Fantasy baseball Hitting Report: 2014's first-half rebound all-stars
By David Gonos, SI.com
Some of the best rewards you can get from draft day come from rolling the dice on a player coming off a mediocre season or gambling on a player who was injured for much of the prior season. With the season closing in on the halfway mark, I went back through this spring's drafts to find players at a handful of positions who are having great rebound seasons.
2014 All-Rebound First-Half Team
Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia Phillies: Ruiz' inclusion might be more of a testimony to a rough season for catchers than to a particularly great year at the plate for Ruiz. He's on pace to match his career-high in games played (132), and his batting average is above .275 after it took a sharp dip during his injury-shortened 2013. Only two other catchers have hit more doubles than the 13 Ruiz has this season.
Michael Morse, OF, San Francisco Giants: From 2012 to 2013, Morse hopped from Washington to Seattle to Baltimore, and after a brutal injury-shortened 2013 season in which he hit .215, he had wrist surgery. He's on pace for a career-high in games played, which could lead to his first 100-RBI season.
Dee Gordon, 2B, L.A. Dodgers: We've talked about him many times before in this column, but after three seasons in the majors, Gordon was not expected to be such a fantasy asset in 2014. He played just 38 games in the majors last year, and he has never played in more than 87 games in a season. His patience has improved at the plate, but he's also hitting harder balls this season, as evidenced by his .112 isolated power (which is calculated by subtracting a player's average from his slugging percentage) compared to a .073 career ISO.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox: I've been saying for a few seasons now that Ramirez would probably never match his rookie year's fantasy output, when he hit .290 with 21 homers, 77 RBI and 13 steals. Now, at age 32, he has a chance to set a few career marks in batting average, runs, RBI and steals. As great at Jose Abreu has been, Ramirez deserves some credit for the resurrection of the White Sox, too.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Cruz was coming off the best season of his career, but it was tainted by his Biogenesis suspension, making 2014 a big question mark. Ryan Braun is having a similar post-suspension rebound season, but he was still a high pick in this spring's drafts, unlike Cruz, who went much later, if at all, in most formats. He leads the league in RBI through Sunday with 56.
Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Cabrera entered the 2013 season coming off a 50-game suspension of his own, and he played well in the face of some health issues, including a bum ankle and a benign tumor in his spine. The Blue Jays have a top-five offense this year, and Cabrera's work from the two-hole is a big reason.
Ben Revere, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: Revere's first season as the Phillies' leadoff hitter was a major bust, ultimately leading to his benching. A broken foot limited him to just 88 games and 315 at-bats in 2013. He's now on pace for a career season in several categories, and just three hitters have more than his 19 stolen bases.
Albert Pujols, DH/1B, L.A. Angels: Like Braun, it's tough to label Pujols' resurgence a rebound season, since his ADP was still quite high high (4.04, 40th overall) in most formats. But let's give him credit for rebounding from a partially torn plantar fascia in 2013. Pujols was shut down early last season and also set career lows in batting average (.258) and OPS (.767). While the batting average is still low, he has a chance to record his ninth 35-homer/100-RBI season in his career.
Great rebound seasons shouldn't be overlooked at the midway point, and there's still time to capitalize on undervalued players enjoying a return to their old form.
Hitters of the Week
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates -- Stats last week: .483 BA, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 5 runs, 2 SB
McCutchen has two base hits in the past eight games, and he is having a huge month of June. Since the end of May, his batting average has gone up from .298 to .325, and his seven home runs this month lead the majors. He's the 2013 NL MVP, and he was drafted among the top-five players in most fantasy baseball drafts. Over the past two seasons, he has been great in the month of July (hitting .384), so expect to see even more good things from him after the All-Star break.
Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians -- .536 BA, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 9 runs, 1 SB
Brantley's one of those guys many regret not jumping on in fantasy drafts this past March. Last season, he proved he could get on base, and he has always had the speed for double-digit stolen base totals. He's in his age-27 season, now, and while he doesn't offer up much in the power categories, he has improved each month this season. After mostly hitting fifth last season, the Indians have moved him up to third in the lineup this year, where he's batted .354.
Mike Trout, OF, L.A. Angels -- .478 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 6 runs, 0 SB
It's tough to complain about a guy who's on pace for 33 home runs, 119 RBI and 16 stolen bases, but Trout's owners were starting to grumble a bit in the first two months of the season. After stealing over 30 bases in each of the past two seasons, the Angels just aren't running him as much as they used to. He's striking out more than he has in past seasons, but let's also remember that he's still just 22 years old. In spite of his superhero status, he's bound to have up and down months. We'll see if the Angels start to run him more in the second half.
Hitters of the Weak
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/OF, Washington Nationals -- .111 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs, 0 SB
A fractured right thumb has limited Zimmerman so far this season, but since his return on June 3, he has hit just .180 with no homers and five RBI. A bad thumb can sap a slugger's power, but after missing most of April and all of May, he was probably doomed to have a slow start in his return anyway. Interestingly, he has added outfield to his eligibility in most leagues, and he played a game at first base on Sunday.
Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Oakland A's -- .130 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 runs, 0 SB
Moss was bound to have a rough week at some point to counteract his hot start this season. He's on pace to knock in 128 runs, with a career-high 38 home runs. He's striking out a bit less (23.2 percent) this season than he has over the past couple seasons (close to 29 percent), and the way the A's are hitting as a team, we expect Moss to shake off this bad week. Note that his two best months of 2013 were in August and September.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, L.A. Angels -- .111 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 runs, 0 SB
We've seen Kendrick get off to a hot start in the past before dropping off and bringing all of his stats back to earth. In mid-May, Kendrick had his batting average up to .313, and a month later, he's still on pace for a career-high 21 stolen bases. After hitting .310 with 11 homers and 40 RBI before the All-Star break last season, Kendrick's second half saw him hit just two home runs, with 14 RBI and a .262 batting average.
Buy, Sell or Hold
Buy: Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies
Rosario hit just .111 this past week, and some of his bad week can be pinned on a recent illness. But even before that, he has been a major disappointment at the plate. His numbers are down across the board, including an on-base percentage of .266 -- a full 50 points lower than the .316 he posted a year ago. Some regression should bring his numbers back up a bit in the next three months, and the fact he's a talented hitter in Colorado makes him an even better buy-low candidate.
Sell: Michael Morse, OF, San Francisco Giants
As mentioned earlier, Morse is on pace to set career highs in RBI, at-bats and games played, which makes us a little leery of trusting this 32-year-old outfielder. In nine previous seasons in the majors, Morse has played more than 105 games just once, and he has hit over 20 homers just once. His 2011 breakout season showed he has the ability, but all of those trips to the disabled list indicate he just may not be able to last a full season.
Hold: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
You've been hearing the calls for patience regarding Eric Hosmer's budding greatness for a few seasons now, but with just four home runs and a .263 batting average to Hosmer's name this season, it's tough not to bristle when those calls return for another year. But despite playing in the majors since 2011, Hosmer is still just 24 years old. His batting eye seems to be worse than previous seasons, as evidenced by a 5.6 percent walk rate, and the entire Royals lineup started off horribly at the plate this year. Kansas City now ranks seventh in the majors in runs scored, and continued improvement is expected for both the team and Hosmer.
Rookie Hitter Spotlight
Brock Holt, 3B, Boston Red Sox: Holt wasn't the rookie Red Sox third baseman everyone had been talking about all offseason, but even with Xander Bogaerts back manning the hot corner on a regular basis, Holt has forced his way into Boston's everyday plans. He has filled in at first base, third base and the outfield this season, and he's currently leading all rookies in the month of June with 24 base hits, including six doubles. In reality, this is a fill-in player that the Red Sox are riding while he's red-hot, so using him as a throw-in to boost a trade bounty for an upgrade at another position makes sense.
By the Numbers
83 -- Increase by points in Anthony Rizzo's on-base percentage this season (.406) from last year (.323).
54 -- Total bases taken by Andrew McCutchen so far in June to lead the majors, 16 more than second-place Adam Jones and Evan Gattis.
19 -- Home runs Todd Frazier has hit in each of the past two seasons. He has 15 home runs already, and he's on pace for 36 for the year.
4 -- Number of catchers with an ISO over .150 this season, compared to eight catchers who finished above the mark last season.
4 -- Players with at least 18 RBI over the past three weeks, including Lonnie Chisenhall (22) and Josh Willingham (18), who were both available in over 40 percent of CBSSports.com leagues three weeks ago.
.611 -- Slugging percentage for Nelson Cruz, the second-best mark in the majors. He had a .506 slugging percentage with the Rangers before his suspension.
.381 -- The BABIP for Alex Rios and Yasiel Puig, which currently leads the majors.
.213 -- The BABIP for Carlos Santana, who is the sixth-best catcher in Head-to-Head fantasy leagues so far in spite of his .190 batting average.