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Predicting Second Half Improvement in Top 100 Players

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Looking back at NFBC average draft position from March, plenty of players in the top 100 look like busts for one reason or another. Keston Hiura can’t hit. Jesus Luzardo just hasn’t been able to put anything together, as a starter or a reliever. Trevor Bauer [Just choose your own adventure on this one, folks. I’m not touching it]. But plenty of players, for one reason or another, simply have not lived up to expectations and do not project for improvement in the second half of the season.


Here is a list of 10 players drafted in the top 100 who I do expect to perform better in the second half than they did in the first half. Players like Mike Trout, George Springer, and Michael Conforto, who have an obvious injury excuse, are excluded.


Let’s make it a game. I’ll state which of the main fantasy stats I expect to be better in the second half, and then score it all in October.


*Note: Lines listed are statistics accumulated through June. July numbers, though they have already accumulated, will be counted for the second half.


Juan Soto (ADP: 3rd) – First Half: 45 R, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 5 SB, .280 BA.

These are not bad numbers, but we expected more out of Soto at 3rd overall. Everything under the hood looks good. Barrel rate is down a little, but maxEV and hard hit rate are career bests. A power surge is coming.


- Prediction: I’ll take the over on all five categories in the second half.



Mookie Betts (ADP: 4th) – First Half: 48 R, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 7 SB, .249BA.

Like Soto, not a bad line, but not what we expected. At some point, Betts will turn off the auto-pilot and kick it in gear.


- Prediction: I’ll take the over on all five categories in the second half.



Bryce Harper (ADP: 16th) – First Half: 39 R, 13 HR, 23 RBI, 7 SB, .278 BA.

Nothing to be concerned about here. Harper simply hasn’t hit with runners in scoring position. That will not last.


- Prediction: Harper will beat first half R, HR, and RBI.



Lucas Giolito (ADP: 18th) – First Half: 6 W, 0 SV, 111 K, 3.84 ERA, 1.10 WHIP.

The general feeling is that Giolito has been a disappointment, but his line is disproportionately affected negatively by small handful of mediocre starts and a 7 earned run disaster on April 19. On the whole, Giolito has been good. The 10.67 K/9 in the first half is lower than we expect, but in June he struck out 15.43 per nine! Look for a much better second half now that he is settling in.


- Prediction: Giolito beats his first half win total, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.



Francisco Lindor (ADP: 19th) – First Half: 40 R, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 6 SB, .215 BA.

Was it the big contract? New surroundings? All I know is Francisco Lindor has been better than this for over half of a decade. Everything about his 2021 so far screams for positive regression. Dude is going to go on a tear in the second half.


- Prediction: I’ll take the over on all five categories in the second half.



Luis Castillo (ADP: 28th) – First Half: 3 W, 0 SV, 80 K, 5.14 ERA, 1.48 WHIP.

This one is a little unfair as Castillo is off to a great start in July only 2 earned runs over 12.1 innings. Still, with a career-worst strikeout rate, walk rate, and swinging strike rate, there is cause for concern. The track record is such, however, that I’ll bet on improvement in the second half in the ratios. And three wins is a fluky total no matter how poorly he is pitching.


- Prediction: Castillo beats his first ERA, WHIP, and win total.



Blake Snell (ADP: 43rd) – First Half: 3 W, 0 SV, 90 K, 5.29 ERA, 1.55 WHIP.

Hoo boy, were the expectations high when Snell went to San Diego! What is going on here? Sure, the surface numbers are bad, but Snell has his worst SIERA in four years, worst FIP in five years, worst walk rate of his career, lowest swinging strike rate in four years, and highest (i.e. worst) barrel rate of his career. This one almost feels unfair because everything that can go wrong seems to be going wrong already. But if you drafted Blake Snell as a top 50 starter and held him this long, you have to believe it can’t get any worse.


- Prediction: Snell beats his first half in win total, ERA, and WHIP.



Alex Bregman (ADP 44th) – First Half: 37 R, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB, .275 BA.

Bregman has had a few injury issues, and is currently on the IL (quadriceps), but should return soon. The odd thing about Bregman’s underlying metrics is that very little in his batted ball data stands out, and that applies to his entire career. He has never had a high barrel rate, or an outstanding hard hit rate, or overly impressive average or max exit velocities, even when he hit 41 home runs in 2019. Still, even with a lackluster first half, Bregman is still a good hitter. Even though his 120 wRC+ is his lowest since his debut season, it's still respectable. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t improve in the second half.


- Prediction: I’ll take the over on all five categories in the second half.



Kenta Maeda (ADP: 48th) – First Half: 3 W, 0 SV, 54 K, 5.56 ERA, 1.55 WHIP

We should all concede at this point that Maeda was overdrafted in the top 50, but come on. He is not this bad. Though Maeda ended June with a 7 earned run clunker against the White Sox, he started July with 11 shutout innings and 17 strikeouts across two starts. I’ll say Maeda improves across the board.


- Prediction: Maeda beats his first half in win total, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.



Brandon Lowe (ADP: 61st) – First Half: 41 R, 16 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB, .205 BA.

It is no secret that I am a big Brandon Lowe supporter. In terms of counting stats, Lowe is right where I expected. It’s the batting average that hurts. Fueled by a career-worst BABIP (.244) and a high strikeout rate (32.2%), the first half batting average was abysmal. But that is who Lowe is. His contact rate (66.9%) is actually a tick higher than his career rate, and though that 32.2% strikeout rate is quite bad, he hit .270 in 2019 with an even worse strikeout rate (34.6%). Wild swings in BABIP can do that. I have to think one of those wild swings is coming and Lowe can keep the current counting stat pace while hitting between .240 and .250 the rest of the way.


- Prediction: Lowe beats first half batting average.




By my count, that is 39 statistical predictions across 10 players. We’ll score it in October.



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