Welcome to the second half! Players (and fantasy owners) have had 3-4 days to reset, with more than 1,000 games still in front of us.
That’s an important point to remember, no matter how your season has gone thus far. If your team is in first place or in the cellar, there is a lot of time left to make a move. It’s not too late to get better.
Some players would like to turn the page on their first half, and defending AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell is among them. After going 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA last season, the hard-throwing lefty was just 5-7 with a 4.70 ERA in the first half.
Snell’s season has been frustrating, starting with a toe injury that he suffered in mid-April. Before the injury, he looked like his 2018 self with a 2.16 ERA and 36/4 K/BB in 25 innings. Since then he has a 5.68 ERA and 86/27 K/BB in 65 innings. He’s also been incredibly unlucky in that time, with a .381 BABIP, an unbelievable 140 points higher than last season.
Snell had an absolutely atrocious month of June with 25 earned runs allowed in 23.1 innings, including one visit to Yankee Stadium on June 19 when he recorded one out while allowing six earned runs. Snell followed up that performance by allowing seven earned runs in 3.1 innings at Minnesota.
Fortunately, Snell started to turn the page in his final two starts before the break. The lefty fanned 12 batters while allowing two runs in six innings vs. Texas, and then allowed one run in five innings against the Yankees. His ERA metrics also suggest much better days ahead, with a 3.44 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, and 3.45 SIERA through the first half, and Snell has the fourth best K/9 (12.2) in MLB. The good signs don’t end there, as Tampa Bay also has the second easiest remaining schedule in MLB.
All of these indicators should provide Snell owners reason to have a cup-half-full attitude entering the second half. Hopefully, the baseball gods will be a bit nicer to Snell down the stretch.
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-Washington closed out the first half of the season well, and Anibal Sanchez was quietly one of the reasons. After lowering his ERA by nearly four runs from 2017 to 2018, he’s continued to pitch well this season, particularly over the last month-plus. Since May 29, Sanchez is 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 34/8 K/BB in 41.1 innings. His favorable schedule during that period has helped, with two starts against the White Sox, one start at Detroit, and one start vs. Miami, as has his fortunate .224 BABIP. Still, patient fantasy owners have been rewarded, and Sanchez has a chance to keep the momentum going with a start at Baltimore included in his upcoming two-start week.
-Martin Perez has been an asset for fantasy owners this season, albeit with some inconsistency. The lefty has seen his strikeout rate pick up with his velocity increase, and his 0.7 HR/9 is the best in the AL. That said, Perez owners have reason to be concerned about the recent reported interest for the Twins acquiring a starting pitcher such as Madison Bumgarner, as such a move would likely boot Perez from the starting rotation. Perez has clearly been the team’s worst starter since late May, with a 6.32 ERA over his last seven starts.
-Joe Musgrove was a popular sleeper coming into the year, and is starting to flex his muscle. Since June 5, he has a 3.38 ERA and elite 32/4 K/BB in 34.2 innings. It’s even more impressive considering his brutal schedule during that period, facing Atlanta x3, San Diego, Houston, the Cubs, and Milwaukee. Pittsburgh’s schedule doesn’t let up much the rest of the way, but Musgrove’s recent performance shows we shouldn’t be overly concerned.
-Alex Young has likely garnered some pickup consideration in fantasy leagues after his first three MLB outings, allowing only one run in 13.1 innings, but there’s reason to be skeptical. We should take his 6.26 ERA at Triple-A with a grain of salt given that it was at hitter-friendly Reno, but more concerning is Young’s career 7.5 K/9 in the minors and sub-90 mph average fastball velocity. Young has made heavy use of his slider, throwing it more than 32 percent of the time, which likely explains why he was getting more whiffs earlier this year, but his mediocre career minor league track record (4.34 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 2.33 K/BB) shows a pitcher who can survive on smoke and mirrors for only so long. Using him in his upcoming two-start week vs. elite offenses in Texas and Milwaukee is an enormous risk.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, July 12, and are subject to change.
At Your Own Risk
Daniel Norris: @CLE, TOR
Trent Thornton: @BOS, @DET
Jakob Junis: CHW, @CLE
Dylan Cease: @KC, @TB
Zach Plesac: DET, KC
Adam Plutko: DET, KC
Glenn Sparkman: CHW, @CLE
Gregory Soto: @CLE, TOR
Tanner Anderson: SEA, @MIN
Sean Reid-Foley: @BOS, @DET
Kyle Hendricks: CIN, SD
Joe Musgrove: @STL, PHI
Anibal Sanchez: @BAL, @ATL
Eric Lauer: @MIA, @CHC
Jack Flaherty: PIT, @CIN
Max Fried: @MIL, WAS
German Marquez: SF, @NYY
Anthony DeSclafani: @CHC, STL
Zack Wheeler: @MIN, @SF
Trevor Richards: SD, @LAD
At Your Own Risk
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Thursday, July 18: Brad Keller vs. CHW
Keller has been inconsistent this season, but he faces a Tim Anderson-less White Sox squad next week. The White Sox rank 23rd in OPS vs. right-handers this season, and most of that was with Anderson.
Thursday, July 18: J.A. Happ vs. TB
The ship has sailed on Happ in shallow mixed leagues due to his 20 home runs allowed in the first half, but he’s a viable matchup play against a Rays lineup that hasn’t hit southpaws well, ranking 22nd in OPS. The lefty has also fared well against them over his last two starts.
Friday, July 19: Homer Bailey @ CLE
Bailey has a 2.83 ERA over his last six starts, including a solid outing on July 4 vs. Cleveland. The Indians rank 15th in OPS against right-handers.
Tuesday, July 16: Dario Agrazal @ STL
Agrazal has fared well in the majors through three starts, and gets an underachieving Cardinals lineup that ranks 24th in OPS against right-handers.
Wednesday, July 17: Austin Voth @ BAL
Voth has taken his lumps in three starts this season, but gets a favorable matchup at Baltimore. The soft-tosser should be able to exploit an O’s team that has just a .700 OPS against right-handers, fourth worst in MLB.
Thursday, July 18: Jason Vargas @ SF
Vargas has been a viable five-inning specialist for the Mets this season, and will get one of his easiest assignments of the year vs. the Giants, who have the second worst OPS in MLB against lefties (.668).
5: BAL, SEA, TEX
6: MIN, OAK
7: BOS, CLE, CHW, DET, HOU, KC, LAA, NYY, TB, TOR
6: ARI, CHC, MIA, NYM, PIT, SD, WAS
7: ATL, CIN, COL, LAD, MIL, PHI, STL
Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.
Jose Alvarado: Out 6-8 weeks (oblique)
Steven Brault: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Alex Bregman: Day-to-day (chin)
C.J. Cron: Placed on IL (thumb)
JaCoby Jones: Placed on IL (back)
Jonathan Lucroy: Out indefinitely (head)
Yadier Molina: Out three weeks (thumb)
David Peralta: Placed on IL (shoulder)