Fantasy Baseball 2011: Johan Santana and 27 Second Half Breakouts

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2011

Fantasy Baseball 2011: Johan Santana and 27 Second Half Breakouts

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets walks to the dugout against the Minnesota Twins at Citi Field on June 26, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    By this time, fantasy owners have a clear grasp on which teams in their leagues are playoff bound or seeking a wildcard.

    Whether it's a points based rotissiere league or a weekly head to head, the next month or so will determine where your team sits come September.

    Considering it's fairly unpredictable to fully gauge your league's complete playoff pitcure, now is the time to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

    With that said, here are the top 27 players who are due to breakout in the second half of the 2011 MLB season and help your championship chances.

27. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners

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    SEATTLE - JUNE 17:  Dustin Ackley #13 of the Seattle Mariners singles in the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Safeco Field on June 17, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Before being called up to the majors over the weekend, Dustin Ackley was one of the most heralded prospects in all of baseball, and rightfully so.

    The 23-year-old has hit a home run and triple over his first three games, striking out only once.

    He has a huge upside for the second half of the season, offering speed and power at a very weak fantasy position.

    However, since he plays for the Seattle Mariners, he fails to rank higher on this list.

26. Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24:  Jorge Posada #20 of the New York Yankees hits a double in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on May 24, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    It's going to be interesting to see how Jorge Posada performs over the second half of the season.

    Most of the New York Yankees hitters have started to get going.

    Alex Rodriguez is hitting for average, Nick Swisher is starting to break out of his slump, and Russell Martin is back behind the plate.

    Following the next week which includes inter-league play on the road, Posada could find himself back in his comfy DH role and on his way to a hot hitting July.

    Don't write the veteran catcher off just yet because if he catches fire soon, he could be one of the best options at yet another weak roster position.

25. Jose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 10:  Jose Tabata #31 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on against the New York Mets during the game on June 10, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Mets defeated the Pirates 8-1.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Jose Tabata is an interesting pick.

    He could go either way in my eyes, but for the sake of this list, let's say he gets back to his 2010 ways.

    While he's only batting .261 with 12 RBI, Tabata hasn't done too bad through the first half of the season.

    He's on pace for a career-high 31 stolen bases and could easily become a must-start option if he gains some steam and manages to boost his average upwards of .275.

    With speed, extra-base hitting, and a great eye at the plate, the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder could be in for a big second half.

    Tabata batted .322 in the second half of the year last season.

24. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners

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    SEATTLE - JUNE 15:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners steals third base against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Safeco Field on June 15, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The steal was the 400th in his Major League career. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    I really don't think Ichiro Suzuki will do much better than he has, but at least he can't do worse.

    With the recall of Dustin Ackley, Ichiro could finally have some lineup protection if the young second baseman does well enough to hit atop the Seattle Mariners order.

    While he's batting a career low, Ichiro continues to be a solid option, whether or not he's finally breaking down.

    He can rake with the best of them, doesn't strikeout, and is still on pace for 54 stolen bases.

    A lot of owners have given up on the future Hall of Fame outfielder, no argument there, but I would advise you to stick through the bad and reap the benefits of a top of the line option.

23. Chad Billingsley, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    DENVER, CO - JUNE 10:  Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley #58 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delviers against the Colorado Rockies as he pitched 4 2/3  innings and left the game with the Rockies leading 6-0 at Coors Field on June 10, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    For the most part, Chad Billingsley has been a major disappointment in 2011, going 5-6 with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP.

    Regardless of those immediate red flags, Bills still has some nasty stuff to showcase start to start.

    In 15 total starts int he second half of 2010, Billingsley posted a 3.00 ERA and only issued one home run through 96 innings of work.

    That's pretty dominant.

    Before you give up on the 26-year-old, I'd wait a few starts until after the All-Star break to make a final roster decision.

22. Brian Matusz, SP, Baltimore Orioles

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    WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Starting pitcher Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 18, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Brian Matusz has been fairly decent since coming back from the disabled list no more than three weeks ago.

    While he hasn't pitched up to his fantasy potential, the Baltimore Orioles offense is starting to come around and their pitching could be next.

    If you don't think he should be on this list, look what he did over his 14 second half starts from last year.

    7-3, 3.63 ERA, 72 IP, 61 HA and 63 SO

21. Brett Lawrie, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

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    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Infielder Brett Lawrie #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays sets for play against the Detroit Tigers February 26, 2011 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Despite not being called up after a lingering fracture in his hand, Toronto Blue Jay's second base prospect, Brett Lawrie, could be on his way tot he big leagues.

    And when he arrives, he could be the second coming of Chase Utley.

    Could be.

    Lawrie has posted some gaudy numbers at Triple-A, hitting 3.54 with 15 home runs and 11 stolen bases through 223 at-bats.

    If those numbers aren't proof that he could offer a second half surge at a thin position than I don't know what does.

20. Mat Latos, SP, San Diego Padres

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 10: Mat Latos #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the third inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park on June 10, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Mat Latos has continued to pitch with much inconsistency, but a second half resurgence is not out of the question.

    Latos proved last year that he's nothing short of an ace, striking out nearly a batter-per-inning and becoming a successful winner under one of the worst offensive teams in the MLB.

    While he hasn't even come close to his usual dominant self, Latos is still sporty a 1.31 WHIP with a 68 K:27 BB ratio.

    In the second half of 2010, Latos struck out 90 batters in only 78 innings of work, pitching extremely well in July (1.04 ERA) and August (1.69 ERA).

    Stick with him.

19. Andrew Bailey, RP, Oakland Athletics

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    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10:  Andrew Bailey #40 of the Oakland Athletics pitches in the 9th inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on June 10, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Athletics defeated the White Sox 7-5.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/G
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Andrew Bailey looks to be back to his dominant closing role.

    After finally returning from a long season's start on the disabled list, Bailey has regained his fantasy recognition and should be considered a must-start RP option for the remained of the year.

    If you have any hesitations in trusting Bailey with such inconsistent run support, you have to realize he's closing for one of the better starting rotations in the MLB.

    Roll with Bailey in all leagues and get ready for a true second half surge.

18. Joakim Soria, RP, Kansas City Royals

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 9:  Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates following a win against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium on June 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals defeated the Blue Jays 3-2. (Photo by G. Newman Lowranc
    G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

    Joakim Soria is pretty much doing his best impression of Andrew Bailey.

    He's on his way back to reclaiming his must-start title in any and all fantasy formats.

    The only difference, Soria wasn't hurt, he just stunk.

    However, the Kansas City Royals continue to put up enough runs to stay in a lot of their games, despite horrible starting pitching, so Soria should see plenty of closing opportunities heading into the latter months of the season.

    The Royals shutdown man has recorded four saves over the past week and a half, showing that his 2010 second half ERA of 1.17 is no hoax.

17. Vernon Wells, OF, Los Angeles Angels

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 10:  Vernon Wells #10 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim waits on deck against the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 10, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Vernon Wells is seemingly back on the grind.

    The newly acquired Los Angeles Angels outfielder has smacked three home runs with seven RBI over the past week of action, dispelling speculation that the team overpaid this offseason for his somewhat declining talents.

    However, Wells still has enough left in the tank to make a huge second half splash, hopefully regaining his status as a must-start or better yet an advisable start in most mixed leagues.

    The 32-year-old veteran batted .282 with 12 home runs in the second half of 2010.

    This could be a true rags to riches story.

16. Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 07:  Cody Rasmus #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Dodger Stadium on October 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    What has happened to Colby Rasmus?

    Just when you thought he could be in for an awesome fantasy campaign, he goes and hits .258 with five home runs through his first 70 games.

    Hardly must-start quality, let alone must-own.

    Rasmus has recently been dropped in my league for some no name two-start pitcher, which is usually the case, but I'm wondering if that's really the move owners need to start making.

    I doubt it.

    While he has underperformed to the tee, the now absent lineup spot from Albert Pujols could put some well needed pressure on the young outfielder.

    For a lot of players, pressure is bad.

    But considering Rasmus has sat back and watched Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday rake all year, now could be his shot to turn around his 2011 season.

15. Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03:  Ike Davis #29 of the New York Mets hits a two run homer on a line drive to right field in the bottom of the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field on May 3, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borou
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    O where o where has Ike Davis gone?

    Isn't it about time the New York Mets first baseman showed himself and take over where he left off?

    Before going down with an ankle injury in mid-June, Davis was hitting .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBI, slating him as a near must-start at the beginning of his surge.

    However, to no thanks to the Mets baby steps and Davis' lingering injury, fantasy owners have not only missed out on his elite services, but they've almost forgotten him.

    The 24-year-old rising start is slated to return sometime around the All-Star break, giving you more time to scout out the possibilities of scooping him up and crossing your fingers he stays healthy.

    Because if he does, Davis could reap the benefits of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran better than anyone.

14. Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 11: Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 11, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Will the real Chris Carpenter please stand up.

    Carpenter has been extremely inconsistent through 2011, if not the most inconsistent starting option, but his track record suggests he'll get back on the bull and give owners something to smile about.

    Over the past two months, the 36-year-old vet has waned back and forth between eight inning masterpieces to five inning, 10 hit droughts.

    Don't lose hope yet.

    Despite losing Albert Pujols for the next four weeks, Carpenter still has an efficient offense rocking and rolling behind him.

    He posted seven wins with a 3.13 ERA in the second half of 2010.

13. John Danks, SP, Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 11: John Danks #50 Chicago White Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics on June 11, 2011 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
    David Banks/Getty Images

    After starting the season out as one of the most lack luster starting options around, John Danks has regained his eligibility has a nice mixed league option with room for improvement.

    Danks has won three straight games after starting the year at 0-8, giving up a total of three runs over 22 innings of work.

    I personally cut ties with Danks earlier in the season and I fell like a moron doing so while putting him at No. 13.

    However, the fact remains that Danks has always had the potential to be a must-start fantasy pitcher and with the Chicago White Sox offense finally coming around, the 26-year-old is in for a HUGE second half.

12. Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles

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    OAKLAND, CA - MAY 27:  Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts after striking out in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 27, 2011 in Oakland, California
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Nick Markakis is finally back.

    After hitting .287 through May and .290 over the past three weeks, it's finally safe to say Markakis is back to his must-own, must-start status.

    Also considering the long awaited breakout season of Adam Jones and the resurgence of shortstop J.J. Hardy, Markakis has some serious lineup protection.

    He hit .289 with 17 doubles and only 42 strikeouts after last year's All-Star break.

11. Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins

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    OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 04:  Justin Morneau #33 of the Minnesota Twins plays at first base against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 4, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Justin Morneau is a contingent candidate when it comes to a potential second half breakout.

    Sure he has the track record.

    Sure Joe Mauer is finally healthy and back in lineup.

    Sure he's former-MVP Justin Morneau.

    While all these are significant points to why he would bust out of his slump when he returns healthy from a DL stint, I'd rather look at the numbers.

    I'm going to go out a limb and say Morneau's predictable pre-break and post All-Star numbers are going to converge and pull the ultimate shift.

    He's usually a first half producer, but considering his numerous woes through the first three months of 2011, I think his second half totals are going to be the ones you want to start in your lineup.

    We'll have to wait and see.

10. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Colorado Rockies

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 7: Ubaldo Jimenez #38 of the Colorado Rockies looks up at the scoreboard after giving up a run in the fifthinning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on June 7, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis
    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Ubaldo Jimenez needs to start pitching like his 2010 self.

    I think he can do it.

    Jimenez proved last year that he can pitch with the best of them and considering the Colorado Rockies usually play their best ball down the stretch, their starting pitcher should be no different.

    He tallies high strikeout totals, can pitch very deep into close games, and has the ability to string together numerous scoreless outings.

    Continue to roll with Jimenez in nearly every league.

    His potential is too high and his somewhat disappointing 2011 start is too unorthodox to keep him sliding down the ranks

9. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 14:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees looks on from the bench shortly after being placed on the 15 day disable list during the game against the Texas Rangers on June 14, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Yes, the captain makes the list.

    It's maybe the last year he can.

    Derek Jeter is currently slated to be sidelined for the next week and a half, making him eligible to return just in time for a hot hitting month of July.

    In 2009, Jeter hit an outrageous .351 after the All-Star break, shattering his fantasy competition at shortstop.

    While I realize Jeter is no longer in his prime, he's still too gifted of a hitter and has too many solid players around him to just disappear in the second half.

    He has the potential to be a top-five shortstop option down the stretch, let's just hope his chase for 3,000 hits doesn't get in the way.

8. Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10:  Adam Dunn #32 of the Chicago White Sox hits the ball against the Oakland Athletics at U.S. Cellular Field on June 10, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Athletics defeated the White Sox 7-5.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Adam Dunn's power alone has helped owners win games in the past, so why not trust him down the stretch in 2011?

    Well, the shot blasting DH hasn't been his skycrapping self.

    But everything looks to be coming back down to earth for Dunn, except his home runs.

    Dunn's has the ability to hit home run after home run, so to think this year will be any different would be a loser's mentality.

    He's only 31-years-old, so age is not a factor in projection his future production.

    Dunn simply needs to find a consistent swing, and when he does, there's no doubt in my mind he can be one of the best fantasy providers over the next three months.

7. Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 18:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on May 18, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Braves 5-4 in eleven innings.  (P
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Jason Heyward is back from the DL.

    He's already recorded a multi-hit game and has already knocked in three runs, showing that he could be back on his way to reclaiming his fantasy fame.

    With a fairly solid offense behind him, Heyward's potential needs no introduction, but his consistency could use some discussion.

    If Heyward can find a rhythm at the plate, which it looks like he's doing, the Atlanta Braves outfielder could be in for his biggest second half surge yet.

6. Johan Santana, SP, New York Mets

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 20:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees on June 20, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    When Johan Santana is healthy, there's no question he's a top-10 starting pitcher, if not a top-five option looking for baseball's pitching crown.

    As it stands right now, Santana is due back sometime in July, at the earliest, so the New York Mets and fantasy owners may have to wait longer than expected.

    But trust me, it's well worth it.

    With the Mets surprisingly providing sufficient offense and the resurgence of closer Francisco Rodriguez, the crafty veteran is in line for a huge second half.

    Put it this way.

    If Dillon Gee can go 7-0 with the Mets, imagine what Santana can do over the next three months.

5. Alex Rios, OF, Chiacgo White Sox

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    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10:  Alex Rios #51 of the Chicago White Sox hits the ball against the Oakland Athletics at U.S. Cellular Field on June 10, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Athletics defeated the White Sox 7-5.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    I realize Alex Rios isn't having the season that everybody expected him to have, but he can still be pegged as one of the all-around best fantasy outfielders out there.

    Rios managed to hit .258 through the second half of 2010, which is nothing to brag about, but his six home runs, 39 RBI, and 11 stolen bases are very worthwhile.

    Considering the Chicago White Sox continue to claw and scratch their way back to baseball relevance, Rios could stand to benefit the most out of anybody on that roster when the team puts it all together.

4. Nick Swisher, OF, New York Yankees

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    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 19:  Nick Swisher #33 of the New York Yankees celebrates his three-run home run in the 8th inning as he runs the bases against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 19, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Ima
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    After a stellar past week, Nick Swisher has demanded fantasy recognition as once again a must-own, must-start option.

    Over the past seven days, Swish has recorded nine hits, including two home runs and six RBI.

    He's been batting leadoff for the Derek Jeter-less New York Yankees, so that's another upside going forward in June.

    However, once Jeter returns, Swisher will move back down the lineup.

    But that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

    Swisher has enough promise moving forward to be counted on as a significant fantasy player on any team, proving over his last few outings that he can surely rebound to his 2010 form.

3. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07:  Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins against New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 7, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    I could pretty much leave this slide blank and skip over Joe Mauer, but just in case you've been living under a rock, I'll stand to say a few things.

    Mauer is and has been the best hitting catcher over the past five years, if not a top-five hitter in all of baseball, so his return is easily one of the biggest fantasy splashes going forward.

    He's that good and deserves to be started in any league, anywhere, anytime.

    Why wouldn't he be in for a second half breakout?

2. Phil Hughes, SP, New York Yankees

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    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 8:  Phil Hughes #65 of  the New York Yankees reacts during a rough second inning against the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day at Fenway Park on April 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Looky here, Phil Hughes has managed to throw the ball upwards of 30 mph.

    Over this past weekend, the New York Yankees and fantasy owners alike received some great news.

    Hughes recorded a solid outing at Double-A and was clocked in around the mid-90's.

    Just what the doctor ordered.

    The Yankess have struggled with pitching over the last month, so the 24-year-old's return should be processed smoothly, pegging a mid-July return at the latest.

    Hughes was one of the hottest first-half pitchers in baseball during 2010, until he faded out down the stretch and ruined his 2011 draft stock.

    While you might have some doubts about his potential going forward, look at it this way.

    Hughes has been pretty much hurt the entire year with "dead arm", so when he returns, it'd be like he's pitching from a fresh start.

    For fantasy owners, that fresh start just so happens to be smack dab in the middle of the season.

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 27:  Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Florida Marlins acknowledges teammate Greg Dobbs (not pictured) after Dobbs drove Ramirez in with a base hit against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eigth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 27, 2011 in Los A
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Similar to Joe Mauer, there's really no need to stress the importance of Hanley Ramirez to the fantasy baseball scene.

    Ramirez is still the best hitting shortstop in baseball, unless Jose Reyes decides to go on a power streak, and the 27-year-old should still be thought of as a first round draft pick heading into next season.

    With that said, why all the hate?

    After drafting Ramirez with a top-three draft choice in nearly every mixed league around, many owners are growing weary of his .201 average.

    But considering his true fantasy ability and low strikeout ratio, Ramirez seems ready to return the early draft favor.

    Think about this.

    If your team has been putting up wins without your elite shortstop playing anywhere close to his usual self, just imagine the success you can have even if he provides you with half of the production he's put out there over the past five years.

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