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By the Numbers: A second take on breakouts

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The season has reached its midpoint, so what better time to look back and reflect on preseason prognostications? Enough time has elapsed to be able to judge them and enough time is still ahead of us to apply lessons learned that we can use over the remaining portion of the Fantasy season.

Back in March, I picked out a dozen players who looked primed to break out this season. They appeared to be strong candidates to significantly improve their performance, given that they showed skills in the minor leagues that hadn't yet fully translated to the majors. Some, like Domonic Brown and Everth Cabrera, have more than fulfilled my lofty expectations, but now are they due to drop off in the second half? Others, including Jesus Montero and Mike Moustakas, didn't break out so much as break down, but could a breakout still be lurking for them over the next three months?

I'm taking a second look at 11 of my 12 breakout candidates to see how their first halves have panned out and assess how they are likely to fare going forward. (Only Alex Cobb, whose future is uncertain after he sustained a mild concussion from a line drive to the head, has been excluded.) It would be easy to go on autopilot with the likes of Brown and Cabrera, given that they have improved as expected, but even when the expected happens, it never hurts to take a fresh look at players at the halfway mark. The same is true even for those players, like Montero and Moustakas, who have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Fantasy owners.

Jesus Montero, C, Mariners
What I expected in 2013:
At least 20 home runs with improvement on last season's .260 batting average.
What has happened: Roughly one-quarter of the way through the season, Montero was on a similar home run pace to last year, but his batting average lingered just above the Mendoza line. That earned Montero a demotion to Triple-A Tacoma, where he promptly tore his meniscus.
What to expect in the second half: Montero may not have been as bad as his .208 batting average made him out to be, but he also didn't show any progress in his power or contact skills. Mike Zunino and Justin Smoak, who are blocking Montero at catcher and first base, respectively, are having struggles of their own, but while Montero recovers, they will have plenty of time to cement their positions in the Mariners' lineup. Perhaps Montero could return to Seattle late in the season, but he is unlikely to log enough time to have anything close to a breakout season.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
What I expected in 2013:
A combination of increased home run power, doubles power and a high batting average.
What has happened: Belt is batting nine points below last season's .275 average, but since a slow start in his first 14 games, he is hitting .292. A power surge has materialized as well, as he has already equaled his career high of nine home runs, and 40 doubles are within reach.
What to expect in the second half: The Baby Giraffe is clearly continuing his development as a player, as he is striking out less often, working longer plate appearances and, at least since late April, hitting for more power. It's not unreasonable to expect Belt to hit .300 the rest of the way with 10 to 15 more home runs.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
What I expected in 2013:
A batting average in the .280s with 25 to 30 home runs.
What has happened: With a slightly improved strikeout rate and a monstrous 32 percent line drive rate, Freeman has whacked his way to a .307 batting average, but he is behind last season's pace for home runs and doubles.
What to expect in the second half: Freeman struggled for a month after returning from an oblique injury in late April, but over his past 36 games, he has really heated up. During that stretch, Freeman has hit .328 with a .406 on-base percentage, seven home runs and six doubles. We can't know for sure if Freeman was slowed down by his injury, but given how he has played over the last several weeks, he just may be able to hit 25-plus homers on the season and keep his batting average above .300.

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
What I expected in 2013:
Maintain his batting average and stolen base pace from a year ago, while adding double-digit home run power.
What has happened: Altuve is matching his .290 batting average from 2012, and he's on pace to exceed his 33 steals. However, the anticipated increase in power hasn't happened, as Altuve has only 19 extra-base hits, of which three are homers.
What to expect in the second half: Altuve hasn't lost much value, if any, from last season, but he certainly hasn't gained any either. He's hitting fewer flyballs this season, so it's probably unrealistic to hope for 10-plus homers on the season, at least for this year.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
What I expected in 2013:
A batting average around .260 with a minimum of 25 home runs.
What has happened: Despite an improved contact rate, Moustakas is hitting just .215, and that's even with him posting a .274 average over the past month. With five home runs and 11 doubles, Moustakas' power output has been disappointing, to say the least.
What to expect in the second half: With a .234 BABIP, Moustakas may have had some bad luck on balls in play, but a 14 percent popup rate -- which is actually the lowest of his career -- isn't helping. He doesn't hit for much power when he's not pulling the ball, and according to data from Baseball-Reference.com, Moustakas isn't pulling the ball as often this season. Perhaps with new hitting coaches George Brett and Pedro Grifol, Moustakas can get back to his power-hitting ways, but it's probably asking too much to expect a breakout in the second half.

Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres
What I expected in 2013:
An improved batting average and 50-plus steals.
What has happened: Cabrera has missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury, but he has already stolen 31 bases and raised his batting average from .246 last year to .305. He could be back later this week, so unless he continues to be hampered by the injury, Cabrera should easily pass the 50-steals threshold.
What to expect in the second half: Cabrera had shown the potential to make more frequent contact and to hit more effectively against lefties, and he's come through on both counts this season. As long as his hamstring doesn't slow him down, Cabrera should continue on his breakout campaign.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals
What I expected in 2013:
A batting average of at least .290 with a at least 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
What has happened: At worst, I figured Cain would maintain his homer and steals pace from last season while making notable gains in his batting average, but he is falling short in all three areas. While Cain may never be a masher, I didn't foresee that his flyball rate would fall from 34 percent to 24 percent.
What to expect in the second half: Maybe Cain is already benefitting from the change in hitting coaches, as he has hit more flyballs and with more power since Brett and Grifol joined the coaching staff in late May. He's also been striking out more, so there is still work to be done before Cain can enjoy a true breakout.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
What I expected in 2013:
An increase in home run power with a decent batting average and mild steals potential.
What has happened: If Brown's torrid May, in which he hit 12 home runs with a .303 batting average, didn't signal that his breakout finally arrived, a solid June confirmed that he's no fluke. With half the season in the books, Brown is a top 10 outfielder in Fantasy.
What to expect in the second half: He may not remain in the top 10, but barring a monumental collapse, Brown will finish the season with one of the most prominent breakout performances of the year. While maintaining an average near his current .274, Brown could provide another 15 home runs.

Most Traded Players (as of 7/3)
Player Trades
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers 712
2. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies 556
3. Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels 506
4. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers 505
5. Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays 481
6. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels 466
7. Matt Cain, SP, Giants 451
8. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates 443
9. Justin Upton, OF, Braves 439
10. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees 436

Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays
What I expected in 2013:
Close to a strikeout per inning with a mid-3.00s ERA.
What has happened: In his 10 starts, Morrow managed only 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings, and his ERA ballooned up to 5.63. He has been on the disabled list since early June with forearm inflammation and is expected to be out for at least another month.
What to expect in the second half: Once Morrow is healthy, he still has the potential to be a good source of strikeouts. Both his full return to health and a high K-rate are far from givens, though, so Morrow's breakout more than likely will have to wait another year. He'll be 29, so Morrow can't afford to wait too long to take that next step.

Matt Moore, SP, Rays
What I expected in 2013:
A K/9 rate just under 9.0 with an ERA in the low-3.00s, or possibly under 3.00, placing him among the top 30 starting pitchers.
What has happened: Through the end of May, Moore seemed to be making good on his potential with an 8-0 record and 2.18 ERA. However, Moore exhibited poor command and a mediocre swinging strike rate, and those trends continued into June, but with much worse results (2-3 with an 8.39 ERA for the month).
What to expect in the second half: Moore has bounced back with better performances in his last two starts, and those alone have restored his K/9 rate, which now stands at 8.8. However, Moore's season to date has to qualify as a disappointment, and if not for 5.8 runs of support per nine innings, he might not even be among the top 40 starting pitchers in Fantasy. If he continues to be too wild, Moore may very well finish outside the top 40.

Addison Reed, RP, White Sox
What I expected in 2013:
Improved strikeout and walk rates and 30-plus saves.
What has happened: Reed just finished a rough June, in which he posted a 7.62 ERA, but he still ranks as a top 10 closer in terms of Fantasy points. His 21 saves have a lot to do with that, though a 9.8 K/9 rate and 1.06 WHIP are also part of the equation.
What to expect in the second half: As Reed's low WHIP shows, he hasn't been putting many runners on base, but at times, he's done a poor job of stranding them. That's not a great quality for a closer, but it's not necessarily one that he will carry into the second half. He could easily maintain his status as a top 10 closer, especially if he can slash his ERA.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers back in the lineup Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:05 pm ET) White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers is back in the starting lineup Tuesday after getting the day off Monday, the team announced. 

Flowers and backup Geovany Soto have rotated early on, with Flowers getting his eighth start Tuesday and Soto starting five. Flowers is hitting .333 with one home run and four RBI in 24 at-bats this season. The White Sox are currently the underdogs (+130) against the Indians Tuesday.


Dodgers RHP McCarthy gains unusual increase in velocity
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:53 pm ET) Nearly every major league pitcher experiences decreased velocity with age, leading to a greater need to keep hitters off-balance and develop pinpoint control.

Then there's Brandon McCarthy.

The Dodgers right-hander had generally been a soft-tosser. It's no wonder he's averaged about six strikeouts per nine innings in his career. But after signing a four-year contract worth $48 million in the offseason, he's become a comparative fireballer. McCarthy has 25 strikeouts in 18 innings this year. Granted, it's a small sample size, but the radar gun doesn't lie.

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal is impressed.

"It's kind of like he learned how to pitch backwards, almost," Grandal told the Orange County Register. "When guys have velocity, they rely on the velocity early in their career. And then, once they lose it, they go back and start working on movement. It's actually really good for a guy not to throw that hard when he comes up and then all of a sudden starts pumping 95 and 96. Whenever he needs movement, he can throw for movement, and whenever he needs velocity, he can reach back and throw hard."

McCarthy's average fastball was clocked at 89.4 miles an hour in 2007, per Fangraphs.com. He has it at 93.6 this year. McCarthy has cited a more intense work regimen in the offseason for the increase.


Royals' Lorenzo Cain back in lineup Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:45 pm ET) Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain is back in the starting lineup for Tuesday's matchup with the Twins.

Cain was given his first game off Monday and will be back in the No. 3 spot to face Twins lefty Tommy Milone. He has hit .500/.583/.850 in 20 at-bats against left-handers this season.

Second baseman Omar Infante is out of the lineup Tuesday as expected. Christian Colon draws the start at second base and will bat ninth.

The Royals are favorites (-145) at home Tuesday.


Marlins callup pitcher Nick Masset, option Jose Urena
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:25 pm ET) The Marlins have called up pitcher Nick Masset from Triple-A and optioned pitcher Jose Urena back to the minors, the team announced Tuesday.

Urena was called up last week when David Phelps was placed on paternity leave. He worked three innings in two appearances, allowing three runs on four hits. Masset threw 45 innings in 2014 for the Rockies, posting a 5.80 ERA in 51 appearances.

The team has also designated Matt Tracy for assignment. Tracy made one appearance, allowing three runs on two hits for the Marlins.


Brewers' Mike Fiers facing Reds team batting .226 against RHPs
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:05 pm ET) Brewers starting pitcher Mike Fiers heads into his start Tuesday against the Reds with a 1-3 record and 3.09 ERA in four career starts against the NL Central foe. He also has 22 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.

Fiers will be facing a Reds team that has totaled 43 runs in 13 games, which ranks 22nd in the majors. The Reds are also batting .226 with a .358 slugging percentage and 74 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers. They have hit 11 home runs off righties.


Braves recall pitcher Ian Thomas
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:04 pm ET) The Braves have recalled pitcher Ian Thomas from Triple-A Gwinnett, the team announced Tuesday. He takes the roster spot of Andrew McKirahan, who was suspended 80 games after testing positive for lpamorelin. Thomas was optioned to Triple-A early in March and has thrown 3 1/3 scoreless innings for the Braves with three strikeouts and zero walks. 

Thomas posted a 1-2 record in 2014 with a 4.22 ERA in 16 appearances.


Mets SP Jonathon Niese has good track record at home vs. Braves
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:55 pm ET) Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese will be making his 20th career start against NL East foe Atlanta on Tuesday. He is 7-6 with a 3.36 ERA in his first 19 starts against the Braves.

His recent history against Atlanta has been pretty good. Niese hasn't allowed more than three runs in his last six starts against Atlanta. However, he has just one win in that span.

The left-hander is also pretty good against the Braves at home. He has allowed more than one run just once on his last five home starts against Atlanta. He has a 1.84 ERA in that span. Sadly, he also has just one win in that stretch.

The Braves enter play Tuesday with 54 runs, which is one more than the league average. The Braves are batting .242 with a .379 slugging percentage against lefties in 2015.


Yankees SP Nathan Eovaldi winless in last six road starts
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:41 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi heads into Tuesday's start at Detroit with a 2-1 record and 2.96 ERA in eight career starts in March/April. However, he hasn't had a ton of success on the road recently.

Eovaldi is winless in his last six road starts, including Wednesday against the Orioles. He is 0-5 with a 6.23 ERA in that span. It is the longest road losing streak of his career. 

The Tigers enter play Tuesday with 70 runs, which is tied for the fourth-highest total in the majors. They are also second in the majors with a .308 batting average against right-handed pitchers.


Yankees recall Chasen Shreve, option Branden Pinder
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) The Yankees recalled pitcher Chasen Shreve from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Tuesday, optioning pitcher Branden Pinder to Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Shreve has made two appearances for the Yankees this season, giving up one earned run in 4 2/3 innings while striking out four and issuing no walks. Pinder tossed two scoreless innings while with the team.


Brewers send C Lucroy to DL, promote Centeno
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:27 pm ET) What was anticipated has become reality - the Brewers have placed catcher Jonathan Lucroy on the disabled list with a toe injury.

Lucroy sustained the injury by fouling a pitch off his foot Monday night.

He has been one of many Brewers struggling at the plate. Lucroy owns a slash line of .156/.235/.200 with no homers and two RBI.

His placement on the DL has forced the team to promote catcher Juan Centeno from the minors. The 25 year old earned 40 major league at-bats with the Mets in 2013 and 2014.


 
 
 
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