Collette Calls: Second-Half Changes

Collette Calls: Second-Half Changes

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

It is the final month of the fantasy baseball season, and there are so many distractions to keep us away from focusing on our teams. There is amazing college football games right out of the gate, the NFL is now upon us and the weather across the country is either keeping people indoors, chasing them from their homes or unseasonably cool as it here in Charlotte, where I've had my windows open for most of the last week.

Personally, I'll finish the season with as many championships the Philadelphia Eagles have — zero. My AL Tout Wars team has had a very disappointing second half with underperformance and injuries, the mixed LABR team I share with Paul Sporer and my own NFBC team are in the same boat while I'll finish in the top half of my two local leagues. The final two are keeper leagues, and there is still time to build for a championship in the future if you are in similar leagues. People fall asleep behind the wheel when in the final month of the season and if your rules allow it, you should be active in trying to pick guys up on the cheap or trading for them. You can also manage this time of the season to begin your offseason prep in earnest so that when your league rules permit you to trade again, you can hit the market running.

This week, I'd like to focus on a number of hitters who are surging in

It is the final month of the fantasy baseball season, and there are so many distractions to keep us away from focusing on our teams. There is amazing college football games right out of the gate, the NFL is now upon us and the weather across the country is either keeping people indoors, chasing them from their homes or unseasonably cool as it here in Charlotte, where I've had my windows open for most of the last week.

Personally, I'll finish the season with as many championships the Philadelphia Eagles have — zero. My AL Tout Wars team has had a very disappointing second half with underperformance and injuries, the mixed LABR team I share with Paul Sporer and my own NFBC team are in the same boat while I'll finish in the top half of my two local leagues. The final two are keeper leagues, and there is still time to build for a championship in the future if you are in similar leagues. People fall asleep behind the wheel when in the final month of the season and if your rules allow it, you should be active in trying to pick guys up on the cheap or trading for them. You can also manage this time of the season to begin your offseason prep in earnest so that when your league rules permit you to trade again, you can hit the market running.

This week, I'd like to focus on a number of hitters who are surging in the second half compared to what they did in the first half. It is not necessary for me to remind people of how awesome Giancarlo Stanton has been in the second half as he is carrying people to fantasy titles with a second half triple-slash of .306/.415/.815 and 26 home runs, but there are other guys who were not doing well in the first half who have improved their lot in the second half, and vice-versa. What we need to do is to see whether something has changed other than their batted ball luck.

Kevin Kiermaier:
(.258/.329/.408 in 1st half; .379/.429/.638 in 2nd half) – The Outlaw has been on fire since returning to Tampa Bay from that hairline fracture in his hip in the first half of the season. We're still talking about a small sample size of 63 plate appearances, but the ball is jumping off his bat and he does not appear to have lost a step from the injury in the field. He has been a bit more tepid in stealing bases with just two attempts since his return. It is worth nothing the quality of his contact; 85 percent of the balls he has put into play have been of the medium to hard variety and he's also cut his infield fly ball rate down from 18 to 6 percent. Kiermaier has always shown flashes of being a productive fantasy player, but consistency and health have gotten in the way of that becoming a reality. He is in another one of those phases right now where he could close out 2017 strong, get drafted at $20-plus in 2018, and maybe earn it this time around.

Welington Castillo:
(.258/.298/.412 in 1st half; .365/.402/.635 in 2nd half) – Beef is a big reason why Baltimore is still in playoff contention despite some terrible starting pitching. Castillo is just the type of hitter that flourishes in Camden Yards and uses his pull power to his advantage. He had eight homers in 205 plate appearances in the first half and already has that many in the second half in 93 fewer plate appearances. The .405 BABIP is comically high, but he has reduced his strikeout rate from 27 to 21 percent in the second half and just 11 percent of his batted balls have been graded as "soft." Castillo has a player option for 2018 at $7M, which he could turn down because the type of season he is having offensively is worth more than that on the open market. The danger, however, is that Castillo's production is benefitting from his home environment and other teams may not want to pay for that. He still has only exceeded 450 plate appearances one time in his career, but he's one of the better catchers offensively the past two seasons and is having a career year this year after a somewhat slow start out of the gate. Oh, and he hit two more homers Sunday.

Jorge Polanco:
(.224/.273/.323 in 1st half; .333/.380/.612 in 2nd half) – Don't worry, nobody really saw this one coming. Polanco had never hit double-digit homers at any one stop in his minor league career and now he has 10 , along with 10 steals, in 2017. Polanco's improvements are tough to peg down because his quality of contact is not that much different and his flyball rate is the same, but the distance in which those flyballs are traveling is different as he is doing a better job of driving the baseball with loft (see below). If he can keep the increased power with the speed, he has an outside shot at a 20-20 season in 2018 as he is still maturing physically.


C.J. Cron:
(.213/.265/.303 in 1st half; .299/.357/.614 in 2nd half) – I remember going to a Salt Lake Bees game in early May this year and seeing Cron there and couldn't believe he was there. Then I took a look at his .232/.281/.305 line at the time of his demotion and understood how it happened. Cron would come back up in early June but went into the break with a .213/.265/.303 line. The Angels have permitted him some time in the second half and he has been something else with that slash line above as he has hit 11 homers, had 18 extra base hits, and has driven in 30 runs. The walk rates and the strikeout rates are where they've always been for him, but he has really cranked up his percentage of pulled balls and is also hitting more flyballs. He has pulled 50 percent of his batted balls this half while hitting 45 percent of those into the air. It is not a sustainable path forward for him, but he is making the most of it. He's nearly 28 and his overall numbers are very much in line with where they were last year, but the numbers are mostly backloaded this time around.

Alex Avila:
(.299/.423/.535 in the 1st half; .213/.218/.330 in the 2nd half) – That was fun while it lasted with Avila and yet another reminder that when a guy is producing well over previous levels, it is a good time to sell. Avila had a 17 percent walk rate and a 30 percent strikeout rate to go with that hot first half triple-slash, which was in line with where he was in both 2015 and 2016 around his multiple concussions. Those rates have declined to 14 and 35 percent, respectively, in the second half as he is now just hoping to reach base via the walk. Avila was hitting a lot of flyballs in the first half and making a lot of hard contact (56 percent!) in the first half, but that has changed since the break with his flyball rate in rapid decline and his hard contact rate is down to 35%. He is tearing up the infield grass with a 52 percent groundball rate this half, which is never good for a slow-footed catcher.


In short, the hot start has fizzled out like Chumbawumba's musical career, but at least he has been able to avoid concussions this season.

Jedd Gyorko:
(.300/.365/.519 in the 1st half; .213/.292/.362 in the 2nd half) – I was down on him doing much of anything this year and he made me look bad early on with as he raked out of the gate. Now, in a year where everyone is hitting homers, he is down 12 from last year's total despite the same amount of playing time. The 2017 plate discipline metrics are in line with where things were last year, but the HR/FB normalized back to his career rates, and that is when he manages to elevate the baseball. Where we thought the 28-year-old had finally found himself last year was just a matter of a one-year surge followed up by another season of who he has really been throughout his career. That said, he now owns one big power year and for the first time, a year in which he has hit for an above league-average batting average.

Aaron Judge:
(.329/.448/.691 in the 1st half; .177/.333/.354 in the 2nd half) – Despite the mammoth home run Judge hit tonight, he has been horrendous in the second half. If we were to have polled readers about which of Judge or Stanton would be a top 10 pick for 2018 back at the break, the poll would have overwhelmingly have gone for the kid. Now? I don't want any part of Judge in a top ten pick. He is still walking in the second half, but his strikeout rate jumped from an already high 30 percent to an abysmal 35 percent as he has not adjusted well to getting pitched up and in and then low and away. The offspeed stuff off the edge of the plate continues to be a trouble spot for him despite his ability to cover a bunch of the plate. He can still punish mistakes to all parts of the field, but the fact he has just 8 homers in the second half despite a 50 percent flyball rate speaks to the type of contact he is making these days when pitchers execute their plans against him.

Jose Ramirez:
(.332/.388/.601 in the 1st half; .270/.315/.470 in the 2nd half) – and the 5 for 5 he had today helped drive those numbers up. Ramirez was out of this world in the first half and his offense has been league average here in the second half as Cleveland has now won 11 straight games and is trying to overcome Houston to secure home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. He remains a high contact hitter that is walking a bit less these days, but his second half "collapse" is more about coming back down to career norms than any one thing falling apart on him. He will be 25 at the end of this season and he could finish this season challenging 30 homers and 20 stolen bases while hitting .300 and scoring 100 runs. Is it unreasonable to see him sneaking into the first round of a 15-team mixed league format? I don't think so, despite the normalness of the second half. I wouldn't do it, but I would not be up in arms protesting someone who did it.

Next week, we'll look at some pitchers that have changed their fortunes for better or for worse in the second half.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls,and was the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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