Baseball is back for the second half after an exciting All Star break. For the fans, it is the beauty of all the festivities. Between Julio and Vlad putting on a show during the derby and the NL winning for the first time in over a decade, the break was everything the fans could have asked for. For Major League teams, it is a chance to rest the weary before a grueling second half. Then for fantasy managers, it is a chance to breathe before searching for the second half gem that could carry them to the championship. This week, we look at a few interesting second investments in our hitter profiles for the rest of the 2023 fantasy baseball season.
There are some players that just seem to play better as the season wears on each year. There is little reason to believe this season will be much different, so if your fellow owner has soured on these apples you just might be able to swing a deal.
- Daulton Varsho – Daulton has had a middling first season after being traded to the Blue Jays. His power has been decent and steals still in double digits, but the .214 average has been a disappointment. Over his career, however, Varsho has struggled to hit for average in the first half as a career .211 hitter compared to .253 in the second half. In addition, his ISO jumps over 80 points between halves. Starting July with a 2 for 25 skid, managers may be looking to bail or maybe have even cast him to the waiver wire. The last two years, he has been a much better second half hitter and is poised to return value again.
- Paul Goldschmidt – Last year’s Most Valuable Player delivered the reward, thanks in part, to a .297 average with 40+ runs and RBI a piece along with 15 homers and two steals in the second half. Just the year prior, he did even better to the tune of .330 – 18 – 54 – 50 -7 over the second half in 2021. In each of the past two seasons, Goldy has been downright dangerous at the plate after the break. While the scuffling Cardinals might have folks forgetting his talent, fantasy owners have enjoyed his typically solid overall production and will likely require a hefty trade to acquire. However, if that opportunity arises then it is worth taking.
Tough Luck Hitters
Maybe the most obvious group to target are guys that have been making a lot of noise with the bat but having less success with the numbers. Here we look for guys that have been BABIP’ed to an extreme and are looking at some regression to the mean.
- Pete Alonso – For years, I have steered clear of Mr. Alonso due to his streakiness as a hitter and the dearth of speed he brings to the field. However, he has been crushing the ball this season with a little HR/FB% luck in the power department with 26 homers prior to the all-star break. The lack of luck here comes from a terrible .186 BABIP driving down his average to all-time lows. This has opened up a buying window if you can convince his owner that the average hit is just too much to handle. With an xBA of .256 closer to his career numbers, it is only a matter of time before Queens is celebrating another hot streak from their star.
- Miguel Vargas – Unfortunately for Miguel Vargas, we have talked about him before in our hitter profiles. The same reason today being his entirely unlucky 2023 season that continues to beg for regression. A consistent .300 hitter in the minors leagues should be able to deliver much more than the .195 he has put up this year thanks to a .224 BABIP being more than 100 points less than his minors track record. That said, he has not made quality contact throughout the season and his exit velocities are in the bottom quarter of the league which seems to justify the meager seven home run total. That xBA is also merely .211 so maybe there is still some concern here and managers should shop cautiously as there are mixed signals for this BABIP bandit. I would watch for signs of life before investing.
The minor leagues hold ample opportunity for the savvy fantasy owner needing a lottery ticket for the second half. There are a few guys that standout as second half targets that could boost an ailing lineup.
- Evan Carter – MLB Pipeline’s seventh overall ranked player, Carter has been as advertised in AA for Texas. Aiming towards a 20/20 season, he is hitting over .300 and walking almost as much as he strikes out. A guy that does not project for a ton of speed at the major league level, his bat should still be plenty valuable. For a solid Texas lineup, there might not be as many opportunities for a call-up as other places around the league. However, the division leader’s biggest opportunity in the lineup come from Carter’s outfield position giving him a realistic path to bolster a World Series contender.
- Heston Kjerstad – It is amazing to think that the Orioles still have more to give in that system. While he is a former #2 overall pick, there has always been a bit of a stigma for him to overcome as they were working to conserve bonus pool dollars with that selection. Already 24 years old after missing time the last few years, he has silenced critics of his swing with a sub-20% strikeout rate in 2023 across the top two levels of the Orioles system while popping sixteen homers. The Orioles have been giving him time around the outfield and first base this year working to give him some valuable versatility to fit in with their young core. I expect Kjerstad called up sooner than later and playing every day for the Orioles.