July 13, 2010

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The All-Star break is upon us and you have no doubt been bombarded by articles expounding the virtues of the first-half fantasy All-Stars. Well, when others zig, Man in a Box likes to zag. At this point, fantasy owners shouldn't be the least worried about what happened in the first three months of the season. All that matters is what's going to happen in the remainder of the season. Earlier in the year I alerted fantasy owners to the huge values that players like Josh Hamilton and Carlos Quentin represented. Hopefully you took heed and benefitted from their explosions. Get your pencils out and take notes, because now we're going to preview the second half fantasy All-Stars (and a few duds). These players are going to make or break your championship dreams.

Still relying on the powerful bat of Casey McGehee to bolster your production? You might want to reconsider. After belting nine HRs and 41 RBIs in April and May, McGehee has fallen off with just 4 homers and 12 RBIs in June and July. Gone are the days of him posting better numbers than teammates Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. McGehee will still offer some pop, but if you can deal him for an upgrade elsewhere, it's time to turn your attention to ...

Gordon Beckham, who is finally showing signs of turning it around. It's a small step, but his .292 BA in July represents a huge increase over the .216 mark for the year. The power should also start to show itself. Last year Beckham hit 14 HRs in 378 at-bats, which makes this year's three long balls in 273 at-bats quite a letdown. With the White Sox offense now clicking on all cylinders, look for Beckham to join the party and start fulfilling the hype that he was getting this spring.

The big news for Rangers fans is that in Cliff Lee, they have added a Cy Young caliber pitcher to their rotation. More important for fantasy owners is that a potentially huge power bat has joined one of the best lineups in baseball. And yes, I know all about the .214 BA that Chris Davis has put up this year and the .237 mark of a season ago. I also remember the 17 HRs in 295 at-bats of 2008 and was paying attention to his .354 average with 10 HRs and 56 RBIs in Triple-A this season. Davis obviously carries some BA risk, but he's shown that when he gets hot he can post power numbers of much more hyped players.

Elvis Andrus has been a huge fantasy value so far this year, with 23 SBs and an average near .300 for most of the year. Reality has been hitting hard lately though, as his .158 July BA is dropping him closer to last year's .267. Of more concern to fantasy owners is the lack of recent stolen bases. After 18 SBs in April and May, Andrus swiped just four bags in June and has only one steal in July. Andrus was actually benched due to baserunning errors on Sunday. It certainly looks like Ron Washington is staying true to his vow of limiting Andrus on the bases. Without the speed, Andrus' zero HRs and 25 RBIs means he's just David Eckstein with a lot more hype. Deal Andrus now while he still looks like a viable speed threat and turn your attention to ...

Everth Cabrera, who is starting to look healthy. Cabrera doesn't offer much with the bat, but his final numbers will look a lot like those of Andrus. The difference is that Cabrera is going to be given every chance to use his speed in a marginal San Diego offense. Once he feels comfortable following some hamstring issues, he'll be off to the races. Andrus has the name and the pretty first half stats, but by the end of the year the batting numbers will be eerily similar and Cabrera will be the one providing second half speed.

Justin Upton has been struggling as of late and also had a horrid April. Don't be fooled though. There's a reason he got tons of hype this spring. One good hot streak and Upton is looking at the 30/20 season we all expected. He's going to provide a lot more Fantasy value than ...

Austin Jackson, who still carries a .300 BA, but has been on a downward slide for the last two months. A .364 average in April dulls the pain, but he's followed that with .297, .253, and .235 in the last three months. Pitchers have figured out they don't have to throw Jackson strikes to get him out. Too often, plate discipline is underrated as a skill. Most players don't just learn how to be patient. It's a skill that Jackson lacks and it's going to limit his Fantasy value throughout his career. It's not like his one HR and 20 RBIs help make up for the subpar BA either. Salvage value now and try to convert him into a more promising player such as ...

Jay Bruce, who's mediocre half-season numbers have lulled fantasy owners to sleep. Bruce has been able to keep his average in the .280s for much of the season and popped 10 homers, but has generally been a slight disappointment to his owners. That's not all there is, though. Look back to last year's 18 long balls in 299 first-half at-bats, or all the way to 2008's 15 HRs in 250 at-bats. Bruce has tremendous power upside and will get red hot at some point. Go get him now and you'll get the 40-HR player that he will become.

Turning our attention to the hill, Ricky Romero has looked like a breakout performer for most of the first half. Unfortunately, he's just been plain broke lately. He hasn't made it out of the third inning in either of his last two starts and is starting to resemble the inconsistent youngster that posted a 1.52 WHIP last year. The strikeouts will still be there, but a better option might be ...

Ricky Nolasco, whose peripherals once again don't jive with his fantasy numbers. After a brief K hiatus, Nolasco once again put the strikeout back in his arsenal. He's won his last four starts, going seven innings in each and striking out 34 hitters in 28 innings. It is also becoming readily apparent that Nolasco is a second half pitcher. In each of the last two seasons, he has posted better numbers across the board once the All-Star break is past. He may never be the Fantasy ace that many predicted, but for a few months at a time, Nolasco can play one in your Fantasy rotation.

Mike Leake is a young pitcher that helped many fantasy teams in the first half, but things seem to be falling apart. His 1.39 WHIP was a warning sign even in the early going. It's finally started affecting his value. In his last six starts, he's allowed 25 earned runs in 36.2 innings. With the Reds suddenly having a plethora of decent options, it wouldn't be surprising to see Leake head down to the minors to get the seasoning he has missed out on. Either way, a 6.00 ERA is not what fantasy owners are looking for. It's time to plug the Leake and look to ...

Gavin Floyd, a pitcher already on the rise. His 5-7 record and 4.20 ERA aren't too impressive, but Floyd has been pitching lights out over his last seven starts. Since a six-run drubbing applied by Texas, Floyd has allowed one run or less in six of his seven starts. In the other, he got "pounded" for two earned runs. With the White Sox offense in full gear, Floyd could net astute fantasy owners double-digit second half wins.

* All statistics current as of July 12.

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Doug Anderson is the Executive Editor at RotoExperts.com. Look for Man in a Box every Tuesday and catch him on The Fantasy War Room, Thursdays at 8 ET. Wanna climb in the box and talk baseball? E-mail Doug at rotodaddy@rotoexperts.com.

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