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Fantasy Baseball Players Set For 2nd Half Bouncebacks (2024)

Julio Rodriguez - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB DFS Picks, Betting Picks

The 2024 MLB regular season has been full of surprises. Injuries, slumps, breakouts -- it's been especially hard to navigate the baseball landscape this year. For most fantasy managers, this can lead to a lot of frustration. After months of planning and preparation, barely anything has gone right.

While it'd be easy to give up and move on, it's important to remember that we haven't even reached the All-Star break. There's still plenty of time for things to turn around. And it's no secret that seemingly every year, great players struggle in the first half and make up for it in the second half. This year is no exception.

With the All-Star break right around the corner, we've listed nine potential buy-low/waiver adds in hopes of capitalizing on their (hopeful) second-half breakouts. RotoBaller's Wade J. Smith tackles fantasy baseball's second-half bounce-backs. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out via X (@wadejosephsmith).

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Obvious Second-Half Improvers

Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners

It wouldn't make sense for anyone else to lead off the "Obvious Choices." Yet again, J-Rod is off to a painstakingly slow start. Through 377 plate appearances, he's slashing just .247/.297/.335 (85 OPS+) with 40 runs, seven doubles, eight home runs, 30 RBI, 18 steals, and a 22:101 BB/SO ratio. For a preseason consensus top-5 pick, his struggles have likely put some teams near the bottom of their league's standings.

While it's hard to see him underperform, J-Rod should turn it around. Since his rookie year in 2022, he's been far better in the second half.

Source: Baseball Reference

A top-7 finisher in back-to-back AL MVP races, J-Rod has earned the benefit of the doubt, so trading for him won't be easy. Sensible managers are banking on his second half, but it's still worth a try. And it may cost a lot, but there aren't many players with more upside. If/when he heats up, you'll be glad you got him.

Pablo Lopez, Minnesota Twins

After finishing seventh in last year's AL Cy Young race, Lopez has struggled to limit scoring. Through 99 innings, he's got a 5.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 116:22 K/BB ratio. However, his underlying metrics suggest he's been incredibly unlucky. He currently has a 3.37 xERA, a 3.82 FIP (3.19 xFIP), and a 3.17 SIERA. With numbers like that, you'd expect elite production, which is what I expect him to provide post-ASG.

With such a vast disparity in expected numbers and actual numbers, Lopez (in theory) should regress to the mean. If he does, expect similar production to his second half in 2023, when he posted a 3.36 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 96:18 K/BB across 83 innings. I suggest pursuing him aggressively. Hopefully, whoever has him is overemphasizing his ERA, and you're able to snag him at a discount. Regardless, it's hard to imagine a pitcher this talented finishing the season with an ERA over 4.50 -- especially with all the signs pointing to better luck ahead.

Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers

The second runner-up in last year's AL MVP race, Semien's first half has been underwhelming. Through 397 plate appearances, he's slashing .229/.295/.378 (91 OPS+) with 16 doubles, 12 homers, three steals, and a 33:54 BB/SO. However, like J-Rod, slow starts are par for the course. For example, Semien's first half in 2022 is eerily similar to his performance this year (.239/.297/.400 (97 OPS+), 15 doubles, 13 homers, 17 steals, and a 30:65 BB/SO). But he recovered well that year, slashing .259/.312/.465 (118 OPS+) with 16 doubles, 13 homers, eight steals, and a 23:55 BB/SO in the second half. Here are his career splits:

Source: Baseball Reference

Playing better post-ASG is just what Semien does. Last year was no exception. His first half was excellent (.271/.338/.483 (113 OPS+)), but his second half was still much better (.283/.362/.532 (140 OPS+)). At the end of the day, his track record speaks for itself. There aren't many second basemen who I'd rather have going into the second half. Semien is an ideal buy-low candidate who I'm looking to add wherever I can.


Sneaky Second-Half Studs

Nathaniel Lowe, Texas Rangers

Lowe certainly isn't having a bad year. He just hasn't provided a ton of fantasy value. But that'll likely change in the second half. Over the last few years (especially in 2022), that's when he's been at his best. Here are his career splits:

Source: Baseball Reference

After starting the season on the IL, it took Lowe a while to get going. But in 124 plate appearances since June 1, he's been rather solid (.283/.339/.443, six doubles, four homers, 18 RBI, 10:28 BB/SO). Plus, the Rangers lineup is full of hitters poised for bounce-back second halves. With Lowe in the middle of that batting order, he should get plenty of RBI opportunities. Overall, he'll make for a strong addition to your team if you can get him.

Josh Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

Maybe second-half breakouts just run in the Lowe family's gene pool. Just like his older brother, Josh has a track record of post-ASG success. He was outstanding in 2023 (.292/.335/.500), but he hasn't been the same so far. However, he has plenty of time to recover. Though it's a relatively small sample size, his career splits are promising.

Last year, J-Lowe was extremely productive from August 1 to the end of the regular season. In 180 plate appearances, he slashed .329/.372/.527 with 13 doubles, six homers, and 10 steals. Overall, he's an impressive athlete who's clearly capable of heating up. On top of that, his underlying metrics suggest he's been rather unlucky. His .294 wOBA is noticeably lower than his .327 xwOBA. His .443 xwOBA on contact, 14.9% barrel rate, 9% walk rate, and 41.4% hard-hit rate are all higher than they were in 2023 (.433 xwOBA; 11% barrel rate; 6.2% walk rate, 39.7% hard-hit rate). With this in mind, I'm excited to see what Lowe does going forward.

Gabriel Moreno, Arizona Diamondbacks

It may be a small sample size, but Moreno's second-half numbers are impressive. In 162 plate appearances, he's slashed .331/.401/.535 (153 OPS+) with nine doubles, six homers, and a 16:26 BB/SO. Few catchers have that kind of upside, so I suggest pushing for him. While he may not exactly duplicate those numbers, he should outperform his current pace.

Moreno might've already started heating up. Since returning from the IL on July 2, he's 10-for-28 with three doubles, a home run, five RBI, and a steal. The second-half turnaround could've already started. Take advantage of it.


Major Risks for Major Upside

Nolan Jones, Colorado Rockies

So far, Jones has been dreadful. Through 46 games, he's slashing .187/.291/.303 with seven doubles, three homers, three steals, and a 22:62 BB/SO. His underlying metrics aren't much better. He just hasn't been the same player he was in 2023. Despite his woes, there's a glimmer of hope. When he's right, he provides elite production. Last year, he popped 15 HRs with 15 SBs alongside a 160 OPS+ in the second half alone. If we can get any semblance of that Jones, it'll be well worth the risk.

I doubt many people are adamantly keeping Jones, and I doubt they'll ask for much in return, especially since he was placed back on the 10-day IL with a back flare-up. He may even be on your waiver wire (he's only rostered in 56% of Yahoo leagues and 39% of ESPN leagues). Though he may not figure it out, there's enough upside to warrant a wait-and-see bench spot/IL stash, especially if the IL stint is a minimum stay through the break.

Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

This time last year, Hayes was struggling offensively. Through 307 plate appearances, he was slashing just .252/.290/.393 (87 OPS+) with 16 doubles, five homers, and a 16:62 BB/SO. He followed that up with a monstrous second half, slashing .299/.335/.539 (133 OPS+) with 15 doubles, 10 homers, and a 12:42 BB/SO in 218 plate appearances.

The reason why Hayes isn't a "Sneaky Second-Half Stud" is that he hasn't been consistently better in the second half, so there isn't as much evidence to suggest another 2023 breakout is coming. Still, what he did last year is worth mentioning. For those who just lost Royce Lewis to the IL (again), Hayes could be a serviceable replacement. At the bare minimum, he's worth a wait-and-see bench spot.

Frankie Montas, Cincinnati Reds

Through 77 1/3 innings, Montas has a 4.19 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 62:33 K/BB. These numbers are fairly similar to his first-half numbers from 2021 -- the last season he wasn't injured or traded. That year, he had an incredible second half.

Source: Baseball Reference

Here's why he could do it again: For the first time since 2021, he finally has consistency. He's not hurt. He (probably) won't be traded. Montas may not cut his ERA in half, but there's certainly potential for an improved second half. If you can get him for cheap (he's only 17% rostered in Yahoo leagues and 9% in ESPN leagues), I say go for it. Pitching's been a nightmare, anyway.

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