Fantasy managers who have given up on their teams are failing to appreciate the ebbs and flows of the long Major League season. Sure, things may seem bleak right now, but many players are going to experience massive upticks in their production during the second half of the campaign. Don’t believe me? Let’s look back to 2021, identify some of last year’s second-half surgers and search for players who could have a similar jump during the final months of 2022.
Paul Goldschmidt appeared to be aging gracefully when he hit .265 with 13 homers and a .767 OPS in the first half of 2021. But he returned to his glory days in the second half, batting .330 with 18 big flies and a 1.020 OPS that ranked third among qualified hitters. Goldschmidt was 33 at the start of last season’s second half, and he was on the downside of his career after several years near the top of the fantasy landscape. Of course, he has carried his late-season success into 2022, where he has been one of the top assets.
2022 Version: George Springer is a couple months away from his 33rd birthday and is having a good-but-not-special season. The Blue Jays table-setter has produced an .812 OPS thus far, but we have seen much better performances from him, including a .907 OPS last year and a .974 OPS in the 2019 season. The good news is that Springer is running the bases more aggressively (and better) than in recent years, having already gone 9-for-10 in steal attempts. In a perfect world, Springer continues to swipe bags while upping his power game and leading the Majors in second-half runs scored.
Juan Soto was slightly disappointing in the first half of last season (.851 OPS, 11 HR, 42 RBIs) before posting the second-highest OPS (1.164) after the All-Star break of any qualified player.
2022 Version: Soto was a surefire star who wasn’t terrible in the first half of 2021 but left managers wanting for more. The comparable for this season is obvious — it’s Soto for a second straight year. Last year, he rose above the rubble of a retooling Nats lineup to present his case as baseball’s best hitter in the second half. He can do the same thing this year. The 23-year-old has been good to this point (.892 OPS, 19 HR, 41 RBI) but there is potential for him to be a top-5 player after the break, despite being part of a lineup that will likely be even weaker on August 1 than it is right now.
Jonathan India struggled during the first two months of his rookie season before finding his groove in June, taking off in July, and continuing from there. India hit 15 of his 21 homers after the All-Star break and ranked fourth in baseball in 56 second-half runs scored.
2022 Version: Alek Thomas may not match India’s second-half production from a year ago, but he could have a similar trajectory, where he gains steam throughout his rookie season and really finds his footing during the summer. Thomas has held his own thus far (.725 OPS), and his power-speed mix makes him someone who could be especially valuable if he can post an .800 OPS in the second half.
A 29-year-old career Minor Leaguer who was having a good season in Triple-A, Frank Schwindel came out of nowhere after the trade deadline, collecting 13 homers, 40 RBIs and 42 runs scored down the stretch.
2022 Version: I couldn’t find a perfect match in terms of position and skill set, but Stone Garrett is a name to remember. The 26-year-old outfielder is a forgotten man on prospect lists but has an impressive power-speed blend and thus far in 2022 has logged a .946 OPS in Triple-A. D-backs outfielder David Peralta is heading into free agency and should be traded this month. If Arizona gives Garrett a chance to replace Peralta in their outfield, he could come out of nowhere to become mixed-league relevant.
Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano reached the 2021 All-Star break with just seven saves before ranking third in baseball with 16 saves in the second half. He also won three games down the stretch.
2022 Version: Paul Sewald has been emerging in a crowded Mariners bullpen. The right-hander collected zero saves in April, two in May, six in June and four so far in July. He could become the full-time closer in the second half and rank among the saves leaders. Sewald also has the skills to produce a substantial strikeout total.
Max Scherzer was having a good year with the Nats before taking off as a member of the Dodgers, going 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP across 11 starts.
2022 Version: Kevin Gausman can’t match Scherzer in terms of age, but he is a highly-regarded starter who could go from good to great in the second half. The Blue Jays right-hander has managed to post a 2.86 ERA despite dealing with a .372 BABIP. With improved luck, Gausman, who has an outstanding 1.55 FIP, could be the No. 1 fantasy starter post All-Star break.
In his age-39 season, Adam Wainwright was effective during the first half (7-5, 3.58 ERA) before leading the Majors with 10 second-half wins and posting a 2.50 ERA over that stretch.
2022 Version: Could Wainwright pull off the feat for a second straight year? The possibility is obvious, as he has been solid so far in 2022 (6-7, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) despite dealing with a year-over-year BABIP jump of 37 points. With a little more batted-ball luck and the support of a Cardinals lineup that ranks eighth in baseball in runs scored, Waino could again be an unexpected ace down the stretch.