Johnny Cueto (SP - CIN) - Johnny Cueto finished off the best half-season on his career on Sunday at home against the Pirates. Unfortunately, he lasted just 6 innings and yielded 3 runs on 5 hits while tallying 7 strikeouts. On the season, Cueto has given up 2 or fewer earned runs in all but 4 of his 20 starts, which has translated to a phenomenal 2.13 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. Had he not started Sunday, he certainly would have deserved to start the All-Star game for the NL side. Now that the first half of the season is in the books and we begin looking to the second half, can he sustain the same level of success as the calendar turns to August and September? The easy answer is to say no, but I'll preface that by also mentioning that I'm not expecting him to fall off a cliff either. Cueto has benefitted from batted ball luck, posting a BABIP of .221with a LD rate against of 18%. While the low line drive rate is good, the BABIP is extremely low, even for a pitcher who induces groundballs around 50% of the time. Cueto is outperforming his SIERA, FIP, and xFIP by about a run, indicating that his 2.13 ERA will likely rise in the second half. I'm also not convinced we will continue seeing an average strikeout rate around 25% the rest of the way since his velocity and SwStr% are sitting around his career levels and he has shown regression to his strikeout rate each month since April. Now would be an excellent time to sell high if you can get an elite player in return, otherwise, he should continue being a top 10-15 pitcher the rest of the way.
Neil Walker (2B- PIT) - Neil Walker finished off the first half of his season with his 13th homerun (career high is 16) and he's currently hitting with a 0.177 ISO. The second baseman has returned fantastic value for fantasy owners who drafted him late in drafts this spring. With a 23% line drive rate and just a .289 BABIP, there's significant upside to his .272 batting average in the second half. Durability remains a concern for the oft-injured Pirate, as he has played in more than 133 games just once in his 4 full years in the majors. I'm optimistic that Walker will keep up the hot start in the second half and I have no problem entertaining offers from owners who might be thinking that they can "sell high".
Jacob deGrom (SP - NYM) - Jacob deGrom shut down the Marlins on Sunday by tossing 7 innings of 1-run ball, while striking out 8 batters. He walked just 2 and gave up only 5 hits on the day. DeGrom has been a pleasant surprise for both the Mets and fantasy owners this year and now owns a 3.18 ERA with an 8.80 K/9. His 9.3% walk rate is interesting because he never posted a walk rate above 7.7% at any level in the minor leagues. Digging deeper into his underlying statistics, there's a mixed bag of indicators for the right-hander moving forward. While his contact rate, swinging strike rate and chase rate are all better than league average, he has seen favorable luck on his batted balls so far. DeGrom has given up line drives nearly 27% of the time, yet his BABIP is just .324. While it looks like the strikeouts are real, I'm skeptical that he'll be able to maintain an ERA in the low 3's. I'm considering deGrom a cautious "buy" but beware, he probably won't get too many wins for the Mets.
David Wright (3B - NYM) - David Wright had a nice day at the plate on Sunday afternoon going 2-for-4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI. The big day raised his ISO to .135, which is still well below his career mark of .200. In the last month, however, his ISO is a cool .263 and he has posted a slash line of .329/.384/.592. Over the same time period, the 3rd baseman has also improved his walk and strikeout ratios to 8.1% and 9.3%, respectively. I'm expecting Wright to have a monster second half and I consider him a strong "buy" candidate across all league formats.
Buster Posey (C-SFG) - Buster Posey hit a grand slam on Sunday afternoon for his 10th homerun of the year. The catcher has been a little disappointing this year, slashing just .275/.332/.423. Since his MVP campaign in 2012, Posey has seen his draft value sky-rocket in fantasy leagues but the performance hasn't backup up the draft slot the last two seasons. However, I'm optimistic that Posey will be able to turn his luck around after the All-Star break, particularly in the batting average department. He has suffered from a bit of bad luck with a BABIP of .284, yet hitting line drives 26% of the time. The home park doesn't help his power numbers but he remains a key hitter in the middle of the San Francisco Gitants batting order and the return of Brandon Belt should add protection for him.
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