Looking to make a trade? Now's a good time for it, with the All-Star break providing an opportunity to pause, assess your team's strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to attack them.
Yesterday, we gave you some sleeper picks for the second half of the season, largely focused on players who are relatively widely available in CBS Fantasy leagues, but today we're aiming a little higher. It's time for some second-half breakout picks from the FBT team, and these aren't players you're going to find available in most leagues. If you want to ride the breakout hype with us, you're going to have to make some trades.
So, consider the following list of 14 players the favorite trade targets from Frank Stampfl, Scott White, and myself, Chris Towers (filling in again for Dan Schneier). These players won't all live up to our loftiest hopes, but if even a few of them do, it could dramatically alter the course of your season.
We'll be back tomorrow with bust candidates for the second half, because it's not all sunshine and roses, folks. But before we move on to the breakouts, there was one bit of news from the All-Star Game you need to know about: Jordan Romano left the game with back tightness. Hopefully it's just a non-issue, but it's definitely something we'll keep an eye on over the next few days -- Erik Swanson would likely be first in line for any saves if Romano misses time, but I also think Nate Pearson is a dark horse, too.
Now, let's get to the breakouts:
Scott's second-half breakouts
Tarik Skubal, SP, Tigers – We've talked an awful lot about Skubal, both here and on the podcast, over the past few weeks, especially for a guy who has only made two starts in the majors this season. But his two starts showed why we're excited, as Skubal's fastball velocity has been up nearly 2 mph, a good sign as he returns from elbow surgery. Skubal took a big step forward last season, improving his quality of contact allowed without losing much in strikeout rate. Now, with this velocity jump, the hope is he can keep the gains from last season while garnering more whiffs. There's borderline ace upside here if he can pull it off.
Reid Detmers, SP, Angels – I know some of you are tired of us hyping Detmers up, and I get it. He's been frustrating, there's no way around it, and his last start before the break might be the most frustrating of all – after putting up a 1.42 ERA and 43 strikeouts in his previous five starts, the Dodgers clubbed him for seven runs in 3.1 innings, with three homers. But Detmers has elite strikeout abilities and decent control, so it's just about keeping the ball in the yard, more or less. If he can do that more consistently, there's significant upside here, and it's a bet worth making.
Brett Baty, 3B, Mets – I wrote about Baty as one of my second-half sleepers yesterday, and here's what I had to say: "Baty is having trouble tapping into his power in games mostly because he just doesn't elevate the ball very much – it's hard to hit for power when 52% of your batted balls are on the ground. However, that's an aspect of Baty's game he showed the ability to improve on in the minors, and the raw power here is still impressive. Like Triston Casas, it's a bet on a young guy improving one key aspect of his game to unlock another level." Scott might be even more optimistic.
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Frank's second-half breakouts
Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals – There's no such thing as a sure thing with a prospect, and Walker is a good example of that. But man, it's not hard to see a star-level outcome here. He hits the ball really hard (90th percentile average exit velocity and hard-hit rate) and has played more or less like a star since coming back from the minors, with a .288/.363/.496 line and a 30-homer pace. He's been inefficient on the base paths (1 for 5 on steal attempts) but if he figures that out, there's room for a legitimate five-category difference maker here. I still think the Cardinals offense is pretty scary, and Walker could be a big part of it in the second half.
Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs – Suzuki does a lot of things well. He has pretty good plate discipline, he's a plus athlete, and he hits the ball hard consistently. He just hasn't put it all together in the majors consistently. Injuries certainly haven't helped, but if he does figure it out, he could be a difference maker.
Gavin Williams, SP, Guardians – There's been no shortage of interesting rookie pitchers this season, and Williams hasn't exactly stood out with a 4.01 ERA through his first four starts. The issue so far has been a bit of inconsistency when it comes to his swing-and-miss stuff, but the pieces are here – his fastball sits in the high 90s and generates whiffs, his slider looks like a pretty chase good pitch already, and his curveball generates a ton of weak contact in the zone, just as it did in the minors. The pieces are here, and it's generally not a bad idea to bet on Guardians pitchers putting the pieces together.
Chris' second-half sleepers
Henry Davis, C, Pirates – Because Davis plays every day in the outfield, he already has a leg up on the competition at catcher, since so few catchers play even five times per week. It hasn't led to high-end production yet, but Davis' underlying metrics suggest better days are ahead – as does his .284/.433/.541 line in the minors this season. If he comes anywhere close to that kind of production at the majors, he's going to be an elite catcher for Fantasy. If he gets 75% of the way there, he's a must-start option.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers – Torkelson was one of Frank's sleeper picks yesterday, but I'll plant my flag on him breaking out in the second half. He's shown flashes so far, showing improved plate discipline early in the season and then tapping into the power more recently, with seven homers in June. Now, it's time to put it all together. Torkelson doesn't chase out of the zone and his whiff rate is actually below average, so, I think there's plenty of room for him to hit for power without sacrificing too much contact.
Jazz Chisholm, 2B, Marlins – This is arguably just a bet on Chisholm staying healthy in the second half, and that is, obviously, no sure thing. He's currently working his way back from an oblique injury, which are tricky, and has that toe injury from his first stint on the IL to worry about. But the nice thing about making a bet on Chisholm right now is, it'll never cost less. The person who drafted him is probably pretty frustrated, and isn't likely to ask for anything like full price for him. I know pace stats don't mean much for a guy who misses as much time as Chisholm, but he was on a 30-plus homer, near-50-steal pace this season. If he does manage to stay healthy down the stretch, he could play a big part in deciding a lot of Fantasy championships.
Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals – I'm with Frank on this one. Walker looks like a star about to explode.
Bobby Witt, SS, Royals – Witt is a certified Fantasy star, but I think there's still plenty of room for him to take a big step forward. I wrote about it last week in my Trade Values Chart column, but Witt has taken a bigger step forward in his underlying skills than you might have realized so far – his expected wOBA is up from .313 last season to .364, because he's hitting the ball with authority more consistently, most notably upping his line drive rate 22.6% to 28.9%, a very strong number. He may yet earn that first-round price tag.
Riley Greene, OF, Tigers – Greene is another guy who has pretty much already broken out, but circumstances have conspired to keep it hidden. His .305/.373/.462 line is excellent, however, he's rostered in just 74% of CBS Fantasy leagues, despite underlying numbers that fully back up what he's done. The stress reaction injury he missed time with is concerning, because it could crop up again and might limit his steal attempts, but he also came back from the injury to go 4 for 7 with a homer and two walks in his first two games after missing more than a month, so I'm not too worried. He should be excellent as long as he's healthy.
Carlos Rodon, SP, Yankees – Here's another one where, I'll grant, I'm kind of cheating. We know who Carlos Rodon is: He's one of the very pitchers in baseball when healthy. The bet here is that he'll stay healthy and make a massive impact down the stretch. He made his return to the rotation and his velocity looked fine before the break, and while his injury history is extensive, it seems like the primary reason for his first-half absence was a back issue, not the forearm injury that stopped his season in the first place. I'm willing to place the bet on Rodon carrying my rotation in the second half.
Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Orioles – Rodriguez's first taste of the majors was extremely disappointing, as he was pummeled to a 7.35 ERA. There were some decent signs – he struck out 26.5% of opposing hitters – but he just gave up way too much hard contact, with a 53% hard-hit rate and .479 expected wOBA on contact. For context, Mike Trout's hard-hit rate is 52.7%, while Freddie Freeman's xwOBACON is .471. Yeah, that's bad. Rodriguez's cutter is still getting hit pretty hard in Triple-A (93 mph average exit velocity) but the rest of his pitches are performing extremely well, including a 43.1% whiff rate with his changeup (a key pitch for him). Rodriguez has a 1.96 ERA since going back down, and it feels inevitable that he'll get another chance here soon. He's still one of the most talented young pitchers in baseball, and someone you absolutely want when he's back.
Andrew Abbott, SP, Reds – Abbott has one glaring weakness: Among pitchers with 40 innings in the majors, his 19.6% ground-ball rate is the lowest by more than five percentage points. Add in that he plays half his games in arguably the homer friendliest park in baseball, and you can see the issue. Despite that, he has a 2.38 ERA and, more impressively, a 3.39 expected ERA, which takes quality of contact into account. He's going to give up some homers, but I still like the upside here, thanks to his strikeout abilities – Abbott has three legitimate swing-and-miss pitches in his arsenal.
Jordan Hicks, RP, Cardinals – Hicks has taken over as the Cardinals closer in Ryan Helsley's absence, but I still think his usage is worth noting here. Because, when Helsley was healthy, he was in a timeshare with Giovanny Gallegos, who had eight saves to Helsley's seven. However, Gallegos' last save came in his first game after Helsley's injury, while Hicks has the team's last seven saves. This is the only time this season the Cardinals have used one closer that way, which suggests Hicks could remain the guy even when Helsley is back.