Monday, July 14, 2008

The Buzz Around the Bullpen: Liriano Is Ready to Anchor Your Staff in the Second Half

Welcome back to another edition of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. Because we are heading into an abbreviated fantasy week, the Buzz like the rest of baseball will be taking it a little easy. However, I’d like to give you a couple of players that I like not just for this week, but for the start of the second half of the season.

Before we talk about a couple of these players, I’d like to take a minute to vent about the MLB All-Star Game. It continues to amaze me that Major League Baseball puts such weight on the mid-summer classic. As I’m sure you all are aware of, the league that wins the All-Star Game is awarded with home-field advantage for the World Series. Just for a second think of this scenario.

The Cubbies stay hot through the second half and find themselves in contention for their first World Series title in 100 years. In the American League, the Rays rebound from their recent struggles and continue their improbable run all the way into the World Series. The Cubbies were the top seed from the NL and the Rays were the bottom seed from the AL.

Now fast forward even a little further. It is now Game 7 of the World Series and Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs are on the road at Tropicana Field despite having a better regular season record than the Rays. The reason why…because the AL pulled out yet another victory in the All-Star game.

If that isn’t illogical enough, the players that are starting in this game are chosen by the fans. While I’d love to believe that everyone that voted was well-informed, at times it seems like it is nothing more than a popularity contest. Although the fans did get some of the starters right, there are several players that should not even be on the team let alone starting. I believe MLB needs to make some changes to their current system. The fan vote should count for something but it should not be the deciding factor. I’d argue that we could even call it the Kosuke Fukudome rule. There just doesn’t seem to be anything special about hitting .280, with 7 HRs, 36 RBIs and 8 SBs.

Now that I’ve expressed my distain with the All-Star game, let’s talk about some players that could help you to start the second-half.

Second-Half Studs

Francisco Liriano (SP, Minnesota Twins): I can’t say it enough. I love this guy in the second half. If you can get him, do it immediately because once he makes a couple starts in the bigs, his price tag will go up in a hurry.

Jonathan Broxton (RP, Los Angeles Dodgers): It doesn’t sound too good for Saito. You have to love the opportunity he might have to put up some save numbers.

Adam LaRoche (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates): It’s starting to look like LaRoche is slowly remembering how to hit a baseball. Look for a repeat of last year’s strong second-half. Maybe next year LaRoche should just skip March-June.

Adam Jones (OF, Baltimore Orioles): He’s starting to get a hang of this whole Major League Baseball thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes with around 15-20 HRs

Evan Longoria (3B, Tampa Bay Rays): He’s only going to get better. That’s scary.

Gio Gonzalez (SP, Oakland A’s): Another young Oakland pitching stud. The recent trade with the Cubs paved the way for a second-half call-up.

J.J. Hardy (SS, Milwaukee Brewers): His latest hot streak has everyone believing this is the player he truly is. His early season struggles look to be over. He is going to be an integral player in the second-half as the Brew Crew make a second-half push for the Central Division.

A.J. Burnett (SP, Toronto Blue Jays): He plays for the Jays now but don’t expect to see him in that uniform come early August. Although the Jays are hovering around .500, I believe they are going to get an offer they can’t refuse. He will be the guy that teams will be vying to trade for in the last days before the deadline. I look for a contender to overpay but this is good news for his fantasy owners. If he can stay healthy, look for Burnett to benefit from a trade to a better team.

As with any SportsJudge articles, please feel free to post any questions or comments. Until next time, keep your ears open for the Buzz Around the Bullpen.

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