Years ago, before analytics and baseball became acquainted, many analysts focused on first-half and second-half stats. For many good reasons that are too lengthy to go into here, this type of analysis has become dated and isn’t used in any type of serious study.
However, the All-Star break is still a good time in fantasy to take a step back, look at some poor first-half performers, and figure out who is due for a bounce back in the second half. Rather than analyze the types of players who “traditionally” hit well post-All-Star break, this is a look at players who either will slip or won’t bounce back despite a slow first half.
Catcher – Russell Martin
When Martin signed that $82 million, five-year deal with Toronto in the winter of 2014/2015, everyone assumed that there would be a point during the contract where it would turn into a sunk cost for the Jays. With two and a half-years to go, that point may have come this year. Martin has already had one DL-stint, and has missed some time here and there due to nagging injuries. He is putting up his lowest ISO since his Dodger years, and while there is still some room for improvement due to a low BABIP, at the age of 34 it is possible that the power doesn’t come back. Last winter’s exodus of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista has sapped the few run/RBI opportunities that Martin was getting. He is beginning to look irrelevant in one-catcher leagues; it is past time to look for a better option out on the wire in mixed formats.
First Base – Albert Pujols
See a pattern here? (Yes, it’s age/long contracts). Pujols’ chase for 50 home runs in 2015 excited us nearly all summer, but after suffering a broken wrist in August 2016, the power simply hasn’t come back for the future-Hall-of-Famer. He is also slowing down in the field, which doesn’t matter for the purposes of our game, but Albert seems to be one of those players who doesn’t look as comfortable at the plate when he is at DH as he does when he is on the field. Nine home runs isn’t a complete wipe-out, but it is far worse than his Top 75 ADP this past March would have led you to expect. It’s impossible to count Albert out entirely, but unless you’re in an AL-only, it is time to start considering a replacement.
Second Base – Jose Peraza
I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong on this guy (and not just this year, but last year as well when I pooh-poohed his Rookie of the Year chances), but even for a speed player there comes a point where so much weak contact puts a ceiling on what you can earn in fantasy. The steals are going to be there, but 15-20 steals for the rest of the season is a more realistic target than expecting Peraza to put up another 32 Post All-Star. This is a common refrain with speed-oriented players. We have seen it before with Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon, and now we are seeing it with Peraza. He’s going to be a solid option in the majors for years for the Braves – and a killer in Roto – but don’t overpay for him because of his first half.
Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta
You can’t complain about what the Cardinals got out of Peralta’s contract in the aggregate, but in 2017 he has been a significant flop thus far. A hamstring injury has kept Peralta out of the lineup on-and-off for most of the year, but the bigger problem is that it appears that age is catching up with Peralta in a hurry. While he should improve on his three home runs in the first half, the drop in ISO combined with batted ball distance is consistent with a middle infielder with Peralta’s power history and age profile. Someone is going to buy in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only formats, but don’t let that someone be you.
Third Base – Kyle Seager
Just when it seemed like Seager was going to be a perpetual 20-30 home run guy, all of the sudden the power cratered in a big way. Seager enters the All-Star Break with seven homeruns, 42 RBI, and a .293 batting average. That isn’t bad for the hot corner, but if you paid $25-30 for him in an auction league or drafted him in the second round this spring in a draft format, you’re missing that power. The culprit is obvious: a ground ball rate that has spiked for the last three years and is up to 42% this year. There could be some improvement Post All-Star, but as long as Seager is pounding the ball on the ground at this rate, betting on a power revitalization is a bad bet.
Left Field – Chris Coghlan
Multiple injuries opened the door for Coghlan in Los Angeles, and the Angels have gotten more out of him than they generally get out of their high-priced free agent acquisitions. Coghlan’s 10 home runs and seven steals make it seem plausible that he can put up a 20/15 season, but it is a poor bet based on his prior track record. It is about to get crowded in the Angels' outfield again, and Coghlan is a better bet as a part-timer than as an everyday player in any event. He’s a fine player in deep mixed, but if you are hoping for a repeat of his first half, you are likely to be sorely disappointed.
Center Field – Charlie Blackmon
I have been singing Blackmon’s praises for years, but a leg injury has limited him to six stolen bases to this point. That isn’t going to get it done for a player who gets most of his value from his base running, particularly when he isn’t playing in Coors. Blackmon isn’t getting injured quite as much as his former teammate Carlos Gonzalez used to before Gonzalez was shipped off to the Yankees, but Blackmon still could only be a 110-120 game player in 2017. Even if Blackmon is on the field right after the All-Star Break, it seems unlikely he is going to run. Add in the fact that the Rockies only have 35 games at home the rest of the way and it puts a significant damper on Blackmon’s value.
Right Field – Curtis Granderson
It is tempting to say “buy” on Grandy, as Granderson is in his walk year and he has certainly put together some hot streaks in the past. But he seems to have mid-30s Mets syndrome, where he looks completely done. The bat speed is extremely slow and the batted ball distance has dropped a good 12 feet from 2016 to 2017. Maybe there is one last burst in Granderson’s bat, but I wouldn’t even buy in an only league at this point in the hopes that it is there.
Starting Pitcher – Mark Buehrle
In 2015, Buehrle said he’d retire at the end of the season, but he surprised everyone by signing a two-year deal with San Francisco. The park has certainly helped him – particularly this year – but we have seen this movie before. Buehrle puts together streaks where he manages to put up a sub-3 ERA and is somewhat effective. This is mostly irrelevant in non-NL-only leagues in any event. The strikeout rate is too low to make him playable anywhere else, and if you are streaming him even in a deep mixed—even because of the park—heaven help you. You shouldn’t have to be told this if you’re a subscriber at this website, but Buehrle’s ownership percentages are in the 40s right now, which is simply asinine given the horrible fall off of the cliff that is almost inevitably coming.
Relief Pitcher – David Robertson
It’s hard to believe that such a once-solid closer could see such a precipitous fall, but that is what happened with Robertson. The strikeouts are still there, but he has completely lost his control, and more often than not brings back horrible memories of Carlos Marmol. It only seems like a matter of time before the Sox yank him from the role, and while a contract that runs through 2018 might mean that the White Sox have a longer leash than they would with a pre-free agency closer, it only seems like a matter of time for Chicago has to make a move and at least try to get Robertson back on track.
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