The All Star break is known as the unofficial halfway point of the MLB season. Players and management use this time to look forward and prepare for the second half of the year. Some teams look to trade to get rental players for a playoff push, others are seeking prospects to build a future around. After the All Star break is always very exciting, and this year is no exception. Here are five things to watch for in the second half.
1. Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera has been sidelined since the first week of July with a calf strain, and is receiving regular treatments. He is expected to miss another three weeks assuming the recovery goes smoothly. This is the first time the Tigers’ star has been on the Disabled List in his career, and we will have to see how he bounces back from this injury. Cabrera has 15 home runs and 54 RBI which reflects his Major League best .350 batting average.
The rookie class of 2015 has been very strong in the first half of the year. Home Run Derby finalist Joc Pederson (20 HR, 40 RBI) is just as solid out in the field as he is in the box. Cubs star Kris Bryant had a less impressive Derby than Joc, but still has solid numbers (12 HR, 51 RBI). #1 prospect Carlos Correa is hitting .290 in 35 games with 23 RBI. Noah “Thor” Syndergaard is a respectable 4-5 racking up an impressive 78 strikeouts (average of 6.5 strikeouts per start). Steven Souza Jr. of the Rays has knocked out 15 home runs, and Twins prospect Byron Buxton has high expectations once his injury has healed.
3. Bryce Harper
Despite his slow start, Bryce Harper is lighting up the National League. His 27 homers is good enough to give him a share of the league lead with Giancarlo Stanton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. He is also third in NL batting average (.337), fourth in RBI (64) and leads all of the MLB in Wins Above Replacement (6.5). WAR is a new advanced statistic that displays a player’s total contribution to their team. In short, Bryce Harper is the player earning his team the most wins. Hard to believe he is swinging the bat like this considering he has not hit batting practice in about four months. If Harper can continue at this pace, he will definitely be a top contender for NL MVP.
Every year trade rumours fly around once the dust settles after the All Star Game. Pitchers appear to be a hot commodity as rumours fly around Reds starter Johnny Cueto and flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. Phillies starter Cole Hamels expects to be moved in the near future, and his teammate Jonathan Papelbon has been requesting a trade for weeks. A few teams have shown interest in White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija and Rockies closer (CANADIAN) John Axford. Padres speedy outfielder Justin Upton is rumoured to be on the block, as well as Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig due to his growing unpopularity among is teammates. Only time will tell who gets moved and where.
31 year old Zack Greinke is the toughest pitcher to face in the Major Leagues as of right now. He has pitched 43 2/3 straight innings without giving up a single run, picking up 47 strikeouts along the way. His performances earned him a third appearance and his first All Star Game start of his career. Greinke’s 9-2 record and MLB-best 1.30 ERA has helped the Dodgers claim top spot in the NL West division. It will be fun to watch how long the LA ace can keep the streak going and how he will continue to pitch later on into the season.