Here's a comment we got on yesterday's Fantasy Baseball Today podcast stream that many of you can probably relate to:
"So tired of the All Star break. Just. Play. Ball."
The good news is, the break is almost over. We have a full weekend's worth of games coming up Friday, so this is our last day without baseball for a long time. And I'll have my usual preview of this weekend's action, with waiver-wire targets and streamers to consider, plus the latest news you need to know heading into the second half.
For now, we have one more day to fill, and that means it's time to be negative. Sorry, but we gave youand for the second half of the season the past two days, so now we're looking for the opposite end of the spectrum. If you've got any of the following 15 players on your team, that means now is a really good time to try to make some trades. Not all of these guys are going to be useless, of course, and it doesn't mean you should just trade them for anything. But, yeah, we think these players will be worse the rest of the way than they have been so far, so trying to trade them before things turn is probably a smart idea.
We'll be back to our normal programming tomorrow, and you should check out Scott White'sand for this weekend to make sure you're setting the right lineup. For now, here are bust picks for the second half from Scott, Frank Stampfl, and me, Chris Towers (Dan will be back next week):
Scott's second-half busts
Bryce Miller, SP, Mariners – I've asked whether Miller's fastball-first-second-and-third approach is sustainable, and Scott shares my skepticism. Miller sports a solid 3.97 ERA through his first 11 starts, so it's been a decent bet so far, but it's worth keeping the shape of that production in mind because Miller had a 1.15 ERA in his first five starts and a 7.16 mark in six since. The league has already caught up, and Miller needs to figure out a counter. He throws his fastball 68% of the time, and while it's a very good pitch, it just isn't enough, especially when both his slider and sweeper have whiff rates of less than 20% and his changeup hasn't recorded a swinging strike yet. Miller may figure out a different approach that works, but I think his current one makes him pretty fringey.
Lane Thomas, OF, Nationals – Thomas strikes me as one of the better sell-high candidates in the game right now. That's not to say that what he's done so far is totally flukey, but I think he's clearly playing over his head. His pull-heavy approach could help him continue to beat expectations, but even so, he has the sixth-highest gap between his actual wOBA (a very good .362 mark) and his xwOBA (.316). His batting average could drop 40 points in the second half and I wouldn't be surprised.
Yandy Diaz, 3B, Rays – The whole Rays lineup has come back to Earth since their ridiculous start to the season, and nobody exemplifies that more than Diaz. This isn't a case where the expected stats scream regression, though – his .383 xwOBA is still an elite mark. However, it hides the real regression we've seen in his game, especially when it comes to power. Diaz's average launch angle was 11 and 8 degrees in April and May; it's been 0 and -5 in June and July. His early-season success was proof that Diaz could unlock another level in his game, but his inability to sustain it suggests it was at least a bit of a fluke, and he's going to look more like the pre-2022 version of himself moving forward.
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Frank's second-half busts
Isaac Paredes, 3B, Rays – Rays fans, I promise, we don't have anything against your team, but Paredes and Diaz aren't the last players you'll find listed here. Paredes has been a top-10 third baseman this season, but I just don't see any way he can keep it up. Remember, last season he had a massive June, hitting .271/.362/.712, but put up just a .677 OPS in the second half, and I expect to see something similar this season. Paredes hasn't shown any signs of slowing down yet, to his credit, but he's been arguably one of the bigger overperformers in the game so far, somehow turning a .308 expected wOBA on contact and a 29% hard-hit rate into the 31st-best slugging percentage in the game. He won't keep that up.
Charlie Morton, SP, Braves – Morton is enjoying a bounce-back campaign, at least on the surface, with a 3.43 ERA in the first half, but that's hiding some pretty ugly signs. And you don't have to go digging too far, because his 1.41 WHIP is the first sign that something isn't right. Morton is a good strikeout pitcher, but no longer an elite one, and his four-seam fastball is just getting crushed now, with a .400 wOBA allowed. It's hard to survive with a fastball that bad, especially with shaky command of your other pitches. Morton will always be a decent bet for wins thanks to the team he plays for, but things could get pretty ugly here in the second half.
Dane Dunning, SP, Rangers – I keep trying to find some way for what Dunning has done so far to be sustainable, but I just don't see it. A 16% strikeout rate is not necessarily a death knell for a pitcher, but you must have elite control and quality of contact suppression, and Dunning falls more along the "good, not great" part of the spectrum in both. His 4.72 xERA kind of sums it up. If you can't find a trade partner for Dunning right now, there's a pretty good chance you're just dropping him in a few weeks.
Chris' second-half busts
Jonah Heim, C, Rangers – I like Heim quite a bit, but there are multiple angles to be skeptical of here. For one, there's just the surface-level production – even if he's exactly as good from this point on as he has been so far, he's unlikely to keep running a 100-RBI pace. But there's also the simple fact that Heim is playing at a level we've never seen before, and it's just awfully hard to buy into a 28-year-old breakout of this caliber (even if the underlying numbers largely back it up). This isn't a bust I'm pounding the table for, but I'd bet against him continuing his current production.
Bryson Stott, SS, Phillies – Stott has taken a real step forward this season, but his production so far overstates it. He's doing a better job of, for lack of a better term, hitting 'em where they ain't, increasing his line drive rate and strikeout rates to the point where it seems reasonable to assume he'll be legitimately helpful in batting average. However, his xBA is .270, a far cry from his .301 actual average, and given his limited pop and good-but-not-difference-making speed, the overall profile looks awfully fringe-y if the average regresses. He's a fine corner infielder, but he's over his head right now.
Joshua Lowe, OF, Rays – Even when things were going well, I was hesitant to buy too much into Lowe, whose ceiling has always been capped by his platoon status. He's hitting just .229/.257/.323 since the start of June, and the most concerning thing might be that it's come while Lowe has been seeing more fastballs. This isn't a case of a hitter being exposed by the bendy stuff, in other words. He just seems overwhelmed right now, in the same ways he was overwhelmed in his previous stints in the majors. The overall numbers and ranks still look pretty good, so maybe someone in your league hasn't noticed how bad Lowe has been.
Cody Bellinger, OF, Cubs – Bellinger's resurgence is one of the better stories of this season, so I hope I'm wrong. But I just don't see much to be optimistic about here. His underlying metrics suggest Bellinger has been one of the luckiest hitters in baseball, and while his pull-heavy swing should help him keep outrunning those metrics to some extent, I don't see much reason to think he'll keep this up. His average exit velocity is down to 86.6 mph, while his hard-hit rate is just 27.8%; not only are those the worst marks of Bellinger's career, but they're both in the bottom 12% among all hitters, and he doesn't have the elite high-end exit velocities either. Again, I hope I'm wrong. But seeing as how Bellinger only has two good months in his past three seasons, I think the burden of proof is on those trying to argue he can sustain this, and I don't think the evidence is particularly strong.
TJ Friedl, OF, Reds – Because of his home park, I think it's reasonable to assume Friedl can outrun his underlying metrics to at least a certain extent. But not to this one. According to xwOBA, Friedl has been the luckiest player in baseball, more so than even Thomas or Bellinger. Add in that he's pretty much a platoon bat, and Friedl seems like one of the most obvious regression candidates in baseball.
Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Rangers – Eovaldi's diminished velocity over the past month is more than a bit of a red flag, given his injury history. But even without that, I'd be counseling selling high. Now, the ideal time to sell would have been in May, when he was going eight innings nearly every time out. However, he still has a 2.83 ERA, so there's still plenty of room to move him at a profit. I don't think the wheels are going to come off Eovaldi, and he's likely to remain a useful starting option for Fantasy moving forward. But you aren't going to get even a strikeout per inning from him, so he's more dependent than most on keeping that ERA pretty. He's more like a mid-3.00s ERA pitcher in my eyes, and the peripherals largely back that up. There's regression coming, without even taking into account Eovaldi's high baseline level of injury risk (he's made more than 21 starts once since 2015.
Kodai Senga, SP, Mets – The thing that gives me pause about Senga is the fact that he's adjusting to a new league and a new baseball, and so if he figures out how to keep the walks in check, the upside here is considerable, as we saw in his 12-strikeout, one-walk effort right before the All-Star break. However, even with a very solid 3.31 ERA, his 1.28 WHIP is holding him back, as is his inability to go deep into games consistently. Those things are, obviously, directly tied to the walks, so if he solves that, he could take off. I'm betting he won't, and using that most recent start as a jumping off point to sell.
Tyler Wells, SP, Orioles – I'm struggling with the Orioles rotation as a whole, but Wells feels like the most obvious sell-high candidate here. Wells has managed a 3.18 ERA despite allowing 1.8 HR/9. That's in part because he has a league-best WHIP, and while his good control helps there, his .202 BABIP helps a lot more. Wells' flyball heavy ways help him keep BABIP low (as does Camden's cavernous left field) but I think it goes without saying that even that won't make a .202 BABIP sustainable – he was at .246 last season, and no pitcher over the past 20 season has qualified for the ERA title with a BABIP below .216 outside of 2020. Wells' xERA is 3.73, and even that comes with a thin margin for error given his HR tendencies. I'd be trying to trade Wells for any top-40 pitcher I could get right now.
Bryce Elder, SP, Braves – Elder is on the other end of the spectrum from Wells, as a groundball-heavy pitcher without much strikeout potential, but the thought process is similar. It's just dang hard to sustain an ERA near 3.00 when you strike out less than 30% of your opposing hitters even if you do a good job of keeping the ball on the ground, as Elder does. His 4.03 xERA suggests significant regression is coming; his 4.69 ERA since June 1 suggests it's already caught up.