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Reality Check: A tale of two halves

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Adam Dunn ... he's a terrific source of power, but a drain on batting average with his all-too-frequent cold streaks.

That's the book on him, right? It's the way he started this season, and looking at his numbers now, yup, it seems about right.

But hidden within that .239 batting average are actually two different players: the one who hit .163 over his first 56 games and the one hitting .311 over his last 61.

That's right: Since June 9, or about half the season so far, Dunn has hit .311 with 14 homers and a .967 OPS. He's the 23rd-best hitter in Head-to-Head leagues and 22nd-best in Rotisserie during that stretch.

Kind of changes your perspective, doesn't it?

Now, you may argue fluctuations in batting average are expected for streaky players, and you wouldn't be wrong. But this goes deeper than that. It's a tale of two players. Labeling Dunn nothing more than a hot-hand play undermines just how much good he's done for his Fantasy owners.

In the long run, is he really a .300 hitter? He has a pretty lengthy track record suggesting he isn't. But knowing he's been one for the last 10 weeks should influence your approach to him over the final five. Until he gives you reason to believe his successful run is over, he belongs in your lineup. And again, we have only five weeks to go. I'm not sure he's capable of falling that far that fast.

Dunn is probably the most extreme example, but he's not the only player whose season takes on a different look when split in two. Most teams have played about 124 games so far, so the goal here is to look at Game 63 on. Just to keep things simple, though, I'm using June 9 as the halfway point for every player, examining their numbers since then.

Here are the ones who, for one reason or another, stand out to me.

Erick Aybar, SS, Angels
Season numbers: .281 BA, 3 3B, 4 HR, 10 SB, .696 OPS
Since June 9: .292 BA, 3 3B, 3 HR, 9 SB, .734 OPS
How much difference can a few extra-base hits and stolen bases make? From June 9 on, Aybar is the fifth-best shortstop in Head-to-Head leagues, making him quite the remedy for Everth Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta owners. For the season, he's only the 15th-best.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
Season numbers: .271 BA, 15 HR, .348 OBP, .421 SLG
Since June 9: .290 BA, 9 HR, .374 OBP, .529 SLG
OK, so most of Belt's numbers since June 9 have come over the last two weeks, during which he's batting .345 with four homers. But no matter how it happens, a .900 OPS over about a 60-game stretch is special. The only reason Belt doesn't rank higher than 19th among first baseman in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch is because he used to sit against left-handers. Not anymore.

Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
Season numbers: 11-7, 3.24 ERA, 1.22 ERA, 5.5 K/9
Since June 9: 8-4, 2.34 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 5.3 K/9
Even in the thin air of Coors Field, Chacin still gets enough sink on his pitches to keep the ball on the ground, and it's given him more Head-to-Head points since June 9 than both Matt Harvey and Adam Wainwright. He had a bumpy seven-start stretch after returning from a back issue in early May, but otherwise, he has a 2.06 ERA and 1.10 WHIP this season.

Brian Dozier, 2B/SS, Twins
Season numbers: .243 BA, 12 HR, 27 2B, .728 OPS in 408 at-bats
Since June 9: .251 BA, 9 HR, 23 2B, .813 OPS in 235 at-bats
Dozier hasn't impressed with his batting average at any point this season, but virtually all of his power numbers have come since June 9. And it's not just because of increased at-bats. He got 43 percent of his before then. At shortstop, just a few doubles can go a long way. Dozier is third-best at the position in Head-to-Head leagues (eighth-best in Rotisserie) during that time.

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Season numbers: .268 BA, 9 HR, .350 OBP, .405 SLG
Since June 9: .306 BA, 5 HR, .382 OBP, .459 SLG
Ethier's power numbers are still lacking, keeping him just a fringy option in Rotisserie leagues, but in Head-to-Head formats, he's more useful than his 72 percent ownership would have you believe. Since June 29, he ranks 24th among outfielders, ahead of Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios, and that's mostly because of on-base numbers that he's perfectly capable of sustaining.

Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
Season numbers: .264 BA, 12 HR, 18 SB, .788 OPS
Since June 9: .222 BA, 2 HR, 8 SB, .660 OPS
Remember back in April, when Fowler hit .305 with eight homers, four steals and a 1.032 OPS? He's gone from being one of this season's biggest breakouts to ... kind of waste of a roster spot. Granted, health has been an issue -- his wrist hasn't been right since before the All-Star break -- but he needs a sustain hot streak before you trust him as more than a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Dillon Gee, SP, Mets
Season numbers: 9-8, 3.60 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
Since June 9: 5-2, 2.44 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
It's hard to believe now, but Gee had a 6.34 ERA after his first 10 starts this year, which should give you some idea just how effective he's been since then. He's not a great source of strikeouts, but he eats innings, which makes him kind of a poor man's Jered Weaver. Except Weaver is averaging 13.96 Head-to-Head points per start since June 9 while Gee is averaging 17.38.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Season numbers: .296 BA, 30 HR, 96 RBI, .939 OPS, 13 SB
Since June 9: .267 BA, 15 HR, 38 RBI, .876 OPS, 7 SB
... And yet he's still fourth among first basemen in both Head-to-Head and Rotisserie during that stretch, ahead of Joey Votto, which suggests he'll maintain his value no matter what his numbers do. We don't need no stinking batting average.

Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
Season numbers: .257 BA, 13 HR, .349 OBP, .431 SLG, 2 SB
Since June 9: .299 BA, 10 HR, .378 OBP, .509 SLG, 1 SB
Heyward ranks a modest 19th among outfielders despite his impressive numbers since June 9, so clearly, he's missing those steals he had last year. But he's at least proven he can hit, as his career-high line-drive rate and career-low strikeout rate have suggested all year.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Season numbers: .294 BA, 14 HR, 59 RBI, .787 OPS, 10 SB
Since June 9: .308 BA, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .865 OPS, 6 SB
Reminder: The displayed numbers are season-to-date, followed by half-season-to-date, which means Hosmer has pulled a Stanley Ipkiss and gone from zero to hero in his last 60 games or so. Amazing what can happen when he works with a hitting coach who doesn't suppress his power. He's been one of the 10 best hitters in Fantasy since June 9, and he's had that kind of potential all along.

Kyle Lohse, SP, Brewers
Season numbers: 8-8, 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
Since June 9: 7-2, 2.26 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
Only two pitchers have outscored Lohse since June 9, and they just so happen to be expected Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. OK, so Jose Fernandez also passed Lohse with his win over the Dodgers Tuesday, but it sounds better with just Kershaw and Scherzer. Lohse was the eighth-best starting pitcher in Head-to-Head league last year, so his success shouldn't be too surprising.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers
Season numbers: .287 BA, 17 HR, .823 OPS, 29 BB, 46 K
Since June 9: .317 BA, 11 HR, .919 OPS, 16 BB, 25 K
Over the last 10 weeks, the top catcher in Fantasy -- both Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats -- isn't Buster Posey or Joe Mauer. It isn't Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina or Brian McCann. It isn't even Matt Wieters. No, it's Lucroy, who was batting .208 on May 20. Guess that breakout 2012 was just the tip of the iceberg.

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles
Season numbers: .279 BA, 19 2B, 8 HR, .366 SLG, .700 OPS
Since June 9: .267 BA, 7 2B, 1 HR, .308 SLG, .637 OPS
Remember how Markakis had a power resurgence of sorts last year, posting his highest slugging percentage since 2008? Now, he's lucky just to hit the ball out of the infield. The result is a player who ranks 53rd among outfielders since June 9 -- behind the not-so-impressive Logan Morrison, who has 60 fewer at-bats during that stretch -- and is started in far too many leagues.

Victor Martinez, 1B, Tigers
Season numbers: .282 BA, 27 2B, 10 HR, .337 OBP, .740 OPS
Since June 9: .319 BA, 17 2B, 5 HR, .380 OBP, .828 OPS
Considering Martinez was batting .225 as recently as June 28, you wouldn't have been crazy to think he was a lost cause at age 34. Turns out he just needed a few months to find his stroke after losing all of last season to knee surgery. No reason to doubt him now, given his track record.

Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles
Season numbers: .272 BA, 8 HR, .341 OBP, .747 OPS, 28 SB
Since June 9: .257 BA, 4 HR, .315 OBP, .712 OPS, 7 SB
Most of McLouth's numbers have sloped gently downward since his impossibly hot start, but the stolen bases have dropped a cliff. Unfortunately, they were the meat of his Fantasy value. His year-to-date ranking among outfielders in both Rotisserie (28th) and Head-to-Head (30th) leagues couldn't be more misleading.

Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, Mets
Season numbers: .275 BA, 10 HR, .307 OBP, .397 SLG, 14 SB
Since June 9: .268 BA, 6 HR, .298 OBP, .373 SLG, 13 SB
Remember how Murphy was one of the hottest claims off the waiver wire in April? He has managed to stay as productive as ever since then, ranking third at second base in Rotisserie leagues since June 9 despite declining percentages. The stolen bases have been a complete game-changer for him, so we can only hope they continue. His other numbers are pretty scary.

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Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers
Season numbers: 8-13, 4.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
Since June 9: 4-6, 3.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
Steady improvement is the expectation for rookies, so this process makes even more sense for someone like Peralta than for established veterans like Adam Dunn. As you can see, he's been far more useful over his last 13 starts than his 29 percent ownership would have you believe, outscoring both Jordan Zimmermann and Cliff Lee during that stretch.

Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
Season numbers: .280 BA, 11 HR, .410 SLG, .742 OPS
Since June 9: .311 BA, 7 HR, .480 SLG, .846 OPS
Well, that was predictable. Prado's strikeout and line-drive rates have been as good as ever this year, so it was only a matter of time before his batting average (and, consequently, his power) returned. Whether at second base (where he ranks fourth since June 9 in Head-to-Head leagues), third base or the outfield, you have no cause to bench Prado the rest of the way.

Alex Rios, OF, Rangers
Season numbers: .276 BA, 12 HR, .415 SLG, .740 OPS, 28 SB
Since June 9: .264 BA, 2 HR, .345 SLG, .646 OPS, 19 SB
A hot start has kept Fantasy owners believing Rios is the same well-rounded 20-20 threat he was last year, but since June 9, he's been little more than a steals specialist. Maybe that's enough to keep him 24th among outfielders in Rotisserie leagues during that stretch, but in Head-to-Head leagues, it puts him just 2 1/2 points ahead of Josh Hamilton.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
Season numbers: .230 BA, 18 HR, .425 SLG, .748 OPS
Since June 9: .204 BA, 8 HR, .368 SLG, .688 OPS
Rizzo's year-to-date numbers already don't look so hot, and it's not like the 24-year-old is making progress. Clearly, he still has some developing to do. The only thing keeping him respectable in Head-to-Head leagues since June 9 is an improved walk rate. In Rotisserie leagues, he ranks just 42nd at first base and belongs on the bench.

Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs
Season numbers: 7-11, 4.12 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
Since June 9: 4-4, 5.08 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
The good news is Samardzija still has electric stuff and has shown flashes of dominance in his 13 starts since June 9, including last time out against the Nationals. The bad news is, at age 28, he should be over these bouts of inconsistency. I wouldn't be shocked if he pitched like an ace down the stretch, but I wouldn't trust him just yet.

Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
Season numbers: .309 BA, 12 HR, .799 OPS, 36 SB
Since June 9: .278 BA, 3 HR, .673 OPS, 19 SB
On the surface, Segura's regression isn't such a big deal considering he's still the eighth-best shortstop in Head-to-Head leagues since June 9. I mean, you're obviously still starting him. But when you consider he's two spots behind the comparatively ordinary Erick Aybar during that stretch, you get a sense of just how far Segura has fallen. Good thing I gave up Hanley Ramirez and Hiroki Kuroda for him in a long-term keeper league in mid-June ...

Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox
Season numbers: .285 BA, 20 2B, 7 HR, 17 SB, .743 OPS
Since June 9: .284 BA, 16 2B, 5 HR, 13 SB, .763 OPS
Turns out all Victorino needed was a dose of good health. After fighting his hamstring early on, he's back to stealing bases and splitting gaps, making him 11th-best outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues and 16th-best in Rotisserie since June 9. That's more or less who he was in his glory days with the Phillies.

Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals
Season numbers: 14-7, 3.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
Since June 9: 6-4, 4.78 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.1 K/9
Two things strike me about Zimmermann's numbers since June 9. One, his strikeout rate has improved significantly, which is no surprise given how hard he throws. Two, he's not on the level of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, as so many tried to claim he was back in May. He's a solid, nearly-every-week starter in Fantasy, but closer to Justin Masterson than Justin Verlander.

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

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Player News
Reds move Brandon Phillips to top of order over Zack Cozart
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:25 pm ET) Red manager Bryan Price inserted second baseman Brandon Phillips into the leadoff spot for Friday's contest against the Indians. It's the first time since Sept. 25, 2014, he's at the top of the order.

Phillips bumped Zack Cozart to the No. 2 hole against right-hander Carlos Carrasco.

Phillips is hitting .357 (25 for 70) with two homers, 11 RBI and six walks over his last 19 games played. Cozart has just one hit over his last 16 at-bats.

Cincinnati is an underdog (+155) at Cleveland, per VegasInsider.com.


Blue Jays INF Munenori Kawasaki makes season debut on Friday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:24 pm ET) After just being recalled from Triple-A, Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki is in the starting lineup for Friday's game against the Mariners. Kawasaki is playing second base and batting ninth in manager John Gibbons' lineup.

In 23 games at Buffalo this season, Kawasaki was batting .222 (16 for 72) with four doubles and four stolen bases. Steve Tolleson will get the day off Friday after starting five straight games. 


Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson finally gets a day off Friday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:18 pm ET) Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson will get his first day off this season, as he is being held out of the lineup on Friday against the Mariners. Donaldson has hit well lately, batting .270 with two home runs and seven RBI over his last 10 games, batting solely out of the top two spots in the lineup.

It appears to just be a day of rest for Donaldson, who has started each of the team's first 43 games this year.

Danny Valencia will get the start at the hot corner, while Ezequiel Carrera will move up to the leadoff spot the batting order. 


Rays OF's Kevin Kiermaier, David DeJesus sit against lefty Friday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:09 pm ET) With the Rays facing a left-hander on Friday, manager Kevin Cash has loaded his lineup with right-handed swingers.

Outfielders Kevin Kiermaier and David DeJesus are being held out of the lineup against the A's. Kiermaier had started nine straight games for the Rays, but will take a seat on Friday, despite the fact he actually has a higher batting average against lefties (.267) than righties (.232).

DeJesus meanwhile has been on a tear lately. He's batting an even .400 (10 for 25) over his current seven-game hitting streak. But he's been heavily shielded against southpaws this season, having just three at-bats against left-handed pitching. 

Joey Butler will enter the lineup and bat fifth while playing left field. Brandon Guyer moves up to the leadoff spot and will play center field on Friday. 


Brewers RP Will Smith suspended eight games, will appeal
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:35 pm ET) Brewers left-hander Will Smith has been suspended eight games by Major League Baseball. Smith is being disciplined for having a foreign substance on his arm during Thursday's game against the Braves.

Smith will appeal the suspension, MLB announced, meaning he should be available for Friday's game. He was ejected from the game on Thursday in the seventh inning when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez noticed the substance and asked the officials for Smith's removal.


Manager: Rest, rehab possible for Rays SP Drew Smyly
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) Rays manager Kevin Cash has echoed the optimism expressed by Rays starter Drew Smyly in regard to the torn labrum that has the left-hander on the 60-day disabled list.

"There are so many different degrees to a shoulder issue," Cash told MLB Network Radio. "He met with doctors and rest and rehab is now a possibility."

Smyly is hopeful he can return to the mound at some point this season. He performed well in three starts before going down despite an 0-1 record, yielding just five runs on 10 hits in 16 2/3 innings while striking out 21.


Blue Jays want consistency from SP Daniel Norris at Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:22 pm ET) Blue Jays left-hander Daniel Norris could be close to returning to the Major Leagues. Norris was optioned to Triple-A on May 1 after allowing 10 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings over his first five starts with the Blue Jays this year. His 18:12 K:BB ratio didn't do him any favors either.

But in three starts at Buffalo, the rookie has a 2.50 ERA in three starts since his demotion. In his most recent start, Norris went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out nine. He will make his next start on Friday, according to SportsNet. The Blue Jays are looking for some consistency out of the young hurler before they decide to bring him back up.

“His last outing was pretty good, we just want to see that a couple of times, a few times maybe, for his own benefit. He needs that,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We’re looking to get him back. He got here so quick, he started to struggle, you want to make sure what you did by sending him down was worthwhile, that he’s regrouped enough, instead of rushing him back. If he’s not quite ready yet, then you’re back to square one again.”


A's place Edward Mujica on DL, promote infielder Andy Parrino
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:20 pm ET) As expected, the Athletics placed reliever Edward Mujica on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a fractured thumb. Mujica suffered the injury during Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Rays. He held a 3.32 ERA at the time of the injury.

In a corresponding move, Oakland selected the contract of infielder Andy Parrino from Triple-A Nashville. Parrino hit .273 (38 for 139) with six doubles, two triples, four homers, 12 RBI, 20 walks and 43 strikeouts in 38 games at Triple-A this season.

The A's also added Tyler Ladendorf (ankle) to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.


Blue Jays manager says Jose Reyes' injury is 'all behind him'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:13 pm ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has confirmed that shortstop Jose Reyes will travel back to the team on Sunday and return from the disabled list and play Monday against the White Sox. Gibbons told MLB Network Radio "It looks like the injury is all behind him".

Reyes is currently on a rehab assignment has he is recovering from a fractured rib. He played on Thursday, and is expected to play Friday and Saturday before rejoining the club in Toronto. 


Dodgers C Yasmani Grandal still reaching base consistently
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:03 pm ET) Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal is on an interesting run. He has gotten at least one hit in every other game since May 8 and is hitless in the others.

The bottom line is a 7-for-28 stretch that has lowered his batting average from .307 to a still-strong .287. Grandal has been among the pleasant surprises for the Dodgers with a fine .402 on-base percentage. He has 20 walks in 101 at-bats.


 
 
 
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