Since there aren't any fantasy lineups for you to update today, let's take a quick look at some players with chances to play better in the second half than they did in the first. The reasoning will be part statistically-based, and part gut feeling/water-reaches-its-level. If you're looking to buy low on some big names during the midseason hiatus, here's where you can start.
Carlos Santana, C, Indians - Ladies and gentlemen, meet my top-ranked fantasy catcher from the preseason! Santana's terrific walk rate always excites stat geeks like me, but it doesn't help much from a fantasy perspective. He has a .238 batting average in 1,145 career plate appearances, so we're close to a "he is what he is" point there. Santana hasn't hit a home run since May 15, and has dealt with concussion and back issues since then. Sure, it's risky to bet on someone with back problems, but we're talking about a guy who hit 27 homers, scored 84 runs and knocked in 79 at age 25 last season. Santana's walk rate hasn't changed, and his line-drive rate is up. If healthy - and I realize that's a big IF - Santana should bounce back with a strong second half.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox - Gonzalez didn't hit the 40-plus homers that everyone expected upon his arrival in Boston last season, but a late-season shoulder issue slowed him down to only 27 homers and a .957 OPS. Big things were expected in 2012 and so far ... pfffffft. Gonzalez has six homers with .745 OPS, and his fantasy owners hate his guts right now. Why am I still buying? A-Gonz has 27 doubles, line-drive and fly-ball rates that have improved over 2011, and a HR/FB rate that's so far below his career norm that it almost has to be bad luck. It's unlikely that Gonzalez has suddenly turned into a mediocre hitter, and it's not like he'll cost you much at this point, right?
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals - This might represent cheating, as Zimmerman has battled a shoulder injury for much of the season, and is already in the midst of a rebound, batting .327 with five home runs, 16 RBI and 13 runs over his last dozen games. Take a look at Zimmerman's stats from 2009 and 2010 if you want an idea of what to expect over the next three months. Hopefully, the cortisone shot he received a couple of weeks ago will keep him healthy.
Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies - Lee only has ONE win and a 3.98 ERA! NOOOOOOOOOO! Get past the can't-win silliness and a few rough outings in late June, and you'll see that most of Lee's peripheral rates - K, BB, GB, LD, FB - are pretty close to where they were last season, when he had a 2.40 ERA. Then note that Lee's run support per nine innings ranks 90th among 99 starters qualified for the ERA title. The guy whiffs more than a batter per inning, he has a 1.19 WHIP in a bad half season, his team just got Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back from injuries, and his ERA is likely to drop like a rock. What's not to like?
Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers - I'm a sucker for a good strikeout rate, and Scherzer's (11.19 per nine innings) is second in the majors behind Stephen Strasburg's. You'd normally like to see a pitcher induce more ground balls than Scherzer does, but with his team's terrible defense (second-worst in Ultimate Zone Rating, according to FanGraphs), that might not help much, as his seemingly unlucky .349 BABIP attests. His best chance to succeed is to miss lots of bats, and that's what he's doing. Even with the lack of support in the field, Scherzer's 4.72 ERA should be at least a run better moving forward.
Tomorrow, we'll check in on some players with big, screaming SELL signs on them.