Second Half Breakouts and Busts

The all-star game is over and the unofficial second half is about to begin. This means that fantasy Gms have about half of a season to push their teams over the top, or make savvy long-term moves in keeper formats if they’re out of the playoff picture. Below are our picks for second half breakouts and busts.

Second half breakout hitters

Matthew McMillen
Ike Davis – Horrible start to the season. He made a change in his swing mechanics, became more selective and finally has the average above the Mendoza line. Showing signs of life in June, I think the average will to continue to climb and a 15-20 HR 2nd half is not out of the question. He will keep getting the RBI chances too. Adam Dunn is the only player with more RBI’s then Ike whose AVG is hovering around .200, and the guys behind him aren’t even close.

Ben Zobrist is another guy I like to really put things together in the 2nd half. His AVG is low and his BABIP is well below his career norm, but his OBP and SLG are still right there, and his K% is the lowest it’s been ever. His LD% is currently at a career high, and his GB and FB percentages aren’t far off from his career norms.

Charlie Saponara

Eric Hosmer – I was not a fan of how high Hosmer was going in drafts due to his youth and inexperience. Now, however, I like him as a buy-low candidate for the second half of the season. Hosmer, like many young hitters, is experiencing some early career bumps in the road, but he certainly has the talent to bounce back and bounce back big. Peripherally speaking, he has a lot of positives, including a low strikeout rate, solid contact rate and decent line-drive rate. While he may be swinging at a few too many pitches outside the strike-zone and hitting the ball on the ground far too often, both areas are adjustable, especially since he’s shown great plate discipline numbers in the minor leagues.
Another positive sign is an improvement in his numbers for the month of June (.270/.340/.438, 3 HR) after very little success in April and May. Once Hosmer finds his groove the AVG/OBP will rise, and once he regains his confidence so too will the power numbers.

Josh Shepardson
Matt Wieters- By now, Fantasy Baseball 365 readers should know that one of the prerequisites for writing here is a man-crush on Wieters. With that in mind, here’s my obligatory positive write-up for him. In all seriousness, the best is yet to come for Wieters this year, and that’s saying something considering Yahoo! has him ranked as the seventh most valuable catcher at this point in the season. His power has largely carried over from last year, but it is a .247 batting average that is holding him back from really making the most of his fantasy potential. His .267 BABIP this year is 28 points lower than his career mark, and while he’s popped the ball up at a career high rate, it’s not alarmingly high. His biggest problem is hitting right-handed pitching. Wieters is a switch hitter, but he’s showing a massive platoon split, hitting .384/.444/.575 against left-handed pitchers, and a paltry .200/.287/.381 against right-handed pitchers. The astute will probably notice that his ISO against southpaws is .191, but isn’t much worse against right-handers at .181. He has hit 10 of his 12 home runs against right-handers, and has a higher walk rate, and lower strikeout rate against righties. So what gives? A .199 BABIP, that’s what. There is a stark contrast in line drive rate, but given his rates in previous seasons, I’d expect that gap to close in the second half as he squares up right-handed pitchers more often. Simply put, he’s not being as over matched by righties, as the .200 average might suggest. It’s likely he’ll cool off a bit against left-handed pitchers, but that should be more than offset by an uptick in performance against right-handers. I expect Wieters to pop another dozen or so home runs, but do so with an average north of .270 going forward.

Mark Schruender
Jose ReyesRotographs had a nice piece about what makes Reyes a good buy-low option right now. This to me is very simple. The question with Reyes has always been if he stays healthy. Well, he’s staying healthy. The problem is that the players around him have left something to be desired. The Marlins are going to be a little different now though. Emilio Bonifacio should be back very soon and they now also have Carlos Lee in the lineup. 

Second half breakout pitchers

Matthew McMillen
Adam Wainwright
– It’s taking him a while to regain his bearings after missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, and I think the 2nd half is when it will all come together. His K/9  and GB% are right in line with where they’ve been since 2009. His  FIP, xFIP and SIERA all indicate that he is a victim of bad luck. The increase in line drives and resulting decrease in fly balls is what’s killing him. My gut says those gets back to career norms as well.

Charlie Saponara

Adam Wainwright – After missing a season due to Tommy John surgery, it was clear that Wainwright needed some innings to get back to his old self and regain the feel for his devastating curveball.
Don’t let his 4.56 ERA and 7-8 record fool you, Wainwright has made some serious strides forward since his patchy start to 2012. The home run ball bit him big time in April, leading to a 7.32 ERA for the month. Since, however, Wainwright has lowered his home run rate considerably while maintaining a ground ball rate of over 50 percent and increasing the rate in which opposing batters are chasing pitches outside the strike-zone. The difference between his ERA (4.56) and his xFIP (3.08) is quite telling. A couple more adjustments in his favor — from a .333 BABIP, which would be a career high, to a 67-percent strand rate, which would be, by far, a career low — and Waino will be back to posting the stellar numbers fantasy GMs remember him for.

Josh Shepardson
Max Scherzer- The “breakout,” has already begun, for the most part. Outside of a dreadful April where he posted a 7.77 ERA, he has been very good. Scherzer has bat missing stuff. FanGraphs has his swinging strike rate at 11.9 percent, and the league average is a full three percent lower at 8.9 percent. His ability to get empty swings has helped him rack up a staggering 11.19 K/9. Unlike some power pitchers with strikeout stuff, Scherzer has a pretty good idea of where it is going. His 3.05 BB/9 is, for all intents and purposes, league average. He’ll give up a few more taters than the average pitcher because of his fly ball happy approach, but that’s the trade off for using his four-seam fastball and racking up strikeouts, and a worthwhile one at that. Scherzer has struggled mightily against left-handed batters for most of the season, yielding an eye popping .299/.376/.486 line against them, but his monthly PITCHf/x pitcher profile at Baseball Prospectus shows he was at his best against them in June, meaning he may be figuring things out. Sitting him against talented lefty stacked lineups may be wise until he proves he has turned the corner. Overall, Scherzer should provide “Max,” value to those willing to invest in spite of his 4.72 ERA.

Mark Schruender
Cliff Lee – Lee has a top five xFIP and one win to show for it. He still has an outstanding strikeout to walk rate and at this point he is a much safer player than teammate Roy Halladay. In fact, there are only two pitchers I would rather have than Lee from this point forward and they are last year’s Cy Young Award winners.

Second half hitter busts

Matthew McMillen

Jacoby Ellsbury – He’s due back from the DL shortly and while he certainly may be a useful player upon return I don’t see him performing at a level close to where his round 1 ADP places him. Shoulder injuries for hitters are scary. Just ask Adrian Gonzalez, who is bust 1(b) relative to draft position.

Charlie Saponara
Austin Jackson
– While I do like the mechanical adjustments Jackson made in the offseason (lowering his stride/leg-kick), his first half numbers are just too good to be continued. Jackson is hitting .323/.408/.545, but each number is being fueled by a statistical anomaly. For the AVG/OBP, it’s a ridiculously high .417 BABIP against a league average 20 percent line-drive rate. In terms of his SLG, Jackson his holding at what would be career highs, by far, in ISO and HR/FB rate. Jackson still makes below average contact and strikes out a bit too much for his skills-set. Could he maintain a BABIP upwards of .400? Anything is possible, but I would definitely bet against it.

Josh Shepardson

Yoenis Cespedes - Cespedes is a fun player to watch, right down to his swag filled home run trots. The tools with him are loud, including his power tool, but his approach will be his undoing in the second half. His 22.0 percent strikeout rate isn’t too high for a power hitter, but he lacks patience. His 7.3 percent walk rate is below the league average of 8.1 percent, and it’s easy to see why with a chase rate almost six percent higher than league average. His 69.4 percent contact rate is just over 10 percent below the league average, and foreshadows a jump in strikeout rate in the second half. More strikeouts will make it tough to maintain his currently passable .263 batting average. He may eclipse 20 home runs, as he can really put a charge into the ball, but it will come with a low average, and if he’s not on base, it’s tough to envision him swiping more than a handful of bags the rest of the year. Toss-in the fact he was dinged up just before the break, and it’s time to cash out on Cespedes name value at this point.


Mark Schruender
Melky Cabrera – The .388 BABIP sticks out, but not as much as the overall career of Melky Cabrera. This is not a great fantasy player. Serviceable, yes. Melky is currently a top twenty overall player thanks in large part to his inflated .353 batting average, but that and his other numbers will start to trickle down as simple size gets the best of him.

Second half pitcher busts

Matthew McMillen

Yu Darvish – 2nd time around the league so adjustments will be made when facing him. His walk rate is really high and Arlington in the summer isn’t going to do him any favors in the batted ball department.

Charlie Saponara

Ryan Dempster - There are several factors that make me think that Ryan Dempster will be a second half bust. First, he has the classic combination of an extremely low BABIP (.243) and an extremely high strand rate (84.2 percent). Both rates should regress and lead to an overall regression in ERA and WHIP. Second, Dempster has an ERA under two, but he isn’t showing dominant skills categories like strikeouts, ground balls or doing a great job of suppressing line drives. Third, chances are that he’ll be traded at some point this month (the Cubs would be crazy not to sell high right now). Demspter has been a Cub since 2004, so he not only faces the chance that the discomfort of a new environment will throw him off, but he could be moved to the AL, which would be a much greater challenge than he has currently been facing in the NL Central.
Like the Cubs, you should be looking for trade partners right now.


Josh Shepardson

Gio Gonzalez – Let me start by saying, I like Gonzalez as a fantasy player, but his season stats are above what he can reasonably be projected to do the rest of the year. Like with Scherzer’s breakout, Gonzalez’s slide has begun. His ERA jumped to 4.34 in June, from 1.82 in April and 2.25 in May. It’s not just his ERA that rose either, his advanced metrics such as xFIP have also risen. The biggest problem is a slip from jaw dropping strikeout rates in April and May to a still outstanding 9.0 K/9 in June, and a 8.18 K/9 in two July starts. He did see his walk rate drop to the lowest rate of any month this year in June, but it wasn’t enough to offset the dip in strikeout rate. His seven walks in 11 innings in July serve as a reminder Gonzalez is capable of seeing his control waver from time-to-time as well. If owners are able to sell Gonzalez’s superb full season numbers to an unsuspecting owner, they are advised to do so.


Mark Schruender
Ryan Dempster - 
Dempster is tied with Ryan Vogelsong for the highest stranded runner rate in the league. Vogelsong is also a candidate for this honor, but Dempster gets the nod because of the allure of a trade to a contending team that would increase his value in the wins category. People are going to see the current ERA and believe that Dempster will be able to get wins and be motivated in a move to a contender. Let’s keep in mind that this is a 35-year-old pitcher with a 1.43 career WHIP.