First Half Fantasy Baseball All-Stars
With the first half of the 2019 season in the rearview mirror, now is an opportune time to review the best players of the first half at each position. However, anyone playing fantasy baseball and at least paying half-attention could likely name the best producers across the diamond thus far. Therefore, rather than just reflecting back on how well each player has been, we’ll also dig a little into where they’re trending to determine whether or not they’ll be equally as productive in the second half as well.
AL: Gary Sanchez (NYY)
Sanchez has returned to producing numbers among the game’s elite after a disappointing 2018 season. He’s slashing .245/.315/.556 with 24 home runs, eclipsing last year’s homer total in 26 fewer games. Batting in the heart of a Yankees lineup decimated by injuries, Sanchez has been a big reason why New York continues to run up the scoreboard. His 14.3% Barrels/PA% leads all of baseball. Expect him to remain in a tier of his own at catcher, reasserting himself as worthy of an early-round pick next year.
NL: Willson Contreras (CHC)
Contreras may not have the same power output as Sanchez, but he more than makes up for it with a bump in batting average and OBP. His overall slash line of .286/.381/.556 makes him an elite option at fantasy’s weakest position, and his 18 home runs at the half should make surpassing his previous career-high (21) a foregone conclusion in the second half. Not to ruin the parade, but Contreras’ hard-hit percentage sits at league average, and his exit velocity is a few ticks below, so expect slight regression with the .335 BABIP.
AL: Carlos Santana (CLE)
Santana is having a career year at age 33, hitting .297/.418/.540 with 19 home runs, due in large part to a career-high BABIP of .311. On the surface, that seems like it’s barely above league average, but Santana had always run a BABIP in the .250-.275 range. The biggest difference is he’s combined the higher BABIP with a .243 ISO. This is the first season of his career where the two have worked in concert together as well as they have. Time will tell if this holds moving forward, but expect results closer to his career year in 2016 than 2018’s down year.
NL: Freddie Freeman (ATL)
Freddie Freeman’s power numbers had steadily been declining (34, 28, 23 the last three years), but his stroke has returned with a vengeance this year. Freeman has already slugged 23 home runs to go with 69 runs and 68 RBIs, all of which that are on pace for career highs. The most notable change is the fact that he’s sporting an 18.5% K-rate, the lowest of his career. We may very well be in the midst of Freddie Freeman’s greatest season.
AL: D.J. LeMahieu (NYY)
Brandon Lowe is breaking out in a big way with 16 home runs and a .862 OPS, but the .381 BABIP portends significant regression. Tommy La Stella came out of nowhere to provide power and average, but sadly, he will now miss more than two months with a broken leg. D.J. LeMahieu, however, continues to exploit a favorable home park, and his track record as a former batting champion (.348 in 2016) gives him a boost here lest anyone think his current .336 average is a fluke. What really gives him a boost is the fact that he already has 12 home runs and should easily best his previous career-high (15) in short order. Essentially, Yankee Stadium is giving us the LeMahieu season we thought Coors was going to give us.
Honorable Mention: Tommy La Stella, Brandon Lowe
NL: Ketel Marte (ARI)
Ketel Marte has already had a career year, and we’re barely into July. His 20 home runs are already six higher than his previous career-high, and he’s just six RBIs shy of matching last year’s total in…get this…70 fewer games. Anything extra he provides owners in the second half should be considered gravy, as you’ve already banked a full breakout season’s worth of stats in just the first half. There’s no reason to think his power is unsustainable given he’s hitting the ball with a greater exit velocity than ever before, but the overall slash line (.311/.359/.559) should see some regression since his hard-hit rate is only league average. Expect more of a .280 hitter rather than the .300-plus one we’ve enjoyed, but that hardly makes him less the All-Star.
AL: Alex Bregman (HOU)
It’s crazy to think Bregman is on a career-high 40-homer pace and could be performing even better if not for a career-low .245 BABIP. Expect a 15-25 point jump in his average moving forward to go along with elite counting stats. The only knock against him is the fact that he seems to have stopped running, and steals had been an integral part of his value. Though, if he’s hitting .290 with 35-plus bombs, does it really matter if he’s not stealing bases?
NL: Nolan Arenado (COL)
The most impressive part of Arenado’s season thus far is a career-best .312 average. He has only hit above .300 once in his career (.309 in 2017), but he’s on pace for career bests in runs scored and RBIs to go along with his elite power numbers. As hyped and expensive as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were this offseason, Arenado’s extension may have been the best signing as he’s the best player of the trio.
AL: Adalberto Mondesi (KC)
Mondesi looks very much in the first half of 2019 like the fantasy force he was in the second half of 2018. He has stolen roughly the same amount of bases (28 versus 32) in roughly the same amount of games, and his peripherals are more or less the same. The biggest difference is only seven home runs so far this season compared to 14 in 75 games down the stretch last year.
Nonetheless, Mondesi should go 15/40 with his power/speed combo and a batting average that won’t hurt you. Many hoped last season’s potential wasn’t a mirage. So far, it hasn’t been.
NL: Trevor Story (COL)
Story fell into the late second round of many drafts despite hitting .291 with 37 home runs, 27 stolen bases, and 108 RBIs last season. He still calls Coors Field home, and Story is on pace to post yet another 30/20 season. His BB rate has improved almost a full percentage point this season, and his hard-hit percentage and exit velocities are both at career highs as the first half comes to a close. He finished the first half hitting .292/.358/.549 with 19 home runs and 12 stolen bases.
AL: Mike Trout (LAA)
Mike Trout continues to do Mike Trout things. We almost take for granted how consistently great he is year after year. Trout is currently on pace to break his career home run total (41) despite the fact his .310 BABIP is a career-worst. If you can believe it, he’s producing like an All-Star and he’s been unlucky.
He enters the break hitting .301/.453/.646 with an Angels’ franchise record for first-half home runs (28) and a complement of eight stolen bases. He’s also one of the few players in baseball who walks (19.4 BB%) more than he strikes out (17.6 K%). Expect him to be as good or even better in the second half.
AL: Joey Gallo (TEX)
Joey Gallo is breaking the internet and baseball at the same time. The young slugger is sporting a .398 BABIP that screams regression and belies his .275 average. And yet, his xBA (.244) suggests he hasn’t been as lucky as one would assume. His average exit velocity is an otherworldly 94.5 MPH (second in MLB) and his 54.4% hard-hit rate sits at third in MLB, so let’s just chalk it all up to a simple formula: when you hit the ball really, really hard…good things happen.
AL: Mookie Betts (BOS)
Mookie Betts is having a down year only in the sense that he isn’t producing “second overall pick” numbers. Nonetheless, he’s still on pace for 25-30 home runs, 20-plus stolen bases, and excellent counting stats to go along with a .270 or better average. If his BABIP luck improves, he won’t be that far off last year’s stellar numbers.
NL: Cody Bellinger (LAD)
Cody Bellinger is hitting like a man possessed (.346/.442/.692). He’s on pace for over fifty home runs, double-digit steals, and a .290 or better average even with BABIP regression baked into his projections. Bellinger was always considered a bounce-back candidate after last season, but no one could have anticipated he’d be rivaling Mike Trout for best hitter in the league.
NL: Christian Yelich (MIL)
Last season, Yelich posted an “unsustainable” 35.0% HR/FB rate. This one stat was the main culprit for the belief that 2018 would go down as a career year for Yelich, and the 36 home runs he hit would probably go down as a career-best. Instead, Yelich has managed to post a 34.1% HR/FB rate, so I guess naysayers can say there was some regression after all.
Yelich has 31 home runs already, and breaking the 40 plateau seems like a given at this point. He might hit 50. Put simply, Yelich has become the National League’s version of Mike Trout, even more so than Cody Bellinger has.
NL: Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL)
Acuna probably won’t hit 30/30 this year, but he will eventually. The 21-year-old superstar already has 21 home runs to go along with his 13 stolen bases, so a 30/20 season is all but guaranteed. Couple that with a .883 OPS and you have a fantasy monster and dynasty diamond. THE BAT’s rest-of-season projections have Acuna flirting with a 40-20 season, making him one of the best players in fantasy baseball by a mile.