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Fantasy Baseball Risers, Fallers: First-Half Pitchers

July 14, 2017
The start of the second half of the MLB season begins July 14, and there has already been a significant trade. The Chicago Cubs acquired left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox for minor league prospects July 13. 

This is a big deal for owners who participate in league-only formats, as Quintana is now a prime target on the waiver wire for those in a National League-only league, and he is out of the player pool in American League-only formats. 

The 28-year-old hasn't pitched to his capabilities this season, with a 4.49 ERA, but he has been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball during the past four seasons and will look to bounce back with a change of scenery. This trade is our reminder that we are approaching the trade deadline in a couple of weeks and fantasy owners need to be prepared that anything could happen.


Three Up:

1. Kansas City Royals Starting Pitcher Jason Vargas -- The last time the 34-year-old started at least 10 games in a season was in 2014, and he finished that season with a 3.71 ERA. For his career, the left-hander has a 4.05 ERA but finds himself ranked third in the majors with a 2.62 ERA. The veteran has been consistent all season, which led me to label him a sell-high candidate in May. However, he has continued to pitch well, which makes me wonder if he's just having a magical season. I will point out that Vargas did allow six earned in his last start July 5, so owners have to monitor if that was the start of him coming back to earth. Vargas was a waiver-wire target, so those who scooped him up have benefited for much of the season.

2. Minnesota Twins Starting Pitcher Ervin Santana -- Like Vargas, Santana has had a resurgence at 34. The veteran pitched to a 2.99 ERA during the first half of the season after finishing with a 4.00 ERA two seasons ago. The right-hander isn't an elite strikeout pitcher, but has been solid enough to help fantasy owners. Santana looked like he was regressing when he allowed at least five earned runs in four June starts, but he bounced back during his final start before the break July 5, pitching nine innings and allowing two earned runs. Santana is a perfect back-of-the-rotation guy in fantasy and should continue to help fantasy owners, even if he does have a couple of struggles along the way.

3. Colorado Rockies Closer Greg Holland -- The right-hander leads the majors in saves with 28, but he was being drafted 226th overall in March, according FantasyPros.com. Holland was coming off Tommy John surgery and it wasn't a given he would become the closer for the Rockies in spring training. However, those who trusted that Holland would return to being one of the game's elite closers and took a flyer on the veteran are being rewarded big time. I think Holland continues to be dominant, as he has allowed six earned runs all season, and fantasy owners will be happy they took a gamble in March.

Three Down:

1. New York Yankees Starting Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka -- The right-hander was being taken as a top 20 starting pitcher in March but has disappointed all season. Tanaka finished the first half with a 5.47 ERA and 1.37 WHIP and is tied for fourth in most earned runs allowed. The frustrating part with the 28-year-old is that he has dominant starts. Unfortunately, there have been too many starts that have resulted in five runs or more and it's extremely difficult for fantasy owners to trust him moving forward.

2. Detroit Tigers Starting Pitcher Justin Verlander -- Drafted as the ninth starting pitcher in March, according to FantasyPros.com, the veteran has let fantasy owners down for much of the season. Verlander finished the first half with a 4.73 ERA and 1.52 WHIP,  which is as bad as it gets from a former Cy Young Award winner. The 34-year-old has been on the decline for the past few seasons, but he bounced back in 2016, which led many fantasy owners to overvalue him. This is a good lesson to learn. Even though a veteran shows signs of life, he is on the decline and owners should avoid him, especially when he is being drafted so high.

3. San Francisco Giants Starting Pitcher Johnny Cueto -- Like Verlander, Cueto was taken as a top 15 starting pitcher and hasn't come close to performing at that level. The 31-year-old pitched to a 4.51 ERA and 1.37 WHIP during the first half of the season and allowed six earned runs in his final start before the break. It was only last season that the right-hander finished the year with a 2.79 ERA, so his performance this season is extremely frustrating and unexpected. Not since 2009 has Cueto finished the year with an ERA higher than 4.00, so this is baffling. Cueto could be traded at the deadline, so that is something to monitor, but the only thing fantasy owners can do now is hope a bounce-back is coming.