The second half tends to be a season of haves versus have-nots in fantasy baseball. Almost half of your league might be closing up shop and preparing for fantasy football drafts. After all, there is only so much free time.
This is where playing daily fantasy baseball becomes a gift from above. You can get your mind off your cellar-dwelling rotisserie roster and start from scratch every day. There are plenty of places to play and opponents to challenge on a daily basis, but yours truly does it at DraftDay.com, mostly because I love the variety of games there and its easy user interface.
Here's the bad news: A lot of those first-half pariahs you have cursed for burying you in your full-season fantasy league are the ones you will want to buy into in these daily games. Mediocre numbers have driven their values down to bargain-basement levels.
The following players by position are the ones I tend to use regularly in my daily lineups because they are bargains and they're due to pay us back after the break. Use this virtual Second-Half Stars team as a buy-low list in full-season leagues, or follow my lead and make back some of your losses in daily play:
C -- Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
He was technically an American League All-Star, but he was that in name only. His .282/.313/.395 slash line is merely scratching the surface of his true potential. He can hit .300 with 10 homers in the second half.
Other daily bargains: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, BOS; Miguel Montero, ARI; Victor Martinez, DET; and Ryan Doumit, MIN.
1B -- Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals
The 27-year-old was supposed to take another step forward after his 29-homer, 107-RBI season in 2012. Instead, he is on a 14-homer pace. You shouldn't rule his 2012 as a statistical anomaly. The power is legit, and he is too good to be this mediocre in fantasy.
Other daily bargains: Justin Morneau, MIN; Kendrys Morales, SEA; and V-Mart, DET.
2B -- Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres
The rookie was hot before an injury stalled his first half. We should give him a chance to hit the 12 homers needed to reach 20 for the season. Second basemen in their prime struggle to reach that plateau. Gyorko is just getting started.
Other daily bargains: Gordon Beckham, CHW; Nick Franklin, SEA; Rickie Weeks, MIL; Dustin Ackley, SEA; and Brian Roberts, BAL.
SS -- Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
He has to be hearing the footsteps of Cubs prospect Javier Baez approaching from down on the farm. Castro needs a rebound second half to keep his status as one of the best young talents in baseball. He will make it happen.
Other daily bargains: Alexei Ramirez, CHW; Jurickson Profar, TEX; and Grant Green, OAK.
3B -- Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays
He's too young and talented to be lost on the fantasy radar like he is. There are never guarantees with young hitters like him, but he's not a Mendoza-Line hitter either.
Other daily bargains: Nolan Arenado, COL; Aramis Ramirez, MIL; Todd Frazier, CIN; Mike Moustakas, KC; and David Freese, STL.
OF -- Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Matt Kemp, L.A. Dodgers and Carl Crawford, L.A. Dodgers
If you can look past the injury-plagued first halves and their modest numbers, these guys are still better than your alternatives at their respective suppressed values.
Other daily bargains: Josh Hamilton, LAA; Giancarlo Stanton, MIA; Alex Gordon, KC; Carlos Quentin, SD; Morales, SEA; and Logan Morrison, MIA.
SP -- Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
No matter what you think of the Phillies in the second half without Ryan Howard, Hamels is not a pitcher who will post an ERA over 4.00 or a losing record -- much less his current 4-12 mark.
Other daily bargains: Brandon Beachy, ATL; Jose Fernandez, MIA; Zack Wheeler, NYM; R.A. Dickey, TOR; and Brett Anderson (ankle), OAK.
Even if these guys are the ones who turned your fantasy baseball season into a lost cause, you can get your investment back by buying into them in the second half -- especially in those daily formats. Late July is still too early to pin your fantasy hopes on football.
What doesn't kill you can sometimes make you stronger.
As for the rest of the trends for our Weekly Baseball Planner ...
Player of the week
OF Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics -- He didn't make the All-Star team and he had a mostly frustrating first half for fantasy owners, but he did huge things for his fantasy profile and value with his performance in the Home Run Derby. The masses can imagine the possibilities now. If you have him, he might be worth more to you in trade than he is on your roster. There is a keeper-league caveat here, though: Cespedes' ceiling long term has risen with the summertime mercury. You have to hold him if you can keep him through the end of his sophomore slump.
Player of the weak
SP Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates -- We were getting so much of the pre-surgery Liriano this season, you had to figure the Liriano of the past few years would show up eventually. He did in his first start out of the break at Cincy. It might be a signal that a regression is coming in the second half here. Seeing your pitcher in a pennant race pitching against his team's direct competitor tends to be a great measuring stick. Don't trade him off of his five-run outing this week, but keep an eye on his starts in the coming weeks. You might reach a point where you have to get some value for him.
OF Henry Urrutia, Baltimore Orioles -- He picked up his first major-league hit Saturday, and that should just be the beginning. He doesn't have the ceiling of Home Run Derby champion Cespedes or Rookie of the Year front-runner Yasiel Puig, but he is a pretty good consolation prize if you don't have either of those other two Cubans. Heck, he's a decent pickup even if you do. Urrutia's first pro season started with a combined .365 average, seven homers, a .427 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage in 67 games between Double- and Triple-A. Those are some Puig numbers right there. The 26-year-old is ready to contribute for both the Orioles and fantasy owners.
RP Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies -- His rise to the closer's role was as inevitable as another DL stint for the 38-year-old Rafael Betancourt. Brothers will get a huge chance here to prove he can be the Rockies' closer of the present in addition to their closer of the future. Take a flier on Brothers in all leagues you need saves. This is one of the best young relievers in baseball right now.
1. SP Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals -- Year after year, you think he's done for the season with a shoulder issue, and he makes surprising comeback. His velocity has been good, but his results haven't. He might be best suited to be a reliever down the stretch for the Cards, holding little fantasy value.
2. SP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays -- Two consecutive scoreless starts make him a must-own in all formats. He is still available in one-third of CBSSports.com leagues.
3. 1B Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners -- The 26-year-old is finally proving to be a productive big-league regular. His long-held upside makes him worth adding in mixed leagues right now.
4. SP Chad Gaudin, San Francisco Giants -- Journeyman has strung together some solid starts. He still rates as a dangerous stopgap option in fantasy. He won't sustain this.
5. OF Marlon Byrd, New York Mets -- Unless you're a Mets fan, you might not have noticed he is on pace for around 30 homers and 100 RBI. Age-35 breakthroughs are rarities, so he doesn't stand a very good chance to help you in the second half.
1. SP Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox -- For those who bought low on Koji Uehara, you have to consider Bailey's season-ending DL stint as great news. Uehara needs to just make it through the trade deadline as the full-time closer now, which he should.
2. OF Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies -- Foot surgery knocks him out at least into September, which is unfortunate amid a hot streak that made him a must-start in rotisserie formats again. You might just get a week to 10 days out of him at season's end -- if you get anything at all.
3. SP Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres -- He is a lot better than this. If you're looking for a scrap-heap starting pitcher, he is not a terrible option.
4. SP Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves -- Regardless of his current wrist issue, his poor pitching was dooming his status in the rotation with Brandon Beachy (elbow) nearing a return from Tommy John surgery. Maholm, not Minor or Medlen, should be taken out of the rotation -- even if Maholm proves 100 percent healthy.
5. 1B Ike Davis, New York Mets -- This season has been a disaster for him, and he will be playing to prove he deserves to be a big-league regular. Odds are he fails in that second-half mission.
Most viewed (Rotoworld):
1. OF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers -- A hip issue, a mini slump and the return of Matt Kemp from the DL on Sunday are conspiring to work against Puig right now. You shouldn't be worried over the long haul. Puig will be fine.
2. SP Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs -- He has won his past six starts, and reports have had him close to a trade to a top contender. He is a must-start in fantasy right now, even if he's on the move. If you are in an NL league that stands to lose a player traded to the AL, you can't like the latest reports of talks with the Rangers. It seems inevitable.
3. 3B Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees -- The Yankees might have learned a painful lesson with Derek Jeter's return and subsequent injury. A-Rod has to be brought off his rehab assignment Monday, but he might need a break and a resetting of his 20-day clock. Don't start him in fantasy this week.
4. 1B Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles -- That blister issue that plagued him over the All-Star break didn't stop him Saturday. Keep your 27-year-old fantasy MVP active in all leagues.
5. SS Derek Jeter, New York Yankees -- He went from potentially avoiding the DL to perhaps not being ready to return when first eligible July 27. This is what you get with 39-year-old shortstops. This DL stint might not be his last of the season.
Most traded (CBSSports.com):
1. SP Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers -- It turns out we were right for not ranking Verlander the No. 1 pitcher in fantasy this year -- even if Stephen Strasburg was a bad alternative. But Verlander is still too good to sell low. HOLD
2. SP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants -- He is better than this, so if you're looking for a pitcher to have a better second half, he's not a bad buy-low candidate. BUY
3. OF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers -- You should be more worried about the nerve issue in his hand than any potential Biogenesis suspension. Still, it is unlikely you get a reasonable offer for damaged goods right now. HOLD
4. OF Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- He is still a favorite here to put together a big second half. You can still get in on the ground floor. BUY
5. SP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- This is the point in the fantasy season to be trading pitching for hitting. Weaver opened his second half with a start that can net you solid return. SELL
Tout Wars moves
Taking a flier on Henry Urrutia -- I have been billing him as a poor man's Yasiel Puig. I might as well see if you can lock up the Cuban call-up on the cheap here before he gets hot.
Picking up Juan Nicasio as a stopgap -- Jake McGee isn't working out as a middle reliever for my roster and Barry Zito is too dangerous to start. Nicasio draws the Marlins this week, so he stands to be a decent one-week fill-in with little available on the waiver wire. My alternatives are Edinson Volquez and Kyle Gibson.