Brain McCann- Brian McCann has been far more valuable in the first half of 2015 than he was during the majority of 2014. McCann has walked more (8.4% to 5.9%), but he is also striking out at a higher rate (18.9% to 14.3%). His biggest contribution isn't necessarily in batting average although the 20 point increase from 2014 to 2015 seems sustainable at those contact rates and with a .270 BABIP. His biggest contribution to fantasy teams is the return of his power stroke. He knocked his 14th home run o of the season out of the park on Sunday, which ties him for second in the league in home runs from the catching position. His .190 ISO seems sustainable as long as McCann continues to be a dominate fly ball hitter. This seems like a lock given his career 42.8% fly ball rate that won't be a problem. He may seem some regression in an all-time low IFF% of 3.4%, but overall, McCann should return top catching value the remainder of the season.
Devon Travis- Devon Travis has been one of the surprise players in 2015. He has provided value to fantasy owners based largely on his ability to hit for average. I'm concerned that he may be in for a negative regression moving forward in the second half of the season. Travis' BABIP is sitting at .340, which is a bit high. It's tough to use that as the sole justification for a decrease in batting average as we don't have a large enough sample size to understand what Travis' personal mean will be in the major leagues. With that said, it is tough to assume a .340 BABIP is sustainable. Additionally, Travis has a 49.5% ground ball rate, which is not encouraging for his continued value as a fantasy asset. Overall, I'm suggesting selling high on Travis in re-draft leagues.
Lorenzo Cain- Lorenzo Cain has been a MVP caliber player in the American League through the first half of the season. His value to fantasy owners has been equally helpful as he combines power, speed and average. Cain's only red mark thus far has been his 47% ground ball rate, which is an improvement over his 51.1% rate in 2015 but hardly what you would hope for out of a number 1 fantasy outfielder. Despite this fairly high ground ball rate, Cain is on pace to be a 12-15 home run/30 stolen base asset with a batting average at or near .300. This is an incredibly valuable piece, and there isn't anything in his profile that makes me believe he cannot sustain this pace in the second half of the season.
Sonny Gray- Sonny Gray closed out the first half in style on Sunday. He threw a complete game shut out against the Indians while walking only one batter and striking out 6. Gray is the best pitcher in Oakland this year and a solid number 2/3 fantasy starter. Gray's best trait is his consistent ability to generate ground balls. He finished the first half with a 55.6% ground ball rate, which is actually in line with his major league sample. Gray's ability to generate ground balls provides an easy out if and when he gets into trouble. He hasn't been able to get back to his 25.7% K Rate that he generated in a short sample during the 2013 season, but his 22.5% K Rate is acceptable for a pitcher generating that type of ground ball rate. I like Gray moving forward quite a bit although owners should be aware that there is a chance he could be on the move if Oakland decided to sell at the deadline.
Robert Refsnyder- The Yankees have been waiting on Robert Refsnyder to develop defensively in order to take over at second base. They had signed Stephen Drew as a temporary stop gap, but Drew has struggled with any type of sustained offensive success. Refsnyder got the call on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday, he went 2 for 4 with his first major league home run to help the Yankees top the Red Sox. Refsynder is an interesting fantasy option. He has shown advanced plate patience in his minor league sample size. Refs doesn't offer much in the way of power or speed, but he has a history of hitting for average and working the count. This ability should provide value in AL-Only and deep mixed leagues as long as he is getting significant playing time in New York.
Today's American League Player Blog is brought to you by Nicholas Rossoletti. You can follow Nicholas on Twitter @NRoss56.
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