So it is finally here. The All-Star break marks a mid-point of sorts for the league, but fantasy owners are already well into the second half of their seasons. The rash of recent injuries has put a strain on some owners, while the work or others is making it just as hard. The good news is that there are some players that thrive in the summer months.
Looking for some buy or sell action? Here are names you need to know.
Ryan Ludwick—The Cardinals outfielder has come on strong in recent days. Ludwick is riding a nine-game hitting streak into the break, and suddenly is showing an emergence of power.
He has hit four home runs in his last seven games while driving in 15 runners. There are some minimal trade rumors surrounding Ludwick, some involving Matt Holliday. A move to Oakland would take away from his value, but do not buy that yet.
Especially given some sudden health issues in the Cardinals outfield, Ludwick will provide the Cardinals with some stability. His .409 average for July does not hurt him, either.
Nick Markakis—If you were told that Markakis had fewer home runs than Nolan Reimold, would you believe it? True statement, though. That in mind, Markakis has done much more damage in the second half of the season than he has in the first.
Since 2006, Markakis has seen his average jump 30 points over the season’s final months. His power numbers are better, and his OPS is 115 points higher. If you take a look at his mix of contact in 2009, you will find that he is hitting more fly balls and seeing fewer leave the park as a result.
A little change in that and Markakis is right back to 25 home runs to go with a .300 average for the season.
Vernon Wells—This Toronto outfielder has had it rough. Wells has been dropped in the order, booed in his own ballpark, and been the subject of plenty of “what is wrong with this guy?” discussions.
He never seems to let it faze him, though. Wells is hitting .372 for July, and his BABIP is 20 points off of last season’s pace. His plate discipline falls in line with where he normally is, and he actually has swung more consistently at pitches in the zone than he has in past years.
Wells’ contact is going in the air too often and a correction here to go with some better luck will produce a much stronger second half.
Colby Rasmus—Questions surround the severity of the injury suffered by Mark DeRosa is one issue. Chris Duncan is just two for his last 24, and that’s another. Rick Ankiel is suffering from some shoulder issues that he had not disclosed to anyone.
Rasmus, though, is hitting .333 for the month of July and a steady .280 for the season. His playing time should basically be assured, especially if Ankiel ends up on the disabled list with the shoulder problems.
He has 11 home runs to his credit already, and is a credible threat for 20 to go with a .285 average the rest of the way. Rasmus was kept up to play, and he should provide owners with solid if not spectacular numbers going forward.
Johnny Damon—Count this writer among those that do not believe Damon is a 30-home run threat. There is no doubt that he has been helped by hitting at Yankee Stadium, as is evident by the fact he hits 30 points better at home than on the road. July has seen a start to at least a limited regression.
Damon is only 5-for-36 this month, and has been sat down on occasion to try and keep him fresh. Sitting at .276 for the season, he could settle in at .265 before the season comes to an end. Looking at some peripherals, it would seem that he has fallen in love with the short porch and wind flows in his home park.
Damon is hitting fly balls at a clip 10 points above his career average, and they are leaving the yard with much greater frequency. That is 40 percent more often than last season, and 50 percent more often than his career numbers.
Corey Hart—Owners remain optimistic about Hart, as judged by his 90 percent ownership. His .250 average and nine home runs, though, do not make him an attractive option beyond an extra outfielder.
His BABIP is right in line with last season’s numbers, sitting near .300. Hart’s problem is strikeouts. He is five points above last season, even though he is walking more. One could argue he is up there actively looking not to hit.
That is supported further with the fact he is swinging at only 47 percent of all pitches, as opposed to 54 percent last season and 51 percent for his career.
With other attractive options available, Hart is one that owners should sell while others still see in him some potential for a good second half.
Rick Ankiel—Sticking with the notes from Rasmus, Ankiel revealed that the shoulder injury he suffered on May 4th is still bothering him. He has struggled all season against hitting any type of pitcher.
Ankiel has hit only .071 for July, and just .217 against right-handed pitching on the season. This is not so much a “sell” recommendation as it is a “cut” recommendation, really. Ankiel does not have enough value to generate any type of trade.
Carlos Quentin—His plantar fasciitis is a tough injury to come back from, and he is still having trouble doing some running with it. The White Sox, though, are still looking to activate him as the second half of the season resumes.
Quentin has had no trouble hitting over his rehab assignment, and that will still translate. Is he likely going to be taking his spot in the outfield every day? No, but there is room in that lineup for his lumber.
Do not expect this to immediately impact Scott Podsednik, as he has done plenty to keep his spot in the lineup when Quentin returns.
Jason Bay—What a rough stretch for Bay. In July, he has started off at a .206 stretch, but continues to show some power and has added a bit of speed this month. After a .324 start in April, Bay hit just .264 in May and then .230 in June.
For owners, it is a depressing start in terms of average for a player that most feel can produce around .280. He is struggling hitting curveballs, and cannot lay off of them away and out of the zone. An adjustment in strikeouts for him will be the biggest change.
Bay is making less frequent contact than his prior three seasons in almost every respect.
Hold on to him, because he is too good a hitter not to make changes.
Alfonso Soriano—The Cubs outfielder has had a lot of problems with his knees this season, but has entered the break on a 6-for-19 run. This is a player that is not in danger of losing time in the lineup, despite having been dropped in the order.
He may not be 100 percent healthy, but he is certainly better than the alternatives available and owners will not be able to get enough value in return to merit a trade. Do not view him as a sell now candidate and take whatever is offered.
Soriano tends to get a 10 point jump in average after the break, going .290 over the last three years as opposed to .280 before it.
Matt Holliday—This is a hold on the assumption that Holliday is going to be traded. Now, yes, there was always a difference in Holliday’s numbers in Colorado as opposed to outside of it. Still, he was a .300 hitter over the last three seasons away from home. To start 2009, he has hit near that .275 mark.
Much of that can be attributed to the park and the lineup he plays in. Oakland is the worst hitting team in the American League. There is no protection in the lineup for him, and there is plenty of foul territory for a pitcher to receive some help.
Holliday is hitting .297 in July. Guess what? Nine of his 10 games have come on the road. Just sayin’.