Fantasy Baseball's First-Half Awards: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and More!

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Fantasy Baseball's First-Half Awards: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and More!
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It's the All-Star Break and the Awards just can't wait til season's end. The Fantasy Fix and some of the top fantasy experts out there have made their choices. Take a look to see the first half MVP, Cy Young, Surprises, Busts and more!

 

AL MVP
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers

Cabrera possesses the full package of MVP qualities. He stands at or near the top in nearly all significant offensive categories: first in BA at .346, second in HR with 22, first in RBI with 76, third in R with 64, third in doubles with 26, second in OBP at .423, first in SLG % at .650 and first in OPS at 1.073.

He's been a picture of consistency from month to month:

April - .344 5 HR 25 RBI
May - .344 9 HR 23 RBI
June - .323 6 HR 20 RBI

An underrated, yet critical element of an MVP candidate is their ability to perform in the clutch. On a team that's hitting .252 with RISP, Cabrera is hitting .358. According to STATS LLC., he has seven HR and 20 RBI in AB's in the seventh inning or later “with the batting team ahead by one run , tied, or with the tying run on base, batting or on deck.”

Even with Cabrera’s dynamic offensive resume, the Tigers are still a middle of the pack offensive club, currently eighth in runs scored and ninth in HR.

Where would they be without him? Very far from nine games above .500 and second place in the AL Central. His protection in the lineup comes from Magglio Ordonez, who the entire baseball world thought was washed up in 2009, and Brennan Boesch, a 25-year-old rookie who never had a ML AB entering this season. While all the credit in the world goes to Ordonez and Boesch, there is no question Cabrera's presence has had a marked impact on their success in 2010.

To review: Massive numbers...check. Clutch ability...check. Direct impact on the performance of teammates...check. Invaluable to the survival of his team...check. M-V-P.

Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers are both more than worthy of consideration, but they neutralize each other's exploits. Robinson Cano of the Yankees is also quite deserving, but with the Yanks' pitching prowess, they'd be winning games regardless.


Written by Adam Ganeles for TheFantasyFix.com . Make sure to check out Adam’s weekly MiLB Farm Report covering A, AA & AAA ball!
Follow us on Twitter @thefantasyfix


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NL MVP
Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

About 14 weeks ago, the first pick of your draft was Albert Pujols, because he had the most value. If you redrafted today and had the first pick, Pujols would still be the player offering you the most value. Albert Pujols is the definition of value to Fantasy Baseball owners by offering consistent production in the statistics which matter most.

So far this year he's scored 54 runs, hit 22 home runs, and driven in 64 RBIs.  Add a .307 batting average and nine stolen bases to boot—he's given his owners the cornerstone to a team which resides at the top of their standings.

Written by James Weston for
TheFantasyFix.com . Look for James’ weekly insight covering all aspects of Fantasy Baseball. Follow us on Twitter @thefantasyfix


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AL CY YOUNG
Cliff Lee, SP, Texas Rangers

There certainly is a great crop of AL pitchers to choose from for this award. David Price is having a breakout year, Jered Weaver is looking at better numbers than his stellar 2009 performance, and batters can barely touch Jon Lester.

But one player is on his way to breaking an amazing MLB record: Cliff Lee.

One key statistic puts Lee on top of the rest—strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB). Cliff has only surrendered six walks so far this season. That's right folks—SIX! His K/BB ratio right now is 15/1.

The highest amount through a full season in history is Bret Saberhagen with 11/1 in 1994. In fact, Roy Halladay, who has only given up 19 walks himself, is only averaging 6.73. Josh Johnson is at 4.39 and "All-the-Craze Jimenez" is averaging a lowly 2.45 K/BB.

Lee is the man for the moment, but no one can look past what David Price has done in the first half. Leading the league in ERA and Wins, Price may be all the rave by year's end.

Written by Evan Marx for TheFantasyFix.com . Evan is co-owner of The Fantasy Fix and reaches into your brain to pick his topics each week. And yes, he knows exactly what you are thinking right now. Shame on you! Follow us on Twitter @thefantasyfix


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NL CY YOUNG
Josh Johnson, SP, Florida Marlins
 
While Ubaldo Jimenez was the one getting most of the early season headlines, it was Josh Johnson that went out and consistently dominated the opposition.

To this point, Johnson is 9-3 with a 1.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP and his peripherals are rock solid.
 
Johnson is ninth in baseball with a 9.07 K/9 and eighth in baseball with a 4.39 K/BB rate (min 90 IP). He has the third best whiff rate among Major League pitchers (26.1 percent), just barely behind Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw. Added on top of all that, he has a good ground ball rate (48 percent) and a line drive rate against that is below league average (18 percent).

Those last two factors have helped keep his BABIP against a low .278. As long as he continues to keep limiting line drives and keeping the ball on the ground, his BABIP should remain low all season.
 
Want one more nugget of advanced statistics? Johnson hasn't exactly been walking down easy street. The batters he has faced this season have a combined VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 49.8, which is the highest combined VORP that any pitcher has faced this season (min 80 IP).
 
Needless to say, Josh Johnson has been beyond impressive over the first half of the 2010 season.
 
Written by Charlie Saponara. Charlie is owner/author of fantasybaseball365.com , featured columnist on bleacherreport.com and a contributor for projectprospect.com


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AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Brennan Boesch, OF, Detroit Tigers

Outfielder Brennan Boesch didn't make the Detroit Tigers' opening day roster, but he did get an quick call-up in late April when Carlos Guillen went on the disabled list. And all he's done since then is hit the daylights out of the ball.
 
The reason so few people know about Boesch, even though his .342 average is among the American League's highest, is because he hasn't had enough plate appearances to qualify among the league leaders...until now. He finally reached the minimum on Sunday. 

Boesch is hitting the ball with authority—he has 12 homers, 49RBI, a .397 on-base percentage, and a .990 OPS. To put that in perspective, only five players in the majors have a higher OPS: Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, and Albert Pujols. That's some pretty select company.
 
The 25-year-old Boesch got his feet wet playing against mostly right-handed pitchers, but he became an everyday player for the Tigers once manager Jim Leyland started giving him a chance against lefties.

He hasn't just held his own against lefties, he's thrived. The lefty-swinging Boesch is hitting an amazing .459 (28-for-61) against southpaws—tops in the majors for players with more than 20 at-bats—with three homers and a 1.307 OPS. At the midpoint of the 2010 season, he's the clear choice as AL Rookie of the Year.

Written by Steve Gardner. Steve is one of the elite fantasy baseball analysts and the voice behind USA Today’s Fantasy Windup . You can also find Steve on Twitter @SGardnerUSAT .


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AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - The Pitching Perspective
Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers

Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers needs to get serious consideration for the American League Rookie of the Year at the halfway point.

Feliz is the 21-year-old flamethrower and one of the essential pieces sent to the Rangers from the Atlanta Braves in the Mark Teixeira deal in 2007. He saw some live action with the big boys in 2009, but failed to accumulate 50 innings pitched, which allows him to be eligible for 2010 ROY consideration.

After Frank Francisco blew two saves to start the season for the Rangers, Feliz was appointed to the closer position, and hasn’t looked back since. In 36 total appearances in the first half of 2010, Feliz is 1-2 with a 3.82 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and is striking out 10.04 batters per nine innings. Additionally, batters are hitting just .203 against Feliz and he is stranding more than 70 percent of base runners.

He has saved 23 games in 25 chances for the first place Texas Rangers. Neftali's 23 saves ties him for second best in the AL with Rafael Soriano of the Rays and they sit just two saves behind the league leader, Joakim Soria of the Royals, who has 25.

Feliz will need to calm his “Wild Thing” tendencies and reduce his current 3.11 BB/9 if he is to remain effective at the closer position. However, as the season progresses, Neftali should continue to mature on the hill in the pressure situations and gain greater control of his 96 mph fastball.

Despite the incredible season Brennan Boesch is having offensively, I believe the young closer on the first-place team earns the nod for AL ROY.

Written by Alan Harrison for
TheFantasyFix.com . Alan is the founder and co-owner of TheFantasyFix.com. Follow us on Twitter @thefantasyfix


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NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Florida Marlins

Crazy right?  Maybe two months ago it would've been, but not now.   

I suppose Stephen Strasburg might have a case, especially if he continues to pitch like he has, but he'll also be shut down the first week of September.  Are we really prepared to hand the award to a starting pitcher who's only played half the season? Never mind the fact that he might not lead a single major category among rookies by the time Labor Day rolls around. 

Jason Heyward was everybody's favorite until a thumb injury sent his season into a tailspin two months ago.  Of course, he still has plenty of time to grab back the lead in the race for this season's top rookie, but if his thumb injury lingers, his slump could very well last into September.  

Who's left?  Jaime Garcia?  There's no doubt he's impressed and he might give Gaby a run for his money if the Cardinals don't impose an innings cap—Garcia threw just 52.2 frames in 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2008 season—but then again, he's been pitching over his head all season. 

At least that's what his fielder independent ERAs tell us (3.30 FIP, 3.76 xFIP).  Even if he finishes the year with an ERA around 3.00, it means he'll have posted an ERA closer to 4.00 in the second half. Throw in a league-average strikeout rate and you have a solid rookie campaign, not an award-winner (unless voters give him the award based on win totals, in which case, he's probably a shoo-in).     

That leaves Gaby, who currently ranks first in batting average, second in runs scored, fourth in RBI, and fifth in homers among all rookies heading into the All-Star break. Sabermetrically speaking, Sanchez is first among all rookies in WAR (2.1 Wins Above Replacement), wOBA (.367 Weighted On-Base Average), and wRAA (Sanchez's 12.1 Runs Above Average is 13th among ALL MLBers). 

He hasn't just done it with his bat, either.  His glovework's been just as solid (he ranks third among all rookies—behind Heyward and Austin Jackson—in both UZR and UZR/150).     

Obviously, Sanchez needs to hit at least as well as he did in the first half to keep his name in the conversation.  But based on the adjustments he's made and how much he's improved month-to-month, I have little doubt he'll be able to do so. 

Written By Paul Bourdett of FanHouse . Paul Bourdett's weekly waiver wire column, "The Pickup Artist" can be found each Thursday at AOL FanHouse . .You can also catch Paul on Twitter: @PaulMBourdett

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NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - The Pitching Perspective
Jaime Garcia, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

99.2 Innings Pitched, 8-4 Record, 2.17 ERA, 80 Ks 

Now I know that this may not be a popular choice for many because he is not an everyday player, but his numbers are too staggering to ignore.  There is not a great rookie pool to choose from in the NL this season, so it made this decision very difficult.  There have been some great first halves from Jason Heyward, Gaby Sanchez, Ike Davis, and Drew Stubbs. 

Yet it is the consistency of Garcia that raises him above the rest.  All four of the position players have slowed down of late after very fast starts to their careers.  This is typical of rookies as the rest of the league begins to put together scouting reports on them.  

Dave Duncan, pitching coach for the Cards, is the X Factor for Jamie because he is widely considered the best pitching coach in the game for his ability to develop young arms.  You can look for similar results from him in the second half of the season as he locks up the NL full season award.

Written by Dan Pollak for
TheFantasyFix.com . Check back weekly for Dan's excellent fantasy baseball analysis and projections. Follow us on Twitter @thefantasyfix


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AL FIRST HALF SURPRISE
Colby Lewis, SP, Texas Rangers

Some say Colby Lewis spent his offseasons at a remote Japanese Zen Buddhist temple and meditated to achieve pitching enlightenment. But whatever he did during his two years in Japan, it's working.

When he left the MLB after the 2007 season, he had the worst ERA in history among pitchers with 200 major league innings, and had been released by five Major League teams. Fast forward to 2010, where he is in the top 10 in the AL in WHIP and strikeouts, and has been the best starter for the first-place Texas Rangers.

The biggest change for Lewis has been a much higher strikeout rate, due to more reliance on his improved slider. Overall he's throwing 29 percent sliders, as opposed to 12.6 percent back in 2007 (and just 2.4 percent in 2003). Lewis is throwing more sliders in every count, including 32 percent sliders when he's behind 2-0 and 40 percent sliders when he's behind 2-1.

Lewis is even throwing 24 percent first pitch sliders, and has an above-average 63.4 percent first strike percentage.  Lewis has been a bit lucky so far, but should still finish with an ERA under four, a WHIP around 1.20, and close to a K per inning. The addition of Cliff Lee allows Lewis to slot in as a solid No. 2 starter on a World Series contender.

Written by Alex Shear. Follow Alex on Twitter @RotoSleeperz and view his rarely updated blog at http://rotosleeperz.blogspot.com


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NL FIRST HALF SURPRISE
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants

As of this writing, can you tell me which NL West first basemen has these numbers?
.295-17-54-53-3

Did you guess Adrian Gonzalez? If you did, you would be wrong. Those numbers actually belong to AUBREY HUFF.

In fact, the Giants 1B/OF has actually performed nearly identically to the slugger from San Diego. Honest.

A. Huff: .295-17-54-53-3 with a .929 OPS
Gonzalez:.301-18-56-49-0 with a .927 OPS

Given that you could have taken Huff probably 150 selections after Gonzalez on draft day, and that Huff qualifies at two positions, he has clearly been a bargain of monumental proportions.


Written by Ray Flowers. Ray is the Managing Editor of Fanball.com and the CEO of BaseballGuys.com . Ray also co-hosts the Fanball Fantasy Drive on XM 147/Sirius 211 Radio. Follow Ray on Twitter @BaseballGuys


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AL FIRST HALF BUST
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles

Drafted on average in the seventh round, Wieters is easily the biggest non-injury bust in the AL this season. You can never count on injuries, so I'm not counting guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Kendry Morales, Brian Roberts, et al, but the man whose nickname is God and was the subject of a highly flattering Sports Illustrated piece in spring training has fallen to 59 percent ownership in ESPN leagues.

And it makes sense—as we near the All-Star Break, Wieters is the 21st best catcher in baseball according to ESPN's Player Rater, and has rewarded those who drafted him with a .243 batting average, six homers, 22 runs, and 29 RBIs.

For comparison's sake, Yankees part-time backstop Francisco Cervelli has more RBI and is hitting 30 points higher; Mariners offensively-challenged Rob Johnson—who is hitting .200 and is owned by zero percent of people playing fantasy baseball—has more runs; Diamondbacks backup Chris Snyder has more homers; and no fewer than 20 full-time catchers have a higher batting average.

There may be hope, however. Wieters is still hugely talented, and has been hitting better of late—over .300 in July with a few runs scored. But for owners who had high hopes of him being, well, exactly what Buster Posey's been so far, have been sorely disappointed.  Hopefully mixed leaguers have found a replacement. I know I have. Kurt Suzuki, welcome to my team.

Written by Jesse Mendelson. Jesse is Partner and Senior Writer for www.fantasybaseball101.com , has been playing fantasy baseball almost as long as Ron Shandler with a long history of both tremendous successes and spectacular flameouts. You can contact him at fantasy_baseball101@yahoo.com, and be sure to follow Jesse's writing on www.fantasybaseball101.com and on Twitter @fb101 .

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NL FIRST HALF BUST
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

Drafted in the middle of the first round, Utley has traditionally been as sure of a bet as anyone in the league. But at the time of the injury (that will keep him out until Labor Day), seven second basemen had more runs, nine had more homers, 12 had more RBIs, 18 had more steals, and 20 had higher batting averages.

For a mid-first rounder, this is just unacceptable. And although you can't count on injuries, his recent sprained thumb means that his owners can expect virtually no production from him all year. At a prime position, no less. My dad always told me not to slide headfirst...

Written by Jesse Mendelson. See above for his street creds.


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AL MiLB PLAYER TO MAKE BIGGEST POST ASB IMPACT

Michael Pineda, SP, Seattle Mariners
 
It was a bit difficult coming up with an AL prospect who would have the greatest impact in the second half of the season, because most of the talent is already up. Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings, and Jesus Montero are higher-rated prospects but their path to the majors is currently blocked. 

That leaves two pitchers—Dan Hudson from the White Sox and Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners. I chose Pineda before Jake Peavy went down for the year, but I am still sticking with him and here is why.
 
Pineda should be called up very soon after the Lee trade and he is already at 100 innings. I can see him getting another 50-60 innings in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark the rest of the way. Pineda will be a guy who should get strong K’s, ERA, and WHIP, but may not make an impact in the Wins category since he will only be going 5-6 innings per start. Hudson is too much of a fly ball pitcher in a hitter-friendly ballpark to make me want to own him in 2010. 
 
Pineda stands tall at 6’ 5” and is only 21 years old. While the GB percent is in the high 40s and I would like it to be a tad higher, the ballpark and division more than outweigh it.  Pineda has a fastball that hits 95-96 at its peak, and the changeup is his second pitch, along with a slider. The secondary stuff is above average.
 
He has averaged more than a strikeout per inning in the minors and his control is solid with a K/BB at 4.00. He has spent most of his time at AA with a recent call up to AAA that until July 9th was looking even better. Long term, I do have some concerns about the elbow injury from 2009 and his delivery. As much of a Pineda fan as any—I do wonder if he ends up in the pen after a couple years if the elbow strain is too much.
 
That being said, Pineda should provide a mid 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 50 K’s, and 4-5 Wins in the second half of 2010.
 
Written by Michael Rathburn. Follow Michael on www.aroundthecooler.com or www.midwestsportsfans.com or on Twitter @Cooler_Guy

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NL MiLB PLAYER TO MAKE BIGGEST POST ASB IMPACT

Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Domonic Brown was drafted in the 20th round of the 2006 draft. 606 players
were taken ahead of him when the Phillies selected him out of a small
 Georgia high school. In four short years, Brown has made Phillies scout
 Chip Lawrence look like a genius, and has worked his way into becoming the
 best overall prospect in baseball who has yet to break onto the Major
 League scene.

The 22-year-old is currently a man among boys at the highest 
levels of the minor leagues. Starting the season at Double-A Reading,
 Brown hammered Eastern League pitching, batting .318 with 16 doubles, three triples, 
15 HR, 47 RBI, and 12 SB in 65 Games. He was rewarded in June with
a promotion to Triple A at Lehigh Valley, where he has been even better, 
hitting .364 with three doubles, four HR, and 12 RBI.

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was quoted last week as saying he has no plans to 
bring Brown to the big leagues until he can play everyday. However, with 
the Phillies falling further behind the Braves and Mets in the NL East, 
with Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, and Ben Francisco all hitting below
 .255 and Jayson Werth becoming a real fan favorite in Philly (I joke),
 it's very reasonable to believe Brown's time will come sooner than later.

When it does, you need to be ready from a fantasy standpoint by adding
 Brown to your roster now. Like Buster Posey was in the first half of the
 season, Domonic Brown will be the NL's best rookie debut fantasy play in 
the second half of 2010 and produce immediate results for your team.

Written by Ben Lipson. Follow Ben on www.topprospectalert.com or Twitter @MinorLeagueBlog


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Here are some more articles to help you win your fantasy baseball league:

MiLB articles
The Fantasy Fix's AAA Farm Report: June 30, 2010


The Fantasy Fix's AA Farm Report: Kyle Drabek's No-Hitter & More!

The Fantasy Fix's A-Ball Report: Big Numbers but who's the real deal?


More Good Reads from the Fix Fellas!

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