MLB Planner: First-half struggles make for second-half values
Justin Upton could see huge rise in production if he is traded out of Arizona
Adrian Gonzalez will have more RBI chances with Jacoby Ellsbury back
Josh Hamilton hit only. 223 in June and is hitting only .152 in month of July
As quickly as so many things changed from the preseason to the regular season, the same can be said for the new beginning of the second half. It can be a clean slate for so many players -- ones coming back from injury, ones overcoming disappointing showings and ones potentially getting a change of scenery via trade.
It is a veritable pushing of the reset button.
Here is a collection of some of the top names in the news of late readying to change their fortunes this season, many of which are ideal buy-low candidates before their value rises again:
1. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks -- We have already seen what a trade has done for Kevin Youkilis. Either B.J. Upton or Justin (more likely) should be expected to erupt if he is dealt before the trade deadline. The Diamondbacks have made Upton aware he is being shopped. It will be a bad move for the D'backs, but a great one for his fantasy owners. If he goes through all of this drama and gets "stuck" in Arizona, perhaps not so much on the latter.
2. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants -- His struggles are at times inexplicable, even if you're explaining it away with his diminished velocity and lack of control and command. His last start out was promising and the Giants are a contender that can make him a winner again. We have said this too much, mostly because the ceiling can be so high: Lincecum will be better going forward.
3. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- He came back strong over the weekend and his presence will ignite the Red Sox offense and fantasy lineups, especially in rotisserie leagues. There haven't been an issues with his legs.
4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox -- The table-setters are going to get healthy, including Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford (see below) and Will Middlebrooks, so A-Gone will have many, many more RBI opportunities. It should help get him aggressive and smacking homers again.
5. SP Cliff Lee, Phillies -- Like the Red Sox, the Phillies are all coming back en masse in the second half. They are older and more at risk for further injury, but Lee has been healthy and mostly just pitching into poor luck. Luck is one of the main thing that tends to change over time. Expect a very productive second half with Lee.
6. SP Ben Sheets, Braves -- This is one of a bit of surprise and now he is smack dab in a pennant race with the Braves. He stands to be a winner for your fantasy team and he is still available in too many leagues.
7. SP Roy Halladay, Phillies -- Unlike Lee, there are reasons to be wary of Halladay's second half. Pitchers can sometimes pitch with weakened shoulders, but they just cannot be the same. We shouldn't expect Halladay to be the dominant form of a few years ago anymore. Really.
8. OF Carl Crawford, Red Sox -- Yes, he might wind up needing Tommy John elbow surgery any day, but as long as he can play through the bum elbow, he can help fantasy owners in rotisserie leagues. The numbers on his rehab assignment are at least encouraging.
9. SP Dan Haren, Angels -- His back might be an issue, but if the rest was exactly what he needed, he stands to be an innings-eating gem for fantasy owners in the second half. His career levels are not attainable, but he can make up a lot of ground fairly quietly by returning as the quality-start machine he has proven to be in the past.
10. RP Andrew Bailey, Red Sox -- There is talk he will return as a setup man for Alfredo Aceves -- or perhaps not even return until September -- but the bet here is Bailey surprises many with a return in late July. The Red Sox's collective return to health can benefit their closer with ample save opportunities and we still should anticipating Bailey closing games again come August.
As for the rest of the weekly review of fantasy baseball's trends ...
OF Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics -- It was just a weekend, but Cespedes comes out of the break with a week's worth of production in a weekend. The 26-year-old Cuban import had his first four-hit game and homered twice with six RBI. He is now on pace for a .283-20-76-43-10 campaign, but a fully healthy second half might get him into the .285-25-90-65-15 territory. A strong finish can set him up for huge value in 2013 and beyond. The Bo Jackson comparison might not have been so far-fetched.
OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers -- You might not find many people complaining he went just 1-for-10 with six strikeouts, because he has built up so much fantasy value this season. It should be noted, though, how much he has declined after the huge April (.395-9-25-20-2) and May (.344-12-32-19-2) he posted. He went just .223-4-16-12-2 in June and is bottoming out in July at .152-2-3-4-0. It might be due to the back spasms he was experiencing of late, or just the normal streaking back to the mean. Regardless, it is a good time to buy if there are some impatient "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" owners.
1. SP Ben Sheets, Braves -- Out of baseball for two years, this was quite a return. It sets him up for a solid second half and he should be owned in all leagues. He remains available in over half of CBSSports.com's leagues.
2. SP Carlos Villanueva, Blue Jays -- Despite the scoreless innings and the strikeouts, he did walk five batters Sunday. He is far less of a sure thing, but we have seen him produce in spurts like this before.
3. SS Alcides Escobar, Royals -- The 25-year old has emerged as a solid option in a down year at the shortstop position. His career is really looking up and he's a worthy every-week starter in mixed leagues, even head-to-head formats.
4. SP Travis Wood, Cubs -- The 25-year-old lefty is yet another Cubs starter putting a strong stretch together. He is building value as a solid option in mixed leagues, and may be even more than a streaming option now.
5. SP Zach McAllister, Indians -- Yet another streaking young arm providing value as a stopgap. He is going to struggle eventually and hit the second-half wall most young starters run into, but this stretch certainly makes him someone to ride in the meantime.
1. SP Dillon Gee, Mets -- He was stringing quality starts together before needing surgery that ended his fantasy season, if not his whole season. The important question now is whether the Mets consider going to prospect Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler.
2. SS Jed Lowrie, Astros -- He was slumping badly for the past month anyway, so this injury comes at a good time, if there is such a thing. He is now a marginal stashee in mixed leagues for the second half.
3. SP Jason Hammel, Orioles -- His rebound season will need a month off after getting a knee scope. He stands a decent chance to come back 100 percent and help in mixed leagues down the stretch, though.
4. RP Sergio Santos, Blue Jays -- His season-ending labrum surgery keeps Casey Janssen in the closer's role indefinitely. Santos may be healthy for spring 2013, but the likelihood of being effective enough to be trusted as the team's closer is fairly low. It puts a real hit on his keeper value. Shoulder injuries can be career homicide for fantasy arms.
5. RP Heath Bell, Marlins -- He is back in a closer-by-committee but the odds are he still is Ozzie Guillen's closer of choice. The latest news has a calf issue affecting his workouts, which is leaving him as out of shape as ever. He'll remain a streaky option the rest of this season, apparently.
Most traded: Buy, sell, hold
1. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants -- He came out of the break smoking, so perhaps the turnaround is under way. You still shouldn't sell. Buy, if you can. BUY
2. SP Cliff Lee, Phillies -- Those victories are going to start coming in bunches with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back on the field. Keep buying. BUY
3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox -- The power numbers are not there, but he still stands to be one of the biggest stars of the second half. BUY
4. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks -- You can just see him erupting with a change of scenery. Don't dare sell now. HOLD
5. SP Roy Halladay, Phillies -- He is returning from shoulder woes but no one should expect he will be the Halladay we have come to know. Owners should hope for a strong, albeit abbreviated return start, and consider dealing him for a bat. SELL
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).
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