Last week we took a look at players that overachieved in the first half of the season. All were on track to career bests if they could somehow sustain their success in the second half. Now it's time to look at the flip side: Underachievers that are buy-low opportunities. Ask yourself if the poor performance is temporary or is it indicative of something more enduring, such as a chronic injury or a tough home field. Timing is crucial: Wait too long and your target can get hot and the opportunity is gone. With a little luck you can reload for the second half at bargain prices. Do you feel lucky?
Let's take a sampling from around the majors, courtesy of Mighty Max, the Sports Grumblings supercomputer. Those likely to improve on a poor first half are for better. Players less likely to return to their former glory are for worse.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds: Encarnacion was hitting only .127 when he went on the DL at the end of April with a broken wrist. He missed all of May and June before returning just before the All-Star break. The wrist is clearly fine -- he is hitting .385 since returning to active duty. It's encouraging that Encarnacion is a better second-half performer. He hits .272 with an .820 OPS in the second half versus .254 and .772 in the first. Encarnacion, 26, is available in 65% of leagues.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Red Sox: Are you disappointed by LaRoche's hitting (.247)? You shouldn't be. LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter. His lifetime average before the All-Star break is .252, so he's right where I expected him to be. LaRoche, 29, is a career .296 hitter after the break with a .901 OPS. LaRoche has started July very slowly, but I expect him to heat up in August and September with Boston.
Lastings Milledge, OF, Pirates: Milledge had a total meltdown in April. He hit only .167, acting like a baby (again), got sent to the minors and then got hurt. Fortunately for him, the Nationals dealt him to Pittsburgh where he can get a fresh start (again). He is playing himself back into shape at AAA Indianapolis and is just about ready. Last week Milledge was named his minor league's "Batter of the Week." Milledge is only 24 and is still learning. He has a quick bat and quicker feet. One day Milledge be a rotisserie treasure -- maybe even this season. Grab him off of waivers soon. Once he gets promoted he will get plucked by one of your competitors.
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals: Ankiel is hitting only .218 with 5 HR and a .641 OPS, which are well below last year's pace of .264, 25 HR and an .843 OPS. Ankiel has a limited body of work as an outfielder and last season was the only year he played a full season. Ankiel also has a sore shoulder that kept him out of the starting lineup for four of St. Louis' last five games. It's hard to feel confident about a second-half rebound for the 30-year old former pitcher.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Francoeur got off slowly with Atlanta hitting .250 with 5 HR and only a .634 OPS. Now a Met, Francoeur is off to a fast start with his new team, hitting .345 with a homerun in seven games. There are three reasons that I don't expect him to stay hot: (1) Playing half his games at Citi Field will cool his bat (2) Hitting in a weak lineup provides scant RBI chances and few pitches to hit (3) Francoeur will swing at anything. He has yet to walk as a Met and has only 12 free passes on the season.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: The 35-year old Ordonez is declining rapidly. He was a .363 hitter in 2007, a .317 hitter last season and is hitting only .260 this year. What's worse is he has only 4 HR and a feeble .677 OPS. Chances for a revival are slim now that Ordonez is platooning with the Clete Thomas. Ordonez will not get many at bats as the right-handed half of a platoon.
Chris B. Young, OF, Diamondbacks: The 25-year old Young is a 30-30 season waiting to happen. We will have to wait until next year, however, since Young has only 6 HR and 11 steals so far. Young has his batting average back up to the Mendoza line, hitting an even .200. He won't hit for average, but Young is better in the second half. He is a .258 lifetime hitter after the break, versus .221 before. If Young hits .260 in the second half, he will need 10-15 HR and 10-15 SB to be a productive Roto outfielder ... and that's if everything goes right. I don't feel that lucky.