels last season and has a 2.72 ERA and 32/9 K/BB ratio over 36 1/3 innings so far in 2015.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Preston Tucker OF, Astros (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
George Springer is expected to be sidelined until at least mid-August with a right wrist fracture, so Tucker should serve as the Astros' primary right fielder for now. The 25-year-old saw his production take a big dip in June after a hot start to his major league career in May, but he's had a nice series against the Indians this week and has been hitting second in Houston's order. He could pay off nicely.
Michael Morse 1B/OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
I was a little concerned about where Morse would fit in with the Marlins after Justin Bour's power exploits last week, but Marcell Ozuna's demotion has cleared a spot in the outfield. That's not going to be pretty from a defensive perspective, but Morse is capable of being a useful bat during the second half. The 33-year-old was a big disappointment prior to landing on the DL in May, but his finger injury provided some context for his struggles. Remember that he had 16 homers and an .811 OPS with the Giants last year.
Juan Uribe 3B, Braves (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
Uribe had a diminished role during his final days with the Dodgers, but he has played really well since being traded to the Braves in late May, batting .304 with six home runs and an .853 OPS over 37 games. He's been the team's No. 5 hitter for most of it. The 36-year-old hit .295/.334/.439 from 2013-2014, so while the power likely won't continue at this pace, he has a track record for being useful. At the very least, it makes sense to pick him up for the team's series at Coors Field this weekend.
Aaron Nola SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
After the Phillies dumped both Sean O'Sullivan and Kevin Correia off the 40-man roster this week, there was some speculation that Nola would be called up to make his major league debut Saturday against the Giants. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. quickly shot down that notion, as the club will go with David Buchanan instead, but it's clear that Nola's time isn't far off. The 22-year-old was polished coming out of LSU and has quickly moved up the organizational ladder by posting a 2.31 ERA with 128 strikeouts and just 24 walks over his first 155 2/3 innings in pro ball. This includes a 2.28 ERA over four starts since his recent promotion to Triple-A. Win potential could be limited with the Phillies this season, but I expect him to make his major league debut shortly after the All-Star break.
John Jaso C, Rays (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
Jaso was set to function as the Rays' primary designated hitter and leadoff man this season, but he suffered a bruised left wrist on Opening Day and ended up missing three months. Finally back to full health, the 31-year-old is capable of providing some sneaky value during the second half. Grady Sizemore and David DeJesus are also in the mix between the DH spot and left field, but Steven Souza's finger injury should make things a little easier in the short-term. Jaso is well worth a look in two-catcher leagues.
Nick Ahmed SS, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
Mostly known for his excellent defense at shortstop, Ahmed has quietly been a useful player since a rough first month. The 25-year-old is hitting .333 (22-for-66) with three homers, three doubles, nine RBI, and 10 runs scored over his last 18 games and has begun to see some starts out of the leadoff spot against left-handed pitchers. He's hitting .377 with a .965 OPS against southpaws this season. I'm not buying the power that much, but he plays half of his games in a great hitters' park and should be owned in more leagues.
Jarrod Dyson OF, Royals (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
This one is pretty simple. Alex Gordon was carted off the field Wednesday night with a Grade 2 groin strain which is expected to keep him out of action for eight weeks, so the Royals have a huge void in left field. They could look to the trade market for a fill-in option, but we'll see a combination of Dyson and Paulo Orlando in the short-term. The 30-year-old Dyson is a .258 career hitter and doesn't offer any pop, but he has stolen 130 bases in 395 major league games. He's an obvious pick-up if you need speed.
Editor's Note: We've reached the halfway point of the MLB season. Some players might have let you down every time you locked them into your FanDuel lineups, but others might be due for a bounce-back. See which players Dave "CheeseIsGood" Potts, the 2014 DFBC Champion, thinks will rebound in the second half in this RotoGrinders.com column "MLB DFS: Second Half Power Surges."
Paulo Orlando OF, Royals (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
I mentioned Jarrod Dyson under my mixed league recommendations for this week, but don't forget about Orlando, who should also see some time in left field with Alex Gordon out. And with Alex Rios continuing to struggle, he could even take some playing time away in right field. The Brazil native is batting just .242 with a .278 on-base percentage over his first 126 plate appearances in the majors, but he has some interesting tools.
Daniel Nava 1B/OF, Red Sox (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Nava has been sidelined since late May with a sprained left thumb, but he began a minor league rehab assignment last week and appears likely to rejoin the Red Sox in the coming days. The 32-year-old had a miserable .159/.250/.190 batting line prior to going on the disabled list, but it was a small sample and he has been a useful player in the past. With Mike Napoli scuffling, he could have some sneaky value in the second half. Stash him in leagues where he was dropped.
Felix Doubront SP/RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Doubront was great in his first start for the Blue Jays on Tuesday, holding the White Sox to one run over 6 2/3 innings while striking out six batters and walking just one. The 27-year-old had good numbers in Triple-A prior to the call-up and his velocity was higher Tuesday than what we saw during his last stints in the majors from 2013-2014. With MLB's best offense behind him, he's interesting. Give him a shot against the Alex Gordon-less Royals this weekend.
Tim Cooney SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Cooney has functioned well as a fill-in option in the Cardinals' rotation of late, allowing four runs (three earned) in 11 1/3 innings with a 9/3 K/BB ratio over his last two starts. The 24-year-old is slated to finish off the second half on Sunday in an NL Central battle against the Pirates. Pittsburgh ranks 20th in the majors with a .679 OPS against left-handed pitching, so the matchup shouldn't scare you too much.
Stephen Piscotty (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Mark Reynolds has struggled since replacing the injured Matt Adams as the regular first baseman, so the Cardinals called up 35-year-old Dan Johnson this week to see if he can provide some lightening in a bottle at the position. However, it might only be a matter of time before Piscotty gets an opportunity. The 24-year-old has been working out at first base in recent weeks and is soon expected to get his first game action at the position. He has an .833 OPS over 79 games this season in Triple-A, so there's reason to stash.