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10 players with surprising first-half stats

Betts' RBI total, Machado's 0 steals stand out on MLB leaderboards
June 30, 2016

If the Major League Baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, then we've just about reached the 13.1-mile point in 2016.With the "it's still early" refrain now in the rearview mirror, fans and fantasy players alike have a large enough sample size to gauge their favorite players' performances.Below, you

If the Major League Baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, then we've just about reached the 13.1-mile point in 2016.
With the "it's still early" refrain now in the rearview mirror, fans and fantasy players alike have a large enough sample size to gauge their favorite players' performances.
Below, you will find 10 men on notable paces -- for one reason or another. Want to know what to expect from them as summer turns to fall? If so, keep on reading.
Mookie Betts, has 54 RBIs (on pace for 112): Hitting atop a Red Sox lineup that leads the Majors with 434 runs, Betts is on pace to compile a rare RBI total for a leadoff bat. In fact, the last man to knock in 100 while hitting first most of the time was Jacoby Ellsbury, way back in 2011. On a 33-homer clip, as well, the 23-year-old should maintain his elite campaign, keeping up the aforementioned paces while scoring 125 runs of his own. Look for him to be a top-5 fantasy pick during 2017 drafts.

Manny Machado, has 0 steals (on pace for 0): Machado was a first-round fantasy pick in many leagues this past spring thanks to his unique potential to excel in every fantasy category. And while he's kept up his end of the bargain at the dish - hitting .332 with 18 homers and a 1.001 OPS - the steals have not come after his 20-swipe effort in '15. As a result, the 23-year-old has not been a top-3 asset at third base or shortstop, the two positions at which he's eligible in fantasy. And with eight career swipes in 1,594 plate appearances outside of '15, Machado is unlikely to be a speed-burner during the second half.
Wilson Ramos, .339 average: Hitting .339 with 12 homers across 233 at-bats, the catcher has been the most productive player at his premium position this season. But with a .349 BABIP that sits 60 points above his career mark, Ramos will likely lose batting-average points in the season's second half. And given his 25 percent HR/FB rate -- tied for third best in baseball and far ahead of his career 17.3 percent clip -- the 28-year-old could also be due for a power decline.
Jose Altuve, has 13 homers (on pace for 27): Altuve has done it all this year, with his 13 dingers complementing 21 steals and a .357 average. This season''s most productive fantasy hitter should continue to excel in the second half, but he'll be hard-pressed to exceed the 25-homer plateau in '16. After all, the 26-year-old has seen 14 percent of his fly balls leave the yard this year -- a rate far beyond his career six percent HR/FB clip. Realistic fantasy owners will expect the keystone man to belt 9-10 dingers during the second half.

Carlos Beltran, has 19 homers (on pace for 40) : In the last year of his contract, the 39-year-old has found the fountain of youth by belting 19 long balls across 263 at-bats. The veteran has not changed his skill set, though, lofting roughly the same percentage of fly balls yet watching many more leave the yard (22.4 percent HR/FB rate this year; career 15.2 percent HR/FB). And before you come to Beltran's defense by citing the benefits of homer-happy Yankee Stadium, note that he's never posted a full-season HR/FB rate over 12.0 during his Yankees tenure.
Jonathan Villar, has 26 steals (on pace for 54): Villar has run wild on the bases this season, with no player within four steals of his MLB-leading total (26). And while the shortstop could complete the campaign with baseball's stolen-base crown given his large first-half lead, he may be hard-pressed to pace the game in swipes during the second half. The current beneficiary of great batted-ball luck (.406 BABIP), the 25-year-old could find himself on base less after the Midummer Classic or running less given his league-leading nine caught-stealings. Moreover, Villar may eventually be challenged for playing time by prime shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia.
Todd Frazier, .202 average: Frazier has managed to stay off fantasy-bust lists given his 22 homers in 282 at-bats, but he's nonetheless hitting .202 -- 49 points below his career mark. Hovering around the Mendoza Line given an MLB-worst .188 BABIP, the third baseman represents a terrific buy-low option at the season's midpoint.

Cole Hamels, has 9 wins (on pace for 18): Hamels has nine victories and a 2.60 ERA through this point in the campaign, stats that suggest he's acclimated well to life in the American League. But upon closer inspection, the left-hander could be due for regression. With career-worst marks in HR/9 rate (1.3), BB/9 rate (3.3) and FIP (4.37), the 32-year-old may be worth trading while he's this hot.
Julio Teheran, has 3 wins (on pace for 6): Despite taking care of business during the season's first half -- with a 2.46 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP and a .183 opponents' average -- Teheran enters his last start of June with just three wins to his name. Even on a low-scoring Braves team, the 25-year-old is bound to win a higher rate of games with stats that good. Those already faring well in the wins department could try to acquire Teheran on a discount.
Hector Rondon, has 13 saves (on pace for 27): Even with his 1.65 ERA and 0.66 WHIP, Rondon is tied for 25th in baseball with just 13 saves. Much of this has to do with his team, baseball's best at 51-26 and a plus-170 run differential. But with the Cubs unlikely to dominate in such fashion the rest of the way, Rondon could scoop up more second-half saves -- and offer greater fantasy value -- than closers in Milwaukee (Jeremy Jeffress, 21 saves), Detroit (Francisco Rodriguez, 21 saves) and Seattle (Steve Cishek, 18 saves).

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