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The NotBurts: First Half Hitter Awards

christian yelich fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB injury news sports betting DFS picks

For all of the division and rancor in society, one foundation of our world stays intact from year to year, splendid in its grandeur, universal in its praise. The NotBurts.

A celebration of first-half excellence in hitting, the NotBurts aren't, as one critic (liar) claimed, "just an award show made up by some lunatic". No, the NotBurts are a bedrock of everything that is good in the world and to think otherwise is to traffic in pure poppycock. Look it up.

So, welcome to the 41st Annual NotBurts. We'll laugh, we'll cry; we'll make jokes about body part snatching. Everyone, please make your way to your seats, the orchestra is warming up.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Simply The Best

All values are calculated using the FanGraphs auction calculator for 12-team leagues for a standard 5x5 roto setup. And while other award shows might make you wait for the goods, here at the NotBurts, we start with only prime cuts.

They're simply the best. They're better than all the rest. Better than anyone; anyone I've ever met. They're simply the best.

And the nominees are:

Fernando Tatis Jr., SD (ADP Rank: #2, First Half: Hitter #2)
313 PA: 28 HR - 67 R - 60 RBI - 20 SB - .286/.364/.656 - .419 wOBA/.417 xwOBA

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR (ADP Rank: #32, First Half: Hitter #3)
374 PA: 28 HR - 68 R - 73 RBI - 2 SB - .332/.430/.658 - .453 wOBA/.436 xwOBA

Shohei Ohtani, DH (ADP Rank: #96, First Half: Hitter #1)
343 PA: 33 HR - 65 R - 70 RBI - 12 SB - .279/.364/.698 - .435 wOBA/.447 xwOBA


And the Winner is...

Ohhh...Ta-aaann...iii!!! Transcending the two-name threshold, we're not even talking about the complete fantasy package for those lucky enough to be able to use Ohtani as a hitter and a pitcher; this is only about his offense. And when looking at the total package (not Lex Luger), Ohtani narrowly edges out his second-generational competition.

Obviously, the home runs, runs scored, and RBI is all fantasy gold but it's the 12 SB that ultimately let Ohtani stake his claim to the most valuable fantasy hitter in the first half. The 12 stolen bases are tied for his career-high and in today's world of depressed thefts, only 16 players have stolen more. And while one of ahead of him is his competition, I'd rather have Ohtani's advantage in power than Tatis's in stolen bases. At least in the pitcher's paradise that was the first part of the season, where the balls were sticky and lacking life.

However, putting aside the production, it's Ohtani's preseason draft cost that seals the deal of his first-half fantasy MVP-ness. In non-auction drafts, you couldn't always control whether you rostered Tatis. And while Guerrero's draft cost was depressed slightly, it still took a premium pick to get him and he was unlikely to "fall" significantly in any given draft.

However, at around a 150 ADP, anyone could have had Ohtani. Victor Robles, Jorge Soler, and Dylan Moore were all going higher. The defense rests.


Simply The Worst

Being the worst isn't nearly as easy as one might expect because you simply can't just take the worst performer and call it good. If that were the case, we could just give everything to Keston Hiura and pack it all in.

No, to truly be the worst, a player can't just cripple your fantasy team with bad performance. They also have to be one of your (assumed) most important players. Heartbreakers, dream takers.

And the nominees are:

Christian Yelich, MIL (ADP Rank: #7, First Half: Hitter #157)
238 PA: 5 HR - 39 R - 24 RBI - 6 SB - .241/.399/.369 - .345 wOBA/.349 xwOBA

Alex Bregman, HOU (ADP Rank: #30, First Half: Hitter #150)
262 PA: 7 HR - 37 R - 34 RBI - 1 SB - .275/.359/.428 - .340 wOBA/.325 xwOBA

Anthony Rendon, LAA (ADP Rank: #23, First Half: Hitter #223)
249 PA: 6 HR - 23 R - 34 RBI - 0 SB - .240/.329/.382 - .312 wOBA/.309 xwOBA


And the Winner is...

Christian Yelich! Come on up and get your award, Christian. Just try your best to avoid the general debris being thrown at you by all of those trusting souls that believed in a 2021 bounceback.

With respect to the terrible seasons being put forth by Mr. Bregman and Mr. Rendon, this was Yelich's category to lose, the whole way. No one else came close to matching his combination of lackluster fantasy performance and first-round price and nothing says team-breaker quite like when the foundation of your offense gives you a .241 AVG and 5 HR.

I didn't trust Yelich as a bounceback for 2021 and I still don't see him as one heading into the second half, with zero appetite for acquisition. Nothing positive is lurking in his x-stats and even if the power returns, I don't see much help coming for the .241 AVG that is providing a big drag on his value.

The already poor average is backed by a .222 xBA/.342 BABIP and life isn't exactly looking up as he heads into the second half:



This is the award given annually to the player most likely to say, "Wait...Who?" when told that they finished the first half in the top-20 of hitters.

And the nominees are:

Cedric Mullins II, BAL (ADP Rank: 230, First Half: Hitter #10
380 PA: 16 HR - 49 R - 35 RBI - 16 SB - .314/.380/.541 - .392 wOBA/.350 xwOBA

Adolis Garcia, TEX (ADP Rank: 367, First Half: Hitter #16)
333 PA: 22 HR - 43 R - 62 RBI - 8 SB - .270/.312/.527 - .356 wOBA/.340 xwOBA

Brandon Crawford, SF (ADP Rank: 287, First Half: Hitter #20)
302 PA: 18 HR - 49 R - 58 RBI - 7 SB - .289/.347/.546 - .387 wOBA/.387 xwOBA


And the Winner is...

While the successes of all of the nominees are mostly out of nowhere, no one has been a big asteroid of inexplicableness than 34-year-old Brandon Crawford. With a revamped swing and counting stats to make you drool, Crawford is easily our biggest, "Wait..Who?" of the first half.

And this is more than Crawford just finding some old-man strength late in his career and kicking in a last gear of power, as everything from home runs, to batting average, to stolen bases, are all tracking for career highs.


In Memorium

Let's now take a moment to reflect on those we've lost in this first half. Perhaps they're out for the year, or perhaps they have (or will) returned as a zombie. These are those whose fantasy love and production we either thought we'd have for the entire season but who have been taken from us before we were ready.

We love you. We've missed you. Please come back. And for god's sake, don't trust Giancarlo Stanton.

Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL
July 10 - 9 to 12 months/Basically forever (ACL surgery/tragedy)

Eloy Jimenez, CHW
March 24th - TBD (Torn Pectoral/Tried to rob a home run in spring training because...)

Mike Trout, LAA
May 17th - TBD (Had his calf swapped out in a daring midnight raid by Giancarlo Stanton)

Ketel Marte, ARI
April 8th - May 19th, June 27th - TBD (Hamstring/Giancarlo Frankenstein strikes again)

Corey Seager, LAD
May 15th - TBD (Broken hand/Everybody knows* that Ross Detwiler hates any and all Seagers. Kyles, Coreys, silver bullet bands; all of them)



Most X-Cellent Aquisition

In addition to the collected works of the BTEU*, this award celebrates the best second-half target, according to the science and wizardry sent to us from Baseball Savant. However, these aren't "buy-lows" or sleepers, rather these are the players who are already having good seasons but whose x-stats say they have league-winning potential in the second half.

*Bill and Ted Extended Universe

And the nominees are:

Freddie Freeman, ATL (ADP Rank: #10, First Half: Hitter #22)
388 PA: .274 AVG/.303 xBA - .381 OBP/.406 xOBP - .489 SLG/.568 xSLG
.216 ISO/.265 xISO - .371 wOBA/.413 xwOBA - .413 wOBAcon/.470 xwOBAcon

Aaron Judge, NYY (ADP Rank: #34, First Half: Hitter #29)
360 PA: .282 AVG/.318 xBA - .375 OBP/.407 xOBP - .526 SLG/.611 xSLG
.244 ISO/.318 xISO - .386 wOBA/.441 xwOBA - .478 wOBAcon/.553 xwOBAcon

Kyle Tucker, HOU (ADP Rank #20, First Half: Hitter #34)
325 PA: .271 AVG/.314 xBA - .330 OBP/.372 xOBP - .503 SLG/.580 xSLG
.233 ISO/.267 xISO - .352 wOBA/.409 xwOBA - .391 wOBAcon/.460 xwOBAcon


And the winner is...

Aaron Judge! Come on down, you big, handsome, lug! Wait, be careful on that carpet, Mr. Judge. It can be a bit slipp---...Oh, good god, no! He's down! I repeat, Judge is down. And he appears to have ruptured at least all of his tendons and most of his CL's. M's, A's, the whole damn alphabet.

While that is quite a tragedy for our awards shows, it is (coincidentally) the perfect metaphor for what can happen when you ride the lightning of depending on Aaron Judge's body to stay intact and fully functional. Disaster can simply strike at any time.

With that being said, we must have a winner, so Kyle Tucker, come on default! But this isn't some pity victory as Tucker's 15 HR, 48 R, 49 RBI, and 7 SB all put him at least above average.

The only thing keeping him from being a five-category star is his .271 AVG. But considering his .314 xBA (and .279 BABIP) and a .391 wOBAcon that trails his .460 xwOBAcon, count me as a believer in his average having a bit higher of a ceiling in the second half.


Down With OBP

Yes, you know me. Don't be fooled by the pop culture misnomer, this is all about who sees the biggest improvement in their value for those who use OBP as a category instead of batting average.

And the nominees are:

Joey Gallo, TEX (Roto: Hitter #24, OBP: Hitter #6)
351 PA: 24 HR - 53 R - 52 RBI - 6 SB - .402 OBP

Max Muncy, LAD (Roto: Hitter #35, OBP: Hitter #12)
319 PA: 19 HR - 54 R - 52 RBI - 1 SB - .414 OBP

Robbie Grossman, DET (Roto: Hitter #72, OBP: Hitter #39)
381 PA: 12 HR - 44 R - 42 RBI - 11 SB - .354 OBP


And the Winner is:

The man with the worst/best self-given nickname in the history of self-given nicknames at the All-Star Game, Pico! de! Gallo! He started off slow, slashing .216/.367/.398 over 218 PA in April and May but Gallo has exploded since when entering the summer months.

In 133 PA since June 1, Gallo is slashing .280/.459/.740, with 15 HR (15!) and a .485 wOBA. And considering Gallo had a career .202 AVG heading into 2021, a .280 AVG is basically his imitation of Ted Williams.

This performance is great under any format, with Gallo clocking in as the 24th best hitter in 12 team, 5x5 roto formats with classic categories. But Gallo isn't just great in OBP leagues, he's positively elite, with only Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr. (RIP), Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Marcus Semien providing more total value.

Salsa has had its day and tapenades are trash. All hail, Pico.


Half Baked Superstar

We'll end with our least prestigious but most competitive category. Our half-baked hero is the hitter who most embodies the spirit of high hopes being drenched in the sweet stench of fantasy failure. The players some had anointed as part of the next generation of early-round stars but whom it seems were taken out of the oven too soon.

Back to the kiln, ye scoundrels.

And the nominees are:

Gleyber Torres, NYY (ADP Rank: Hitter #38, First Half: Hitter #199)
317 PA: 3 HR - 26 R - 29 RBI - 6 SB - .240/.326/.308, .289 wOBA/.322 xwOBA

Cavan Biggio, TOR (ADP Rank: Hitter #40, First Half: Hitter #224)
248 PA: 6 HR - 24 R - 24 RBI - 3 SB - .226/.329/.370, .307 wOBA/.289 xwOBA

Keston Hiura, MIL (ADP Rank: Hitter #44, First Half: Hitter #361
185 PA: 4 HR - 16 R - 18 RBI - 2 SB - .168/.262/.311, .258 wOBA/.281 xwOBA


And the Winner is...

Keston Hiura! This is just bad timing for Biggio and Torres, who, in any other year, would have likely run away with the award. But their rottenness just can't compete with the juggernaut that is Keston Hiura's deadly combination of a .168 AVG, 38.4% K%, and demotion to the minors.

We at the Academy have always been confused by the popularity of Hiura, given his obvious status as a bonafide whiffer who has really only been good in the majors for about 350 PA in 2019. But wasn't a 34.6% K% and 20.3% SwStr% over 246 PA in 2020 big enough red flags to take a pause on again making Hiura a top-75 pick again in 2021? Well, all I can say is that the siren's song of speed+power is a helluva drug.

Hiura would take home this award based on just his aforementioned terribleness. But what really makes him an all-time great is how tricked a whole mess of fantasy players into blowing a big chunk of FAAB  following his recall to the majors.

The Academy disagreed with these actions:

Honestly, this was a master class in scammery, a long con told in three acts.


In which our protagonist begins to rake in the minors, following his demotion on June 7. In 20 games and 89 PA, Hiura slashes .403/.506/.722, with 5 HR and 2 SB. Sure, there was the matter of a pesky 29.2% K% but why think about that when you can be distracted by a 14.6% BB%? His problems obviously fixed, our anti-hero waits for the call, plots all the while, while fantasy manager o'er the land wait to pounce on their latest buy-low, success story.


In which Hiura returns to the majors in spectacular fashion, going 6-for-20 in his first five games, hitting three home runs, and slashing .353/.400/.941, with a .525 wOBA.

With all the FAAB spent and waiver priorities, it was time for the loop to be closed on all of these tricked-out marks.


Since hitting his last home run on June 28, Hiura is slashing .194/.326/.278 over 43 PA, with a 41.9% K% and .278 wOBA.

And scene.

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