As we settle in for the All Star break, it’s time to show out love and appreciation for the best value picks of the first half. Obviously there are players out there that may have better overall stats than some of the ones I’m about to reveal, but these are the ones who have given you the best return value for where they were drafted this year. First round picks that produce first round numbers are usually no-brainers, but as we all know, fantasy baseball championships are won in the later rounds when you get first round-type production form your 18th round pick. So without further ado, I present to you the 2012 First Half, Best Value, Stud-a-Licious Award winners…
Carlos Ruiz, C PHI – Undrafted in a number of league and likely an early season waiver wire pick, Ruiz has been a beast behind the plate this season. Discounting his cup of coffee in 2006, Chooch has been around for five year and not once did he come close to putting up numbers close to the .350-41-13-46-3 line he’s got right now, so it’s understandable if you overlooked him early on. It’s not that we didn’t see potential there as he’s traditionally had a strong walk rate, fewer than average strikeouts, and a decent BABIP, but numbers like these were certainly unexpected and a much welcomed value pick.
Mark Trumbo, 1B LAA – With the addition of Albert Pujols, the return of Kendrys Morales, questions regarding Trumbo’s defense at third base, and the usual depth found at first base, Trumbo drifted down the draft boards coming in with an ADP of 134 according to our friends over at Mock Draft Central. But those who had faith in the big slugger have been handsomely rewarded with a .305 average and 22 first half home runs despite not being in the lineup each and every game. The power is certainly for real, but you might not get the same batting average moving forward. His BABIP is currently sitting at .327 and that’s a stat that doesn’t even account for the home runs. Regression there is likely, but seriously, if he hits another 20 in the second half, are you really going to care if his average drops 20 points?
Jason Kipnis, 2B CLE – Am I the only one who hears that “How You Like Me Now” song in their head every time Kipnis does something great on the diamond? With an ADP of 161, Kipnis was roughly the 14th or 15th second baseman off the board in most drafts and save for Robinson Cano, there’s probably not another guy at the keystone that you’d rather have. The power/speed combo is always coveted in the fantasy game and the .277 average with 11 home runs and 20 stolen bases has made those that took a late round flyer on him look like geniuses. He’s got a solid 8.9% walk rate, a 15.4% strikeout rate and with nothing in his peripherals out of the ordinary, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t duplicate his totals in the second half. Maybe a few too many ground balls, but he’s got the speed to leg them out.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B TOR – So this is what a healthy Encarnacion looks like, huh? Normally I like to steer clear of anyone whose nickname is E5, but in this case I’ll take the power and worry less about his defense. The Blue Jays have done well to adjust, using him primarily at first and DH, so his playing time is barely tied to his defensive abilities. The 307 ADP shows that no onen suspected this kind of a breakout, so if you back-doored your way into him, you’ve scored huge for very little investment. The injury concern will always be a factor with him, but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a huge asset at a position that has been a veritable disaster for most fantasy owners.
Ian Desmond, SS WAS – So what do you think the expectations were for a shortstop whose team was looking to trade him, was roughly the 18th shortstop off the board and had an ADP of 305? Probably not as high as what he’s given, right? The breakout season has been a huge bonus for fantasy owners and the best part is that there is little reason to think that he won’t continue this ascension. The only real concern is the 11.3 SwStr% which could indicate that we’ll be seeing a heavier dose of Ks in the second half which could drive down the batting average somewhat. While I don’t see him cracking off another 17 dingers, he could still hit close to 10 and stick in the top group of shortstops this year.
Mike Trout, OF LAA – I mean, really. What’s not to love about this kid? He was somewhat lost in the Bryce Harper hype early on, but the savvy owner kept him on the radar, for sure. His 211 ADP put him somewhere around the 17th or 18th round in standard 12-team leagues, although owners in keeper leagues probably pounced on him a little earlier. Regardless, barring a crazy move where you grabbed him in the top few rounds of your draft, he has more than out-earned his draft position. Maybe he doesn’t hit .341 again, but there’s no reason to think that another 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases are out of bounds here. This kid is going to be a stud for years to come and should easily work his way into the first few rounds of your draft next year.
Carlos Beltran, OF STL – There must be something in the water in St. Louis that helps rejuvenate former all-stars that have battled injuries in recent seasons and have seen their overall production taper off in the last few years. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with to explain a .296-50-20-65-8 first half line when all of his numbers look like they’re in order. The 143 ADP rank put him somewhere around the 12th round, but you’ve easily been getting first or second round production here. For me, he looks like the perfect sell-high guy right now as the balky knee could flare up at a moment’s notice. His value is probably at its peak right now, so take advantage while you can.
Melky Cabrera, OF SF – I’m definitely eating some crow on this one this year. I was sure that Cabrera was playing over his head last year in Kansas City and with the move to San Francisco, I figured the power would drop significantly and the he would return to his usual light-hitting, low-average ways. I guess I underestimated the power of playing for a contract here because Melky has actually been better than he was last season and he’s doing it in a different league, with different pitchers and in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. His ISO is a few ticks higher and his .353 batting average is as ridiculous as his 51 hits in the month of May were. As a 15th rounder, he is easily one of the best values in the outfield this season and, regretfully, worthy of my praise.
R.A. Dickey, SP NYM – With an ADP of 223, the 37 year old knuckleballer was easily overlooked by many and there’s a strong chance that he was nothing more than a casual waiver pick-up for a lot of people. But talk about a value play. Oh man. His 12 wins are tied for the league lead, his 123 strikeouts are fourth and his 2.40 ERA is seventh in the majors amongst qualified pitchers. Can he really keep this up in the second half? Hard to tell right now as it really depends on how well the opposition learns to hit the knuckler. Some teams are more than capable as the Yankees showed during interleague, but then there are just some that can’t do it because you just don’t know which adjustments to make with such a crazy-moving pitch. When it comes from out of the blue as it did here, I’m always inclined to sell high, but given the fact that he’s been so dominant with such an unpredictable pitch, he could keep this up all year long.
Jim Johnson, RP BAL – Without even looking, I actually thought about going with Jonathan Broxton here as he’s been one of the more reliable relievers who likely wasn’t even drafted in your league. However, when I looked at Johnson’s 270 ADP and the fact that he’s leading the league in saves (26) and has a 1.21 ERA with a 0.75 WHIP, I had to go with him. This meteoric rise to the top amongst closers was completely unexpected, and although I’d like to see him notch a few more Ks, there just nothing about his game that you can’t be happy about. Especially in a year when closers have been the bane of many a fantasy owner’s existence.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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