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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
Starling Marte picks up a hit Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Pirates outfielder Starling Marte collected one of the few hits for his club Wednesday against the Giants. 

Marte finished 1 for 4, singling in the seventh inning. He was one of three Pirates to notch a hit against Madison Bumgarner during the contest. Bumgarner gave up just four hits during a complete game shutout. Marte also struck out once and stranded two runners. 


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Peavy excelled after returning to the NL West this summer, going 6-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 58:17 K:BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings over 12 starts. Prior to joining the Giants, he delivered a 4.48 ERA in 30 starts with the Red Sox after posting a 4.00 ERA in 84 games (83 starts) with the White Sox. He's posted a 3.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 14:3 K:BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings in two starts at Nationals Park.


Report: Justin Smoak likely to hit free agency this offseason
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(12:06 am ET) Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak will likely reach free agency this offseason, as the team is expected to pay the $150,000 buyout of his 2015 option, the Seattle Times reports.

Smoak has a $3.65-million club option for next season, but the Mariners figure to pay the buyout and decline to tender the first baseman a contract. The option would have vested if he made 525 plate appearances in 2014. Instead, he hit .202/.275/.339 in 276 plate appearances.


Russell Martin collects one hit Wednesday
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(12:02 am ET) Pirates catcher Russell Martin picked up one hit Wednesday against the Giants.

The Pirates only mustered four hits against Madison Bumgarner, so Martin was one of the standout performers during the contest. During his last at-bat, the fans chanted for Martin to re-sign with the club during the offseason. The team continued to chant even after Martin flew out. He gave the fans a tip of the cap before going into the dugout. Martin is set to be a free agent during the offseason.


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(10/1/2014) Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen went hitless Wednesday against the Giants.

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Joe Panik delivers three hits in wild-card win
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(10/1/2014) Giants second baseman Joe Panik enjoyed a fantastic postseason debut Wednesday, going 3 for 5 in his team's 8-0 wild-card win over the Pirates.

Panik plugged a hole in the infield in the middle of the season, hitting .305/.343/.368 in 269 at-bats during the regular season. He figures to continue to occupy the second spot of the lineup in the National League Division Series, starting with Game 1 Friday in Washington.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Giants first baseman Brandon Belt went 2 for 3 with two walks and three RBI in his team's 8-0 wild-card victory over the Pirates Wednesday.

Belt was on base when Brandon Crawford opened up the scoring with a fourth-inning grand slam, and the first baseman tacked on a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh on a pair of singles. Belt and the Giants face the Nationals in Washington Friday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.


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Brandon Crawford becomes first SS with postseason grand slam
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford went 1 for 5 with a grand slam in his team's 8-0 wild-card win over the Pirates Wednesday.

After the Giants loaded the bases in the fourth inning with two singles and a walk, Crawford deposited a ball over the right-field fence to break a scoreless tie. He became the first shortstop in postseason history to swat a grand slam. Grand slams are nothing new to Crawford, as he's collected three while hitting 27 career home runs (postseason included). The blast was all starter Madison Bumgarner would need, as he coasted to a complete-game shutout. The Giants open the National League Division Series Friday in Washington against the Nationals.


 
 
 
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