• Yes, you read the title correctly. We have indeed hit the halfway point of the fantasy regular season. Week 11 is about to commence, and the playoffs start roughly from Week 20 depending on your league settings, so I thought this would be a good time to take a look back at some of the top fantasy performers thus far.

    Now, I’m a person who generally thinks awards are stupid. From Dances with Wolves stealing the Best Picture Oscar from the much superior Goodfellas and Martin Scorsese in 1990, to Kobe and Shaq only having 1 MVP apiece, to the HBO classic series “The Wire” never getting any kind of TV awards buzz, I tend to think the wrong guy ends up winning far too often.

    But hey, this time I won’t have a right to complain, where you guys will! Let me know on twitter @JoeOrrico99 what you think of my picks. Everyone is bound to have their preferences based on who’s carried their fantasy squads or what real life team they cheer for, so I welcome some debate as I know there will be some disagreement.

    One last thing to remember before we get started, this is awards for FANTASY BASEBALL, not real life. The criteria for the real MVP and Cy Young awards are much different than mine because the fantasy landscape we inhabit revolves solely around points and is a category-orientated world. I will also only be picking 1 player for each award, this wont be split up between the American and National Leagues.

    Best Waiver Wire Pickup –

    Martin Perez, SP, Texas Rangers

    It came down to Perez, Brandon Drury, and Clay Holmes, who were similarly undervalued assets going into the season and mostly went undrafted.  However, I went with Perez because good starting pitching on a consistent basis is so hard to come by, and he’s been irreplaceable thus far on the backing of a couple of stellar pitches.

    He’s had the third-most effective cutter and the ninth-most effective changeup in the majors this year, according to Fangraphs pitch values. This has led to a 2.10 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a career high 19.8 K rate. It seems sustainable as his FIP is 2.63 and his BABIP and LOB %s are roughly at his career averages.

    He only has four wins, which can be attributed to the fact that he plays for the very unexceptional Rangers. Despite the lack of wins, he’s still been a top-80 producer in category leagues, and one would think that if he had six or seven of them, he would be ranked inside the top 30.

    If you were able to pick him up earlier in the year, Martin Perez could be the guy that wins you a fantasy title this year.

    Best Value Draft Pick –

    Nestor Cortes, SP, New York Yankees

    There’s a couple of ways I could have gone here. I mean, value is subjective and depending on what your league settings are, a number of players could fit the bill of being the most “cost effective” on draft day. Justin Verlander, Tommy Edman, Dansby Swanson and a whole bunch of others are candidates for the award, and I could have taken this one a number of different ways. But I wanted to go with someone who was one of (if not the) last players you took in your drafts who has turned into a staple of your team. Nestor, enter stage left.

    Cortes has been the best pitcher in an incredibly stacked Yankees rotation. He was being drafted after pick 300 regardless of site or format, and he’s returned 2nd round value through the first half of the fantasy regular season, providing managers with 75 Ks over his 69.2 IP, to go along with six wins, a 1.94 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.

    His new cutter (which he’s throwing nearly 38% of the time) is the 2nd best in baseball behind Corbin Burnes, and he has also been able to strand 86.8% of baserunners, a lovely trend that has carried over from his breakthrough 2021 campaign.

    Cortes will be in the running for a Cy Young Award if he is able to keep up the dominance he has shown in the first half, and he’s certainly captured the hearts of many fantasy managers who took a late-round flier on the 27 year old.

    Reliever of the Year –

    Josh Hader, CP, Milwaukee Brewers

    This was the easiest category for me to decide on, as there’s not another relief pitcher that has been nearly as dominant as Hader has this year. Yes, Taylor Rogers, Jordan Romano and David Bednar have been superb, but Hader is in a class of his own. He’s converted 19/20 save opportunities while pitching to a 0.92 ERA and 0.61 WHIP. He’s also struck out 45.8% of the batters that he’s faced. His LOB% is literally perfect.

    These are all absurd numbers, and if he keeps this up for a few more seasons he’s going to be in Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman territory. What he will lack in terms of total career saves he more than makes up for in ERA and absurd strikeout numbers.

    Both Hader and Liam Hendricks were being drafted within a few picks of each other in most leagues as Closer A and B, and Hendricks has dealt with injury trouble, so let’s hope you went with the lefty if you had the choice.

    Biggest Disappointment –

    Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    I also considered Brandon Woodruff, Adalberto Mondesi, and and Anthony Rendon. Mondesi and Rendon are both drops as neither will play again this season, and Woodruff hasn’t pitched in nearly a month (although he should be back soon), but he wasn’t very impressive even when he was getting out there. I ended up going with Buehler as none of those other guys cost you quite as much as Buehler did on draft day, and his rest of season outlook is pretty grim.

    Now, this isn’t really Buehler’s fault, as he’s had a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Still, disappointment is disappointment regardless of how you get there. He was a consensus second-round pick with an ADP of 17 in both NFBC and Yahoo leagues, and you drafted him expecting to have your ace for the season.

    He’s taken the whole “Buehler’s Day Off” thing a bit too far for my liking. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. If you don’t laugh, you’re bound to cry, and I would know given the four leagues I roster(ed) him in.

    He’s got a career low K% of 21.2 and career highs in his 4.02 ERA and 41.6% HardHit rate. Buehler will be out for 10-12 weeks, and its a real shame that he loses a year in his prime. Fantasy managers should consider him a drop candidate going forward.

    Rookie of the Year –

    Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners

    He’s not “running away’ with it, per se, but Julio has certainly set himself apart in the AL ROY field, and is my pick as the best rookie so far regardless of league.

    He’s tied with Jon Berti (aka Usain Bolt) for the major league lead with 18 steals. He’s also got eight home runs, 60 R+RBI, and a very solid .269 batting average, good enough for top-40 value in standard 5X5 leagues.

    Bobby Witt Jr., Spencer Strider and Mackenzie Gore (despite a rough week) also have strong cases to be made as the best newcomer, but with steals being arguably the hardest category to come by (with the possible exception of saves), I felt that Julio was most deserving

    The fact that he single-handedly keeps you competitive in SB week after week and also has great periphery stats has me giving him this award without much hesitation, and we are quickly approaching a point where he will be a first-round pick in redraft leagues next year.

    Fantasy Cy Young –

    Shane McClanahan, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

    This one took a bit more thought. There are a good handful of hurlers that can make a good case. Tony Gonsolin, Joe Musgrove, Sandy Alcantara, Justin Verlander, and even some other guys have been utterly dominant this year, and all have been invaluable to fantasy managers regardless of format.

    McClanahan, however, has been the king. His 35.2 K% leads the majors and has resulted in a league-high 105 Ks. He’s 5th in ERA and 3rd in WHIP among qualified pitchers, plus he’s got seven wins. McClanahan has been the No. 1 pitcher in both category and points formats and his 110 ADP has managers laughing at how cheap he was to acquire on draft day.

    As long as the Rays don’t limit his IP too much down the stretch, he will at the very least be a finalist for the real Cy Young Award.

    Fantasy MVP –

    Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees

    I though about this one for a long time. Judge is the obvious choice, but I didn’t want to dismiss some of the other top performers. I gave Jose Ramirez, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Yordan Alvarez and others a serious look. There are just so many players performing at the highest level this year and all of the names I mentioned are worthy of the top spot.

    With all of that said, Aaron Judge has reached a new level this season. His 25 HR at this point of the season have him on pace to hit 65, a feat which has only been done by three people: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa, and we know they all had a bit of unnatural help in getting there. It’s safe to say Judge is doing some remarkable stuff.

    He’s been the No. 1 ranked player in most fantasy formats this year, as an all around 5 (maybe 4 & 1/2) category contributor. He has 103 R+RBI, a .306 AVG, and he’s also 4/4 in SB attempts, which is nice considering he doesn’t have a ton of speed. It doesn’t factor into my decision but it also doesn’t hurt that he’s the best player on a Yankees team currently on pace to win 120-plus games. Fantasy or real life, if Judge is on your team, odds are you’re doing alright, especially considering you didn’t have to pick him until the third round this year (average ADP of 28 according to FantasyPros).

    Aaron Judge is my MVP, odds are he’s your MVP, and if he keeps this up Judge has a chance of producing one of the greatest single seasons in MLB history.

    Thanks for reading! We’ll revisit these in the offseason and see if there are changes (of course there will be) and I’ll give you another version of this sometime in October. Again, if you agree with me, think I’m a total fool, or just want to chat fantasy, hit me up on twitter @JoeOrrico99. More than happy to chat baseball, or any sports topics really, with any and all of you fine people.

    Wishing you all the best for this week and the second half of the season! Let’s go get those chips!

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