Time for some second-half bold predictions. Well, second half is a figurative terms since, with the All-Star Break is so late this year, teams have already played nearly 100 games.
The key question is which players are likely to perform substantially different than their pre-break stats indicate. The dollar values cited are from TG Fantasy Baseball and most of the stats we’re citing are from MLB stat provider Inside Edge.
1. Matt Carpenter produces second-round value rest of way
Carpenter has been on fire but is still only a $16 dollar player in mixed leagues right now. But he’s going to earn at a pace of about $30 going forward, making him a second-round caliber player. His well-hit average of at bats is .219. He’s an A-minus to A-plus in every location of the strike zone. He does not chase relative to the league rate and is hammering fastballs and breaking balls. So how do you pitch this guy? His one worry is taking too many strikes — 72.6% on the first pitch compared with the league average of 41% and he’s taking about twice as many pitches in the zone overall than average. He’s straddling the line between patience and passivity but seems to have found the sweet spot again. The bottom line with Carpenter is that he’s a really good hitter.
2. Alex Bregman is top 10 hitter from here on out
Bregman is reaching elite status earning a 21st-best $26. Let’s predict this not only continues but that he’s a top 10 hitter for the balance of the season. Bregman’s well-hit is .226. So he’s clearly more fact than fluke. A key is whether he can up the pace of steals slightly and he’s 8-for-12 thus far (27-for-36 in his career) so I think he can double his current steals total even though only about 40% of the season remains. And he should beat his levels in the other categories primarily because he profiles as a .320 hitter not just because of the well-hit average but also given he has more walks (56) than Ks (52).
3. DJ LeMahieu will be batting average machine
LeMahieu who is hitting .280 will hit .320 after the break and help his owners in the category as expected going forward. His well-hit is .213 (average now is .155). Last year, when he hit .310, his well-hit was .171 (average was .155). Based on average ability to convert well-hit into batting average, LeMahieu’s well-hit would predict a .328 average. So let’s make that the projection for his second-half average. (Note: All predictions with a stat as volatile as batting average are by definition bold.)
4. Xander Bogaerts set for monster second half
One of my worst preseason touts was Bogaerts. I discounted the “he was hurt” argument because I generally just accept that a player who is playing is in the “healthy-enough-for-us-to-count-his-stats” range. My colleague Scott Pianowski was decidedly pro-Bogaerts here at Yahoo and on our Breakfast Table Podcast. My argument was his well-hit average was just .142, well below average. But this year, it’s .219. So the Bogaerts believers were clearly right. Expect Bogaerts to actually significantly improve his value going forward since his well-hit predicts a much higher (plus-.300) batting average and even more homers, too.
5. Zack Wheeler will be top 30 starting pitcher
I’m a Mets fan who has never believed in Wheeler, who is already 28 yet still considered a prospect of sorts. His two-pitch arsenal seemed too limited. But when the facts change, I change my mind. Wheeler’s fastball is 95.6 mph on average — seventh-best among big-league starters. Due in large part to this velocity, Wheeler’s well-hit allowed (.097) right now is second only behind Chris Sale. The top five are Sale (.082), Wheeler, Miles Mikolas (.100), Jacob deGrom (.101) and Blake Snell (.106). Wheeler is not even registering a $1 of value in a mixed league at the break. That’s because his averages are 4.44 and 1.34. Even his FIP is just 3.74. But he has 106 Ks. I can’t leave that many punch outs in the waiver wire — and he’s just 21% owned on Yahoo. Even without a trade to a better team, I expect Wheeler to be worthy of rostering going forward — let’s call him a top 30 starting pitcher with averages of 3.50 and 1.20 post-ASB, with the still-solid Ks.
6. Carlos Carrasco’s ERA will remain above 4.00
I was a big fan of Carrasco in March and have defended him all year despite ERA issues (it’s currently 4.12). That would seem to be undeserved given that his FIP is just 3.43. He’s also allowed just 23 walks against 112 Ks. But Carrasco’s well-hit average is so bad that his actual ERA SHOULD be higher than his FIP (which assumes all batted balls are the same). His.168 well-hit allowed is 67th out of 86 qualifiers. You’re going to disappoint in FIP getting hit that hard. So the bold prediction is that Carrasco’s actual ERA will continue to greatly underperform his FIP ERA and remain above 4.00 in the second half. But his wins and Ks will continue to pace at the current values. Bottom line: Carrasco will continue to earn at a starting pitcher 30-ish level.