MLB Stars Poised for Big Production After the All-Star Break
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After a dominating three-hit shutout by the American League in Tuesday night's MLB All-Star Game, the wait for the second half is upon us.
When games resume on Friday only one team in baseball that will have a division lead greater than 2.5 games, and that is the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Perennial stars are starting to show signs of life and pitchers are hitting their groove which should make for an exciting final few months.
Players such as Davis and Miguel Cabrera are expected to continue their hot starts, but there are a few players who appear poised to make big second half strides despite average first halves.
In no particular order I plan to highlight a few of baseball's big names that I feel are knocking down the door of big production after the All-Star Break.
I'm sure there will be much disagreement with a few of these but here goes my take.
Yoenis Cespedes might not have made the All-Star team this season, but his swing in the Home Run Derby sure looked pretty enough to help him register a solid second half.
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While I would be lying if I said his Home Run Derby performance didn't have anything to do with his inclusion in this list, it definitely wasn't the only reason.
As a fan of the derby I like to see good hitters compete even with the possibility of a detriment to their swing following the All-Star Break. Yoenis Cespedes showed everyone, including myself, that his swing is in working order.
Cespedes caught everyone's eye on Monday night after posting 17 homers in the first round of the Home Run Derby, before eventually beating out Bryce Harper in the final round. Although Cespedes was not an All-Star this year, he proved a lot with his showcase of power on that night.
Cespedes' numbers this season are nothing to fuss about, as he hit just .225 with 15 home runs and 43 RBI before the break. And while this is only his second season in the MLB, his numbers indicate he could have a solid second half.
The big-hitting Cuban registered a solid second half in his rookie campaign, hitting .311 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs. His .909 OPS percentage is the number that jumps out at me though.
Cespedes improved his hitting remarkably in the second half of last season and I expect him to do the same this season, especially with confidence on his side following his derby appearance.
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Another derby participant and another young player in his second season of work is Bryce Harper. The 20-year-old phenom had an impressive derby debut hitting eight in all three rounds to finish in second.
Harper is an enigma to me at this point in his career because it seems he is underachieving a bit with all of the hype.
Although he started the All-Star game this season, his .265 batting average and 13 homers before the break left more to be desired. While watching him in his one year in junior college I never saw him as a high average hitter, but his production isn't exactly where I thought it would be.
Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on a player who is a year younger than I am, but his potential shows he can do more. Harper is a guy who played extremely well when it mattered last season, hitting .330 with seven homers and 14 RBI in September-October.
His numbers are just average at this point, but considering his love for the bright lights and confidence from narrowly missing out on a derby crown, I'd bet Harper is in for a big second half to this season.
His numbers in July weren't great, but it's his hitting in the clutch this season that has Justin Morneau poised for a solid second half.
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In his 10th season in the MLB, I still consider Minnesota Twins' own Justin Morneau a big threat at the plate.
Morneau got off to a shaky start this season posting a .253 batting average the first two months of the season, but solid play in May and June have him in a position to break out in the second half.
A .273 average with seven homers and 52 RBIs is right on track for Morneau, who totaled 19 home runs and 77 RBI all of last season, but I expect him to pick it up after the break.
Morneau is hitting .298 with runners on base this season and .311 with runners in scoring position which makes me believe he can still come through when he wants to. Statistically he has had a horrid month of July, hitting only .167, but a .333 average in his last series with the Yankees gives me more hope.
I could be stretching with this pick but his clutch hitting statistics prove there is life left in Morneau's bat and I think he will give the fourth place Twins a spark after the break.
One of my favorite players since he entered the league 12 years ago, Ichiro seems to be a player you can always count on to produce.
With a career batting average of .321 and at least 178 hits in every season as a professional, Ichiro is a mainstay at the top of a lineup. Though his numbers have declined somewhat in the last few years, I suspect a breakout second half from Suzuki.
Ichiro hit .283 with 90 hits and 36 runs in the first half of the season, but his .353 average in the month of July has positioned him for a big end to the season.
For his career, Ichiro has a .318 batting average in the second half of every prior season, including a .356 on-base percentage. With the Yankees battling for a playoff spot, you have to believe his ability to get on base will reveal itself.
Ichiro is the epitome of consistency and I see no reason why he won't produce solid numbers in the second half. He's been on fire as of late, and I expect it to continue the rest of the way.
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Wilin Rosario has emerged as a fine catcher for the Colorado Rockies, and appears poised to make an impact for years to come. That includes this one.
Rosario posted solid numbers in the first half of this season, batting .276 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs but I believe he is just getting started.
Seven of Rosario's home runs with runners on this season go along with a .303 average in the same category. In his third year, Rosario is averaging .264 in the second half of seasons with 17 total home runs in that period.
Just to add a little extra to the argument, Rosario is currently ranked No. 9 among MLB catchers in fantasy baseball this season, currently giving my personal team an average of 2.8 points per game.
Rosario is a nice young bat whose discipline at the plate is starting to come along. Expect big numbers from him in the second half.
Tim Lincecum has had a profound fall from greatness the last few seasons, but after his first career No-Hitter a few days ago I project big numbers in the second half of 2013.
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Four days ago Tim Lincecum put himself on the map once again by registering his first career no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. Lincecum struck out 13 in the performance with four total walks.
Although Lincecum has had his struggles the last few seasons, that performance might have been just what he needed to salvage another bad year.
Lincecum is currently 5-9 with a 4.26 ERA this season to go along with 125 strikeouts which ties him for No. 11 in the MLB. After back-to-back Cy Young seasons in 2008 and 2009 Lincecum has amassed 48 combined losses in the last three and a half seasons.
If Lincecum's numbers are any indication however, he should be expected to improve in the second half of this season. Lincecum has an average ERA of 3.09 after the All-Star break for his career, with a .547 win percentage.
San Francisco is expected to try to deal Lincecum before the trade deadline, and I think many teams should be willing to take a chance. He is a solid second half pitcher and his confidence has got to be high after his last outing.
If Lincecum can command the strike zone and pick his spots like he did in his no-hitter, I see big numbers after the break for the man once known as "The Freak."
Expect Alfonso Soriano's power numbers to increase dramatically in the second half of this season.
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Alfonso Soriano is one of the streakiest hitters I can ever remember in my lifetime. He has never been a guy who has hit for a high average, but has failed to tally a .280 average in his last four seasons.
Soriano finished the first half of 2013 with a .259 average to go along with 16 homers and 49 RBIs. He hit .275 with seven home runs in the month of July, and should continue producing big power numbers.
Over 13 MLB seasons Soriano has averaged just under 29 home runs a season and is currently 12 away from reaching the 400 milestone for his career. He is a .268 career hitter after the All-Star break and averages exactly 13 homers in the second half.
His power has shown itself over the last month in a big way for the Cubs, who are 15 games back in the NL Central, and I expect those numbers to continue to rise.
If nothing else, it should be safe to anticipate a lot of home runs from Soriano to close out the season.
Francisco Liriano seems to have found his way back to prominence after a serious arm injury a few years ago. Liriano is 9-3 with a stellar 2.00 ERA this season.
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The only reason Francisco Liriano isn't ranked among the league's best in ERA this season is because he's only thrown 76.2 innings. But unofficially his 2.00 ERA is No. 2 in the MLB behind Clayton Kershaw.
At 29 years of age, Liriano is an interesting story. After beginning his career with a 12-3 season for the Minnesota Twins in his first full season in the majors, Liriano underwent Tommy John Surgery which forced him to miss all of 2007.
His numbers since the injury have been nothing to smile at, but he is currently putting together a stellar 2013 campaign with a 9-3 record and a 2.00 ERA in 76.2 innings of work.
Although these numbers are better than average, Liriano's troubles in the past put him on this list because you don't know if he can hold up for the entire year.
Liriano has a career 9.2 strikeout per nine innings ratio after the All-Star break and his improved command this season presents a positive outlook for the remainder of the year.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently one game behind St. Louis in the NL Central and Liriano is a big reason why. Expect him to strikeout many hitters and definitely expect him to be sitting near the top of the majors in ERA when this season is finished.
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By all accounts, C.J. Wilson has had a pretty decent 2013 campaign thus far. He is 9-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 121 strikeouts.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2010, Wilson has never had an ERA higher than 4.00 and has amassed at least 13 wins in those seasons. He keeps his team in every ball game and has given up more than four runs in only two of his 19 starts this season.
Wilson is 2-1 in his last three starts, surrendering only two earned runs in 20.2 innings of work on the mound. His numbers are just decent for a guy who went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA two seasons ago, but his play as of late show potential for a solid end to the year.
Wilson has an 8.2 strikeout per nine inning ratio this season and I look for him to close out 2013 with authority.