Welcome, welcome, welcome to RotoBaller's Midseason Fantasy Baseball Awards Show. I'm your host, Nick Mariano, and today we're honoring some of fine baseball players who have had outstanding (for better or worse) first halves to the 2016 season. We here at RotoBaller love baseball and we love winners, so it was a fun time getting together and voting on who we thought deserved some hardware at the All Star Break.
We've laughed, we've cried, we've had some truly wonderful times so far this season. We've also spent nights looking longingly out at the moon over the dim light of our screens reading "1/34, 0R, 0HR, 0RBI, 0 SB; 0.0 IP, 0 Ks, INF ERA, INF WHIP"... was that too specific? Sorry. On with the show!
American League Winners
AL Most Valuable Player: Jose Altuve
Nothing like starting an award show with some controversy! Kidding, clearly. The #1 hitter in the 5x5 fantasy game is scorching hot, delivering in all five categories with a 67/14/51/23/.341 roto slash. Compared to last season his line-drive rate is up 8.4% alongside a 7% rise in hard-hit rate, as well as more than doubling his walk rate from 4.8% to 10.1%. Check please.
AL Rookie of the Year: Michael Fulmer
Fulmer narrowly edges out Nomar Mazara by a couple of votes here, but boy has the Tiger earned it -- logging an insane 7-1 record with a 0.63 ERA over his last nine starts. Okay, so calm down a bit here as he has a 4.05 SIERA in the same span, but a .181 BABIP and 95.3% strand rate will always help the cause.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
A 14-3 record will do that for a guy, especially when there really isn't any overwhelming competition pressing him (what if Rich Hill didn't get hurt? Hmm). No, we can't forget that he was lights out early on when he won his first nine starts with a 1.58 ERA (2.88 FIP, 3.49 SIERA, .197 BABIP, 23% hard-hit rate). In his next nine starts he has gone 5-3 with a 5.56 ERA (4.78 FIP, 3.71 SIERA, .346 BABIP, 37% hard-hit rate). He's still an ace no doubt, but this Cy Young award feels a bit dirty.
AL Best Reliever: Zach Britton
Britton has 27 saves to go with a rockin' 10.27 K/9, a minuscule 0.72 ERA, and a career-high 79.3% ground-ball rate. He's certainly deserving, and there's no reason not to believe in this continuing on through the second half.
AL Bust (Hitter): Justin Upton
Upton, why have you forsaken us?! You have a 13% swinging-strike rate (13.3% last season) yet a huge jump in K% from 25.6% to 31.5%. You have the same general pull and hard-hit rates, with a career-high 22.8% line-drive rate. Where did the incredible 23.3% soft-contact rate come from though?! Get that out of here! Square up the ball! I don't want to hand this to you at the end of the season as well.
AL Bust (Pitcher): Sonny Gray
A huge bump in hard-hit rate surrendered (25.1% to 33%) is fueling jumps in BABIP and homers allowed, as the 26-year-old struggles to regain his former glory. Following up a 14-7, 2.73 ERA/1.08 WHIP season with a 3-8, 5.16 ERA/1.47 WHIP in the first half will certainly earn one this award.
AL Biggest Surprise (Hitter): Ian Desmond
Remember when he went 5-for-46 with zero homers, one RBI and one steal in his first two weeks of play? I don't. What I do remember is that since then he's hitting .354 with 15 bombs, 14 bags, 58 runs and 54 RBIs. Go crazy Ian, set career-high marks across the board and just go crazy. No one's surprised anymore.
AL Biggest Surprise (Pitcher): Steven Wright
There's no reason for many fantasy players to remember it, but Wright did log 72 2/3 innings last season in nine starts for Boston, going 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. All he's done since that is go 10-5 with a 2.68 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 114 first-half innings this season. That knuckler sure is dancing alright, dancing its way into the hearts of fantasy owners everywhere.
AL Comeback Player: Ian Desmond
You've got two hands fella, might as well double-fist these awards while you're at it.
National League Winners
NL Most Valuable Player: Kris Bryant
Bryant hit 26 homers in 650 PAs in last season's rookie campaign, and has followed that up by hitting 25 in only 380 PAs this season. That's pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay good I'd say. Not only is he blasting the ball, but he's lowered his strikeout rate from 30.6% to 22.6% as the 24-year-old continues to grow into one of the game's biggest superstars.
NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz
This one hurts me personally as the President of the Trevor Story Fan Club, but I will respect the votes of the people. Diaz has put together an amazing first half from out of nowhere, tallying a 57/13/48/3/.315 line after playing his way into everyday at-bats after Jhonny Peralta went down early.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw has been cheated out of a few starts due to injury and he's still the #1 fantasy player, that's how dominant he's been. His 1.79 ERA and 0.73 WHIP are laughable marks for a starter, and even when you allow relievers into the pool then his WHIP is only surpassed by four of them (12 IP minimum). I'm actually laughing at I type this, that's just so hilariously video-game like. Here's your award Mr. Kershaw, I hope you've bought a second house to hold the trophies.
NL Best Reliever: Kenley Jansen
How appropriate that one of the aforementioned four relievers with a lower WHIP than Kershaw receive the next award. Jansen enters the break with a 1.16 ERA and 0.65 WHIP, notching 27 saves for the Dodgers while just barely edging out Jeurys Familia for this incredible honor.
NL Bust (Hitter): Andrew McCutchen
Cutch has usually been a model of consistency in the fantasy baseball universe, as he was even able to recover from a slow start last season to deliver a 91/23/96/11/.292 line. This season his power is undoubtedly there, one doesn't need to look any further than the career-high 44% fly-ball rate, but at what cost?! His batting average, apparently, as his .247 mark is really hurting owners along with only two stolen bases. Come back Cutch, you're only 29 man.
NL Bust (Pitcher): Matt Harvey
This one feels a little rude, but there's no doubting that he burned many an owner with his trying to tough out an injury. There were reports circulating that he's been dealing with some numbness in his fingers all season long, which no doubt contribute to the 4.86 ERA and 1.47 WHIP that will go on the back of his baseball card for the 2016 season.
NL Biggest Surprise (Hitter): Jake Lamb
Lamb beat out Adam Duvall by one vote here, as his .291/.371/.612 triple slash has really pushed him into the forefront of the baseball world (even if he didn't get the All Star nod). After hitting six homers in 390 PAs last season, he's blasted 20 in only 329, so yeah it's safe to say that the 25-year-old is here to play.
NL Biggest Surprise (Pitcher): Drew Pomeranz
Pomeranz's knuckle-curve has turned him into a star, as he's tallied 115 strikeouts in 102 innings with a superb 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP through his 17 first-half starts. Whether he gets traded or not, no one can take away this incredible start to the 2016 season, and hey...his 2.32 ERA is actually better than his 2.64 home ERA so a trade might not be the end of the world.
NL Comeback Player: Wil Myers
Myers fell a few votes shy of garnering the NL MVP, but you knew the five-category stud was going to pop up somewhere. Perhaps some aren't "surprised" by this, with "comeback" more fitting for the oft-injured 25-year-old who has carried around the "top prospect" moniker for as long as can be recalled. He's threatening to put up a 35/30 though, and that demands respect.
The "Fred the Fish" Award: Ryan Zimmerman
Seems like every time we see Zimmy he ends up getting hurt, much like Fred the Fish's sole purpose in Spongebob Squarepants is to be left shouting "my leg!" after getting torpedoed by some tomfoolery.
Best Buy-Low: Giancarlo Stanton
The window is already slamming shut here as he's hit eight homers with a .316 average over his last 20 games, but perhaps he can still be had for 90 cents on the dollar. *Update, this was polled before the HR Derby, now the buzz may have gone too far.
Best Sell-High: Daniel Murphy
Murphy responded to this by hitting his 17th homer in the last game of the first half, as he now has 53 runs and 66 RBIs to go with an incredible .348 average on the season. While this is not to say that he's going to stink or be a poor hitter in any way moving forward, the current #10 player in the 5x5 game could provide owners with a blank check of sorts in a deal for someone that has a history of top-25 production.
Luckiest: Jonathan Villar
Oh sure, pick on the guy with the highest BABIP in the league! It's .410 by the way, after posting a .360 figure last season with significantly lower line-drive and hard-hit rates. He's also increased his walk rate by 3.9% to a career-high 11.7%, so don't mistake calling him "lucky" for being a total fraud as the man's speed can buy good fortune here.
Unluckiest: Matt Harvey
Yeah, this one feels pretty appropriate on a few levels. Pitching hurt in New York is also going to leave one vulnerable to weekly lambasting by the papers, poor fella. Hopefully he can come back and continue his career next season. For the record, my vote was for Todd Frazier because I cannot get enough of the fact that his current .204 BABIP ties him for the fourth-lowest BABIP ever recorded in baseball history (not-so-fun fact, Aaron Hill's 2010 season holds the title with a .196 mark).
That does it for the show, which will undoubtedly be very interesting to look back on when we flip the calendar to October! In the meantime, feel free to swing by any day for one of our daily expert chats and get the latest fantasy intel from some of the best in the biz. We also just released our football rankings dashboard for the 2016 season, if that tickles your fancy.