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[Technical difficulties resulted in the delay of this article's publication. Please forgive the tardiness, and the resultant cognitive dissonance of a piece entitled "Friday Five" running on a Saturday. -Ed.]

Though the All-Star break is still over a week away, we’ve passed the halfway point of the 2018 season. At this point, your league’s situation – and your place in it – has begun to take shape. There’s still time to turn things around, but if you’re staring up at a bunch of rivals in the standings, your margin for error is already thin and getting thinner.

Whether you’re making decisions about a player on your own roster or eyeing a potential trade target, one way to put yourself back in the race is to correctly assess the rest-of-season outlooks of players who outperformed expectations over the first three months. To that end, today’s column focuses on five first-half breakouts and ponders if they can continue at this pace and propel your team to glory.

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

Believe It Or Not?

Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers

The offseason additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich signaled that the Brewers were ready to push their chips in on a playoff run. They also made it difficult to see where the at-bats would come for Aguilar, who despite hitting .265/.331/.506 with 16 home runs in about half a season’s worth of plate appearances was buried on the depth chart. Injuries and/or ineffectiveness on the part of his teammates allowed the 28-year-old to make his mark as an everyday player, and he’s taken full advantage. Aguilar’s home run on Friday was his 20th of the year and he’s slashing an absurd .307/.365/.618. He’s now logged roughly a full season’s worth of at-bats as a Brewer, and the numbers are impressive: .281 AVG, 35 HR, 81 R, 108 RBI. Statcast buys his performance, and at this point, so should you.

Confidence level (1 – 10): 8

 

Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Not to say I told you so, but…I kinda did, even if I didn’t quite see Suarez hitting this well. Entering 2018, he’d tripled his walk rate over the prior two seasons while also hitting for more power. The plate discipline has gotten even better this year as Suarez has cut his strikeout rate by five percentage points, and he’s on pace to shatter his career bests in basically every category. His exit velocity, barrels, and hard-hit rate are all way up, to the point where xStats suggest he’s somehow underperforming with a .308/.395/.568 line. This despite suffering a broken hand early in the season, which he returned from well ahead of schedule without missing a beat. The Reds are a dumpster fire, but they’ve got a bona fide star here.

Confidence level: 9

 

Max Muncy, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

We touched on Aguilar’s obstacles to playing time above, but Muncy’s a whole different animal. There are a handful of players every season who escape even my radar, and he’s near the top of the list for 2018. Not only did Muncy have a pretty uninspiring track record – he performed well at Triple-A last year, but had been terrible in limited MLB time over the prior two seasons – he opened the year in the minors buried behind a wealth of major league talent. Injuries opened the door a crack, and Muncy bashed his way through. Even after going 0-for-4 on Friday, he’s hitting .275/.413/.627, and his batted ball metrics support the results. It’s hard to fathom some guy most of us hadn’t heard of continuing to play like one of the elites, but pitchers haven’t found an answer for him yet. It’s looking more and more likely that they won’t.

Confidence level: 8

 

Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

In his third major-league season, Snell has taken a huge leap. He’s chopped his ERA nearly in half compared to last season’s 4.04 mark, cut down on walks, and added several percentage points to his strikeout rate. There’s no denying that the lefty has shown considerable improvement this season. However, expecting him to continue running a 2.24 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in the second half would be setting yourself up for disappointment. The dreaded low BABIP/high strand rate combo is partially propping up Snell’s results. He’s absolutely a great talent – just keep in mind that he’s pitched over his head to this point.

Confidence level: 3

 

Miles Mikolas, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

Mikolas got a bit of sleeper buzz this spring after reinventing himself in Japan and growing an impressive mustache, but few anticipated he’d be this good. The burly right-hander has posted sparkling ratios (2.63 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) despite running one of the lowest strikeout rates among qualified starters. Mikolas should continue to find success through limiting walks and home runs, but his lack of whiffs and the lighter workloads for pitchers in NPB portend a fair amount of risk for a second-half fade.

Confidence level: 4

 

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