Second Half Hitting Standouts by Paul Sporer September 13, 2017 I honestly can’t believe how close we are to the end of the regular season. This is a great time of the year without question, especially if you happen to like football a bit in addition to baseball. You have the playoff races, hopefully some fantasy chases, the start of football, and the transition to Fall. Oh, and then my birthday on October 24th, don’t forget please! Today, I wanted to look at some interesting second half performances that might’ve slipped your radar for any number of reasons. Brian Dozier, MIN | .289 AVG, 148 wRC+, 17 HR, 5 SB, 90 R+RBI in 258 PA If you remember last year, Dozier spotted the league two months and then just obliterated pitchers from June on (.989 OPS, 37 HR in 493 PA). This year hasn’t had quite the same breakdown, but he again started a little slower than expected (.745 OPS) before ramping up over the summer. He’s been particularly strong since the start of August with a .990 OPS and 13 HR over his last 186 PA, plus all 5 of his second half SB. Outside of an obscene HR barrage to finish the season, Dozier will fall shy of his 42 from last year, but that was expected by most of us, including the projections. He is almost exactly where ZiPS had him: ZiPS: .255 AVG, 31 HR, 15 SB, 178 R+RBI Season: .261 AVG, 30 HR, 15 SB, 170 R+RBI I’m eager to see where a “met expectations” season will land Dozier for next year, especially with Jose Ramirez adding 2B eligibility during his elite season, Jonathan Schoop’s star turn, and Whit Merrifield emerging. The Oakland Matts: Matt Joyce (12 HR, 146 wRC+ in 189 PA), Matt Chapman (12 HR, 134 wRC+ in 216 PA), and Matt Olson (13 HR, 182 wRC+ in 135 PA) Joyce really got going in June. After just a .191 AVG and .634 OPS through the May, he’s clubbed 18 HR with a .266 AVG and .913 OPS since June 1st. Joyce is a full on platoon player and shouldn’t really see the field against lefties (career .577 OPS). I imagine the A’s have allowed him to get 72 PA against southpaws more out of necessity than anything else. His 23 HR are a new career-high, but he’ll be 33 years old next year and could lose playing time even against righties to a younger bat. Chapman and Olson are youngsters who should breaki camp and play full seasons in 2018. Chapman got a brief look in mid-June, but then came back up for good on July 3rd after a DL stint and minor league rehab. He didn’t do anything to finish out the first half (.279 OPS in 26 PA) so all of his numbers have come in the second half and he’s been surging of late with an .859 OPS in his last 20 games. He’s been the full-time 3B since getting the call and should open next year in that same role with much better defense than Ryon Healy. Olson’s been even better. The 23-year old left-handed 1B hit just .184, but managed a .759 OPS in 58 first half PA thanks to 4 HR and a 14% BB rate. He was back for a series in late-July, playing just two of the three games, and then finally up for good on August 8th and perhaps the consistent playing time has helped him blossom. He’s only needed 112 PA to smash 13 HR with a .307/.375/.703 line as the team’s primary 1B. The emergence of Chapman and Olson has allowed the A’s to slot Healy in his true position: DH. I don’t think either of Chapman or Olson will be heavily sought after next year, but both will be solid corner infield options who will meet the power requirement of the position. Neither is going to have a great full season AVG, but they shouldn’t tank, either and both have shown enough discipline to improve their stock in OBP leagues. Odubel Herrera, PHI | .376 AVG, 180 wRC+, 6 HR, 2 SB in 148 PA Herrera is another one of those who really turned things around in June, but some of the good production gets lost by the arbitrary second half cutoff I picked. After a .183 AVG, .453 OPS in May, it wasn’t looking good for Mr. Batflip (.218, .589 season totals through May), but he opened June with three mulit-hit games and a 10-game hitting streak in all and he hasn’t really slowed down since with a .343/.389/.563 line in 288 PA. If there is a disappointing angle, it’s that he has just 9 HR and 3 SB in the three-plus month stretch which ties his entire fantasy value to AVG. Herrera swiped 41 bases in the previous two seasons, but might struggle to reach 10 this year. He hasn’t even attempted a swipe in his last 13 games and his two SB game on August 8th are his only ones over his last 49 games, dating back to June 25th. A strained hamstring injury that cost him the second half of August likely explains why he’s SB-less in September, but he simply hasn’t run much at all this year which leaves his fantasy value in doubt. Will he start running again in 2018? Will he join the power surge and pop 20+? His BB% has regressed back to 6% after a career-high 10% last year which has cut into his SB attempts, but he’s still only 7-for-12 when he has run. I think even with the second half (or from June on) surge, Herrera will be a bit of an afterthought next year and I’ll be in at a discounted cost just in case the speed returns. Stolen bases are finicky for all but the most elite speedsters and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Herrera as 20+ base stealer. Kyle Schwarber, CHC | .255 AVG, 134 wRC+, 13 HR in 166 PA I have to be fair to Schwarber. I’ve been a detractor as I’ve found him wildly overpriced these past couple years for someone who hasn’t really done all that much in the bigs yet. He was drafted highly on projection and so the underwhelming results haven’t really been that surprising when you look at the big picture. Coming off a 25 PA season (20 of which were in the playoffs), Schwarber was obviously still an unknown, but that didn’t stop him from being the 19th OF off the board in NFBC drafts this past March. He barely hit my weight in the first half (.178) with a demotion mixed in to help him get right. He returned on July 6th and played four games before the break so we can fold those in if you want and then he’s hitting .258 with 14 HR in 182 PA. I still find him overrated as it seems that a throng of tweets and a thinkpiece or two pop up about how he’s emerging every time he has a good game or two, but I can’t deny that he’s been a solid 2H contributor. That said, I think it will create another inflation of his draft price and once again leave him overrated when we’re selecting our teams in 2018. I think my biggest issue with the Schwarber hype is this notion that he’ll be an AVG boon as opposed to a liability or at least a neutral asset. Even with his 2H production, he’s still fanning 34% of the time and has shown no proclivity to cut that down in favor of more base hits. As a pure masher, he just doesn’t stand out in the new home run era we’re living through right now. While Joe Maddon has teased us with four games behind the dish for Schwarber, there’s no chance he’ll qualify there to start next year and the older he gets, the less likely he is to suit up and earn in-season eligibility. Damn, I was supposed to be nice here. OK, Schwarber has been a plus bat in second half and that’s saying something given the depths he hit earlier in the season. A full healthy season should yield 35 or so HR which will be fantasy useful even if he only hits .225, but I’d recommend that people stop drafting him based on a level of potential he’s never really shown the ability to reach. Would I be surprised if he went .240/40 next year? No. But that’s Khris Davis and Davis was going 25 or so picks later than Schwarber and likely will again in 2018.