I must admit that I was ready for the All-Star break this year. In my oldest and favorite league I was relying on Erik Bedard and Aaron Harang to be my top two starting pitchers. Instead, they both just pitched like number two, and I am looking way up at first place. Here are some guys I predict will be number two in the second half.
Carl Crawford - OF - Tampa Bay Beelzebub Rays - I don't believe in the Rays and I don't believe in Crawford. Forget his name is Carl Crawford for a minute and consider the fact that he has never hit more than 18 home runs or 81 RBI's in a season. I compare Crawford to a guy like Corey Hart, who gets way less hype, but has similar numbers. Sure, Hart will only give you about 25 SB's, which is half of what you get from Crawford, but you'll end up with a similar BA, more RBI's and twice the HR's. Crawford will end up with another 20 SB's in the second half, but he shouldn't be confused with actual elite power/speed guys like Grady Sizemore, Hanley Ramirez, Brandon Phillips or David Wright. If you desperately need steals and can get him really cheap, go for it, but don't overpay as I don't see a big second half for Carl.
Pat Burrell - OF - Philadelphia Phillies - At some point he's gotta remember he's Pat Burrell, right? Look, Pat the Bat had a surprisingly wonderful first half (.275 AVG, 23 HR, 57 RBI) and his eye at the plate seems to have improved, as he is tied for the Major League lead in walks with Adam Dunn, but unlike Dunn, he has trimmed his K's significantly. I still like Burrell okay for the second half, but I don't think he keeps this pace. He usually ends the year with about 30 HR's and 95 RBI, and I expect him to end this year about the same. Chances are he will hit a prolonged slump at some point, so I would probably try to shop him based on his first-half numbers to see if you can get a nice return. You're not going to be able to get Grady Sizemore or Matt Holliday, but you might be able to snag Nick Markakis.
Evan Longoria - 3B - Tampa Bay Prince-of-Darkness Rays - Rookies aren't supposed to get called up and have huge offensive numbers right away. Ryan Braun was the exception; Alex Gordon is the rule. I expect Longoria to come back down to earth in the second half. Opposing pitchers are too smart and they will find his weak spot. Right now the hype machine is in overdrive for Longoria, and if it wasn't for Josh Hamilton, Longoria would be the big story of the All-Star break. His stock is soaring right now, and I would move him quickly. The only possible exception is if you are in a keeper league because I do think he will be a very good player in the league for years to come.
Kerry Wood - RP - Chicago Cubs - Kerry Wood has two big things working against him, 1 - He is a Cub, 2 - His name is Kerry Wood. I gambled on Wood in a couple of leagues this year and have been pleasantly surprised, but I don't expect a big second half. He's got a blister right now, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him spend some time on the DL. I always think it's a good idea to try to move a closer around this time and see what you can get anyway. Unless it's one of the elite such as: Joe Nathan, K-Rod or Papelbon, I would rather move a guy with a bunch of saves for a no-name closer and try to get something else in the deal. For example, if I could move Kerry Wood for C.J. Wilson and an A.J. Burnett, I'd do it.
Edinson Volquez - SP - Cincinnati Reds - This one hurts, and I almost didn't include him, but I have to be honest: I don't believe Volquez is going to have a great second half. As a Reds' fan, I hope I am terribly wrong, but hear my reasoning. First of all, he has never pitched more than 34 innings in the big leagues before this year and he is already at 117 IP. Having Dusty Baker as the man who decides how long to keep him on the mound doesn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy about this scenario either (although I was pleased to read that Dusty petitioned to Clint Hurdle to try to keep Volquez from pitching more than an inning in the All-Star game). Another concern is his 56 walks issued in the first half. He has managed to use his mid-nineties fastball and filthy, low-eighties circle-changeup to work out of jams, but I'm worried that the walks are going to catch up with him at some point. The most signficant stat of all for Volquez is that he has only allowed five home runs all year (that's a Bronson Arroyo inning) and only one at Great American Ballpark. To think that this trend will hold up in the second half just seems way too optimistic. Volquez doesn't have a body of work to compare to, and his last few starts have been shaky, so while I wouldn't be super-eager to move him, I'd listen to offers at this point.
Others to watch:
Joe Saunders - SP - Los Angeles Angels, Ryan Dempster - SP - Chicago Cubs, Milton Bradley - OF - Texas Rangers, J.D. Drew - OF - Boston Red Sox