Alright, we made it to the All-Star break. There won't be any games that affect your Fantasy teams until Friday, so you can relax for a few days. Enjoy the Home Run Derby, tune into the All-Star game, and enjoy some stress-free baseball.
I'm Chris Towers here to recap this weekend's biggest performances you need to know about, but before we get there, here's what to expect from the rest of this week since we won't have any games. The Fantasy Baseball Today team will still be here throughout the week getting prepped for the second half of the season, of course. We'll be doing some second-half preview content on the podcast and on CBSSports.com, and of course, you'll get that in your inbox this week, too.
I'll have some second half sleepers, breakouts, and busts for you this week, and on the podcast, we'll be recapping the first half's biggest surprises, and trying to predict what we think will happen in the second half. And on Friday, I'll recap the latest news and preview the first weekend of action in the second half, as always.
We're about to hit the stretch run of the Fantasy Baseball season, so let's take this opportunity to reset and make sure our teams are ready to bring home the championship. But, first, here's what you need to know about from this weekend's action:
Pitchers, Part 1: Waiver targets
Alek Manoah, Blue Jays (6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K at Tigers) – With the caveat that it's just one start, against the Tigers, no less, but this was exactly what we needed to see from Manoah. It doesn't guarantee that he'll be good moving forward, but this is by far the most promising start Manoah has made all season. He pounded the zone with both his fastball and slider, overcoming the issues with walks that plagued him before his demotion to the minors. In fact, his 60% zone rate with the slider makes it easier to stomach a lackluster 21% whiff rate with the pitch – the Blue Jays probably just wanted to see Manoah throw strikes in his first start back. Again, it's no guarantee he'll even be worth starting, let alone rediscover his Cy Young contender status, but this outing was all we could have asked for from Manoah, who should be 100% rostered once again.
Bryan Woo, Mariners (6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K at Astros) – It's not quite the same as the Eury Perez situation, because Perez is better, but Woo is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out how to rank. He's been tremendous so far, with a 3.63 ERA that is even better once you remember he allowed six runs in just two innings in his MLB debut – he's at a 2.20 mark if you remove that outing. He's racking up healthy strikeout numbers with solid swinging strike rates on all of his pitches except the changeup, and he's limiting free passes and damage on contact. But we know there's a ceiling on how much Woo can contribute this season due to innings concerns. He threw just 67.2 in his professional debut last season, and he's already up to 77.2 now. Most teams try not to increase by more than 50 or so from one year to the next, so there's going to come a point where the Mariners have to get creative. Woo looks like a top-30 starting pitcher right now, but he might not have more than 40 innings left. It might be smart to try to trade him to some manager who might have missed that news.
Domingo German, Yankees (6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K vs. Cubs) – I'll be honest: I don't buy this hot streak for German. He's given up just three earned runs with 23 strikeouts and three walks over his past three outings, and I'm largely unmoved. His career has been defined as much as anything by inconsistency, and this year has been more of the same. When German is spinning the ball well, he can look brilliant, but he hasn't shown the ability to do it month in and month out. I'm looking to see if I have him right now. Maybe he'll keep making me look bad.
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Matt Manning, Tigers (6.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K vs. Blue Jays) – Manning is a former top prospect who was just part of a no-hitter, so you might think there's something to be excited about here. Not so much. Manning just hasn't shown much at the major-league level. He has a mediocre fastball that doesn't get whiffs, a slider that suppresses hard contact but doesn't do much else, and the lowest whiff rate curveball in baseball. It was a nice outing, but he's not a priority pick up at this point.
Reid Detmers, Angels (3.1 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 4 K at Dodgers) –Detmers didn't get a ton of help from his defense in this tough matchup, but this was still a very disappointing line after Detmers had a 1.42 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 31.2 innings in his previous five starts. Detmers isn't quite all the way there, but he still had a decent 12 swinging strikes on 75 pitches, so it wasn't all bad. Against the wrong matchups, when he isn't on, Detmers is still very vulnerable, but I still expect the good to outweigh the bad moving forward.
Aaron Civale, Guardians (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K vs. Royals) – And all of a sudden, Civale's ERA is down to 2.56. It's easy enough to write this start off as the product of a terrific matchup – in Friday's newsletter, I said "there aren't many starters I would avoid against the Royals right now"-- but Civale's been solid for a lot longer than just one start. I don't really buy it, given his general lack of strikeout upside, so I'm not exactly going out to chase this one on waivers. But against the right matchups, he can still be useful. Check the schedule to see if he's going to be lined up against the Rangers in the first weekend back from the break, or if he'll get the Pirates; my interest in adding him will drastically drop if it's the Rangers.
Tyler Wells, Orioles (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K at Twins) – I kind of feel like every Orioles pitcher is just a different version of the same guy. None of them are objectively great MLB pitchers, but they're all pretty useful for Fantasy, mostly because they pitch in a great home park that suppresses homers as well as just about any part in baseball. That's certainly the case for Wells, who overcomes homer issues with solid strikeout and walk rates, but still fares much better at home – 2.57 ERA, compared to a 3.88 mark on the road. He has managed consecutive solid outings on the road, though it helps that he was going against fringe-y matchups like the Yankees and Twins. I wouldn't bet on that road success sustaining moving forward.
Taj Bradley, Rays (5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K vs. Braves) – I really don't want to give up on Bradley. The stuff is top notch, and when he's on, he can be dominant. But he's managed just one quality start in 13 trips to the mound in the majors, and is really having a hard time limiting hard contact – all four of his pitches have an average exit velocity allowed of at least 90 mph. The suddenly scuffling Rays may not be able to leave him in their rotation long, and I wouldn't be surprised if they sent him down during the break. There's upside here, but I can't make a good case for hanging on to him.
Pitchers, Part 2: Relievers to add
Jordan Hicks, Cardinals – Hicks got another save Saturday against the White Sox, his seventh in a row since early June. While it's possible Ryan Helsley will return from his forearm injury to figure back into the ninth-inning role for the Cardinals, they were already starting to use him in a split before his injury. This might just be Hicks' job as long as he can keep it.
Scott McGough, Diamondbacks – McGough hasn't gotten a save since July 1, but neither has anyone else on the Diamondbacks. Saturday, he worked a tied game in the ninth and 10th, earning a win in a fairly traditional closer situation at home. He's the guy here if there is one, and McGough has been pretty terrific so far, with a 2.72 ERA and 11.1 K/9.
Daniel Bard, Rockies – Bard got the save for the first time Friday, a sign that the Rockies could be gaining confidence in their one-time closer. His 1.76 ERA overall hides that Bard has been pretty rough overall, with 26 strikeouts and 24 walks in 30.2 innings of work, so I'm not particularly excited about the prospect of having him on my team. But if he can keep getting the job done, he might have a path back to the ninth for good.
Pitchers, Part 3: The rest
Eury Perez, Marlins (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K vs. Cardinals) – Perez technically started Thursday, but we found out this weekend the Marlins are sending him down to Double-A Penscola. That isn't necessarily surprising, but what is surprising is that he's apparently actually going to pitch in the minors. No, it doesn't make sense. They're trying to preserve his innings for the stretch run, but I don't see how it makes any sense to do that by actually having him pitching in meaningless games – while also opening up the potential of some service time related grievances. Perez will make abbreviated starts and will likely be back in August, and he's a must-roster in all formats for when he returns.
Bryce Elder, Braves (3.1 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 0 K at Rays) – As a Fantasy analyst or a player, you should always be on guard for confirmation bias. I've made no secret of my lack of faith in Elder's incredible first half, and this is exactly the kind of start that makes it natural to go, "Aha, see, I told you!" Except … Elder had four straight quality starts prior to this one, so it's not exactly a trend. I still think his ERA will be closer to four than three in the second half, and I'm still trying to sell him while I can, but this start doesn't really change that one way or the other.
Andrew Abbott, Reds (4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K at Brewers) – Abbott didn't seem to have his secondary pitches working in this one, as he ended up with just four whiffs on 42 pitches between his curveball, changeup, and sweeper. His whiff rates on those three pitches are still very solid overall (29.6% with the curveball, 42.6% with the changeup, 28.6% with the sweeper) that I'm not worried too much, but Abbott's fastball seems pretty vulnerable to getting hit hard in the air, which could leave him prone to these kinds of blowouts. Remember, he has just a 21.2% groundball rate for the season, so homers are going to be an issue.
Carlos Rodon, Yankees (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K vs. Cubs) – We're not really judging results in a guy's first start back from a lengthy IL stint – mostly, we just want to know they are healthy. In that regard, at least, Rodon's first start back was pretty successful. He averaged 95.5 mph with his fastball in his first start back from forearm and back issues, exactly what he managed last season. He didn't throw many of his other pitches, but they seemed fine, too, and that's what we wanted to see here. Rodon is likely to start the first game back from the All-Star break, but the bad news there is, it's at Colorado. He's not an automatic sit, especially with no two-start pitchers on the schedule, but it's a risky one, for sure. I do expect him to pitch more or less like an ace from that point on, at least.
Tyler Glasnow, Rays (5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Braves) – Glasnow is a good example of what we're hoping to see from Rodon. He wasn't great in his first couple of starts, walking at least three in three of his first four. In his past four starts, while allowing six earned runs in his fifth. In three starts since? Double-digit strikeouts in two of three, with 31 to just three walks over 16.1 innings of work. There's still some injury related risk here, but Glasnow should pitch like an ace if he stays healthy.
Sandy Alcantara, Marlins (6.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K vs. Phillies) – It ended up being a very frustrating first half for Alcantara, so it was nice to see him close it out well. It's been hard to come up with a single explanation for why Alcantara has struggled, though the relative effectiveness of his changeup is certainly a big part of it. It's not clear that was fixed in this one, either – he had just two swinging strikes while allowing five balls in play with an average exit velocity of 92.1 mph with the pitch Friday. I still believe Alcantara will be closer to a 3.00 ERA than a 4.00 the rest of the way, but I don't have as much confidence as I wish I did.
Mitch Keller, Pirates (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 4 K at Diamondbacks) – Keller's breakout hit a bit of a snag over the final month or so of the first half. It's not that he was bad, necessarily – his ERA since May 1 is 3.43, still very solid – but overall he wasn't quite what we were hoping for. Keller's very good quality-of-contact suppression has kept his floor pretty high, but he has more strikeouts than innings pitched just twice in his past seven starts, with 36 strikeouts to 17 walks in that span. It's not a disaster, or anything, but it's disappointing to see, given how big of a breakout Keller appeared to be enjoying through the first two months. It might just mean Keller is more like a solid SP3 in Fantasy rather than the burgeoning ace we hoped for.
Hunter Brown, Astros (3 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K vs. Mariners) – Brown's trajectory is somewhat similar to Keller's, except he's kept the strong strikeout numbers and has simply been felled too often by hard contact. I still think Brown is a solid starter, but probably more like a mid-to-high-3.00s ERA guy with good strikeout numbers than a high-end all-around SP2.
Justin Verlander, Mets (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K at Padres) – Verlander is still doing a very good job of limiting damage on contact, he's just still allowing way more contact than we're used to. Verlander's whiff rates aren't far off last year's, so there's certainly reasons to be optimistic about a better second half, but as Friday's start showed – six swinging strikes on 98 pitches – he hasn't figured it out yet.
Joe Musgrove, Padres (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K vs. Mets) – It's kind of funny that the panic around Musgrove reached new heights in mid-June, after we learned he is dealing with bursitis in his right elbow – and right before he went on his best run in years. Musgrove hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since June 13, with 32 strikeouts to three walks in five starts since then. That's not to say there's nothing to be worried about with Musgrove's elbow, but it's clearly not bothering him now. Is this a sell-high window? I think you can certainly make the case for that.
Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks – So, all that stuff about Corbin Carroll's shoulder injury from Friday's newsletter? Well, he didn't end up missing a game, after an MRI Friday showed no structural issues in the shoulder, and he ended up going 3 for 11 with two RBI and two stolen bases while playing all three games this weekend. I'm still scared of that shoulder, but that may not be fair after two scares ended up being nothing.
Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds – What might be most incredible about De La Cruz, even beyond the superheroic feats of strength and athleticism, is how he puts that into action with a preternatural feel for the game. I'm sure you saw him steal second, home, and third in the span of about 40 seconds Saturday, but watch the way he keeps his head up and takes home on the exchange between the catcher and pitcher immediately after he takes third (without even garnering a throw). Oh, and that was all immediately after a go-ahead RBI single. He's just a different type of player, and it's growing increasingly hard to justify any skepticism around his skill set.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds – Votto homered twice this weekend and is now up to seven homers in 17 games, with an OPS north of 1.000. Can he keep that pace up? Probably not, especially with the plate discipline hit he's taken along the way. But he's legitimately crushing the ball right now, with an average exit velocity of 91.0 mph and a hard-hit rate of 50.0%. Votto's late-career renaissance is back on track, and he should be rostered in more than 43% of CBS Fantasy leagues.
Joey Meneses, 1B, Nationals – Meneses has had a weird season. After hitting 13 homers in 56 games, he had just two in his first 80 this season, though he was still somewhat productive thanks to a .279 average. And then he just went nuts this weekend, slugging four homers in three games. Meneses' underlying numbers are still pretty middling – he has a .242 xBA and .347 xSLG, which is really rough – so I'm not suggesting you should run out and add him. But I'm sure glad I stuck him in my lineup when Royce Lewis got hurt last week.
Willy Adames, SS, Brewers – Adames' overall numbers still don't look like they should, but he did a lot to correct his season line this weekend, going 5 for 14 with three homers, including two Saturday. He's hitting .308/.333/.744 in the month of July, at least – and his underlying numbers suggest he's a strong buy right now, with a .341 expected wOBA that actually stands as the best mark of his career. Adames is going to be just fine.
Amed Rosario, SS, Guardians – Rosario is another guy who is starting to heat up after a miserable start. He hit .309 in the month of June and he's sitting at .341 in July after going 5 for 14 this weekend. He still doesn't do enough besides hit for average – why this guy who is in the 95th percentile in sprint speed has one stolen base attempt since May 22 is beyond me – but at least he's doing that.
Mike Ford, 1B, Mariners – Ford is a pretty one-dimensional slugger who doesn't play against left-handed pitchers, which limits his utility. But he just keeps producing, with another homer Friday and four RBI this weekend. He started two of three games, which is right about his typical pace, so there's only so much value he can bring. But in daily leagues, Ford looks pretty useful against righties, at least.
Alek Thomas, OF, Diamondbacks – After going 4 for 7 this weekend with homers Saturday and Sunday, Thomas is hitting .328 with a .569 slugging percentage since being recalled from Triple-A in mid-June. And he's started 16 of 19 games in that span, so he's hardly been a part-time player. Thomas is a career .348/.415/.580 hitter in 87 career Triple-A games, so I didn't want to just give up on him, despite his struggles in the big leagues, and it looks like he's starting to figure things out. There's speed here with a bit of pop if he can keep this up, and I like taking a flier on him in my category leagues – I just dropped Kerry Carpenter for him in one league.