Fantasy Baseball: 10 Fantasy All-Stars Who Won't Finish Strong
At the halfway point in the season, many owners at the top of league standings are not there because they drafted Josh Hamilton, Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera. They are there because they drafted Mike Trout, Chris Sale and Melky Cabrera 10 rounds later.
The question now is, should you hold on to the breakout players or sell high before the smoke dissipates and mirrors are broken? These 10 players have put many of their owners at the top, but can they be trusted?
At the end of the day, each shows signs that perhaps their value has reached its peak and the time is now to cash in.
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Mark Trumbo is batting .310 with a .966 OPS. In 149 games in 2011, Trumbo struck out 120 times, boasting a .291 OBP, while hitting 29 home runs on his way to finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting.
Over his last 12 games, Trumbo is batting .245 with a .275 OBP. In the last month, he is batting just .260, which is just a symptom of striking out three times as much as you walk. His 62 strikeouts in 73 games puts him on pace for 137 Ks over 162.
Long story short, the power is real. He has 20 home runs already and could very well hit 30-35 by the end of the year, approaching 90 RBI, but be ready to pay the price in batting average and on-base percentage.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
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Fact No. 1: Josh Hamilton's per-game production is among the five best players in baseball.
Fact No. 2: Hamilton hasn't played in 135 or more games since 2008.
Teammates of Hamilton and Ranger fans love him because he plays the game hard, never afraid to run full speed into a wall to make a catch or acrobatically dive around a tag to get the extra base. Unfortunately, this style, combined with the substance abuse in his past, leave him vulnerable every single night out.
This is not meant to advocate dumping him for 95 cents on the dollar. The only intention is to raise awareness. If someone is willing to pay value of a top 10 overall player to get Hamilton, it is something every owner has to consider.
Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves
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Fantasy owners drafted Michael Bourn to steal 60 bases, score 90 runs and bat .280-300. He had 35 steals at this point last season and, while his 23 swipes might pale in comparison, Bourn has seven home runs.
Bourn had five homers in 2008, and has seven home runs in the three seasons since. That's seven bombs in 1,797 at bats through 456 games since opening day, 2009. He is also just six RBI short of his 2010 total.
Bourn is likely to have the second half owners expected in his first half. He is still hitting for average, and will continue to steal bases and score runs, but beware falling in love with the power, as that screams fluke.
Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
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Diamondbacks' 25-year-old southpaw Wade Miley is 9-4 with a 2.87 ERA and 1.064 WHIP. In eight games as a rookie in 2011, Miley was 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.650 WHIP. Additionally, Miley's K/9 is 6.3.
In 2011, only one pitcher out of the top 20 in wins had a K/9 under 6.5 (Nova, 5.33). Only three of the top 25 in ERA had K/9 under 6.5. Two of his nine wins have come against teams with winning records and one of those was the Kemp-less Dodgers. Also, four of those wins have come against last place teams.
If he doesn't find a way to miss more bats, the ERA and WHIP will be on the rise as the quality of opponents improves. He is not a bad pitcher by any means, and can be valuable in fantasy, but he is not THIS good either.
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
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Chris Sale is an elite pitcher who will likely be a Cy Young candidate before his 26th birthday. However, the White Sox have already proved skittish with his health. At the first sign of trouble, they moved him to the bullpen, albeit for a week.
The problem with Sale is he threw 71 innings in 2011, and 33.2 innings combined majors and minors in 2010. One of two things will happen to a 23-year-old with 102.2 innings on his arm so far this season.
Either Chicago will stay in the division race and he will be asked to throw 190-210 innings, wearing down with each start in August and September and either being seriously injured or see his performance suffer. Or Chicago will fall back and shut Sale down just when you needed him in your fantasy playoffs.
R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
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Going into his start on Thursday, R.A. Dickey was 12-1 with a league-leading 2.15 ERA, league-leading 0.885 WHIP and 9.2 K/9. He's been among the five best starters in fantasy baseball without question. So why is he included?
Dickey's 4.64 K/BB is more than double his career rate, and almost double his 2.48 ratio from 2011. He has never had a K/9 over six, let alone over nine. Dickey's ERA in his "breakout" 2010 and 2011 seasons was 2.84 and 3.28, respectively, and he is allowing nearly three less hits per nine than those two seasons.
Dickey is good and will likely end the season among the 20-30 best starters in fantasy. But for comparison, the best knuckleballer ever, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, had a career K/9 of 5.6 and K/BB of 1.85. Beware the coming regression.
Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins
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The Twins sensational third baseman has 19 home runs in 212 at bats, which is additionally shocking when one considers Target Field is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball.
Plouffe is a career .236 hitter, and .212 against right-handed pitchers. On June 1, Plouffe was batting .163 on the season in 98 at bats. He batted .327 in June and belted 11 home runs to inflate his season numbers, but this is still a below average all-or-nothing swinger, and there might not be much time left to peddle the .250, .894 OPS version before the career .236, .757 OPS reality reappears.
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
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With many of the elite names at shortstop struggling in 2012, Ian Desmond is among the top five performers to this point at the position. There is a chance his surge is the maturation of a young player coming into his own, but...
His batting average is up 26 points from 2011, his OPS is up 144 points, due in large part to a 133-point slugging percentage spike and yet he is on pace to match, if not top, his 139 strikeouts from a season ago. His approach at the plate seems not to have changed.
Again, it is possible the change will stick. It is possible he will continue to bat nearly .280 while striking out over 20 percent of his at bats, while slugging nearly .500 compared to his .410 career mark, but it seems more likely a regression is coming, and it could very well come in the form of a long ugly slump.
Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
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Tyler Clippard has always been among the best relievers in the game. He has a career 2.83 ERA and 10.1 K/9. The injury to Drew Storen, and inconsistency of other options in the Washington bullpen, gave Clippard a chance to do it in the ninth, and he has not disappointed.
Clippard has a 1.83 ERA, and has saved 13 games since taking over as the Nationals' closer. Unfortunately for his owners, Storen is expected back shortly, and while Davey Johnson has hinted Clippard might hold on to the ninth inning role for now, owners shouldn't forget how hesitant he was to give the job to Clippard in the first place.
Johnson loves Clippard because he can go two innings if needed, and liked to use him in the seventh and eighth to bridge the gap from starter to Storen. If Drew comes back 100 percent, owners might be disappointed to see Clippard back in the setup role before the end of August.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
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First of all, I didn't plan to end with three Nationals. It just worked out that way.
People are ignoring the Nationals' 160-inning limit they placed on Stephen Strasburg at the beginning of the year because they are in first place. The man projected to be one of the best of his generation threw just 24 innings after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.
How lucky are the Nats feeling with their prized ace? Maybe they let him throw 200-plus innings of a complete season, plus another 30 in the playoffs after that. Or maybe you're left without the anchor of your fantasy rotation for the last month of the season, wishing you'd dealt him when he was still a consensus top-five starter.