Name That Game
We often hear of the All-Star break as baseball's midway point, but when it comes to fantasy baseball, the season is actually closer to 60 percent finished. On that note, struggling fantasy managers must act quickly. The strategy is simple: trade your overachievers for the underachievers. You can pinpoint the underachievers by grabbing the notorious slow starters and those with a solid track record and yet an inexplicable start to the 2008 season. On the other hand, overachievers are those who are hitting at a rate that's out of their ballpark. In addition, some hitters often struggle in the second half because of geography. Just as some players in the northeast struggle to overcome the frigid temperatures early in the season, some players in the south struggle against the heat found during the dog days of summer.
In this week's article, we combine last year's second half statistics of notorious slow starters with their current figures this season. The result should give you an idea of the potential value of some underachievers. Can you identify the fantasy stars based on their statistics alone? Feel free to Name That Game!
564 at-bats, 73 runs, 19 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB, .278 AVG
It's been an up and down career for the 28-year-old first baseman in Pittsburgh. Selected in the 29th round of the '0 draft by the Atlanta Braves, LaRoche enjoyed some success in the minor leagues leading to an opportunity to make his major league debut in '04. The left-handed power hitter found some immediate success, smashing 13 home runs in 110 games in his rookie campaign. LaRoche then followed with 20 home runs while earning the majority of the at-bats in a platoon in '05. By '06, LaRoche evolved into a team's starting first baseman and he established career highs with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs. The majority of those numbers were accumulated in the second half of the season, as LaRoche smashed a startling 19 home runs with 48 RBIs and a .323 average in the 66 games after the All-Star break.
The Braves were inspired to trade LaRoche while his value was high and landed closer
With just 13 hits and one home run in April (.163 average), the season once again commenced on a faulty start for LaRoche. LaRoche failed to hit .260 in any of the three months to start the '08 season, though he did blast 5 home runs with 19 RBIs in May.
Suddenly, though, the switch has turned on for the notorious slow starter. Through 11 games in July, LaRoche is hitting .405 with 3 home runs and 9 RBIs. The California native is a fine buy low option who is likely available on most waiver wires thanks to his current average of .251. LaRoche should approach 20-plus home runs and 80 RBIs this season. Playing in Pittsburgh always leaves the door open for a trade as we approach the trade deadline, as well. Worst case scenario has LaRoche heading to a contender in a platoon role as he is a much better hitter against right-handers compared to facing fellow southpaws. The good news is that the risk is minimized by his currently modest fantasy value.
635 at-bats, 89 runs, 19 HR, 95 RBI, 3 SB, .290 AVG
The Yankees signed Cano when he was 18 years old to a free-agent deal. A native of the Dominican Republic, Cano proved to be an above average hitter in the minor leagues, though his defense was shaky and his power was lacking. Nonetheless, the Yankees provided the young prospect with an opportunity to play everyday in '05, and he shocked them with a sensational performance as he finished second to A's closer
The '08 first half was shockingly abysmal for Cano. The now 25-year-old second baseman hit just .246 with 6 home runs by the mid-season classic. The majority of these struggles took place in the opening month for Cano, when he hit a paltry .151 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs in the first 29 games of the season. Without accounting for that horrid month, Cano would currently boast a much more respectable .288 average with 31 RBIs in 64 games. Considering what we've seen from Cano in past second halves, this may be the perfect time to swoop in and trade an overachieving second baseman such as
619 at-bats, 99 runs, 35 HR, 133 RBI, 0 SB, .288 AVG
A) Prince Fielder, Brewers
Ranking as one of the best collegiate players in the nation, the Texas Rangers drafted Teixeira with the fifth pick of the '01 draft out of Georgia Tech. After blasting 19 home runs with a .318 average in his minor league debut, Teixeira reached the Big Leagues the very next season. The burly first baseman missed out on the Rookie of the Year award, ranking behind
After another slow start last season with just 12 home runs at the All-Star break, the Rangers traded Teixeira to the Braves for catching prospect
At the age of 28, Teixeira should be in his prime. Despite a .271 average that sits below his career average, most fantasy managers have to be impressed with Teixeira's solid 17 home runs and 69 RBIs by the break. In fact, the majority of those home runs came in the month of June, as Teixeira powered 9 long balls and 23 RBIs in 27 games.
Unfortunately, there is some uncertainty concerning Big Tex. With a low payroll, the Atlanta Braves are not likely to keep Teixeira around after this season. In fact, if an offer is made that has greater value than the two draft picks the Braves would receive by keeping him on board for the remainder of the season and letting him leave via free agency, the smooth-fielding first baseman may be on the move. If Teixiera lands in a power lineup such as the Red Sox or Yankees, then all is likely to be well for fantasy managers. However, if Teixeira instead heads to an offensively inefficient team such as Arizona or Oakland, the production may go down. Obviously, with a sensational track record for his second-half production, the odds are in favor of a big second half. Consider sending a