So let’s pick up where we left off last week and talk about some under the radar American League players that could have a positive or negative fantasy impact the next two and a half months.
Hank Conger, Los Angeles Angels: Previous to the break, Conger was basically splitting time with Chris Iannetta. Conger has improved his receiving skills to the point where his superior bat could overtake Iannetta. Iannetta’s patience is superior to Conger’s but Conger has more pop and if he can get his contact up a notch, we’re looking at a solid, Mixed League worthy backstop. Presently, Conger is still just an American League only option, but keep an eye on his plate appearances, he could be viable in mixers soon enough.
Josh Phegley, Chicago White Sox: Phegley is doing what was expected of Tyler Flowers – hit homers in between striking out. That said, Phegley’s profile is more of an average hitter with less power, but perhaps US Cellular will be friendly to Phegley. In American League only, there’s no doubt Phegley has been scooped. But in daily leagues or even daily contests, Phegley is in play especially at home. His price is likely very economical in the daily contests.
Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners: Mr. September is showing signs he could be in line to start the surge a little earlier. His contact rate has increased each month since May. Smoak is a gap-to-gap hitter so a huge power spike isn’t likely, but he should be able to parlay fewer strikeouts and better patience into a few more long balls. He may not be available since a .386 average in July has made Smoak a popular waiver wire addition but if he’s still lingering, consider picking up the switch-hitter for a corner-infield boost.
Brett Wallace, Houston Astros: Wallace is taking advantage of his second chance this season, stroking three homers so far in July while sporting a .351 average. Granted, this is buoyed by a .435 BABIP but the pertinent point is his strikeouts are back to career levels after being embarrassingly high in April (17 whiffs in 24 tries). Wallace isn’t mixed worthy yet, but if you can buffer his average, he’ll provide some pop in AL-only.
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox: Like Smoak, Beckham has been a second half tease. His average a figment of if a high BABIP, but his contact rate is solid so he should sustain a decent average once the BABIP subsides. Beckham won’t replace many established middle infielders, but if you’re running with Johnny Giavotella or Eric Sogard, it may be worth hoping Beckham keeps it together.
Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles: He’s got the name recognition and hit a couple of homers, but I’m not looking at Roberts for second half support. He just can’t stay healthy and if he does, he won’t run. Don’t let the early homers fool you – Roberts is almost 36, it won’t last.
Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins: Dozier’s numbers so far this season are almost a mirror image of his numbers last season so upon quick inspection, he’s nothing special. However, in June, Dozier smacked five homers (with four doubles) and even though he only has one bomb in July, he does have eight doubles. It took me a while to make the switch since as I discussed last week I’m a Josh Rutledge fan-boy, but I finally made the switch. With so many injuries in the middle, Dozier is now viable in deeper mixed leagues.
Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals: Coming into the season Escobar was a stalwart on several sleeper lists, expected to swipe a bunch of bags and score a bunch of runs. It’s beginning to look like 2012 (.293 with 35 steals) is the outlier. Perhaps Escobar’s stolen bases will pick up a bit, but it looks like .250 is his baseline.
Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays: The main reason for Lawrie’s inclusion is to point out his recent stint at second could be extended. Keep in mind Lawrie came into the league as a catcher and was originally put at second base so it is not an unfamiliar spot. I’m personally a little confused by the move since Lawrie was flashing some serious leather at the hot corner before he got hurt and it’s not like Maicer Izturis is a gold-glove option there. As for his offense, Lawrie needs to stay healthy so he can get in a groove. His strikeouts are up and walks down. He’s still young enough to live up to the hype, just maybe not this season.
Pedro Ciriaco, Kansas City Royals: Just a hunch, but I think the Royals find a goodly number of at bats for Ciriaco, who is back in the AL. The Padres let him go now that Logan Forsythe and Jedd Gyorko are back. Ciriaco can challenge Mike Moustakas at third as well as pushing Giavotella at second. Ciriaco assumed a similar role in Boston this time last season, hitting .293 with 16 steals so he has it in him. If you’re looking for lightning in a bottle and have a reserve spot, Ciriaco is an interesting speculative play.
Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers: Love, love, love him for the second half. In an AL only league, he’s my primary keeper target if I’m rebuilding. Ten homers and 20 steals within the realm for the rest of the season.
Michael Saunders, Seattle Mariners: My AL version of Rutledge is Michael Saunders. I thought a 20/20 season was in store for Saunders, especially with the fences closer. Saunders was taken out of the lineup but has been reinserted and my man-crush has been rejuvenated. Dustin Ackely has been moved to center-field, but if Saunders hits he’ll play. He’s worth a reserve stash in deeper mixed leagues.
David Lough, Kansas City Royals: The release of Jeff Francoeur has cleared a spot for Lough and he’s taking advantage. Lough has a little bit of power but is more likely to help in steals. If you need some help in average and maybe some bags, look at Lough.
Clete Thomas, Minnesota Twins: At least short term, Thomas will see full-time run as the Twins have farmed Chris Parmelee and Oswaldo Arcia. They should both be back, but in the meantime, Thomas is getting at bats and in deep leagues, at bats are currency.
Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics: He’s bounced up and down but should be up for good after the break and thus get in a groove. Straily’s peripherals are solid: 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He’s an automatic start at home and viable for decent road starts.
Chris Archer, Tampa Rays: The Rays have a knack for developing young arms and Archer is next in line. He teased before the break and should be ready to build on that the second half. His peripherals are pedestrian but ripe for improvement. By season’s end, I expect a better than the present 7.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians: I’ve talked about him before but there are still some skeptics. Sorry, but an 8.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 don’t lie. Kluber’s ERA is still a rather high 3.88, which depresses his salary in the daily contests. When he’s at home, he’s a must start.
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins: Just a hunch that Perkins is moved at the deadline. Jared Burton and Casey Fien are the next in line.
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians: Ditto but while everyone else will be picking up Vinnie Pestano, I like Cody Allen to assume the role (and be the AL Rookie of the Year).
SECOND HALF AL HITTING MVP: Miggy – ‘nuff said.
SECOND HALF AL CY YOUNG: Chris Sale – long term I’m concerned but presently I like him more than any AL arm including Justin Verlander and King Felix.
SECOND HALF AL HITTING BUST: Wil Myers – expectations still too high, needs to show he can adjust.
SECOND HALF AL PITCHING BUST: CC Sabathia – velocity is coming back but the command and control is still lacking.
SECOND HALF AL SURPRISE: Jacoby Ellsbury – not saying he’ll revert to 2011 form, but I can see 9 to 11 homers after a quiet first half in terms of power.
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