MLB teams each played their 81st game of the season in recent days, which represents the mathematical midpoint of the season. This point of the year offers fantasy managers a great opportunity to easily project their players’ end-of-season stats by doubling the cumulative totals they have accumulated so far. Here are some players whose progress may surprise you.
Players on a 30-30 pace: Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr.
Acuna and Tatis would clearly both be top-5 picks if leagues were redrafted today. Managers should note that a trio of players are just short of a 30-30 pace, Trea Turner, Cedric Mullins and Ozzie Albies. Turner is a first-round caliber player, while Albies has likely pushed his way to Rd. 2 status and is a terrific trade target for those who seek a versatile, impact bat. Mullins is by far the most surprising name on this list. The Orioles leadoff man roared out of the gate in April before dipping in May and then posting an eye-popping 1.172 OPS in June. At this point, it’s easy to be a Mullins believer.
Empty Batting Averages: Michael Brantley, Adam Frazier
Brantley and Frazier both have fantasy value, but they may not make much of an impact to those who are no longer in tight batting average races. Brantley leads the Majors in batting average (.340) but has yet to steal a base and is on pace for roughly 10 homers and 60 RBIs. Meanwhile, Frazier sits second in the Senior Circuit in batting average (.324) but is on pace for single-digit totals in both homers and steals. Finally, David Fletcher is the epitome of an empty batting average, batting .286 with zero homers, four swipes and 26 RBIs. Those who have Fletcher rostered should consider dropping him right away.
Hitters on pace for 200 strikeouts: Javier Baez, Matt Chapman, Joey Gallo, Eugenio Suarez
Four players are on pace to do something that has happened just 13 times in Major League history. And of course, the knee-jerk reaction of fantasy managers is to push these high-strikeout players off their squad. But a little bit of research shows that the 13 200-strikeout seasons include four seasons of at least a .260 average, eight campaigns with more than 37 homers, and the same number with at least 90 RBIs. Chapman hasn’t been too productive, but the other three can be considered for trade by those who have some wiggle room in batting average. Gallo could be especially productive, as he leads the Majors in walks and is on pace for 40 homers and a double-digit steals total.
Pitchers on pace for 20 wins: Aaron Civale, Kyle Hendricks, Julio Urias
Just three pitchers reached the 10-win plateau by midseason, and none of these three arms has made it to 11 victories. I have a strong hunch that we won’t see a 20-win season this year. Civale is injured, while both Hendricks (3.98 ERA) and Urias (3.81 ERA) have not been especially stingy. Also, Hendricks pitches for a middling team and Urias may have his innings monitored by the Dodgers. The lack of elite win totals from starters has made setup men who rack up wins even more valuable. Brent Suter, Jonathan Loaisiga, Yusmeiro Petit and John King are all on pace for 12-plus victories while working high-leverage relief innings.
Relievers who are on pace for 100 strikeouts: Matt Barnes, James Karinchak, Scott Barlow, Raisel Iglesias, Matt Mayers, Josh Hader, Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Alex Reyes
There are plenty of relievers who are racking up whiffs, but most of them are rostered in Yahoo leagues. Still, those who need saves while also hoping to make a move in strikeouts should target one of the closers on this list. The hidden gems in this group may be Barlow and Mayers. Barlow has been the best Royals reliever and recently secured two saves, while Mayers could move into the closer’s role if the Angels trade Iglesias this month.
Relievers who are on pace for 40 saves: Mark Melancon, Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader, Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, Alex Reyes
These six closers are incredibly valuable in the current fantasy landscape. When the season reached its midpoint, just 13 relievers were on pace for 30 saves and a total of 22 were on pace for 20. We are currently living in a polarized ninth-inning environment, where several teams share opportunities and others remain dedicated to a single fireman. The value of a reliever who can deliver 40 saves, 100 whiffs and low ratios has never been higher, making the names listed above coveted commodities in trade talks.
The unluckiest starters: Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez
A pair of Marlins pitchers could be this year’s recipient of the “Jacob deGrom award” which goes to a starter who is credited with few wins despite pitching effectively over a large volume of innings. Alcantara (five wins, 2.96 ERA) and Lopez (four wins, 2.97 ERA) have been incredibly unlucky despite pitching very well across a large volume of innings. There could perhaps be a window to acquire one of these starters via trade, as their current manager may be frustrated with the low win totals.