With the halfway point of the season nearing, the fate of many teams feels near-sealed. Teams like the Tigers, Royals, Athletics, Reds, Cubs, and Nationals likely have no hope of a bounceback in the second half. However, this point in the season offers perspective for many of the teams that are hovering around .500 with their eyes on a wild card spot. July will usually determine whether these teams look to improve at the trade deadline, or if they throw in the towel.
The fanbases of these teams always hold the hope that their teams could pull of a 2019 Nationals-esque second-half comeback. This time around, I think we can finally see another team perform a mid-season push to the playoffs. That team will be the Texas Rangers.
Standing 11 games back from the juggernaut Astros, a division win isn’t in the cards for these Rangers. However, they are still firmly in place to make a run for one of the three wild card spots. With 24 of their next 30 games coming against poor-performing opponents in the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, and Miami Marlins, the Rangers should be having themselves a good July.
Like any other baseball event, this push will have fantasy consequences. There are plenty of Rangers players who would benefit from a good team showing but there are some players in particular that you should look out for.
Dane Dunning (9.6% rostered)
While only being in the year for 2.5 years, Dane Dunning had to take a dizzying journey to even get to The Show. Being the centerpiece of both the Adam Eaton and Lance Lynn trades is tumultuous enough but Dunning had to deal with Tommy John in 2019. With Tommy John being a notoriously hard injury to recuperate, Rangers fans didn’t expect much from Dunning in 2021. Coming around to 2022, there was an expectation that Dunning would perform well.
At the moment, Dunning has pitched to a 1-5 record with a 4.17 ERA. While that looks atrocious at face value, it doesn’t tell the full story. Outside of bad outings in Detroit and Boston, Dunning has kept the Rangers in the game. Dunning has received pathetic run support this year with an average of 3.41 runs in his starts. Dunning has put up 6 starts with 6+ innings and less than 2 runs but would only pick up a win in one of those games.
The clear problem with Dunning is not Dunning but the Rangers’ offense. With plenty of poor pitching staffs — and offenses — on the docket for this month, Dunning could see himself picking up several wins. Dunning is a good addition for anyone with holes in their pitching rosters.
Joe Barlow (45.2% rostered)
Joe Barlow is a guy that I suggested as a pickup in the first fantasy radar. Since then, Barlow has blown 2 saves and picked up 6 saves and one win. I wasn’t particularly foreseeing such an average stretch of games. Though once again, the mediocrity of Barlow should mostly be blamed on the inability of the Rangers offense to be competitive late in games. The Rangers should, at the very least, be on the line for some competitive games this next month. With reliable and productive closers being a scarce resource, it would be wise to pickup Barlow.
Rangers Position Players
You might be wondering why I haven’t talked about any position players when they are supposedly the ones who are going to be performing better. I know you are hoping that I give you the name of some obscure second-string catcher rather than the names you are going to hear. I apologize, but Meibrys Viloria is going to have to wait another week or two. The obvious picks for offensive improvement are:
Corey Seager (98.9% rostered)
Corey Seager hasn’t done great in this first half but with an average of 2.1 fantasy points, he isn’t playing bad. With an ADP of 65 and a newly minted 10 yr/$325 million contract, you aren’t exactly looking for “not bad” from Corey Seager. Seager’s fantasy season has been kept afloat by his career-high 15 HR in the first half, but there hasn’t been much to write home about in any other category. In his first season with the Rangers, his OPS+ has gone down 32 points, his batting average has gone from .306 to .231, and his batting WPA is negative for the first time in his career.
At age 28, Corey Seager is in the prime of his baseball career so any struggles at the moment are likely caused by the change from LA to Dallas. Any move in teams requires some time and adjusting. Seager hasn’t had much of that recently with the Rangers having a hectic travel schedule to start the season.
Corey Seager has batted significantly better at home with a .256 BA at home compared to .208 on the road. An upcoming 3 series homestand should give Seager the opportunity to settle down a bit. Seager can find his groove over these next couple of weeks. Once he finds his groove, there’s no question in my mind that Corey Seager will play up to that hefty contract. Seager should be valuable in all formats for the rest of the season so don’t sell on him just yet.
Marcus Semien (97.5% rostered)
After a spectacular 2021 season where he ranked 3rd in MVP voting, Marcus Semien was able to cash in with a 7 yr/$175 mil contract with the Rangers to star alongside Corey Seager. The Rangers had high expectations of Semien and with an ADP of 30, his expectations were high in fantasy as well.
Semien has disappointed this year with a career-low .362 SLG % and .652 OPS on the season. Though fans should be feeling better about Semien as he has steadily improved as the season has moved on. The abysmal .157 BA in April should be attributed to his new contract. Moving from Toronto to Texas will take the same kind of time that Seager needs.
Semien has already adjusted with a solid June (.289 BA, 7 HR, 15 RBIs, .299 BAbip). Mathematically speaking, the logistic trend of improvement that Semien has shown so far could mean a July that sees him putting up 2021-level numbers again. I would be extremely confident in Semien having a great July. Try to swing for Semien before his asking price becomes too high.
See last week’s radar here.