- Reds ace Luis Castillo enters the second half as a legitimate contender for the NL Cy Young Award, and will try to further his push with two starts this upcoming week.
The SI.com Fantasy Baseball Table Setter gets you ready for the week ahead with a focus on the hitters and pitchers who deserve extra attention in the coming days, and all the schedule details you need to get your lineups set for this week’s games.
Pitchers to Watch
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs
Hendricks made two starts leading up to the All-Star break after spending about three weeks on the IL with shoulder inflammation. The Cubs held him to a strict pitch limit in those outings, with the righty throwing 55 pitches in his first start back, and 86 in his second. There shouldn’t be any restrictions on him when he takes the ball against the Reds on Monday. Hendricks goes into the second half of the season with a 3.49 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 85 strikeouts against 19 walks in 95 1/3 innings.
Luis Castillo, Reds
Castillo just put together the best half season of his young career and goes into the second half as a legitimate contender for the NL Cy Young Award. He’ll make his first start of the second half against the Cubs on Monday, opposing Hendricks. He’s slated for a second start in the week, facing the Cardinals on Saturday. Fresh off his first career All-Star Game, Castillo kicks off the second half with a 2.29 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 124 strikeouts in 106 innings.
Lucas Giolito, White Sox
Speaking of first career All-Star appearances, Giolito was one of the biggest stories of the first half, turning into the ace so many projected him to be since his first days of professional ball. He was the best pitcher in the majors for a six-week stretch from May 7 through June 14, during which he pitched to a 0.94 ERA and 0.75 WHIP with 65 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings, winning all eight of his starts. He hit a couple of rough patches in two starts against the Cubs just before the break, but that didn’t put a damper on his breakout first half. Giolito is scheduled for two starts this week, taking on the Royals on Monday and Rays on Saturday.
Zach Wheeler, Mets
Each start Wheeler makes for the Mets could be his last for the team, with the righty expected to be among the most popular trade targets over the next few weeks. He had a rough first half, amassing a 4.69 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 130 strikeouts in 119 innings, but the upside is such that he’d command a big return on the trade market. He’ll first take the ball in the second half against the Twins on Tuesday. If Wheeler is still in a Mets uniform over the weekend, he’ll face the Giants on Sunday.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw may not be the dominant ace he once was, but he earned every bit of his eighth trip to the All-Star Game. The 31-year-old had a 3.09 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 91 strikeouts against 16 walks in 99 innings in the first half, helping the Dodgers to the best record in baseball. Kershaw will get two starts this week, facing the Phillies on Monday and Marlins on Saturday.
Hitters to Watch
Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers
What better way to reset for the second half than by looking at the top MVP candidates to both leagues? We’ll start in the NL, where Yelich has a bead on consecutive MVPs, which would make him the first player to do so since Miguel Cabrera won the AL award in 2012 and 2013. He’d be the first person to do it in the NL since Albert Pujols achieved the feat in 2008 and 2009. Yelich is first in the majors with 31 homers, a .707 slugging percentage and a 1.140 OPS. He’s first in the NL with a .433 OBP. The next two guys are right on his heels, but Yelich has to be considered the favorite to win the NL MVP as the second half begins.
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers
Bellinger was just behind Yelich in all meaningful stats going in the first half, hitting .336/.432/.692 with 30 homers and 71 RBI. Thanks to the ballpark adjustment factor in OPS+, he leads the majors in that metric, putting up a 191 to Yelich’s 188. If anyone is going to knock off Yelich for the NL MVP this year, Bellinger is the favorite to do so. Remember, there’s still a subset of voters that accounts for team success in individual awards for some reason, and that could help out Bellinger with the Dodgers racing to another NL West title. However, there’s one more player firmly in the mix.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
Yelich and Bellinger got all the attention in the first half, but Freeman was nearly as good. The 29-year-old led the NL with 110 hits and slashed .309/.394/.584 with 23 homers, 25 doubles and 68 RBI. He’s clearly trailing the other two and will need a special second half to get ahead of them, but we know he has that club in his bag. Plus, like Bellinger, he’s playing on a first-place team that could end up running away with the division.
Mike Trout, OF, Angels
Moving over the AL, the award is clearly Trout’s to lose, as it is every year. That remains true even with the Angels sitting comfortably out of the postseason picture. Trout had a ridiculous first half, hitting .301/.453/.646 with 28 homers and 67 RBI. He led the majors in OBP and walks, and the AL in homers, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. The Angels could lose every game for the rest of the season, and so long as Trout remained on this trajectory, he’d be worthy of being the unanimous MVP.
Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Astros
With all due respect to D.J. LeMahieu, he has only a slightly better chance to win the AL MVP than I do. If anyone overtakes Trout, my money is on Bregman. He hit .265/.393/.533 with 23 homers and 56 RBI in the first half, all while being the stabilizing force for one of the best teams in the league. Bregman is still light years away from catching Trout, but if the latter cools just a bit and the former heats up while helping the Astros to another 100-win season, the voters could certainly be swayed. It wouldn’t be the first (or second, or even third) time they denied Trout the honor he clearly earned.
Two-start pitchers (listed alphabetically by team)
Alex Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
Max Fried, Atlanta Braves
Bryse Wilson, Atlanta Braves
Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox
Andrew Cashner, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox
Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
Anthony DeSclafani, Cincinnati Reds
Zach Pleasc, Cleveland Indians
Adam Plutko, Cleveland Indians
German Marquez, Colorado Rockies
Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers
Brad Peacock, Houston Astros
Jakob Junis, Kansas City Royals
Glenn Sparkman, Kansas City Royals
Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels
Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jordan Yamamoto, Miami Marlins
Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers
Adrian Houser, Milwaukee Brewers
Martín Perez, Minnesota Twins
Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
James Paxton, New York Yankees
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
Tanner Anderson, Oakland A’s
Zach Eflin, Philadelphia Phillies
Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies
Joe Musgrove, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drew Pomeranz, San Francisco Giants
Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Trent Thornton, Toronto Blue Jays
Teams playing eight games: Giants
Teams playing seven games: Braves, Red Sox, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Rockies, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals, Rays, Blue Jays
Teams playing six games: Diamondbacks, Cubs, Marlins, Twins, Mets, A’s, Pirates, Padres, Nationals
Teams playing five games: Orioles, Mariners, Rangers