The All-Star break is throwing a wrench into fantasy games this week, so let's take advantage of the break and look back at the last calendar year to find a slightly different set of All-Stars.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers -- He's dominating in Rotisserie leagues with positive stats in every category, and his draft value for 2015 continues to skyrocket.
First base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Only Mike Trout has been more impressive from last July to this July, as Goldschmidt has over 30 homers and a .299 batting average, with triple-digits RBI and runs -- not to mention, 14 steals.
Second base: Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers -- This was a nice battle at second base between Kinsler and Brian Dozier (Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve receive honorable mention thanks to their steals). Dozier might lead in homers, but Kinsler leads in extra-base hits and batting average (.287 compared to just .246).
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies -- Amazingly, Tulowitzki has been healthy enough to reach 620 plate appearances over the past calendar year, hitting 30 homers and score 102 runs, which is nine more than the second-best shortstop Jose Reyes (93).
Third base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers -- Cabrera hasn’t been quite the stud player many had hoped for when they drafted him, but he does lead all hitters since last July with 117 RBI -- six more than any other player.
Corner infielder: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays -- Despite offseason surgery, Encarnacion leads all players since midsummer last year with 38 home runs.
Middle infielder: Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins -- In spite of the bad batting average (.246), Dozier has 28 homers and 22 stolen bases since last year's All-Star break.
Outfielder: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels -- The No. 1 fantasy pick this past March is still, by a large margin, the top player in baseball. In the last year, he's hit 34 home runs, 111 RBI and 108 runs, stolen 22 bases and averaged .315. A down week for Trout is an up week for most other players.
Outfielder: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins -- Encarnacion has been able to hit a couple more home runs since last break, but Stanton has done it with much less around him.
Outfielder: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates -- Victor Martinez and Robinson Cano are the only two hitters with better batting averages than Cutch’s .331 since last July.
Outfielder: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers -- Only four other players have more stolen bases in the past calendar year than Gomez’s 36. I wonder if the Mets wish they didn’t trade him for Johan Santana -- or if the Twins regret trading him two years later for J.J. Hardy.
Outfielder: Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants -- Interestingly, Pence has played in the most games since last year’s All-Star break (166), which is (shockingly) tied with Evan Longoria.
Designated hitter: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers -- With a .340 batting average since last July, V-Mart leads all hitters over the past year, and he takes the vote lead for this spot over both David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz. (Cruz actually has more home runs (33) in that span than both of them, despite only playing in 112 games).
It’s promising to see that many players dominating in fantasy this year had great second halves last year. Players who finish strong over the next 10 weeks should help indicate who to grab in drafts next spring.
Hitters of the week
Chris Coghlan, OF, Chicago Cubs -- Stats this week: .452 BA, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB
The former NL Rookie of the Year put together a great week, but let’s also note that he played eight games last week, with one double-header. That doesn’t take away from an awesome week, and really, he’s putting together a really good month of July (.435 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 14 R, 2 SB). Injuries have affected his ability at the plate in recent years, and offensive outbursts like this will be balanced by plenty of thin weeks as well.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates -- .321 BA, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB
One of the top five picks in fantasy drafts this March continues to prove his worth, as he comes into the break with 61 RBI and an outside shot at a 30-25 season. The 27-year-old is actually on pace for the best season of his career: .324 BA, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 99 R and 26 SB. The fact he’s on pace for over 100 walks should also be noted.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds -- .419 BA, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R, 3 SB
Sure, the rookie has just four stolen bases this month, but since June 1, he has 18 steals, which compares quite favorably against Dee Gordon, whom he’s chasing for the stolen bases title. Hamilton will get some time to rest a sore hamstring before the second half.
Hitters of the weak
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland A's -- .040 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
Last season’s Home Run Derby champion is dealing with a sore hamstring that has forced him to play more as a designated hitter. He had an excellent first half of the season, but he had just three hits in July, bringing his batting average (.246) down 27 points from the end of June (.273).
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers -- .160 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 Runs, 0 SB
Things are getting worse Choo, coming off the bench on Sunday, as Rangers manager Ron Washington said his outfielder needs to “get himself back mentally.” He’s hitting 42 points lower than he did last year in Cincinnati, and his contact rate has dipped a bit from last year. There was no way his .423 on-base percentage from last season was going to hold up this year (.362), and it’s good to note that yet another free-agent hitter is struggling at the plate. Let’s remember this when we head into the 2015 drafts.
Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles -- .167 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB
There might be no better example of a player that rises and regresses back to his normal hitting line than Adam Jones. Over the past three seasons, we’ve seen him average 30 home runs, 91 RBI and 90 runs scored, with a .284 batting average. This year, he’s on pace for 28 HR, 96 RBI, 96 R and .301 BA, which means he'll likely continue to regress. He’s only on pace for half the steals he has averaged since 2011, though.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
Sidelined since April after thumb surgery, Harper has struggled to find his timing at the plate over the past two weeks. With two months off, you have to figure he’s going through a midseason spring training, and his bad thumb had him start from scratch. He’s a great buy-low option at this point, but it might be a couple more weeks before his stats start to climb. On July 11, he smacked his first home run since April 9, and he has mentioned that he’s starting to feel better hitting to the opposite field. He’s coming around, so try to get him on your team before he breaks out.
Sell: Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
The “Sell” part of this column is always a little tough since I’m usually telling people they should trade one of their best hitters. In Brantley’s case, it’s also true, but I feel a bit better steering you toward moving him for pitching help or to shore up another position. The 27-year-old is certainly having a breakout season, and he’s on pace for 26 home runs, 110 RBI, 110 runs scored, 17 steals and a .320 batting average. But considering in his previous three full major-league seasons, he hasn’t even sniffed those numbers, you have to look toward some regression in the second half. He has never hit more than 10 home runs in a season, or finish above .288 in batting average. The fact he was such a cheap, late-round pickup in drafts should make it easier to sell high.
Hold: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Over the past four weeks, Hosmer is hitting .280 with just two home runs with eight RBI, and the luster off his young career is slowly starting to fade. He has just six home runs on the season, putting him on pace for a paltry 10 home runs on the year. I still have faith in the Royals offense, and Hosmer has actually been much better recently, as he ranks among the best hitters over the past week – and the past two weeks. He had a great second half last season, slugging nearly 50 points higher than the first half, and hitting .323 in his last 69 games.
FanNation Throwdown picks
With rotations likely resetting for the second half after the All-Star break, most hitters are going to be facing aces on Friday and team’s other top two starters on Saturday and Sunday.
INF: Jose Abreu vs. Houston – Notice that 58 of his 83 RBI have come against right-handers, and Scott Feldman has a 5.33 ERA against right-handed hitters.
OF: Alex Gordon at Boston – He hits righties 43 points better than lefties, and Clay Buchholz has a tough time against right-handed hitters (7.39 ERA).
INF: Juan Francisco vs. Texas – Colby Lewis has a 7.34 career ERA against the Blue Jays, and Francisco has a .565 slugging percentage against righties.
OF: Billy Hamilton at New York Yankees – The speedster has nearly three times as many stolen bases against right-handers than lefties, and Brandon McCarthy has a 14.73 ERA in two career starts vs. the Reds.
INF: Yan Gomes at Detroit – He’s hitting .341 against lefties this season, which is 115 points higher than against righties. Drew Smyly has a 5.16 ERA in two games against the Indians, and right-handers hit .315 against him (compared to .157 against lefties).
OF: Denard Span vs. Milwaukee – He’s hitting righties 30 points better than lefties this season, and he should come cheap against Yovani Gallardo, who has a 6.23 ERA in his past three starts, and a 5.61 ERA in 10 games against the Nationals.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.