Fantasy Baseball: Albert Pujols, Mike Trout Headline July's 24-Man All-Star Team
The following slideshow touts my fantasy all-star team for the month of July.
To clarify, the 24-man listing only honors statistics from the 31-day window for July and does not necessarily reflect a player's status from April, May, June or the preseason.
The competition among outfielders and starting pitchers was particularly intense.
And yet this should hardly mollify the embedded masses crying foul over alleged snubs involving Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, Bronson Arroyo, Mark Trumbo, Carlos Gomez, Ben Revere, Emilio Bonifacio, Matt Holliday, Anthony Rizzo, Melky Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Alex Gordon, Denard Span, David Wright, Nick Markakis, Derek Jeter, Garrett Jones, Brandon Phillips, Aramis Ramirez, Prince Fielder, Freddie Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, among others.
Enjoy the show!
Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
July Stats: 9 HR, 21 RBI, 15 Runs, 3 Steals, .296 BA, 1.059 OPS
Skinny: The competition for best fantasy backstop was particularly intense during July, but Brian McCann gets the nod based on strong marks in batting (.296), on-base percentage (.354) and slugging (.704).
It should be pointed out that McCann's homer tally for July (nine) was exactly half of that for April, May and June combined. So it's not like he's been raking the ball everywhere this season.
But hopefully, McCann's amazing month will be a springboard for similar fantasy success in August and September.
2. Buster Posey, Giants
3. Joe Mauer, Twins
4. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
5. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
1st Base: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
July Stats: 8 HR, 20 RBI, 18 Runs, 3 Steals, .330 BA, 1.071 OPS
The painful recollection of Albert Pujols' miserable April has long been replaced by warm memories of his production for May (8 HR/24 RBI), June (4 HR/19 RBI/.326 BA) and July, which includes elite marks in OBP (.411) and slugging (.660).
In terms of his standing among the first base-eligible dynamos, Pujols is no worse than No. 3, behind Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto, when healthy.
2. Mark Teixeira, Yankees
3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
4. Freddie Freeman, Braves
5. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
2nd Base: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
July Stats: 7 HR, 21 RBI, 20 Runs, .358 BA, 1.097 OPS
Skinny: Andrew McCutchen might be the hottest thing going in fantasy right now (.446 for July), but at least Neil Walker can boast of eclipsing his Bucs teammate in RBI for the month...and a tie in homers.
McCutchen comparisons aside, Walker had very few peers with batting average (.358), OBP (.423), slugging (.674), hits (34) and runs (20).
All told, it was one of Walker's greatest months of his pro career. Fingers crossed on his hot streak not being bound to a calendar flip.
2. Brandon Phillips, Reds
3. Robinson Cano, Yankees
4. Jordany Valdespin, Mets
5. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
July Stats: 4 HR, 10 RBI, 12 Runs, 7 Steals, .356 BA, 1.076 OPS
Skinny: At first blush, the July numbers for the elite shortstops weren't that amazing. But then again, Ian Desmond did all of his damage in just 14 games. BOOM!
Outside of Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout, no other hitter earned an All-Star spot from only two weeks of participation. Wow!
In fact, Desmond required just 16 monthly hits and 45 at-bats to clinch scintillating marks in batting average (.356), OBP (.431) and slugging (.644).
2. Jose Reyes, Marlins
3. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
4. Alcides Escboar, Royals
5. Derek Jeter, Yankees
3rd Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
July Stats: 10 HR, 24 RBI, 26 Runs, .366 BA, 1.186 OPS
Skinny: Just like with Brian McCann, Ryan Zimmerman's torrid July seemingly came out of nowhere.
Entering the month, Zimmerman was mired in a seasonal hitting slump (.241) and coming off a power drought of one homer from May 20-June 25.
But 10 homers, 24 RBI and 10 games of multiple hits later, and Zimmerman has quickly transformed from fantasy afterthought to coveted asset before the roto trade deadlines in mid-to-late August.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
3. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
4. David Freese, Cardinals
5. David Wright, Mets
Utility Spot: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
July Stats: 9 HR, 23 RBI, 22 Runs, 1 Steal, .344 BA, 1.086 OPS
Skinny: Albert Pujols and Ryan Zimmerman may have garnered the official all-star spots at first base and third base, but let's be honest, you could make a strong argument for Miggy having the best July amongst the trio.
Of equal importance, very few fantasy GMs would part with Cabrera for just about any player in the fantasy realm, save Andrew McCutchen or maybe Matt Kemp.
As such, the utility slot was a nice landing spot for baseball's purest hitter for power and batting average. Miggy's monthly marks in hits (33), homers (nine), batting average (.344), OBP (.409), slugging (.677) and OPS (1.086) were absolutely absurd—but hardly unexpected.
Throw in Cabrera's amazing walk-to-strikeout ratio (12/12), and it's easy to see why he's a prime contender for American League MVP.
Utility Spot: Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A's
July Stats: 5 HR, 19 RBI, 16 Runs, 4 Steals, .344 BA, .961 OPS
Skinny: Yoenis Cespedes's monthly marks in homers, RBI and steals aren't that much of a surprise, given his raw power and athleticism.
But I'm blown away by the proficiency with hits (33), batting average (.344) and OBP (.388). These are the numbers of an all-around fantasy threat, not just some one-trick pony who's filling the time between home run swings with strikeouts and inattentive base-running.
Bottom line, I would gladly surrender two quality players (one hitter, one pitcher) to land Cespedes in a 2-for-1 pre-deadline swap. He should be a real difference-maker down the stretch.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
July Stats: 10 HR, 23 RBI, 32 Runs, 9 Steals, .392 BA, 1.259 OPS
Skinny: Forget about rookies. In 30 years of reading countless box scores and pouring over thousands of stats from Baseball-Reference, Retrosheet or FanGraphs, I cannot recall a month like the one Mike Trout just concluded in Anaheim.
And he doesn't turn 21 until Aug. 7!
Sure, Andrew McCutchen posted a higher batting average and Jason Kubel/Josh Willingham belted more homers for the month, but Trout's July tally might be the most complete fantasy demolition over a 30- or 31-day calendar period. Ever.
The kid is literally embarrassing opposing pitchers and defenses with his uncanny combination of blinding speed, raw power, elite athleticism and pure baseball savvy.
It goes without saying: Trout (18 homers, 55 RBI, 80 runs, 31 steals, .353 BA in just 81 games) has already locked up the No. 1 overall slot in next year's fantasy drafts.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
July Stats: 7 HR, 15 RBI, 22 Runs, .446 BA, 1.249 OPS
Skinny: How high has Andrew McCutchen (22 HR, 66 RBI, 69 runs, 14 steals, .371 BA) raised the fantasy bar this season?
His 15-day batting average of .362 resembles a prolonged slump, and his 15-game homer drought (including the Aug. 1 tilt) seems like it started back in mid-May.
That's the downside of batting .446 in a 30-day window while collecting votes in droves for National League MVP by season's end. The day-to-day expectations of this Bucs basher have simply gone through the roof.
At this point, there may be no reasonable 2-for-1 blockbuster to absorb the trade loss of McCutchen down the stretch, unless you're desperate for steals—his only so-so category.
That said, his owners should ask for the moon and expect the stars when trying to consummate a deal.
Outfield: Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins
July Stats: 11 HR, 27 RBI, 20 Runs, .283 BA, 1.059 OPS
Skinny: I'm a little surprised the fourth-place Twins didn't trade the 33-year-old Willingham before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, especially after a month of double-digit homers, 20-plus runs and RBI, a near-.400 OBP, 1.059 OPS and elite-level plate discipline (18/20 strikeout-to-walk ratio).
But with this non-move, fantasy owners can now look forward to Willingham posting strong numbers for August and September in a familiar, pressure-free environment.
They can also believe that Willingham (27 HR/79 RBI) has a better-than-average shot at 40 homers and 110 RBI.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
July Stats: 6 HR, 15 RBI, 20 Runs, 6 Steals, .301 BA, .941 OPS
Skinny: For a superstar like Ryan Braun, I'm amazed at how quietly he has posted stellar numbers this season.
Sure, the lack of noise from Braun (28 HR, 70 RBI, 69 runs, 19 steals, .310 BA) might have something to do with the offseason brouhaha with Major League Baseball (overturned suspension) and the Brewers' diminished status in the National League Central (47-56 as of July 31), but his consistent runs of excellence are still greatly appreciated in fantasy circles.
Outfield: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox
July Stats: 6 HR, 22 RBI, 20 Runs, 2 Steals, .333 BA, 1.005 OPS
Skinny: I could kick myself for doubting Rios's capacity for posting elite-level numbers in consecutive months...but that's exactly what happened here.
In fact, compared to June, Rios proffered better stats in doubles (12), RBI (22), on-base percentage (.359), slugging (.646) and OPS (1.005). And his numbers in homers, runs and batting average were either stagnant or just below the threshold of a white-hot June.
It goes without saying: Fantasy owners should feel little motivation to sell high on Rios in the coming weeks unless they're getting a major boost in starting pitching and steals, and even then, I would still feel ambivalent about such a blockbuster.
Outfield: Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks
July Stats: 11 HR, 22 RBI, 21 Runs, .279 BA, 1.100 OPS
Skinny: After some deliberation, I added Jason Kubel as the final piece to this countdown.
Yes, his .279 batting average is quite pedestrian when compared to the other five outfielders, but he also gets credit for crushing an MLB-high 11 homers (including three on July 21) for the month while posting supreme marks with on-base percentage (.367), slugging (.733) and OPS.
Not a bad month for a guy who only collected 24 hits in the 31-day window.
Carlos Gomez, Brewers
Matt Holliday, Cardinals
Denard Span, Twins
Melky Cabrera, Giants
Corey Hart, Brewers
Michael Morse, Nationals
Austin Jackson, Tigers
Justin Ruggiano, Marlins
Alex Gordon, Royals
Nick Markakis, Orioles
Starting Pitcher: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
July Stats: 3-0, 1.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 44/10 K-BB
Skinny: David Price (14-4, 2.57 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) has gone at least seven innings in his last eight starts (56.1 total). In that span, he went 6-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 63/15 K-BB ratio.
Price also has a range of seven to 10 strikeouts in nine of his last 10 outings.
Bottom line: From a wins, strikeout, ERA and WHIP perspective, Price would have taken Cy Young honors for July.
Starting Pitcher: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
July Stats: 6-0, 2.23 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26/9 K-BB
Skinny: Jered Weaver was a perfect 6-for-6 in collecting victories with July starts.
In that span, he also surrendered two walks or less five times and just two runs or less five times (including two scoreless efforts).
For the stretch drive, it would be a minor upset if Weaver didn't win his first American League Cy Young; it would also be a surprise if he didn't raise the stakes—strikeout-wise—with his next five opponents (White Sox, Mariners, Rays, Tigers, Red Sox).
Strikeouts are the only thing keeping Weaver (14-1, 2.29 ERA, 0.95, 95 K's) from being the undisputed No. 1 pitching asset.
Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
July Stats: 3-0, 2.03 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 39/9 K-BB
Skinny: Back in late June, yours truly posed some open-ended query of, "What will King Felix do for an encore?" after racking up double-digit strikeouts on June 23 (Padres) and 28 (Red Sox).
Well, Hernandez answered that rhetorical question with a primal scream of dominance in July, collecting three wins, allowing just 10 runs (spanning six starts and 44.1 innings) and posting four outings of six or more strikeouts.
The numbers look even better when viewed through the prism of Felix's last five outings: 1.38 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.
Here's another scary thought: Despite an all-star month, Hernandez has the skills to establish an even higher fantasy ceiling for August.
Starting Pitcher: Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners
July Stats: 5-0, 1.64 ERA,1.02 WHIP, 26/13 K-BB
Skinny: Elite starting pitchers are routinely forgiven for the occasional clunker start.
But I can only imagine the visceral reaction of fantasy owners everywhere on the morning of June 21, just hours after Jason Vargas got shelled for nine hits and 10 runs against the Diamondbacks.
The cacophonous clicking noise of GMs heartlessly dumping Vargas would have made for a great Kit-Kat commercial, but for those who rode out the bad times, they were rewarded with a seven-start flurry that yielded five victories, a 1.79 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 32 strikeouts.
To say Vargas (12-7, 3.71 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) has been a sweet fantasy surprise would be something of an understatement.
To say that he was on equal or better footing with teammate Felix Hernandez for the month...well, that would be a notion based in truth.
Starting Pitcher: Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
July Stats: 4-0, 2.61 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 36/10 K-BB
Skinny: How superb were Homer Bailey's numbers for July?
He closed the month with a ghastly performance against the Padres (six runs allowed in 3.2 innings) and still finished with an unblemished record (4-0), an ERA under 2.65 and healthy strikeout-to-walk ratio (36/10).
Before the San Diego game, Bailey had posted five straight outings of two runs or less while collecting four wins and 34 strikeouts in that span.
Of course, you're only as good as your last start, and hopefully, Bailey (9-6, 3.85 ERA) will feed off the happy moments of July to produce a similarly stellar August.
In my mind, he's a keeper for any league during the pennant drive.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
July Stats: 3-2, 3.51 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 40/12 K-BB
Skinny: Clayton Kershaw might not have been this countdown's most dominant pitcher in July, but he certainly had the most unique journey to all-star fame.
Two outings of eight runs and five runs allowed, buttressed by four other outings that called for a grand total of three runs. And when viewing his numbers since June 21 (spanning eight starts and 55 innings), he boasts a 1.47 ERA...with the eight-run and five-run clunkers on the resume.
The real question is this: Can Kershaw use his productive, but occasionally erratic July as a springboard for August and September dominance while making another late run for back-to-back Cy Youngs in the National League?
I cannot wait to see how things shake out; of equal importance, I can't wait to move heaven and earth to land Kershaw, via trade.
Starting Pitcher: Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves
July Stats: 4-0, 1.23 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 26/8 K-BB
Skinny: This is a perfect example of the Cubs selling high on a respectable, but hardly game-changing pitcher before the MLB trade deadline.
Conversely, it's a prime instance of the Braves hoping the change of scenery (or calendar flip) won't stifle the momentum of Maholm (9-6, 3.81 ERA, 1.24 ERA, 81/34 K-BB), who's currently riding a masterful seven-outing streak of zero or one run allowed.
In this span, Maholm has five wins, a 1.00 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 32/9 K-BB ratio.
Starting Pitcher: Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
July Stats: 4-0, 0.97 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 31/4 K-BB
Skinny: Speaking of Maholm-esque numbers, Jordan Zimmermann hasn't surrendered more than two runs in a start since June 10.
In fact, the numbers are quite sick from his last nine outings: 5-1, 1.42 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 40/11 K-BB ratio.
Bottom line: Zimmermann might never catch teammate Stephen Strasburg in strikeouts, but he's certainly the better trade target for the final two months.
And that's not just because Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has promised to shut Strasburg down for the year after an arbitrary innings count (allegedly at 170).
Starting Pitcher: A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates
July Stats: 4-1, 3.19. ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 33/8 K-BB
Skinny: There's something to be said about finishing strong, or creating one last sweet July memory for fantasy fans.
And A.J. Burnett's zero-run, one-hit dominance of the Cubs on Tuesday night (July 31) was the perfect capper for a successful month that included four wins, five outings of five-plus strikeouts and a perfect 6-for-6 run of starts that yielded two or less walks.
As such, Burnett was an 11th-hour choice for the final starting-pitching slot, ahead of Johnny Cueto, Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgarner, Doug Fister, Bronson Arroyo, Josh Collmenter, Yovani Gallardo, Scott Feldman and A.J. Griffin.
Closer: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
July Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 13-of-13 Save Opps, 31/2 K-BB
Skinny: Here's a quick breakdown of Aroldis Chapman's mind-blowing numbers from July:
1. In just 14.1 innings, only eight opposing hitters reached base (two by walk), and the cumulative batting average was .122.
2. Chapman allowed zero runs and posted a microscopic WHIP of 0.56 for the month; in fact, I'm going back to see if any base-runner even got to third base with the southpaw still in the game.
3. He was a perfect 13-for-13 in save opportunities.
4. Chapman's K/9 ratio for July was 19.5, easily his best effort of the season. (Point of record: A low K/9 for Chapman would represent something in the 15s.)
5. His K/BB rate of 15.50 was three times the amount of his splits for April, May and June. In fact, if you added up the first three months, it would barely surpass that of July.
Closer: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
July Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 8-of-8 Save Opps, 13/2 K-BB
Skinny: Last but not least, we have the ongoing storybook season of Fernando Rodney, who hasn't allowed an earned run since June 14 (spanning 17 outings and 12 saves).
It's getting to the point where we couldn't have a monthly countdown without Rodney, who's making his third all-star appearance.
Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Rafael Soriano, Yankees
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
Huston Street, Padres
Jason Motte, Cardinals
Joel Hanrahan, Pirates