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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
Mariners promote C John Hicks, send down C Mike Zunino
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:23 pm ET) The Mariners have demoted Mike Zunino and brought up fellow catcher John Hicks, according to 710 ESPN Radio.

Zunino has just two hits in his last 16 at-bats and has been a disappointment all season with a slash line of .174/.230/.300.

The 25-year-old Hicks in on a six-game hitting streak at Triple-A Tacoma. But he's batting just .245 on the year with 71 strikeouts in 298 at-bats.


Illness forces Indians to scratch Danny Salazar from Friday start
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Indians starter Danny Salazar has been scratched from his Friday night start against the Angels due to an illness. Trevor Bauer will take the mound in his place.

The Indians can ill-afford to lose Salazar for more than one outing. They are on the periphery of the playoff race and fellow right-hander Carlos Carrasco has already been placed on the disabled list with a shoulder ailment.

Salazar had been on a tear with seven straight quality starts until a subpar performance Saturday. He is 11-7 with a 3.30 ERA on the season.


Throwing sessions have Cardinals RP Matt Belisle optimistic
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:59 pm ET) Cardinals reliever Matt Belisle gave himself a positive report after a recent throwing session as he rehabs from right elbow inflammation.

"I had a great long-toss session and a great mound session," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I did real well today throwing all my pitches on flat ground and I'll be back on the mound tomorrow, so we're rolling."

The veteran right-hander had performed well before going down in late June. If maintained, his 3.00 ERA would be his lowest since 2010.


Rays hopeful Desmond Jennings can return this season
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:58 pm ET) Rays manager Kevin Cash said there is hope that outfielder Desmond Jennings will be able to return later this season, reports MLB Network Radio.

"I remain optimistic and hopeful," Cash said. "The injury is extremely unfortunate and frustrating."

Jennings was placed on the DL with a bruised left knee, which has caused him to miss most of the season.


Cardinals OF Randal Grichuk hasn't resumed baseball activities
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk is nowhere close to returning from elbow and ligament injuries that have sidelined him since Aug. 17, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Grichuk is undergoing therapy in the training room, but has yet to begin baseball activities. He was expected to miss at least 15 games, but it appears that he will be sidelined for many more than that.

When he does return, he will do so with a fine slash line of .284/.333/.561.


Cardinals' Matt Adams not ready for rehab assignment
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams is still working his way back from a right quad strain and is not ready for rehab games, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Adams has been out since late May with a right quad injury and has been rehabbing in Florida.

Rangers 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff leaning toward retirement
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:42 pm ET) A back injury has Rangers third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff leaning toward retirement, per CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman.

The 34-year-old Kouzmanoff has not played since April 2014. He was off to a brilliant start with Texas when two back surgeries ended his season and perhaps his career.


Red Sox OF Allen Craig trying to work his way back into majors
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:20 pm ET) Evidence is small, but just maybe Red Sox farmhand Allen Craig is beginning to rediscover the stroke and approach at the plate that made him one of the steadiest and most productive hitters in the National League just two years ago.

Craig owns a .448 slugging percentage with five doubles and a home run since Aug. 12 for Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox might not promote him when the rosters expand in September, but they know he's making progress.

"It's the process with him," PawSox manager Kevin Boles told MLB.com. "Everybody wanted immediate results right away. What we're looking at is the quality of the at-bats and working a count."

Craig batted over .300 for three straight seasons in St. Louis, but struggled in 2014 and was traded to Boston, where he bottomed out to start this year. His current slash line of .275/.370/.353 indicates that he is at least getting on base. Beyond that, he's just seeking baby steps.

"The goal is to get back to the big leagues," he said. "I try not to look too far in the future. Just try to focus on today, take care of what I need to take care of. I don't make those decisions. I just need to focus on playing."


Yankees reinstate Bryan Mitchell from DL
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Yankees pitcher Bryan Mitchell was activated from the 7-day concussion DL on Friday, the team announced.

Mitchell has not played since Aug. 17 after being hit in the face by a line drive, which caused a nasal fracture and concussion.


Cardinals to reevaluate Matt Holliday this weekend
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:19 am ET) Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday will return this St. Louis this weekend so the team can reevaluate his quad injury, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Holliday has been able to conduct running exercises at the team's spring training complex in Florida. He has been out since late May due to a right quad strain.


 
 
 
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