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Bats & Balls: Second-Half Surgers

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

Fifty at-bats and 20 innings are small sample sizes to be sure, but that certainly doesn't stop us from jumping on players who have gone 20-for-50 with four home runs in the hopes that those 50 at-bats are an indicator of what a player can do over the course of the rest of the season. When Charlie Blackmon went 6-for-6 in a game in the season's first week, we certainly took notice and added Blackmon in NL-only formats, but did we really expect him to be batting .304 with 14 homers and 18 stolen bases entering Tuesday's action? I'd be a liar if I said that I did. This week we'll look at a handful of players off to hot starts in the second half and guesstimate what to expect the rest of the way.

All stats are for July through Monday's games.

Jayson Werth (OF-WAS)
.393/.493/.893, 6 HR, 20 RBI

After batting just .212/.297/.293 in June, Werth has opened the second half on fire and is pretty much carrying the offensive load for the Nationals. He's already had nine multi-hit games this month and is showing what he is truly capable of when healthy. Werth totaled just 210 games in 2012-2013, but he's played in 94 of the teams' 97 games this season for the first-place Nationals. So what to expect the rest of the way? Obviously not the line above, but we also won't see June numbers again for Werth. Bryce Harper being back can only help, and there should be more power in Werth's future. His HR/FB rate is trending up, but it's still just 10 percent versus last year's 18 percent and a career 14.4 percent. His 6.9 swinging strike percentage is a career low, a good indicator that Werth is seeing the ball well this season. This might go down as the best seven-year $126 million contract in baseball history.

Chris Coghlan (OF-CHC)

.418/.492/.764, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 15 R

Coghlan has done exactly squat since batting an astounding .321/.390/.460 for the Marlins in his 2009 rookie season, but since donning a Cubs jersey this year, the magic has at least partially returned. His hot start to July has Coghlan up to .278/.358/.481, making him a surprisingly regular fixture in the team's outfield. Of course, players like Jorge Soler and probably Kris Bryant (once he converts to the outfield) are likely to push Coghlan to the American League (he's a DH in oufielder's clothing), but what about for 2014? Junior Lake would appear to be Coghlan's No. 1 threat to everyday playing time, but Lake is batting .219 with a ridiculously poor 93:10 K:BB, so there's really no threat now. with a 10.5 BB% and reasonable 17.1 K%, Coghlan's ratios are solid. And with his HR/FB rate right about league average at 10.9 percent, Coghlan shouldn't have any problem maintaining his 31.6 AB/HR rate the rest of the way. Given regular playing time, that's probably another seven home runs. Congratulations if you threw a buck or two his way in NL-only leagues.

Yan Gomes (C-CLE)

.320/.382/.680, 4 HR, 10 RBI

After batting just .259/.287/.383 with three home runs in June, Gomes if off to a roaring start in the second half. Besides the impressive slash line, Gomes has shown more discipline at the plate, posting a 10:5 K:BB in July versus last month's ugly 26:3 mark. Overall, Gomes' numbers are nearly on par with last year's breakout season. He's slightly upped his BB% from 5.6 to a still-low 6.2, and his strikeouts are up a bit as well - 23.1 percent versus 20.8. Gomes, 26, derives much of his fantasy value from his position, and he's a true catcher, having logged 82 games this year - all behind the dish. He's hitting the ball harder this year with a 23.7-percent line drive rate compared to 17.8 percent a season ago, and it's reasonable to think that Gomes can hit .280 the rest of the way while finishing with 20-plus home runs. He'd likely rank in the back-end of my top-10 catchers list for 2014.

Eric Hosmer (1B-KC)

.424/.493/.627, 2 HR, 9 RBI

Coming off a season in which he batted .302/.353/.448 as a 23-year-old, expectations were quite high for Hosmer's fourth big league season this year, but then these things happened this year:

Just one home run through June 6

A .195 BA in June

Rumors of the Mike Moustakas treatment (AAA demotion)

Hosmer took all that and responded like Lou Gehrig in July, knocking out four hits July 1 and plating at least one hit in every game since. He's showing excellent plate discipline for the month with an 8:7 K:BB, and he's already totaled eight XBH versus five in all of June. It's easy to forget that Hosmer is still just 24 considering he has 3.5 full years under his belt, so there's still plenty of time for Hosmer to reach his ceiling. What is that ceiling these days? Over a full 600 at-bat season, I can see him being a four-win player, batting in the range of .300/.370/.480. You won't get a ton of disagreement on the first two numbers, but Hosmer's ultimate power upside is still in question. It's easy to see 20-plus home runs, but 30-plus? A bit tougher to forecast.

Stephen Vogt (C-OAK)

.392/.436/.608, 2 HR, 6 RBI

Amazing what happens when journeymen put on A's uniforms. Vogt first reached the big leagues back in 2012 at age 27, and went 0-for-25 for the Rays that year. He goes to the A's the next year and for Triple-A Sacramento bats .324/.398/.547 before posting a .695 OPS in 47 games for the big club. With few expectations heading into 2014, Vogt has played enough to qualify at catcher, first base and outfield and is now going to play every day against right-handed pitching, at least. Overall he's posted a .931 OPS in 118 at-bats after coming up from Sacramento and dealing with an oblique injury earlier this year. Vogt has quite a bit of competition for playing time, but his position versatility and his hot bat should guarantee regular playing time, at least for now. We're pretty sure a .390 BABIP is not sustainable, but he's not getting lucky in every at-bat from what I've seen.

Conor Gillaspie (1B/3B-CHW)

.346/.433/.692, 4 HR, 9 RBI

The White Sox history of third basemen since Robin Ventura is a hodge-podge of journeymen and stop-gaps, with perhaps Joe Crede as the best of the that motley bunch. Gillaspie isn't the next Ventura, but he's brought some needed stability to the position and at an overall line of .322/.373/.473 in 74 games, he's been a nice find in deeper formats. Gillaspie has homered just four times while stealing his usual zero bases, so the fantasy value is primary in his lofty batting average. A .360-plus BABIP isn't going to continue, of course, so the average will most certainly drop, but at the same time, given a 4.8-percent HR/FB rate, we should see a bit more power down the stretch. Gillaspie has no competition for at-bats, particularly given that former top prospect Matt Davidson is batting just .209 for Triple-A Charlotte. It should be a solid second half for the former Diamondback.

Garrett Richards (SP-LAA)

3-0, 1.48 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 1.8 BB/9

Yes, we all know that Richards should have made the AL All-Star team, but there are omissions like this every year, so let's move on. Richards is already the best pitcher on a team with two guys making in excess of $16 million this season, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver. Richards is 11-2 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while fanning a hitter an inning. He's struggled off and on since pitching 14 innings for the Angels in 2011, but through better conditioning, improved mechanics and increased velocity, Richards has made himself into one of the better pitchers in the game. His 96.2 mph average fastball is second only to Yordano Ventura among qualified starters, his sliders is much improved and Richards still generates a groundball rate in excess of 50 percent (50.4 percent this year). His swinging strike percentage spiked from 9.2 to 11.4, and in keeping the ball down, Richards has allowed a measly four homers in 20 starts. Bottom line: the underlying metrics support this breakout, and though his 3.18 xFIP indicates his ERA should rise, I can see Richards improving his 3.0 BB/9 to help offset that.

Jacob deGrom (SP-NYM)

2-1, 1.89 ERA, 12.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9

Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero get the most attention in terms of young Mets pitchers, but deGrom isn't so bad himself. DeGrom posted a 2.58 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Las Vegas before making his big league debut May 15 at age 26. He had a three-start rough patch earlier in June, but overall, a 3.18 ERA and 8.8 K/9 isn't anything we'll complain about. His 3.4 BB/9 is still a bit high, but as you can see in the July line above, it's trending down, and deGrom's 93-plus mph fastball should still provide for plenty of missed bats. DeGrom's minor league track record is somewhat spotty, but now that he's two-plus full years removed from his 2011 Tommy John surgery, we can proclaim him a success story, at least so far.

Trevor Bauer (SP-CLE)

2-0, 2.84 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9

Now in his third year shuffling between the minors and the big club, Bauer appears to be close to settling in as a rotation fixture. Bauer has yet to show the consistent dominance that his stuff indicates is possibly, but in eight starts since June 6, Bauer has allowed more than three runs (four in that case) just once, and he has a 10-strikeout game to his credit. It's likely mechanical, but Bauer has shown improved velocity since his 2012 debut, averaging 94.2 mph with his fastball this year versus 92.3 mph back then. Just 32.6 percent of Bauer's batted balls have been classified as ground balls, so an increased focus on keeping the ball down in the zone should help his 1.40 WHIP continue to trend down. I think we'll continue to see incremental improvement this year, as a couple of bad starts are unlikely to get him shipped back to Triple-A Columbus, but the big step forward that should be in his future likely won't come until 2015 and beyond.

Jose Quintana (SP-CHW)

0-0, 2.29 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9

Quintana evolved into a solid No. 3 starter last year, tossing 200 innings of 3.51 ERA ball, though a mediocre offense limited him to just 9-7. Quintana is experiencing similar issues this year, as he's 5-7 with a 3.26 ERA. Quintana came out of a 7.2-inning, no-run, 10-K game without a decision July 5, but being pitted against Felix Hernandez will do that to pitchers. Overall, though, a solid second full season for Quintana, who has managed to improve his K/9 from 7.4 to 8.3 despite holding steady with his velocity (91.5 mph average fastball).

Marcus Stroman (SP-TOR)

1-0, 2.55 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

Pitching out of the bullpen in May, Stroman allowed eight earned runs in three innings over a two-game stretch, thus dampening our expectations for his prospects the rest of this year. A brief stint in Triple-A and a move back to the rotation, however, has taken those expectations back up considerably. In his last six starts, Stroman has a 2.50 ERA despite one of those being a five-run 3.2 innings explosion. He's averaging a healthy 94 mph with his fastball, and with an excellent minor league track record and status as a first-round pick (No. 22 in 2012), Stroman also has the pedigree that makes us confident in his future potential. Mark Buehrle is having an outstanding season and R.A. Dickey is a recent Cy Young winner, but Stroman is talented enough to be the team's best starter the rest of the way, though his youth an inconsistency could be hindrances.

Jake McGee (RP-TB)

2.35 ERA, 5 saves, 14.1 K/9, 1.2 BB/9

Despite the lack of an official announcement from manager Joe Maddon, McGee is the team's official closer now. He's certainly worthy of the gig given these numbers in his 44 innings: 1.43 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 96.4 mph average fastball. A big key to his 2014 success has been this number: zero. That's the number of home runs McGee has allowed this season. He posted K/9s in the 10-plus range in both 2012 and 2013, so the strikeouts aren't really a surprise, but taking his HR/9 from 1.2 to 0.0 year over year is a surprise. We can't expect that to continue, but McGee's stuff is filthy and if he can continue to limit those long flyballs, success will be his.