You may have heard the old adage that, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” But if the players below are able to finish anything like they started, they could be receiving some hardware come fall.
Although the season is only halfway through there are a few players that stood out to Fantasy Couch writers Michael Morris (American League) and Andrew Eggers (National League). Along with the award predictions are first-half boom and first-half bust award, where we looked at who was the biggest surprise in their respective division, both positively and negatively.
American League MVP
After much consideration I went with Angels’ outfielder, Mike Trout. Yes, Josh Hamilton has gaudy offensive numbers (.308 AVG, 27 homers and 75 RBI) and he may be the hottest bat in the game right now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is the most valuable player. He’s in a lineup that would still produce runs on a consistent basis even if he wasn’t in the lineup.
The opposite can be said for the 20-year-old Trout, who had an effect on Anaheim upon his arrival. When he arrived April 28, Anaheim was 6-14, which was the second-worst record in baseball. Since that date they have been a completely different team, currently in possession of the best record in baseball since then he arrived (42-24). Trout has done so with his .341 AVG, 12 homers, 40 RBI and 26 stolen bases. Let me remind you he’s done so playing 15-20 less games than all other candidates.
Honorable Mention: Josh Hamilton
National League MVP
Andrew McCutchen is having a monster season while leading the Pittsburgh Pirates into first place at the All-Star Break for the first time since 1997. The 25-year-old centerfielder is leading the major leagues in batting at .362 with 18 homeruns, 60 runs batted in and 14 stolen bags so far in 2012. If you remove him from the Pirates, they would lucky to be a .500 ball club right now and would be looking at a 20th straight losing season.
McCutchen is trying to become the first Pirates’ player to win the MVP since Barry Bonds did it back in 1992 when the Bucs had their last winning season. Could be coincidence, might be ironic, but the possibility is real as McCutchen has really come into his own as a pure hitter. It wasn’t expected after he posted a .259 batting average and 126 strikeouts last year. He will have to avoid a major slump and keep the Pirates in contention for the playoffs, if not make it to the postseason, for it to happen.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran
American League Cy Young
You could make a legitimate argument for someone like Chris Sale or Jered Weaver and a decent argument for a couple of other guys, but I thought the best argument could be made for the guy who took it last year, Justin Verlander. We all know Verlander hasn’t been as good as he was last year, but his worse would be better than a majority of pitchers in the game. Sale and Weaver may have a slightly better ERA and a WHIP almost identical to his but they aren’t seeing as many outs as Verlander. Sale and Weaver may be considered the ace of their teams but Verlander is still the only true ace in the game, going out there for eight or nine innings and dealing like it’s the first. He continues to show us that he gets better as the game goes on but if he can get better as the season goes on, another Cy Young may be in order for Verlander.
Honorable Mention: Jered Weaver
National League Cy Young
There is a clear cut favorite here as knuckle ball pitcher R.A. Dickey has taken fantasy leagues by storm in 2012. The 37-year-old has been toying with hitters with his dancing knuckle-ball that he throws harder than others have done in the past. That has caused hitters to miss at a high frequency, producing 123 strikeouts in 120 innings to go a long with a 12-1 record and 2.40 ERA. Dickey also has tossed two one-hitters and hasn’t lost a game since mid-April. For his career, the veteran is 53-51 with a 4.09 ERA which could be a cause for concern going forward. He might come back “down to earth” in the coming months.
Even with all of his success this season, it’s hard to think that Matt Cain won’t ultimately earn the award down the stretch. Cain has the perfect game under his belt and an impressive 9-3 record himself. Dickey is in the spotlight for now, while Cain is on his heels and primed to overtake the lead.
Honorable Mention: Matt Cain
American League ROY
If Mike Trout is able to win the MVP as a rookie, he’s a sure fire selection for Rookie of the Year. The list of guys who have won both the MVP and Rookie of the Year award in the same season has two guys on it: Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001). If he continues to play as well as he did before the break Trout may be able to make that list himself.
Honorable Mention: Yu Darvish
National League ROY
This is a tough call between the heralded Bryce Harper and Wade Miley. The 19-year-old Harper gets the nod because he has been the much-needed spark plug for the first-place Nationals. He has a .282 batting average, eight homeruns, 25 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in just under 250 at-bats this year. Expect him to continue to get better without many major slumps or hiccups the rest of the way.
The left-handed throwing Miley is also having a great season thus far with a 9-5 record and .304 ERA. He and Harper were both named to the NL All-Star team. Miley has gotten roughed up in the last two starts allowing 12 earned runs in two losing decisions. It can be expected that the 25-year-old rookie will fade somewhat as the season grows older like many young pitchers do in their first full big league season.
Honorable Mention: Wade Miley
American League First Half Surprises
If I dropped the name Jason Kipnis at the beginning of the year, most people wouldn’t have been able to say the position he played or the team that he played for. But this Cleveland second baseman has “rocked” in Cleveland. Kipnis has a .276 AVG, 11 homers, 49 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He’s gone from a nobody to someone who will be targeted in next year’s draft. At 25, Kipnis is only going to get better.
Chris Sale wasn’t on many people’s radar at the start of the season but he now finds himself on the AL Cy Young radar. Sale had a 15 strikeout outing in May, has recorded just one loss in his last 10 starts (7-1) and an ERA of 1.94 in that time. If you picked him up I’m sure you’re smiling from ear to ear while those of you who missed him are probably regretting it. Sale will find himself on everyone’s radar when it’s time to draft next season.
National League First Half Surprises
Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond is having a breakout season with 17 homeruns and 51 RBIs at the All-Star break. His .285 batting average might be the most refreshing part of his game after bating .253 last year. In the month of July so far (seven games), Desmond is hitting .400 (10-for-25) to go along with four homeruns. He will skip the All-Star game to recover from a sore oblique after being selected to play in the mid-season classic for the first time. Owners shouldn’t be too worried about the injury as reports are saying its just a precautionary move.
In terms of pitching, look no further than Pirates’ pitcher James McDonald who had a dominant first half of the season. He posted a 9-3 record, 2.37 ERA and 100 punch-outs in 110 innings pitched and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He has won his last four outings and should continue to pitch well at the top of Pittsburgh’s rotation. The former Dodgers’ farmhand is showing the potential many thought he had coming up as a young hurler. Expect the right-hander to get to 15-17 wins this season with an ERA around three.
American League First Half Busts
Albert Pujols was a top three pick in most drafts this season but didn’t play like it. Since Trout arrived his numbers have jumped but they aren’t the usual for Pujols(.268 AVG, 14 homers and 51 RBI). We’re no longer on the homerun watch but everyone is still paying attention to him and hoping he can return to the old King Albert.
Kansas City signed Jonathan Sanchez him hoping to see much more of the pitcher they saw in 2010 pitching in San Francisco where he was 13-9, with a ERA just over three and over 200 strikeouts. But instead Kansas City has seen a new kind of pitcher, one worse than any other year Sanchez has pitched in the majors. Sanchez is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA and only 34 strikeouts.
National League First Half Busts
Before the season started, there was a lot of hype surrounding Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 24-year-old right fielder hasn’t come close to the big expectations with a .266 batting average, seven home runs and 34 RBI in the first half. He would have been expected to have at least double the long balls and at least 20 or so more RBIs by now, at the least. Upton has also been caught stealing 7 out of 17 times which isn’t normal for him either. Expect him to bounce back and finish the season strong as the Diamondbacks have been supposedly shopping him on the trade market. The rumors might be intended to motivate the potential superstar to break out of his slow start.
Tim Lincecum has been absolutely terrible this season with a 3-10 mark and a major league worst ERA of 6.42. There are rumblings in the media that he could be moved to the bullpen if he has a rough outing in his next start scheduled against the Houston Astros. It is hard to pinpoint the exact problem with the two-time Cy Young Award recipient as it could be technique and/or focus issue. The velocity continues to go down and the walks, earned runs and WHIP continue to go up. Lincecum could be damaged goods at this point.