12 stars who need a big second half

July 18th, 2023

The second half of the 2023 season is in full swing, and there’s plenty of time for players who have struggled so far to change the course of their campaigns.

Here are 12 players who need to step up for their respective teams in the second half.

All statistics are through Sunday’s games.

, 1B, Astros

What’s gone wrong: In his first year with the Astros, Abreu has posted the lowest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage of his 10-year career. The power that won him the 2020 AL MVP Award with 19 homers in 60 games went missing; Abreu didn’t hit his first home run of 2023 until May 28.

Looking ahead: It could be all downhill from here for Abreu, who is currently in his age-36 season. But he hit .304 with an .824 OPS in 2022, receiving down-ballot MVP votes. Players often struggle in their first year with a new team; the Astros can weather a tough year from Abreu, but if he can return to form, it would be a big boost for the Houston offense.

, SP, Mets

What’s gone wrong: With a 4.17 ERA, Scherzer is in the midst of his worst season by that metric since 2011 with the Tigers. He is tied for 10th in home runs allowed by any pitcher in MLB this season, having given up 18 homers already. Scherzer allowed at least one homer in seven straight starts from June 7 to July 9, putting up a 5.63 ERA in that span.

Looking ahead: Scherzer tossed seven shutout innings and allowed just one hit against the Dodgers on Sunday, a good start to his second half. His 3.62 expected ERA hints at further improvement during the second half. Given New York’s faint playoff hopes, the club needs Scherzer (and ) in peak form from here on out.

, SP, Blue Jays

What’s gone wrong: Manoah was optioned to the rookie-level Florida Complex League after a dismal start to his 2023 season. He gave up seven runs and recorded just one out in his final outing on June 5 before being demoted, running his ERA to 6.36. Manoah’s strikeout rate has fallen, his walk rate has spiked, and he’s been hit as hard as nearly any starting pitcher -- a tough combination.

Looking ahead: Manoah’s first start back with the Blue Jays on July 7 was promising, as he allowed one run over six innings against the Tigers while striking out eight batters. If he can right the ship, it will be big for a Blue Jays rotation still missing Hyun Jin Ryu. Manoah, who finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2022, could help Toronto -- which currently holds the second AL Wild Card spot -- reach the postseason.

, SS, Twins

What’s gone wrong: Currently hitting just .232 with a .307 on-base percentage, Correa is on pace for career-worst marks in both departments. He has grounded into 18 double plays, the most in MLB and tied for his single-season high. His average exit velocity has gone down, and his 22.8% strikeout rate is its highest since 2019.

Looking ahead: Correa has had down years like this in the past, seeing his numbers take sharp dips in 2018 and 2020. It could continue to be a tough season for one of the top hitters in a Twins lineup that ranks in the bottom 10 in the Majors in OPS. If Minnesota hopes to hold onto the AL Central, it’ll need more from its starting shortstop.

, SS, Phillies

What’s gone wrong: By pretty much any measure, Turner is having his worst season at the plate since his rookie year in 2015. A career .316 hitter against fastballs, Turner is batting just .255 against them in 2023. He’s seen a similar decline against offspeed stuff, hitting just .173 against offspeed pitches this year compared to a .283 career average.

Looking ahead: Turner has compiled six multihit games since June 29, a sign his 2023 season might be starting to turn. The Phillies could certainly use a big second half from their big free-agent acquisition as they fight to stay in the postseason picture.

, CF, Mariners

What’s gone wrong: Rodríguez still did enough to earn his second All-Star nod in as many seasons, but he hasn’t been the hitter he was in 2022. His batting average and OBP have dropped more than 30 points each, while his slugging percentage is down more than 100 points from last year.

Looking ahead: Rodríguez’s underlying numbers suggest his 2023 performance is pretty much right in line with his 2022 AL Rookie of the Year campaign. Whether his luck will turn remains to be seen, but if it does, Seattle could make a much-needed surge in the standings.

, OF, Yankees

What’s gone wrong: Stanton, who missed much of the first half due to a hamstring injury, has only played 44 games in 2023. But he hasn’t quite been himself anyway, with an on-base percentage of .288, a career-worst 8.2% walk rate and a career-low .747 OPS.

Looking ahead: Stanton can carry a team when he’s hot, and the scuffling Yankees’ offense -- still missing -- is in dire need. The slugger’s home run Saturday in Colorado could be the start of a critical hot stretch for a Yankees team trailing in the Wild Card race.

, SP, Marlins

What’s gone wrong: After winning the 2022 NL Cy Young Award by way of a dominant season, Alcantara has had a tough 2023. The right-hander has lost the feel for what was an elite changeup last season, and last year’s 2.28 ERA has more than doubled to 4.64 in 2023.

Looking ahead: The Marlins have managed to remain 11 games above .500 despite Alcantara’s tough year. If he can find his changeup and return to form, he can help Miami lock down a Wild Card spot.

, SP, Rangers

What’s gone wrong: Like Alcantara, Pérez has seen a massive spike in his ERA -- from 2.89 in 2022 to 4.84 this season. His strikeout rate has decreased 6 percentage points, dropping to the fourth percentile among MLB pitchers, and a sinker that produced solid results last season is getting hit hard in 2023.

Looking ahead: With the additions of Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney, Pérez doesn’t have to shoulder as much of the load in the Rangers’ rotation. Still, Texas would like to get more production out of the veteran left-hander as the AL West race with the Astros continues.

, SS, Brewers

What’s gone wrong: Simply put, Adames is hitting the ball less hard than he did in 2022. His hard-hit rate has dropped from 43.6% to 35.3%, and his average exit velocity is down almost 2 mph. That has led to Adames’ average falling to .212 and to a 47-point decrease in his slugging percentage.

Looking ahead: Statcast metrics suggest Adames has been better than results show, and he’s not all that far off his 2022 batting line. A hot second half could really help the Brewers, who are battling for the NL Central title; Milwaukee is tied for the fifth-worst average and fifth-worst OPS in the Majors.

, SP, Dodgers

What’s gone wrong: A tough 2023 for Urías has been driven by an increase in hard-hit rate and barrel rate against the lefty. The Dodgers’ Opening Day starter owns a 4.35 ERA -- not what L.A. has needed amid a rash of injuries in the rotation. Urías himself was on the IL from May 20 to July 1 due to a hamstring injury.

Looking ahead: Besides his ERA, not much has been different for Urías in 2023, as his strikeout and walk rates are in line with the past few seasons. Urías kick-started the second half with six one-hit innings Friday against the Mets, a start that should have Dodgers fans optimistic about the left-hander’s ability to lead the L.A. rotation.

, 1B, Orioles

What’s gone wrong: A career-low 4.5% walk rate hasn’t helped Mountcastle, who has posted just a .266 on-base percentage in 2023. He’s hitting more ground balls and fewer line drives, a key reason for his .689 OPS this season.

Looking ahead: There’s reason for optimism with Mountcastle, whom advanced metrics consider one of the unluckiest hitters in MLB this season. If he can reverse his fortune and put together a big second half, he could help the surging Orioles overtake the Rays for the AL East crown.