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Familiar names in first-half fantasy awards

July 13, 2016

The All-Star break affords fantasy owners a terrific opportunity to take a deep breath and analyze their teams through this point in the season. As we saw during the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, baseball is hopping with all types of tremendous talent. The following players have stood out as

The All-Star break affords fantasy owners a terrific opportunity to take a deep breath and analyze their teams through this point in the season. As we saw during the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, baseball is hopping with all types of tremendous talent. The following players have stood out as some of the season's most exemplary performers, and their efforts have made them winners of our first-half fantasy awards.
American League MVP Award
José Altuve: By ripping 14 roundtrippers in the first half, Altuve has alleviated concerns that he might not sustain the power that resulted in a 15-homer season a year ago. On pace for his second 40-steal campaign, third straight 200-hit effort and first 100-run campaign, the second baseman could be the top pick in some 2017 drafts.
National League MVP Award
Clayton Kershaw: Despite making his final pre-All-Star break appearance on June 26, Kershaw easily paced the National League in first-half production. Not even a sore back -- experienced for part of June -- could keep the left-hander from posting video-game ratios (1.79 ERA, 0.73 WHIP) across 16 starts. With a 1.90 ERA and 0.86 WHIP since the outset of 2013, Kershaw is arguably more reliable than any hitter in fantasy.

AL Cy Young Award
Chris Sale: Faced with a bevy of deep lineups, AL starters as a whole have seen their NL counterparts take many of the pitching headlines this year. Sale was the best of the bunch, though, as he rode a hot start to impressive numbers (14 wins, 3.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) and a spot on this list (over Cleveland's dynamic duo of Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar). But to remain the Junior Circuit's best, the southpaw will have to reverse a declining trend that resulted in a 5.56 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP since May 24.

NL Cy Young Award
Kershaw: Surprise, surprise. When someone pitches well enough to win an MVP Award, he is going to run away with the Cy Young Award. Whereas a healthy Kershaw is a virtual lock to hold this spot all season, he will need a rapid return to the mound to avoid being surpassed by Madison Bumgarner. With a 1.94 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 146 strikeouts, the Giants' ace has clearly been the best hurler outside Chavez Ravine.
AL Rookie of the Year Award
Nomar Mazara: Even with his blue-chip-prospect pedigree, Mazara was not expected to debut as a 20-year-old on April 10. Hitting .282 with 11 homers in 305 at-bats, the youngster has shown few signs of being overwhelmed by veteran hurlers. Although Mazara does not possess a speed element, he has a premium lineup spot in a good offense and should remain a mixed-league asset all year.

NL Rookie of the Year Award
Trevor Story: After going undrafted in many mixed leagues, Story tied superstars Dave Kingman and Albert Pujols for the most first-half homers (21) by an NL rookie. And despite a much higher OPS (.965) at home than on the road (.788), the shortstop has nonetheless recorded more homers and RBIs away from Coors Field. Even with room to improve in the plate-discipline department (29 walks, 114 K's), Story should use his fly-ball-heavy approach and hitter-friendly venue to provide ample power down the stretch.

AL bounceback player
Ian Desmond: After hitting .233 last season, Desmond is raking at a .322 clip this year. Given the influx of base knocks, he is on pace to surpass last year's runs and RBIs totals by the end of July and set career bests in homers and steals. But said projections aside, the 30-year-old may be a good sell-high candidate given his hard-to-sustain .402 BABIP and 21.7 percent HR/FB rate.

NL bounceback player
Melvin Upton Jr.: After posting a .198/.279/.314 slash line as a member of the Braves from 2013-14 and playing in just 87 games with the Padres last season, Upton was ignored in most 2016 drafts. Fast forward to the Midsummer Classic, and the 31-year-old stands as the only player in baseball with at least 16 homers and 20 steals. A top-tier power-speed asset with the Rays from 2007-12, Upton still has the game-changing skill set to affect fantasy leagues during the second half.

AL best value pick (from spring drafts)
Mark Trumbo: Despite being projected for a power uptick following his offseason move to hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the slugger still went in the middle rounds of most spring drafts given his solid-but-unspectacular 36-homer tally from 2014-15. Trumbo has far outplayed expectations so far, though, slugging his way to the All-Star Game with a big league-best 28 homers (14 on the road) and more first-half RBIs (68, 38 on the road) than all but three guys.

NL best value pick (from spring drafts)
Wil Myers: The classic post-hype sleeper, Myers fell to the later rounds of 2016 drafts after hitting .235 with 14 homers and 11 steals across injury-affected seasons from 2014-15. Those who gave the 25-year-old one more chance have been rewarded with a massive breakout (19 homers, 15 steals, 60 RBIs, 61 runs) that has made him arguably the most valuable hitter in the NL to this point in the campaign. Batting .339 with 13 homers across 180 at-bats at Petco Park, the outfielder is among the few players with game-changing numbers at that venue.

AL best waiver wire pickup
Eduardo Núñez: Heading into the season, Nunez was so far off the fantasy radar that he may not have been drafted in a Twins-only league. But without the aid of extreme changes in his BABIP or HR/FB percentage, the 29-year-old earned an unlikely All-Star nomination with a .321 average, 12 homers and 22 steals in 336 first-half plate appearances.

NL best waiver wire pickup
Jonathan Villar: Originally expected to be a placeholder until prized shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia made a first-half debut, Villar was passed over in most fantasy drafts. However, the speedster has fared well enough to argue for a long-term role with Milwaukee, hitting .298 with a big league-best 31 steals. Despite his potential for regression (.410 BABIP in 2016, lifetime .353 mark), the 25-year-old could run enough to remain a shallow league asset during the second half.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB