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Notable Second-Half Performances & 2023 Impact (Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
Feb 14, 2023

While looking at a player’s stats from last year is a great place to start when planning for this year’s draft, sometimes it is helpful to analyze their splits. One of the simplest splits that can still be very telling is their first-half vs. second-half performance. When there is a significant variance between the two halves, we are left to determine which is more representative of the player’s likely production moving forward.

In that spirit, we pulled last year’s data and compared each player’s pre-All-Star game to post-All-Star game statistics. For hitters, we primarily focused on changes in wOBA, OPS, and wRC+. For pitchers, ERA, FIP, xFIP, and WHIP. The goal was to find players whose fantasy value for 2023 might be affected by a particularly strong or weak half. Some players with large variances were still good (or bad) in both halves. For example, Aaron Judge (OF – NYY) went from an incredible 173 wRC+ pre-break to an otherworldly 251 wRC+ post-break. That’s a huge variance, but all it tells us is that he was awesome last season throughout.

Below are two players whose variances give us pause about where to draft them this year and two who may be underrated heading into the season based on their second halves.

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Two Players Whose Second Halves Worry Us

C.J. Cron (1B,DH –  COL)

Cron had an excellent 2022 overall, ranking seventh among first basemen in VBR after slugging 29 HRs and driving in 102 runs with a respectable .257 batting average. However, looking at his splits, he did virtually all his damage in the first half:

First 381 21 69 .298 .902 .383 134
Second 251 8 33 .197 .604 .261 51

To be fair, Cron played through a wrist injury in the second half, which may explain why his ISO dropped from .254 in the first half to .144 in the second. However, his wRC+ of 51 was the lowest among qualified hitters after the break, which definitely raises an eyebrow, even if he was dinged up. The early rankings have Cron as the 10th-best first baseman for 2023. While his second-half power outage is likely an anomaly, drafting him around 100 overall seems a bit risky when you can get players like Christian Walker, Andrew Vaughn, and Rowdy Tellez two to four rounds later.

Sandy Alcantara (SP – MIA)

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with drafting Alcantara as long as you keep your expectations in check. The Marlins’ ace rode an amazing first half last year into a Cy Young award. His second half wasn’t terrible. In fact, it was pretty good and resembled much of the rest of Alcantara’s career. Here are his splits from last season:

First 138 1.76 2.72 3.29 0.90 8.0 2.2
Second 90 3.09 3.39 3.29 1.10 8.4 1.7

Alcantara’s ERA and FIP were a little over a run higher in the second half despite a better K/BB ratio. Two stats stand out that may explain the difference. First, his BABIP rose from .241 to .291, which isn’t a huge difference but does indicate some good luck in the first half. Second, his HR/FB% went from 5.7% before the break to 12.2% after, which is more in line with the league average. For some perspective on Alcantara’s career prior to 2022, here are his stats from 2019 through 2021:

2019 197 3.88 4.55 5.17 1.32 6.9 3.7
2020 42 3.00 3.72 4.04 1.19 8.4 3.2
2021 206 3.19 3.42 3.45 1.07 8.8 2.2

His stats after the All-Star break last season were similar to 2020 and 2021, indicating that his baseline is in this range. That’s still good enough to make Alcantara a top-15 starter, but not the second-ranked hurler from 2022 or the fourth-ranked starter in the latest ECR (especially given his relatively low K-rate). Draft Alcantara as a low-end SP1 or a high-end SP2, and he should deliver for you, but if you select him too early, you may be disappointed.

Two Players Whose Second Halves Make Us Believers

Max Muncy (2B,3B,DH – LAD)

Muncy struggled for most of 2022 after tearing his UCL during the last game of the 2021 regular season. However, he heated up after the All-Star break and resembled the slugger who garnered MVP votes the year before. Here are his 2022 splits:

First 297 9 30 .164 .639 .293 90
Second 268 12 39 .230 .791 .345 125

Muncy still took walks in the first half, but a dreadful .188 BABIP and a low-for-him 1.55 ISO sent his fantasy production into the tank. Down the stretch, though, Muncy’s ISO rose to .221 and his BABIP to .270, which is closer to his career average. It’s reasonable to assume that he’ll bounce back in 2023 and hit 30+ HRs with 80+ RBIs. His batting average will never be a strength, but he may be able to get it back to a spot that won’t hurt you too much. Our experts also seem to be predicting a rebound, as he’s currently ranked as the 83rd-best hitter for 2023 after finishing with a hitter VBR of 152 last year.

Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)

If you weren’t paying close attention, you might not have noticed that Gallen was the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break last year. His finish was so strong that he finished fifth in the Cy Young voting despite a relatively average first half:

First 93 3.56 3.99 3.95 1.08 8.6 2.7
Second 90 1.49 2.07 2.66 0.74 10.3 1.9

It’s easy to forget that Gallen looked like a budding ace in 2019 and 2020 before battling through an injury-plagued 2021. His first half of 2022 was uninspiring, but he may have found himself down the stretch. While his second-half numbers were undoubtedly helped by a .218 BABIP, 5.6% HR/FB%, and 83% strand rate, it’s hard not to be impressed by his 5.42 K/BB ratio. Gallen’s upside is tremendous, yet despite his second-half success, he’s ranked relatively low as the 22nd starter and 69th player overall. If you can land him in the sixth or seventh round, you may get an ace on the cheap.

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