Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: A look at second-half expectations for Corbin Carroll, Dylan Cease and more

The fantasy baseball season is more than halfway over. There's still time to catch up if you're playing from behind, and if you're playing in the head-to-head format, you can make a push for the playoffs with the right moves. Here are some of the questions that caught the eye in the mailbag.

Is Zach Eflin waived in a 10-team league? He was just so mediocre. I know the answer is probably that I should take a look at him. — Ben W.

Frustration often leads to a brisk response. Eflin had high expectations based on his draft position and his breakout performance last season. He wasn't great, but he wasn't terrible, either. If you drafted Eflin with last season's stats, it was a disappointment. Last year, the Rays right-hander had a 3.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26.5% strikeout rate, and 1.9% walk rate. Last season's strikeout rate was a career high, and based on this season, it looks like an outlier. He couldn't get as many swings and misses with his four-seamer and sweeper. Eflin has a 3.30 xERA and a good WHIP. If you hadn't drafted Eflin in the first few rounds, the frustration wouldn't be as great. Eflin has struck out 19 batters in his last 18.2 innings. The curve looked better during this period. Be patient with Eflin, even though you know he's been over-hyped but can still be solid in the second half.

Which Dylan Cease can we expect in the second half? – Christopher O.

Cease's draft value changed dramatically when he was traded from the White Sox to San Diego. The team had better context and a more pitcher-friendly ballpark. The first month was excellent. May and June weren't as good, mostly due to an increase in home runs allowed. Cease has always had strikeouts and will continue to have plenty. Cease has a 31.3% strikeout rate and is in the 92nd percentile in strikeout rate and 94th percentile in whiff rate. Walks have always been a problem for Cease and he has lowered the walk rate from more than 10% the last two seasons to 7.5% this year. When hitters hit Cease, they hit well. He's in the 9th percentile in barrel rate. The underlying numbers aren't that bad overall, but he's just had one great season. There will be inconsistency. He will have dominant starts that will be undone by games where he gets hit hard. I would consider trading him as most consider him to be a top-notch pitcher.

What to do with O'Neil Cruz? Is there anything that points to a future breakthrough or is he just like that? The rollercoaster ride is damn annoying. — Jeremy B.

The skills, talent, and highlights make Cruz seem better than he is. He's 6'1″ and can hit the ball far. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen often. The problem for Cruz is a lack of contact and not enough fly balls. He has a 32.7% strikeout rate, a 36.3% fly ball rate, and a 45.1% ground ball rate. Cruz is in the 98th percentile in barrel rate, 96th percentile in hard hit rate, and 99th percentile in average exit velocity. While that's great, Cruz is in the fourth percentile in strikeout rate, sixth percentile in whiff rate, and 17th percentile in chase rate. Until Cruz makes some changes, there will be ups and downs.

AL only: How would you rate my starting pitchers for the rest of the season? I'd be happy to trade one (less valuable) for saves or steals. Cole Ragans or Logan Gilbert? Taj Bradley or Bailey Ober? Kutter Crawford or Spencer Arrighetti? — Barry F.

For the first pair, I prefer Gilbert. The most important thing to keep in mind when making a trade is to get what you need to improve. We all want to keep the best player, but the other team has to get what they need. If the market favors Gilbert and he gets you the piece you need, don't hesitate. Gilbert and Ragans are close. The difference is Gilbert's WHIP at 0.88. He has a 4.9% walk rate and had a 4.7% walk rate last season. He is one of the few pitchers who is almost certain to go six innings, and he has pitched at least seven innings seven times. Ragans will get more strikeouts, but has a WHIP of 1.17. Ragans has pitched 40 innings in 2022, 96 last season, and is at 102.2 innings this season.

Ober and Bradley are close, and both are home run prone. Ober has a slight edge the rest of the way. Bradley could bring you back more after his recent stretch. He has at least eight strikeouts in three of his last four starts, including 11 in two of those starts. Bradley has also allowed two or fewer earned runs in five consecutive starts — I like him a lot. Ober allowed eight hits and nine runs in 1.2 innings in his first start of the season, but has done a good job of lowering the ERA to 4.30 with a 1.09 WHIP. If the trade partner prefers Ober, don't let that get in the way of the trade.

Although Crawford has struggled recently, I prefer him over Arrighetti. Crawford has good numbers for the season, but the home run has hurt him in his last four starts – eight home runs allowed. Arrighetti is coming off a game against the Rockies with 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings, but he is very inconsistent and an 11.8% walk rate will be a problem against the better teams. Give me Crawford.

In a 12 team, 5 outfield, 5×5 mixed roto league, is it time to leave Daulton Varsho? – Greg R.

I feel your pain about Varsho. I drafted him in two of my higher-scoring leagues because he was cheaper than last season, since he's no longer a catcher, but still offers 20-20 potential. The only issue that hasn't changed is the batting average, and that's worse than the last two seasons. After hitting .235 and .220 in 2022 and 2023, respectively, Varsho has a batting average of .197 after 77 games. Varsho has a batting average in balls in play (BABIP) of .234, and his career average is .262. He has a career-high 57.4% fly ball percentage, and that translates to a low BABIP. The xBA is .165, so he hasn't been unlucky. The hard hit rate is a career-low 30.6%, and he's in the third percentile in exit velocity. The counting stats weren't bad considering the struggles of the Toronto offense – 41 runs, 11 home runs, 35 RBIs and eight stolen bases. As bad as the average is, Varsho could still finish with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He's a top-50 outfielder for the rest of the game, which also shows the lack of good players at the position. It's easier to have Varsho when you're in a league that's neck-and-neck and punting batting average. It's easy to say to part ways with Varsho, but as always, it depends on the replacement.

What do you think about David Hamilton for the rest of the game? The projections aren't encouraging, but if he can put up even a halfway decent slash line, the runs, stolen bases, and 2B/SS eligibility should make him worth adding to the roster in weaker leagues, right? Would Brice Turang be a fair trade for Hamilton? — Rich K.

The biggest concern for me is playing time. Hamilton played three of five games last week and was out of the starting lineup on Tuesday night. If playing time stays like this, he can't be used in a perfunctory format. In a daily format with multiple substitute spots, he can stay in the lineup a little longer to see if playing time changes. If there isn't enough room, he can be taken out. An injury can provide more playing time, but if he's on the bench against right-handers, that's not a good sign. Turang plays every day, so he's more valuable.

What do you think about Corbin Carroll and Grayson Rodriquez? – Ryan R.

Carroll was a big flop. I passed on him in the draft for Kyle Tucker, but I didn't think it would be this bad. He was better in June with a .250 average, 21 runs, and five stolen bases, but no home runs. Nothing looks promising for Carroll. He doesn't have the power, he doesn't hit the ball hard, and he's in the 15th percentile in barrel rate. He's not someone you want to buy cheap.

Rodriguez was solid, but I expected more. I thought he had a chance to make a big jump, but that didn't happen. The numbers are similar to last season with an improved WHIP. I would expect similar numbers from Rodriguez for the rest of the game. Four of his last five starts have been really good, aside from the game against Houston where he allowed seven runs and nine hits in five innings.

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(Top photo of Corbin Carroll: Denis Poroy – USA TODAY Sports)