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Fantasy Notes: All-Star Break Edition

July 17, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

While Tim McLeod regales us with his Mid-Season Awards specials, including Wednesday’s National League Report, and the American League report, which will follow either later Thursday or Friday, I thought I’d weigh in with some of my own observations from a fantastic first half of baseball.

I bet you thought you were going to get more out of Vladimir Guerrero, a likely second round pick, than what he’s delivered so far. As a rookie, he posted a line of .302/.350/.483, which until now, represented the worst totals of his career. Currently, Vladdy is at .286/.348/.483, and he entered the break in a nasty slump. He’s still trying to shake off a sup par April (.272/.353/.437) and horrid May (.219/.260/.417). Can he do it? I think so, especially since he started heating up back in May. Guerrero has slugged .570 after the break compared to .541 beforehand over the last three years, so I think he’s a good buy-low candidate.

The Giants are doing better than expected, but you can’t credit Barry Zito. The team is 5-14 when he takes the mound. Opponents are batting .299 against him compared to his previous worst of .263. Just imagine what San Francisco could have done with that $126 million they handed this stiff. Zito has been better in his two July starts, so he might be worth another look in NL-only leagues, but the fact that he’s been a better first-half pitcher in recent years does not bode well for a recovery in 2008.

Talk about not making contact, have you seen that in almost exactly half of Jack Cust’s plate appearances (181 of 364), he’s either walked or struck out? After scuffling badly in June and most of July so far, Cust was heating up before the break, so could be worth taking a flyer on in an AL-only league. Once Frank Thomas returns, Cust will head back out to left field, and I see him as merely a short-term pickup; I expect him to lose PT to Matt Murton in the second half, assuming Murton starts hitting.

Rockie starters have combined for 26 wins and 11 of those belong to Aaron Cook, who authored three shutout frames in Tuesday’s All-Star game. As solid as Cook has been this month, he may still be available in more shallow leagues, but not for long.

Josh Hamilton, who cemented his place in history at the Home Run Derby, leads the AL with 95 RBI. His closest competitor is Carlos Quentin, who has 70. A 25-RBI lead at the break? Are you freaking kidding me? Hamilton is on pace to drive in 162 runs. Uh, that’ll do.

Bengie Molina and Geovany Soto are tied as the major’s leading run producers at catcher with 56 RBI apiece. I bet you all saw that coming. Consider this, however. Soto has struck out 84 times; Molina has whiffed just 23 times. I guess he took replacing Barry Bonds as the Giants’ clean-up hitter pretty seriously.

Speaking of Quentin, he entered the season with 14 homers and 63 RBI in 136 career games. This year, he’s smashed 22 dingers and driven in 70 in just 91 games. Can you say breakout, baby?

Manny Corpas is pitching much better lately, and very much deserves consideration for your NL-only bullpen, but after his sensational breakout season in 2007 that likely had him drafted by the 10th round this year, he’s saved just four games in ten tries. Even with Brian Fuentes on the trading block, I doubt Corpas gets the closing gig back. Taylor Buchholz deserves first crack at it once Fuentes is dealt.

Pop quick: name the only American League hitter who has an OPS of over 1000 at the break. A-Rod? Nope. Hamilton? Wrong again, but getting closer. It’s none other than Josh’s teammate, the fiery Milton Bradley, whose 1049 OPS ranks 65 points ahead of his closest competitor, J.D. Drew. Raise your hand if you saw this pair ranking one-two in OPS in the AL.

Talk about developing power. Let’s take a look at Adrian Gonzalez’s homer and RBI totals since he entered the league in 2004: 1-7, 6-17, 24-82 and 30-100 last year. This season, he’s already mashed 22 homers and driven in 71, fourth best in the NL. That puts him on pace for 38 homers and 121 RBI. I remember when Gonzalez was a prospect in the Marlin system and the scouts kept saying the power will catch up to his average later on. Uh, ya. They nailed that one. You may be wondering how he’s been this productive on such a weak-hitting team. Well, while Gonzalez is hitting .276 overall, he’s ratcheted that up with runners on (.287) and with runners in scoring position (.283).

How about the emergence this year of Mariner reliever Brandon Morrow, currently handling the closing reins with J.J. Putz on the DL? He recovered from his first blown saves this week with a perfect save against the Royals. Talk about dominant – he’s fanned 42 batters in 30 2/3 IP, while giving up just 16 hits. Opponents are batting .147 against Morrow. Other than some mild gopheritis, this kid has stud closer written all over him. No wonder I had some owner in my league sniffing around about Morrow.

Closing in on 40, Jim Edmonds is done, right? Sure looked that way when he toiled for the Padres, when, through 26 games, he had managed just one homer, six RBI, a .178 BA and a .233 slugging percentage. He’s been reborn at Wrigley, and in 44 games as a Cub, Edmonds has nine jacks, 29 RBI, a .269 BA, and .552 slugging percentage. Can you explain to me why he’s still barely owned in fantasy circles? NL-only owners need to grab this dude.

While Ian Kinsler took baby steps in his growth last year, even regressing in some areas, he’s taken giant leaps in 2008. His 134 hits at the break leads all AL players by ten; his 84 runs is 17 ahead of the competition. By the way, Kinsler is on pace for 229 hits and 144 runs.

How bad a start to the season did Roy Oswalt have? Consider that over his last eight appearances, he’s lowered his ERA every time out, dropping it over a run from 5.61 to 4.56, yet he’s still over a run higher than his worst season ever (3.49 in 2004).

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