With the National League All Stars putting the finishing touches on their 8-0 victory over the American League All Stars on Tuesday night, the first half of the baseball season unofficially came to a close.
With an abbreviated schedule set for the rest of the week, I’d figure this week I’d spotlight the most unlikely all-stars (or in other words, players who stepped up their game and out of the shadows) of the first half and what they might be headed for in the second half of the season.
Jim Johnson: Baltimore Orioles
Johnson has been a revelation this year, as he has been reborn in Baltimore and has become one of the game’s most dominant closers.
Backed with one of the game’s hardest sinkers, Johnson looks primed and ready for a great run in the second half as the Orioles have become an unexpected contender in the AL East.
This weekend, Johnson and the Orioles will host the Detroit Tigers.
Fernando Rodney: Tampa Bay Rays
When incumbent Tampa Bay closer Kyle Farnsworth was lost for the majority of the first half with an injury, the Ray’s needed someone to come in and put out the fire.
Despite some up and down seasons with the Tigers and the Angles, Rodney has been stellar this season with the Rays in posting 25 saves in 26 chances. Not only that, Rodney also has a sub 1.00 ERA (0.93) and WHIP (0.75).
With the Rays still in the thick of things, Rodney should be in line for a lot more saves this season.
This weekend, Rodney and the Rays will host the Boston Red Sox.
Melky Cabrera: San Francisco Giants
If you thought last year’s season in Kansas City was Cabrera’s breakthrough season, think again.
Cabrera has been an absolute hitting machine this year, ranking first in the majors in hits (119) while also coming in second in batting average (.353).
The All-Star MVP has been solid all season and with a .910 OPS, Cabrera is showing no signs of slowing down.
Cabrera and the Giants will take on the Astros at home (Jordan Lyles, Wandy Rodriguez and Lucas Harrell) this weekend.
Carlos Ruiz: Philadelphia Phillies
Ruiz was always a solid catcher, but this year “Chooch” took his game to a whole new level and now he can safely be considered a top 5 catcher.
With a .350 batting average (4th in the NL), 13 home runs and 46 RBI’s, Ruiz has raised the bar for expectations in the second half. However, considering the fragile nature of catchers, a second-half slide is possible.
However, Ruiz has always beaten the odds and you have to keep riding him until he proves you wrong otherwise.
This weekend, Ruiz and the Phillies will travel to Colorado to take on the Rockies and Christian Friedrich, Jeremy Guthrie and Drew Pomeranz.
Bryan LaHair: Chicago Cubs
Prior to the start of the season, many people declared LaHair as a “Quad A” player-one who was never quite good enough for the majors- but with his first half performance (.286 batting average, 14 home runs and 30 RBI’s), LaHair is proving his doubters wrong.
Although he has been displaced to the outfield with the call up of Anthony Rizzo, LaHair will still get playing time in the outfield.
A second-half swoon could be in LaHair’s future given his lack of track record, so this may be a good time to sell high.
This weekend LaHair and the Cubs will be taking on the Diamondbacks (Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders and Trevor Cahill) at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
Jose Altuve: Houston Astros
Coming into the season, the diminutive second baseman had a lot of supporters, as he was one of the most hyped sleepers coming into to the season.
Altuve has done his backers proud as he has posted a .303/.344/.438 slash line. Couple that with 15 stolen bases and Altuve is making for a must start in most mixed leagues.
Altuve, though, will be in for a rough beginning as the Astros will have to head to San Francisco this weekend to take on the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
Ian Desmond: Washington Nationals
Desmond has exceeded all expectations en route to becoming the most productive shortstop in the first half of the season.
With a .285 batting average, 17 home runs and 11 stolen bases, Desmond has come with the complete package this season.
Although he was suffering from an oblique injury prior to the All-Star game, Desmond is expected to be fine going forward.
If he plays this weekend, Desmond and the Nationals will be on the road in Miami to take on the Marlins (Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco).
R.A. Dickey: New York Mets
Dickey and his notorious knuckleball have taken the league by storm and he has perhaps become the story of the first half in baseball.
Dickey has bucked all trends and has posted marvelous numbers across the board. His 12 wins are tied for first in the National League. His 2.40 ERA is fourth best in the league, while his 123 strikeouts are good for second best in the league.
Dickey will always have his skeptics and it’s because of them that will spur his success. Until proven otherwise, you should run Dickey out there with confidence.
Dickey will head back to the mound on Saturday for a matchup in Atlanta against the Braves.
Lance Lynn: St. Louis Cardinals
After Chris Carpenter went down in spring training with an injury, it opened the door for Lynn to bust through and boy, did Lynn take advantage of the opportunity.
Lynn went 11-4 in the first half with a 3.41 ERA while posting 105 strikeouts in 103 innings.
For a pitcher who has been mostly used in the bullpen prior to this season, there is more than enough reason for skepticism going forward.
Lynn will have a tough draw this weekend when he has to pitch on Saturday on the road in Cincinnati.
Chris Sale: Chicago White Sox
While Sale always had a massive amount of talent, it took a while for the White Sox to fully realize he would be best used as a starter.
Sale has made good on that promise and has become one of the best young lefties in the league. Sale is tied for third in the American League in wins (10) while also second in ERA (2.19).
It will be interesting to see how the White Sox will use Sale in the second half and if they will limit his innings the way the Nationals intend to do with Stephen Strasburg.
For now, Sale is an obvious a must-start.
Sale will open up his second half campaign with a Sunday start at Kansas City.
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