Tha Sports Junkies 101

Best Players At Each Position in the Second Half

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Best Players At Each Position in the Second Half

Teams like the Diamondbacks and Rockies built up large leads in the NL Wild Card early on in the season and are now hoping that those early wins can help them retain their playoff hopes in the second half of the MLB year. For other teams and players, the second half is when they truly shine. For this exercise, I’ll be using the Splits Leaderboards via FanGraphs to help decide who the best players of the second half have been.


This is a tough category as there a number of standout players for the second half at the catcher position. The list of catchers performing well so far after the All-Star break includes some big names as well as other breakout players. Yadier Molina, Gary Sanchez, Wilson Contreras and Kurt Suzuki are all having great second halves for their respective teams.

The two catchers that rise above the rest so far, however, seem to be Yadier Molina and Gary Sanchez. Molina, to his credit, is batting .314/.357/.529 with 38 hits, six home runs, and 23 runs scored. He’s also continued to be his usual dominant self behind the plate. However, Yadi has seen his strikeouts balloon after the All-Star break this season. While Sanchez and other catchers are prone to the punch out, it does keep Molina from being the best player at catcher so far.

That title goes to Gary Sanchez. The New York slugger is hitting .292/.339/.655 with 13 home runs, 8 doubles and 32 runs driven in. He also leads all catchers after the All-Star break in WAR with 1.4 in 34 games played. After being benched for a poor defensive play, the right handed hitter has come back a different player. Sanchez has 8 home runs in his last twelve games and 11 home runs in his last 23 games played.

First Baseman

Most of the usual standouts at the position are having great seasons once again with the likes of Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer and Ryan Zimmerman. New players to the top of the ranks at this position this year make the position even more competitive. Cody Bellinger is having a historic season as a rookie for the record-setting Dodgers, Justin Smoak has finally delivered on all the promise he showed as a prospect years ago and Josh Bell is becoming a star in Pittsburgh.

Even with all those players having strong seasons, there are still two players having even more remarkable second halves for their teams. Paul Goldschmidt may finally win a long deserved MVP award this season as the least-talked about superstar in the MLB if not all of sports and is adding another Hall of Fame level season to his resume this year. After the break, the first baseman is hitting .321/.424/.595 with eight home runs, ten doubles and 24 walks. He also has a narrow lead over Votto in WAR at the position in the second half with 1.6 against 1.5 for the Reds first baseman.

Even with that slight deficit in WAR for Votto, he still (barely) claims the title of best first baseman in the second half so far. He’s continued his best offensive season since 2010 when he won the MVP with seven home runs after the All-Star break bringing him to 33 on the year. That’s nothing however in comparison to his slash line of .313/.491/.516 with 41 walks against just 24 strikeouts. The absurd rate at which Votto is getting on base in the second half – and the entire season – helps him move ever so slightly in front of Goldschmidt when it comes to first basemen.

Second Baseman

For all of last season and the entirety of this year, Jose Altuve has been the best second baseman in the league and one of the best players outright. He’s been part of an offensive core for the Astros propelling them to the best record in the American League and a great chance at making up for the pains of the rebuilding years that led to multiple 90+ loss years.

In the second half, Altuve has hit an insane .381/.421/.599 with six home runs and just 19 strikeouts against ten walks. The small-statured second baseman has been one of if not the best hitter in the American League so far and has one hand on the MVP title already (barring an otherworldly end to the season by someone like Mike Trout, which isn’t out of the question).

Altuve has been the best second baseman this season but, Brian Dozier has managed to give him some competition. The Twins’ slugger is hitting .301/.385/.621 in the second half with 13 home runs and 33 runs scored. Dozier has already matched his homer output from the first half in just 37 games so far and could help the Twins miraculously claim a Wild Card spot even after having sold off many important pieces to the team at the trade deadline.


By all accounts, the best shortstops in the game have continued for the most part to be the stars from recent seasons. Corey Seager is entrenched in the Dodgers lineup, Francisco Lindor has sacrificed some average for power this year but is still pushing the Indians towards an AL Central title and Carlos Correa was in the MVP race until his injury.

However, in the second half of the 2017 season, some new names have popped up at the shortstop position. Paul Dejong leads all shortstops with 11 home runs after the All-Star break with Javier Baez right behind at 10. Andrelton Simmons has been a revelation for the Angels this season, adding offense to his already Hall of Fame level defense and in the process becoming one of the most valuable players in the game. He also adds, finally, another building block for the Angels to build around along with Mike Trout.

Out east though, there is another shortstop out playing all these highly touted stars so far. Didi Gregorius leads all shortstops with 2.0 WAR in the second half and has nine home runs and 22 runs batted in. The Yankee is hitting .347/.371/.587 and has helped keep the lineup afloat as Aaron Judge continues to struggle. With Gary Sanchez destroying the ball recently (and joining Didi as the best player at his position in the second half) the Yankee lineup could be dangerous come October.

Third Baseman

Besides the established collection of premier talent at third base, there are some new names shining in the second half. Eugenio Suarez for the Reds has progressed even more from his strong season last year and now has 24 home runs on the season and 12 in the second half. Alex Bregman has eight home runs after the All-Star break, matching his first half total and is hitting .326/.397/.636 in 36 second half games. After a slow start, Bregman is yet another player having an excellent year for an already dominant Astros’ lineup. The Red Sox brought up Rafael Devers as a twenty-year old and he has had plenty of huge hits and home runs for the Red Sox in the second half.

Manny Machado has fallen off the map slightly after a slow first-half but is lighting it up in the second half. The Orioles’ third baseman has ten home runs and 37 runs batted in in 39 second half games.

The two leading third basemen for best second half player at the position so far are names routinely seen on MVP ballots, if not on the trophy itself. Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, is only hitting .267 in the second half, but has 13 home runs and 25 runs scored. Nolan Arenado however, has been even better than Donaldson and all other third basemen in the second half.

He has been one of the best hitters and defenders in the league going back at least three seasons now and this year is more of the same. As long as he’s hitting in Denver, Arenado’s stats will always have the blemish of having been done partly in the mile-high city, but that takes very little away from his stats. In the second half, he is hitting .338./411/.723 with 12 home runs. On the year he now has a league leading 108 runs batted in.

Left Fielder

This is a tough position as a couple different left fielders could stake their claim to have had the best second half so far. Michael Conforto leads all players at the position with 13 home runs and is developing into a bonafide star for the Mets. Tommy Pham has continued to get on base at a terrific rate for the Cardinals even without much of a power streak.

Justin Upton is having a potentially 5+ WAR season for the Detroit Tigers and  has 11 home runs in the second half. Upton has had rough patches but is having a career year for the Tigers. Hopefully, he is making up for his almost-unmoveable contract, that is, if he doesn’t opt-out this season. If he stays, he’d be making 88$ million over the next four years.

For all the offensive exploits of those previously mentioned, the one left fielder having a better second half than them all is Chris Taylor. The Los Angeles Dodger seemingly came out nowhere early on this season. Since his arrival, he has helped propel an already incredibly talented Dodger roster to even higher goals.

Taylor has spent time at almost every other position but has spent the most time in left field. In the second half, Taylor is hitting .353/.408/.647 with seven home runs and 2.3 WAR.

Center Fielder

This is a spot usually occupied by Mike Trout. However, even with his great second half after returning from injury, he does have competition in center. Two other players have had great second halves as well for their ball clubs.

The first player is Odubel Herrera. The bat-flip loving center fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies is hitting .383/.450/.692 in 29 games played. While he has played fewer games than his competition, Herrera has turned around his slow first-half. Herrera is tied with Trout with 2.1 WAR in the second half, though Trout has played six more games.

The center fielder who has been arguably the best all season is Charlie Blackmon. He continued his phenomenal season into the second half and has played like the best player at the position. Blackmon is slashing .387/.466/.725 with 10 home runs and 44 runs scored. His stats are affected by Coors Field, but they are too sizable to ignore in comparison to his competition in center field.

Right Fielder

After the first-half, the most talked about player in baseball was Aaron Judge. His torrid start to the season and dominance in the Home Run Derby propelled him to superstardom in a matter of weeks. However, the second half has been extremely unkind to Judge so far. Other big names aren’t performing up to expectations either. Mookie Betts is hitting just .242 with two home runs after the All-Star break. While Carlos Gonzalez and Jose Bautista are both struggling to find their form.

The obvious pick at this position plays his games in Miami however. Giancarlo Stanton is enjoying his first injury-free season and is showcasing his skills. After a slow first-half, Stanton has pushed his way into the MVP conversation in the National League. The right fielder’s slash line in the second half is .301/.417/.801 with 20 home runs. He now has 46 on the season, he could be on his way to a historic offensive season.

Starting Pitcher

A slew of starting pitchers have reason to be in the conversation for best pitcher in the second half. But the debate really comes down to just two starters, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber.

Other players like Luis Severino, Jacob Degrom, and James Paxton are also having dominant second halves. Yet, they still don’t stand up to what Sale and Kluber have done. After the All-Star break Kluber has gone 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA. He has 85 strikeouts in a little over 59 innings. Sale, to his credit, has a 3-1 record with a 2.27 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

While these two pitchers are incredibly close in most stats, Sale does have the advantage. His FIP of 1.96 beats Kluber by nearly a full run (2.80), and his strikeouts per nine (K/9) is higher than Kluber’s. Additionally, Sale’s home run rate is lower and he beats Kluber in second half WAR, with 2.1 versus 1.9 for the Indians’ right hander.

Relief Pitcher

Most teams in the playoff hunt have at least one dominant pitcher in their bullpen ready to close out a big game.The Red Sox have Craig Kimbrel, who has 34 strikeouts in just 16.1 innings pitched in the second half. The hard-throwing right hander has allowed only three runs and has six saves after the break. Kenley Jansen has 13 saves for the Dodgers and Edwin Diaz has 16 saves for the Mariners.

However, Corey Knebel for the Milwaukee Brewers has been lights out after the All-Star break. Knebel is second in baseball with 13 saves and has a minuscule 0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings with 25 strikeouts. The right hander drafted by the Tigers could help win some tough games for the Brewers down the stretch as they try to make the playoffs in the tight NL Central.