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Di Fino: Six daring second half predictions

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The road to Fantasy stardom is lined with the Scott Hairstons of the world: shrewd pickups who quietly hit 12 first-half home runs and go largely unnoticed -- and unheralded -- on Fantasy rosters. Go scan your own roster: it's not all about All-Stars. Omar Infante, Dillon Gee, and Michael Brantley all could be plugged in to teams and left to produce. True, their numbers didn't jump out at anyone, but they provided the base on which your Fantasy superstars could stand in the first half.

Plenty of leagues have some players floating around on the waiver wire who could do some big things for them, if everything breaks the right way. So, as the Post-All-Star Game stat period begins Friday, here are six somewhat daring predictions for players who have yet to be owned universally:

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1. J.P. Arencibia will finish the year with 25 home runs.
Owned in: 65 percent of leagues
Ummmm: Yeah, he has 13 right now, so we just stretch that out to the full year, and ... 25. Amazing, right? But it's a little more complicated than just some quick math. Even though he's just 26 years old, Arencibia has a "catcher of the future" breathing down his neck: the currently injured Travis d'Arnaud. While d'Arnaud probably won't be ready to play until September -- and there's no guarantee he will get called up, although plenty of signs/rumors/posturing/assuming point to an eventual promotion -- the move could lead to either a trade of Arencibia, a shifting of Arencibia to first base or a splitting of playing time.
Chances He Hits 30 Home Runs: 33%. Arencibia hit 23 last year in his first full season at the major league level, so there's a pretty nice chance he could build on that number. The Blue Jays could also remain in contention for a Wild Card, which would likely lead to them not giving d'Arnaud as much playing time, if any at all.
Chances He Hits 20 Home Runs: 15%. Arencibia isn't 36, he's 26. And he has plenty of power (just not a lot of batting average) in his bat. For the Blue Jays to insert d'Arnaud as even a part-time catcher in September, Arencibia would have to be pushed aside to some degree. And to do that to a player with 30-home run potential, especially in homer-happy Toronto, doesn't make a lot of sense.

2. Huston Street will finish the year with 33 saves.
Owned in: 75 percent of leagues
Wait -- San Diego is last in MLB in runs scored!: But in the last three years, Heath Bell had 42, 47, and 43 saves. In that span, the Padres ranked 29th, 22nd and 28th, respectively, in runs scored. Bad teams tend to score fewer runs, a scenario that puts them in close games, giving their closers plenty of opportunities to get saves.
But Street Only Has 13 Saves: He also missed a month of the season with a lat injury. In that month, Dale Thayer recorded five saves. Getting 20 saves in the second half for a team that recorded 19 in the first (Joe Thatcher snuck one in) isn't an impossible task.
What If Street Gets Traded?: His most likely destination, according to rumors and questions he's addressed directly, has been the Mets, a team that could insert him in the closer role the rest of the season. Although trading for a reliever and inserting him as closer isn't a regular move, it has been done before -- most recently with Matt Capps in 2010 when he had 16 saves for the Twins after being traded to Minnesota by the Nationals.
Furthermore: Street's 2013 contract allows for a $500,000 buy-out option, according to Baseball Prospectus , so, even though rumors are floating that he's on the trading block, San Diego isn't necessarily rushing to move a gigantic contract for 2013. If the right deal doesn't come along, they can just exercise the buy-out, and Street is off the books.

3. Mike Aviles will join the 20-20 club this year.
Started in: 64 percent of leagues
He's Never Even Joined The "20" Club ... On Either Side: But he's gotten close. And he's never had more than 424 at-bats in a season. Aviles has twice stolen 14 bases (in 2010 and 2011) and already has nine home runs and nine steals in just over half a season in 2012.
I Need More Proof: Take a look at his home run landing spots. Eight of his nine home runs have been hit to left field. All eight of those home runs fit comfortably over the Green Monster in Fenway Park. In a different stadium, he could have lost as many as three home runs. With plenty of remaining games at Fenway, Aviles needs to hit just 11 home runs and steal 11 bases to reach 20-20.
And he'll have history on his side?: Over his career, Aviles' average jumps 60 points after the All-Star Game, his slugging percentage rises 63 points and his caught stealing percentage takes a huge dip.

4. A.J. Griffin will have better second half numbers than Chris Capuano.
Owned in: 28 percent of leagues
Blasphemer!: Griffin came up with very little fanfare, and being owned in just 26 percent of leagues, he seems to still be flying well under the radars of most Fantasy owners. But, after three starts, he's put together a nice stat line: 1.50 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. In standard leagues, he's compiled 52.5 points despite not having registered a win. Capuano, meanwhile, is traditionally a poor second half pitcher (4.97 ERA after the All-Star Game), with a 4.84 ERA in July, 5.22 in August and 4.73 in September.
Capuano is owned in...: 96 percent of leagues.
What Makes Griffin So Special?: Griffin put together a pretty impressive stat line in the minor leagues. A converted reliever, he climbed through four levels in 2011, compiling an 11-7 record with a 3.47 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He also struck out about a batter per inning. The K-rate dropped a little bit across 15 starts in the minors this year -- and continued to drop in the majors -- but it's a minor trifle. In 66 minor league games, Griffin had a 1.01 WHIP. And that kind of control could carry over nicely to the majors across the second half of the season, especially in a home ballpark as friendly to pitchers as the Coliseum.

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5. J.D. Martinez will finish the season with a .300 batting average.
Owned in: 50 percent of leagues
You're insane: Maybe. But just hear this one out. In 1,118 minor league at-bats, Martinez had a .342 batting average. That's not a small sample size and it's not unrealistically inflated due to any blazing speed he possesses. He can hit. He's currently hitting a full 100 points below his career minor league average. .
Do The Math For Us, Fatboy!: Let's assume he finishes the year with 570 at-bats. For Martinez to reach .300 by year's end, he will have to go 103- for-287 the rest of the way, which is a .359 batting average.
That Can't Be Done!: Of course it can. First of all, consider that by September Martinez will be seeing plenty more minor-league call-ups pitching to him as rosters expand to 40 players. On top of that, a host of players hit .359 -- or better -- in the second half of last year, including Mike Napoli (.383), Nick Hundley (.367) and Mark DeRosa (.367)
Yeah, but it still seems unlikely: Sure. But what fun would it be if we just predicted he'd hit .274?

6. Everth Cabrera will finish the year with 45 stolen bases.
Owned in: 17 percent of leagues
Did you mean 30 stolen bases? Because, By Doubling What He Has Now...: No. Cabrera is at 15 right now. And he stole 15 in 34 games at Tucson before his call-up. That's 30 right there. So if he can steal 30 after the All-Star Break, he's at 45. The magic of math!
Pshaw!: Cameron Maybin, Brett Gardner and Michael Bourn all stole 25 or more bases after the All-Star Game last year. Emilio Bonifacio, Coco Crisp, Ben Revere and Eric Young all stole 23. It's not outside the realm of possibility for a speedster like Cabrera to steal 30.
More Remedial Math!: In 155 at-bats this season, Cabrera has 15 steals. Say he gets 280 at-bats in the second half. That puts him on pace for 25.2 steals. Mix in the fact that he will likely pick up five additional steals with more major league seasoning, and... there's your 30.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:22 pm ET) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:01 pm ET) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:00 pm ET) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


Tim Melville, Kyle Lobstein to start Monday and Tuesday for Tigers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:18 pm ET) Tigers coach Brad Ausmus announced that pitchers Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein, respectively, will get starts in upcoming games on Monday and Tuesday, according to MLB.com

Melville will start in an exhibition between the Tigers and college team Florida Southern. Lobstein will start in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. 


Diamondbacks' Mark Trumbo more comfortable in right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart decided after last season that Mark Trumbo would be better in right field than left, where he started the 2014 season, MLB.com reports.

"From what I understood from talking to [Trumbo's former manager] Mike Scioscia, he's a much better right fielder than he is in left," Stewart said.

Trumbo indicated that he feels more comfortable in right field.

"Just reads off the bat, what I feel more comfortable with," Trumbo said. "Being right-handed I've just found right field, especially with some of those balls coming in, it's much easier for me with that angle as opposed to the one in left."

Trumbo has seen most of his defensive work in his five-year career at first base but has made 65 appearances in right field. He hit .235/.293/.415 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 328 at-bats last season.


Padres, Tyson Gillies agree to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) The Padres have agreed to a minor-league deal with outfielder Tyson Gillies, ESPN.com reports.

Gillies has spent time in the Seattle and Philadelphia organizations since being selected in the 25th round of the 2006 draft. He hit .214/.270/.289 with two home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases in 159 at-bats with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2014.


Pirates' Hurdle: Jose Tabata 'worked very hard' on swing leverage
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata drove three balls over the left-field fence and onto the roof of the indoor batting cages, and manager Clint Hurdle said Friday that the team wants the outfielder to mash longer drives, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"We've talked to Jose about putting more leverage in his swing,” Hurdle said. “He worked very hard with that through the winter. He's shown a liking for it. It's something that takes time."

Tabata recreated his swing during a stint in the Mexican League and increased his power production. He had a conversation with Marlon Byrd about it this past offseason.

"He's always had a forward-down strike and a lot of ground balls have come off his bat," Hurdle said of Tabata. "We talked to him about hooking up with Marlon Byrd."

Tabata hit .282/.314/.333 with no home runs in 174 at-bats with the Pirates in 2014.


 
 
 
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