By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Although we are past the midpoint of the 2019 MLB season, there is still plenty of time for the fantasy landscape to undergo dramatic changes. And gamers who get too comfortable with the current hierarchy of assets are going to get burned when some players soar or sink.
Although each of the predictions listed below is far from a sure thing, here are a handful of bold predictions that I can envision for the second half.
Ronald Acuna will be fantasy’s No. 1 post-break asset
Acuna has been a stud thus far, posting a .292 average and ranking among the top-20 players in homers (21), runs scored (68) and stolen bases (13). His bat has been trending in the right direction, too, as he hit .331 with nine homers, 21 RBI and 28 runs scored during June. The 21-year-old’s legs are also getting busier, having collected 11 steals since the beginning of May. My guess is that Acuna continues to regularly stuff the stat sheet, while the contending Braves make their lineup even deeper by the end of July.
Cleveland will come back to win the AL Central
Heading into the season, most observers believed that the Cleveland Indians had a great pitching staff and a mediocre lineup. Well, they were correct about the lineup, which ranks 21st in the Majors with 396 runs scored. But the good news is that their biggest need is in the outfield; a position that should be ripe with trade deadline options. Lengthening the lineup should have a positive impact on the fantasy value of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana.
The Tribe’s bullpen leads the Majors with a 3.45 ERA, but their star-studded rotation has been beset by injuries. My prediction is that the starting quintet eventually returns to form, and the club rips off a winning streak behind Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Trevor Bauer and possibly Danny Salazar.
Ken Giles will lead the Red Sox in saves
You can count me as fully skeptical about the Red Sox plan to use oft-injured right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in the ninth inning. My guess is that Eovaldi quickly leaves Boston wanting for more, at which time the organization will pivot on their plans and add an experienced closer at the deadline. Giles fits the bill quite well, as he is having success within the division and is under team control at a reasonable salary for multiple seasons. And with the Blue Jays far from contention, they will have no issues with furnishing the roster of one of their division rivals.
Brendan McKay will be the No. 1 rookie pitcher
McKay may be a great hitter, but his bat will not drive his fantasy profile down the stretch. Instead, pitching-starved gamers (in other words, all of us) will covet the rookie for his ability to post low ratios across a dozen additional starts. The southpaw silenced Minor League bats this year (1.22 ERA, 0.80 WHIP) and will mostly do the same to Major Leaguers through the end of September. With the Rays in the thick of a Wildcard race, they will let McKay strut his stuff for 5-6 innings per outing and keep him on his regular turn. His strikeout abilities will make him more valuable than Mike Soroka of the Braves from this point forward.
The Mets will be a dumpster fire
The Mets may already be a dumpster fire, but things are going to get even worse. I don’t expect manager Mickey Callaway to finish the season, and the club has sunk far enough that they will unload some key pieces such as Zack Wheeler at the trade deadline. Throw in a few inevitable late-season injuries, and the Mets will field one of the worst rosters in baseball by September. With the exceptions of Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, I would look to sell my Mets assets this month. That includes Pete Alonso and Noah Syndergaard, who can likely fetch a king’s ransom.
Brandon Lowe will get dropped in shallow leagues
Lowe’s run as a productive shallow-league commodity will eventually come to an end. The rookie has posted solid surface stats (16 HR, 49 RBI, 5 SB), but his plate discipline has been rough (0.21 BB:K ratio) and his luck has been sublime (.381 BABIP). Rookies sometimes hit the wall, Lowe is dealing with an injury, and he is outperforming his skills anyway. Sell high. Right now.
Terrance Gore will steal 20 more bases
The Royals will trade away Billy Hamilton, who has a mutual option that is about as likely to be picked up as my 400-pound uncle. And the departure of Hamilton could leave the club with little option but to finally give Terrance Gore semi-regular playing time down the stretch. Gore has been respectable at the plate this year (.362 OBP, .715 OPS), and he deserves a real opportunity. And make no mistake about it — Gore will run wild if ever in possession of a full-time role.