TRUM: Second-half Love/Hate Part 1

July, 18, 2007
07/18/07
12:14
PM ET
Thoughts, Ramblings, Useless information and Musings for Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So, the cool part about doing "NFL Live" this week has been, well, doing "NFL Live" this week. We're talking fantasy football and getting some love for our new free game (with free live scoring). So, great stuff.

But a lot of the football stuff we're doing has meant the baseball stuff has gotten a bit farther behind than I would have liked. Not that you care. But … just saying.

Anyway, here's the "Love" part of my midseason "Love, Hate." "Hate" is on its way, but these are long (almost 3,000 words for "Love" alone) so I wanted to break them up. Longtime readers are familiar with how I do these, but if you're reading me for the first time, understand that the idea of "Love, Hate" is that this is my own personal list of sleepers and busts. I'm using the expected projected stats on each player's ESPN player card as of the All-Star break. On the profile tab of each player card, the last line is projected stats for the season.

Players I love are players I believe exceed those projections. Players I hate are players who will fall short, by my estimation.

I generally assume that people who read me are not morons. That you know that Johan is the Santana you want, Ervin is the one you don't (at least on the road).

I also feel readers get it. I could write a long statistical analysis of every player, but frankly, that's boring. In short, just because I don't spend two paragraphs giving you all the stats to back it up, trust that I did the research. Or don't. ESPN pays me regardless. (Rubs hands together evilly.) Bwah hah hah hah!

Second-Half Players I Love

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B/C, ATL: Just showing off that I can spell his name.

Willie Harris, OF, ATL: I like them there speedy folks.

Yunel Escobar, 3B/SS/2B, ATL: Hits for average, qualifies everywhere, named "Yunel." What's not to like here?

Brian McCann, C, ATL: McCann … McCAN! You think that one was bad, I almost went with: McCann … Fail? He McCAN'T!

Andruw Jones, OF, ATL: OK, in fairness, I've been on this one for a while, before he hit a couple of jacks the last few days. Before the break, I said he's a great buy-low because his value is at an all-time low. He's not going to hit for average, but he's on pace for over 100 RBIs and 30 home runs, and that's still useful, kids.

Chuck James, P, ATL: Two first names. Always a crowd-pleaser.

Lastings Milledge, OF, NYM: No first names. Also a crowd-pleaser.

Oliver Perez and John Maine, P, NYM: You believe or you don't. I do.

Orlando Hernandez, P, NYM: AARP. He's not just a member, it's the sound batters make when they realize they've just struck out again.

Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM: Big second half last year. Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI: He could go 30/30 with a high average at shortstop. He's a top-10 player who people think is a second rounder. There are only about eight players I'd rather have than Rollins, and you wouldn't have to trade any of them to get him.

Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI: See James, Chuck.

Shane Victorino, OF, PHI: Most people don't realize he's putting up pretty much the same numbers this year as Carl Crawford.

Michael Bourn, OF, PHI: Here's the real Bourn Identity: double-digit steals the rest of the way, easy.

Cole Hamels, P, PHI: The pitcher I want the most the rest of the way in the NL. Yes, more than Peavy.

Mike Jacobs, 1B, FLA: Cheap and underrated. That applies to a lot of girls I've dated, but also to Jacobs' power potential.

Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA: Reyes and Rollins are the only two guys I want more than Hanley at shortstop. You heard me, Yankees fans. He's a second round pick that folks value in the third or fourth.

Alfredo Amezaga, OF/2B, FLA: See Bourn, Michael, but substitute the "Bourne Identity" pun for … um … "Evan Almighty." If you're going to miss, miss by a lot.

Matt Lindstrom, P, FLA: The kid can pitch, no matter what the role.

Dmitri Young, 1B, WAS: Better than his brother this year.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS: Quietly on pace for close to 30 homers and 90 RBIs.

Jon Rauch, P, WAS: Your Washington Nationals closer on Aug. 1 is …

Ryan Freel, 3B/OF, CIN: You're going look up at the end of September and say "How the hell did he get 35 steals again?"

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, CIN: Easily beating Jackson as my favorite major league Edwin.

Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: I ranked him 12th overall in my second-half rankings (his composite ranking was 42) and my fellow fantasy experts at ESPN.com thought I was nuts for being that high on him. Here's what I wrote in my defense during the All-Star break:

"The biggest problem with rankings is that they are name-based and we play with numbers. Let's look at some first-half numbers:

PLAYER A: 17 HR, 47 RBI, 60 Runs, 16 SB, .276
PLAYER B: 15 HR, 33 RBI, 60 Runs, 13 SB, .309

"Which player would you rather have? Player B hits for a higher average; Player A has more in every other category. You could argue they're a bit equal, but I say Player A is the slightly better player. Well, no doubt you have guessed Player A is Brandon Phillips.

"But you probably don't realize that Player B is Alfonso Soriano. That's who Phillips is. Except the difference here is that Phillips still qualifies at second base. When Soriano was a second baseman, he was a top-five player. Since Phillips came to the Reds, he's been a power/speed guy, and there's no underlying numbers to suggest that he won't continue. You wouldn't blink an eye at Soriano as a top-five guy, so why the thirty-place swing about Brandon Phillips?"

Since I wrote the above, all he's done is hit two home runs, drive in 10, steal a base and hit .385. Other than maybe Chase Utley, there's not a second baseman I want more than Phillips.

Eddie Guardado, P, CIN: I think David Weathers gets traded and someone is going to have to close.

Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: I'm blotto for Votto!

Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, HOU: Finally became Lance Berkman again on June 1. He hit .298 with seven homers in June, and last year, after the All-Star break, he hit .314 with 21 home runs.

Hunter Pence, OF, HOU: Yeah, he's legit.

Eric Bruntlett, SS, HOU: Very quietly hitting .295.

Roy Oswalt, P, HOU: I'm not coy about my love of Roy! Move along, kids. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.

Adam LaRoche, 1B, PIT: Hit .323 with 19 home runs last year after the All-Star break.

Rajai Davis, OF, PIT: The speed doesn't come any cheaper than this.

Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell, P, PIT: See Perez, Oliver and Maine, John.

Chris Duncan, OF, STL: Another guy who very quietly is having a nice season. And he hit .295 with 19 home runs last year after the break. And he has two first names, which, as you may have heard, is always a crowd-pleaser.

Adam Wainwright, P, STL: He's wrighted the ship? Get it? Wrighted? Sigh. This gold is lost on the likes of you.

Albert Pujols, 1B, STL: Just remember, he was the No. 1 player across the board at the start of the season, and he isn't anymore (in terms of value). He will be before it's all over.

Rickie Weeks, 2B, MIL: How lucky do you feel?

Ryan Braun, 3B, MIL: Been saying this one for a while, but other than Alex Rodriguez, David Wright and Miguel Cabrera, there's not a third baseman in baseball I'd rather have than Braun.

Corey Hart, OF, MIL: Another one I was way higher on than my fellow columnists in terms of our midseason rankings. I had him at 23, and the composite rank was 75. Here's what I wrote:

"Again, another power/speed guy, and while people realize he burst out of nowhere to put up big numbers, they don't fully comprehend how huge they were. He became a full-time starter a few days before June. In the month of June, he had nine home runs, the same as Alex Rodriguez, fourth-best in baseball. He had 10 stolen bases, third-best in baseball. His 28 runs scored were tops in the major leagues. And he hit .336.

"He is on pace for a 20/30 year while contributing big numbers across the board, and that's without full playing time the first two months of the year. He has a solid batting eye, and he plays for a team with a lot of good batters hitting behind him, so he should continue to see good pitches. If these numbers came from a big name, he'd be a lot higher. But it's a young player in a small market and while others may think he's a fluke, others are wrong."

I stand by it.

Russell Martin, C, LAD: The best fantasy catcher in baseball. Period.

James Loney, 1B, LAD: Bad headline just waiting to happen when Loney someday becomes No. 1 in baseball in batting average: "It's Loney at the Top!"

Wilson Betemit, 3B, LAD: Ten home runs in his first 138 at-bats. Just waiting for Nomar to get hurt.

Matt Kemp, OF, LAD: He's a well-kemp secret! (Pause) What do you want from me? I'm going through a dead finger phase. I'll write out of it.

Derek Lowe, P, LAD: Nothing sexy here, but only five NL starting pitchers have a better ERA.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD: Fun to say, fun to play.

Brian Giles, OF, SD: Finally remembers he's Brian Giles.

Chris Young, P, SD: Jake Peavy-like stats without the cost.

Greg Maddux, P, SD: Boringly consistent.

Milton Bradley, OF, SD: Why not bring a little 'tude to your fantasy clubhouse?

Randy Johnson, P, ARI: Since May 9, he has not given up more than three earned runs in any start. He'll come back healthy and dominate.

Eric Byrnes, OF, ARI: On pace for a 20/30 season, and no one realizes it.

Chris B. Young, OF, ARI: Jake Peavy-like stats without the cost. Wait a minute. That can't be right …

Kazuo Matsui, 2B, COL: Since becoming a Rockie last year, he has hit .321 with 61 runs scored, 24 stolen bases, 5 home runs and 41 RBIs in 81 games. That's half a season, basically, since he was injured for a decent chunk of this year and didn't come over last year until toward the end. So think about that: 61 runs and 24 steals in half a season. He's a top-five fantasy second baseman, you just don't realize it.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL: See Kouzmanoff, Kevin.

Garrett Atkins, 3B, COL: Finally remembered he's Garrett Atkins.

Willy Taveras, OF, COL: Currently on pace for 41 steals and a .325 average. You'll take that, right?

Manny Corpas, P, COL: Regardless of role, I like him.

Bengie Molina, C, SF: It's hard to have fan-favorite "Bengie-Time!" without him.

Barry Bonds, OF, SF: I think he goes nuts after he breaks the record.

Randy Winn, OF, SF: His name should be "The perennially underrated Randy Winn."

Matt Cain, P, SF: Nowhere to go but up.

Jason Varitek, C, BOS: I said this about him in the preseason, too, when everyone said he was dead.

Mike Lowell, 3B, BOS: You believe or you don't. I do.

Coco Crisp, OF, BOS: He changed his batting stance, and since June 1, he's hitting .315 with 7 steals, 4 home runs, 14 RBIs and 19 runs in 130 at-bats.

Hideki Okajima, P, BOS: Should be owned in all leagues. All.

Jon Lester, P, BOS: A hard-throwing lefty with a good offense and good bullpen behind him? Yes, when he comes up, I want him.

Clay Buchholz, P, BOS: I think he gets a call, and he's very much worth an add, even if he pitches only in relief.

Bobby Abreu, OF, NYY: Here lies Matthew Berry. He believed in Bobby Abreu.

Hideki Matsui, OF, NYY: Six home runs and hitting .327 so far in July.

Alex Rios, OF, TOR: Also on this list in the preseason. Simply put, the crazy amount of love I have for Alex Rios is illegal in 13 states.

Lyle Overbay, 1B, TOR: Hit six home runs in May before the injury.

Vernon Wells, OF, TOR: Hit .294 after the All-Star break last year with 40 RBIs.

Frank Thomas, DH, TOR: Things still there for the Big Hurt? His stomach, his slowness, his skill set. He's been mashing recently and will continue.

Dustin McGowan, P, TOR: Love me the D-Mac.

Jeremy Accardo, P, TOR: He'll keep the gig all year long.

Kevin Millar, 1B, BAL: .290, .300, .341. Sorry. I just thought I'd list Millar's batting average in May, June and so far in July.

Erik Bedard, P, BAL: Other than Johan Santana, there's not a pitcher I want more in the second half than Bedard. And by the way, I said that during his "dead arm" period, too.

Chris Ray, P, BAL: Two first names. Always a crowd-pleaser.

Nick Markakis, OF, BAL: .311/14/41 after the All-Star break last year.

Brendan Harris, 2B/SS, TB: See Lowell, Mike.

James Shields, P, TB: Big second half in store.

Josh Fields, 3B, CWS: He's like Joe Crede, without the years of disappointment to cloud your judgment. Power but no average.

Tadahito Iguchi, 2B, CWS: Fun to say, soon to be fun to play. I promise.

Travis Hafner, 1B, CLE: He's hit 75 home runs the past two years. He'll remember that eventually.

Josh Barfield, 2B, CLE: Here lies Matthew Berry. He believed in Bobby Abreu. Wait a minute …

Casey Blake, 3B/OF, CLE: Always underrated. Twelve home runs since May 1.

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, CLE: Simply put, he's a nice little player with both power and speed.

Carlos Guillen, SS, DET: Only his owners know how good he is.

Marcus Thames, OF/1B, DET: Thames rhymes with Mims, which reminds me of "The Last Mimzy," a movie I have no interest in seeing based entirely on its title. Sometimes it's not a joke kids, it's just useless information.

Andrew Miller, P, DET: Two things to know. One, he kind of looks like Nate Ravitz. Two, he will finish the year with the most wins of any rookie starting pitcher in the American League. And no, I don't care what the rules say, Dice-K is not a rookie.

Brandon Inge, 3B, DET: Hit .290 after the All-Star break last year.

Billy Butler, 1B, KC: The Billy Did It! Wait, that's not right …

Mark Teahen, 3B, KC: Huge second half last year.

Alex Gordon, 3B, KC: See Ray, Chris.

John Buck, C, KC: See Gordon, Alex.

Johan Santana, P, MIN: The best player in fantasy for the second half.

Jason Bartlett, SS, MIN: Very quietly has 17 steals.

Boof Bonser, P, MIN: Boof makes batters go poof! (Just to once and for all definitively answer the question: "Does Matthew have any shame at all?")

Pat Neshek, P, MIN: See Guillen, Carlos.

Torii Hunter, OF, MIN: No matter where he plays.

Chone Figgins, 3B/OF, LAA: I'm wiggy for Figgy!

Casey Kotchman, 1B, LAA: Took him long enough.

Orlando Cabrera, SS, LAA: Things are pretty in "The O.C."

Reggie Willits, OF, LAA: Officially, the real deal.

Gary Matthews Jr., OF, LAA: Also on this list at the start of the year. You're welcome.

Juan Rivera, OF, LAA: Ten home runs is very doable over the last two months.

Kelvim Escobar, P, LAA: The question has never been the talent, it's always been the health. And guess what? He's healthy.

Mike Napoli, C, LAA: A catcher who runs? Yes, please.

Dan Johnson, 1B, OAK: Here lies Matthew Berry. He also believed in Dan Johnson.

Mark Kotsay, OF, OAK: He'll be better than he has been, at least.

Mike Piazza, C, OAK: Fantasy gods help me, I still believe.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, SEA: The poster boy for, well, a lot, frankly. But in this case, it's second-half surges. Over the last three years, after the All-Star break, Beltre has a total of 54 home runs and has hit .297.

Adam Jones, OF, SEA: I think he comes up. I think he does well.

Richie Sexson, 1B, SEA: I know, he's been brutal in July so far. But he had eight home runs in June. Last year, he hit .322 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs after the break.

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA: Worth every penny.

Mark Teixeira, 1B, TEX: Just like last year.

Akinori Otsuka, P, TEX: Eric Gagne is going to be traded.

Kenny Lofton, OF, TEX: Very quietly on pace for 40 steals.

Players I hate coming later …

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