Fantasy Baseball 1st Half Reactions: AL West


Jun 17, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels outfielder

Mike Trout

(left) and first baseman

Albert Pujols

in the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks during an interleague game at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With regular season games taking a backseat to All-Star festivities until Friday, I think it is an interesting exercise to identify certain events or players that have caught your attention so far this season. Some guys may have disappointed or surprised you, but taking note of your reactions can be a benefit as the season progresses or for future seasons to come.

We will go division by division throughout the week, up until we get back to regular season action, and back to the grind of the regular season. This piece will highlight the AL West.

Here are my reactions to the AL East, AL Central and NL East, NL Central.

AL West

Los Angles Angels- Even though they sit atop the AL West at the break, the Angels season has largely been so-so to say the least. While their star players have performed above and beyond what was expected, they have gotten little help from the supporting cast both in the rotation and lineup. The Angels lineup is extraordinary top-heavy as the combinations of Matt Joyce, David Freese, C.J. Cron and Chris Iannetta, have all left something to desire as their struggles have really weighed down the incredible start the middle of the order has had.

Teams rely on their star players of course, and the Angels are no different, as they depend largely on the production from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to carry the offense. Mike Trout is a joke, he makes baseball look way to easy and just looks like he belongs in a league all by himself, I would say that his .312/26 HR/55 RBI/nine SB are surprising, but are you shocked by anything this guy can do?

Instead of taking the Trout route in terms my fantasy reaction, I would rather look to the start that Albert Pujols has gotten off too. Pujols seemed to be on the down, yet still productive, side of his career as he was battling father time and nagging injuries. He is without a doubt one of the greatest hitters of all time, but I never thought Pujols would resemble the offensive threat he has so far. He currently has a .255/26 HR/56 RBI line that mirrors his prime power status in St. Louis. 

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Albert was not being drafted in first round like used to be, yet he is producing first-round stats at a discounted investment, something all fantasy owners seek out to do. Pujols looks as though he is prime to eclipse the 30+ HR mark for the first time since 2011.

Honorable Mentions: Hector Santiago’s out of nowhere start and Matt Shoemaker’s struggles

Houston Astros- Along with the Twins, the Astros have been one of the biggest surprises this far, as they are contending well before anyone though they would. They were largely in the lead of the West before a late skid has seen them cough up the lead, but at the break the Astros have a great opportunity to make the playoffs. They have one of the youngest, up and coming teams in baseball and their unique “all or nothing” approach has certainly made them interesting in fantasy as well.

The Astros are an interesting team in fantasy because most of their players usually bring a unique skill set to the table. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa are the closest things to balanced players that the Astros have, making all of their other offensive options one trick ponies. They may strike out a ton, but their speed and power plays and has been the cause for their success so far.

In terms of the rotation, the Astros are top-heavy as they have about three guys that can consistently give them a chance to win on a daily basis. Even with the emergence of Lance McCullers, my first half reaction has to be towards the season Dallas Keuchel is having. Keuchel just started the All-Star game for the AL, and even though he had a breakout season in 2014, no one saw him taking a leap like he has so far. He sits at the break with 11 Wins, 114 K’s, a 2.23 ERA and a microscopic 1.00 ERA. Making him one of the more unsung aces from the 2015 draft.

Honorable Mentions: Luis Valbuena’s interesting season and Collin McHugh’s inconsistency

Texas Rangers- The Rangers find themselves in third at the break and currently four games under .500, but only six games back from the Angels. The way the season started though, their record is quite surprising as they were able to turn around a disastrous start. With Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez all missing extended amounts of time, we all knew that pitching was going to be tough for the Rangers to find in 2015.

Their offense has been pretty solid though even without some key contributors not producing. We all know what Prince Fielder is capable of and a rebound was bound to happen and it seems as though 2015 is that year. He has posted MVP caliber type of numbers and has anchored the Rangers offense so far this season.

Even with the phenomenal season Prince is having, I think all fantasy owners know that there is a certain someone who has basically been non-existent so far this season. Adrian Beltre has been one of the most consistent and reliable producers in fantasy for years now and he will eventually find himself in Cooperstown as a result. But his 2015 has been a disaster, as his .255/7 HR/22 RBI hardly speak to his abilities. He has battled a thumb injury and they may be still the cause for his slump, but that does not help fantasy owners who invested a high round pick.

Honorable Mention: Yovani Gallardo turning back the clock and Shawn Tolleson‘s emergence   

Seattle Mariners- Like the Indians, many experts were clamoring that the Mariners could be a potential World Series favorite in 2015. Those expectations may have been a little too high, as the Mariners sit fourth in the division and seven games below .500. The Mariners have so much talent on both sides of the ball that it is hard to imagine that they would come out of the gates so slow, but as they say “you are what your record says you are”. 

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Pitching wise the Mariners have lacked consistency in the rotation and the bullpen. Felix Hernandez has been his usual self, but the other pieces have just not fallen into place. Taijuan Walker has tantalizing skill, but he still has not taken that next step where his talents all come together, James Paxton is down with a thumb injury and Hisashi Iwakuma has struggled in his return.

The real first-half story of the Mariners has to be the offense, which has been the Nelson Cruz show. Cruz came out of the gates looking like Babe Ruth, and he has carried the Mariners offense all year. The main fantasy headline from Seattle has to be the disappearance of Robinson Cano. Cano is way too good of a hitter to post a .251/six HR/30 RBI line. He has shown some glimpses recently of turning it around, but fantasy owner have whiffed big time so far in their investment in Cano.

Honorable Mentions: Fernando Rodney’s collapse and Mike Montgomery’s emergence

Oakland A’s- The A’s sit in the dweller of the AL West as they have struggled all year to play consistent baseball on nearly all fronts. No matter what the sabermetrics or run differentials say, it does not change Oakland’s record at the break. Billy Beane is a revolutionary mind no doubt, but his decision to trade Josh Donaldson before the season is something I still cannot wrap my head around even at the All-Star break, but I digress.

The A’s have some decent pieces that could very well go together with an addition at the trade deadline to formulate an even better team, unfortunately that will not be the case as the A’s will probably be sellers. Sonny Gray is a bad dude plain and simple, and his emergence as one of the top 5 pitchers in the AL, does not come at a surprise. My first half reaction though, is focused on the out of nowhere catcher that has really been a fantasy god send.

All-Star, Stephen Vogt, materialized out of the blue to step in and be one of the best offensive C’s at the break. His .287/14 HR/56 RBI line ranks him amongst the top five at the position, proving the adage to “never reach for a catcher”. Vogt has been a stud all year and really has been the one of the only consistent offensive fantasy contributors on the team. For those owners that picked him up early on, it does not get better that an undrafted FA turning into absolute fantasy gold.

Honorable Mentions: Billy Burns emergence and Scott Kazmir’s continued success.