The second half of the baseball season is set to go. We want you in contention, and we want you in the winner’s circle. Here are some moves to consider right away.
Add/Play Jarred Kelenic
I’m surprised I can include “add” in this recommendation, but Kelenic’s roster tag is merely 52 percent, so this is a free spin in medium and shallow formats. Kelenic has nothing more to prove at Triple-A (.320/.392/.624, nine homers, six steals), and for as ugly as his batting was during the first 23 Seattle games, he did mix in two homers and three steals. Kelenic should be more comfortable in his second MLB stint, and I could easily see him settling in as a Top 40 outfielder the rest of the way. Trust the scouting notes and the pedigree.
Add Garrett Cooper
Cooper’s health is sometimes a stumbling block, but when he’s healthy, this guy can rake. He’s on a .463 bender the last two weeks, with four homers, 13 walks, and a .593 OPS. The Marlins have him parked in the No. 3 spot in the order, and you can use Cooper at first or third base. Cooper is rostered in a modest 27 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Add Andrew Vaughn
Everyone loves a juicy post-hype story, and that’s the angle with Vaughn, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft. Like Cooper, Vaughn has been crushing the ball the last two weeks: .395 average, four homers. The White Sox dropped Adam Eaton from the roster, a clear sign that they want Vaughn in the lineup every day. Vaughn qualifies at first and the outfield and is still free to grab in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.
Audit Your Closers in front of MLB’s Trade Deadline
Craig Kimbrel has been untouchable through the opening half, with an obscene 0.57 ERA and a nasty 0.66 WHIP. But how long will he be in Chicago? The Cubs are under .500 and they’re whispering about a reboot; they’ve already moved Joc Pederson.
Many contending teams would look to add Kimbrel as their new closer, but some teams might not play it that way — if Kimbrel were to move to the Dodgers, say, he likely would be a caddy for Kenley Jansen. Even if Kimbrel stays on the North Side, team competitiveness could be a problem — he hasn’t recorded a save since June 20. Keep an open mind here.
Richard Rodriguez has been terrific for a non-contending Pirates team — 12 saves, 2.29 ERA, 0.76 WHIP. But with Pittsburgh nowhere close to relevance, Rodriguez is the first guy they should be taking to market; a closer is an unneeded luxury on a team buried in the standings. Rodriguez could easily be setting up for a contender in a week or two. If a trade happens, perhaps David Bednar (3.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, strong strikeout rate) could percolate into Pittsburgh's ninth inning.
I keep waiting for the other cleat to drop on Alex Reyes, who has a 1.52 ERA that’s smoke and mirrors. He’s walking over six men per nine innings, and he’s been extremely fortunate with his BABIP, strand rate, and HR/FB rate. The Cardinals are unlikely to bounce a closer who has 20 saves and a tidy ERA, but eventually there’s going to be some kind of correction. It might be a good time to shop Reyes in trade while his numbers are misleadingly dominant.
Trade for Michael Conforto
I get it, you see the average just barely over the Mendoza Line and you want no part of things. But you need to recognize that Conforto has been absurdly unlucky in the first half — the batted-ball data from Statcast suggests Conforto should be batting 46 points higher and slugging 113 points higher. He homered in his final first-half game, his BB/K ratio has been in a good place of late, and his lousy first half can be tied to a nagging hamstring problem that cost him six weeks. Conforto’s back class makes him a perfect trade target if you’re in a league where swaps regularly happen.
Add Nico Hoerner
Hoerner hasn’t shown power at the MLB level, though a .330 average and .389 OBP suggests he should be a Cubs regular. And if Chicago goes through the deadline housecleaning many expect, Hoerner will no longer be blocked from the lineup.
Hoerner was a first-round pick back in 2018 and qualifies at three infield spots in the Yahoo game. His raw speed and intelligence could make him a 20-steal man in future seasons, and the hit tool already passes the eye and data test. Hoerner’s rostered in a modest 17 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Trade for Eduardo Rodriguez
The Red Sox look like a full-season competition story, and Rodriguez is due for a luck correction. His 5.52 ERA will scare away casual managers, but Statcast suggests he should have a 3.64 ERA, and xFIP pushes that number down to 3.37. Rodriguez has the highest CSW% of his career and is getting plenty of swinging strikes; his first half was hampered by a ridiculous .361 BABIP and an unfortunate 64.5 percent strand rate. This is one of the easiest correction calls for the second half.