Midseason Review - (started writing at the All-Star break)

Durham Bulls (8 All-Stars)

Robb Nen (*)
Alex Rodriguez (*)
Vladimir Guerrero (*)
Luis Castillo
Barry Zito (**)
Pedro Martinez (**)
Mike Williams
Matt Morris (*)

First Half Review:
Last years defending co-champs have faired well riding their solid core of franchise players despite disappointing first half for several of the Bulls franchise players. Perennial All-Stars Bobby Abreu and Jeff Bagwell enjoyed solid yet unspectacular first halves. The pitching staff is much stronger than last year with the pre-season swap of Cliff Floyd for Barry Zito and recent acquisition of Pedro Martinez. The loss of first (11th) round pick (the late) Daryl Kile caused the Bulls to part with slugger Brian Giles to a quality 4th starting pitcher and leaves a big hole in the offense. A late surge pushed the Bulls back into first place, more important this year with the possibility of a strike looming.

Second Half Outlook:
If starters Hudson and Morris improve on their first half performances to end at their pre-season expected numbers and Pedro continues to dominate, look for the Bulls to gain a few more points in WHIP. The return of injured Edgar Martinez should help in RBIs and SLG. If the Bulls can avoid the injury bug, a big question with some traditionally fragile players, they should stay near or at the top of the standings.

Todd's Bash Brothers (4 All-Stars)

Ugueth Urbina
Alfonso Soriano (*)
Miguel Tejada (*)
Luis Gonzalez (*)

First Half Review:
Strong hitting has carried this team so far. Young studs Miguel Tejada, Alfonso Soriano, Eric Hinske and (now departed via trade) Pat Burrell have lifted this team's offense to the top of 3 of the 5 hitting categories. Even with disappointing performances from keepers Mike Cameron, Wade Miller (dropped) and Javier Vazquez, this team entered the All-Star break on a high note jumping past the Boston Bombers into second place.

Second Half Outlook:
A very solid lineup should continue to produce. Injury risks in the outfield (Walker, Salmon, Burks and Jordan) need to stay healthy and the youngsters need to stay hot. The pitching in the question mark for this team - unpredictable starters once you get past Maddux and Vazquez will likely decide this team's Second Half fate.

Boston Bombers (10 All-Stars)

Tom Glavine
Mike Sweeney (*)
Randy Winn
Johnny Damon (*)
Damian Miller
Junior Spivey
Shea Hillenbrand
Derek Lowe (***)
Mark Buehrle
Kazuhiro Sasaki (*)

First Half Review:
After a last place finish last season, the Bombers cleaned house keeping only 7 players over to this year. The strategy has paid early dividends as the Bombers have been in the top spot for much of the first half. Pitching that is performing above the level many expected and solid production from a few unexpected contributors has kept this team in the upper group of teams. A swoon in the week and a half before the break cost the Bombers the mid-season crown.

Second Half Outlook:
Although it's hard to argue with the success this team has enjoyed in the first half, the pre-All-Star break swoon might be a sign of things to come. 3/5 of the starting rotation is over 1 run under their career ERA. This group is likely to end up with numbers closer to their career ERAs than their current ERAs. If the Bombers do lose a point or two in ERA, they will be hard pressed to make it up in strikeouts, even with the addition of Roger Clemens. The hitting should remain solid. Some of the early season surprises (Spivey, Miller, Hillenbrand, Winn) may come down from their current numbers but look for Chipper Jones, Jose Cruz Jr and Juan Uribe to have a strong second half.

Gitarooman (8 All-Stars)

Eddie Guardado
Jorge Posada (*)
Ichiro Suzuki (*)
Barry Bonds (*)
Nomar Garciaparra (*)
Tony Batista
Mike Lowell

First Half Review:
Bonds, Bonds and more Bonds... oh, and some guy named Ichiro his scoring some runs too. This is a team built around some of the game's true superstars and in the first half, they carried it well. Surprising production from the Marlins corner infielders (Lee and Lowell) as well as a great start by Kaz Ishii has kept Gitarooman in the top half throughout the first half, even enjoying some time in the top spot.

Second Half Outlook:
The superstars should continue to produce, but production from the rest of the lineup isn't as certain. Will the NL figure out Ishii in the second half? Will Burnett's arm fall off from his tremendous pitch counts? Will Eric Milton really win 20 with a 5.00+ ERA? A good balance between starters and closers on this staff should keep them in contention as long as they don't lose one of their big hitters to injury.

Bruin Sluggers (7 All-Stars)

Vicente Padilla
Benito Santiago
Adam Dunn (*)
Mariano Rivera (*)
Curt Schilling (*)
Trevor Hoffman (*)
Eric Gagne

First Half Review:
Strong pitching and shrewd free agent acquisitions kept the Sluggers in contention for most of the first half. This team is extremely rich in pitching boasting 2 aces in Schilling and Mulder along with 3 top closers in Rivera, Hoffman and Gagne. The hitting has been poor as some of the veteran Sluggers have succumbed to injury. Ken Griffey, Jr. has yet to make the impact they were looking for when they selected him as their first pick last season and tagged him as a keeper for this season.

Second Half Outlook:
Dunn, Kent and Thome should continue to produce - Mondesi, Juan Gone and Dye should be better in the second half, but unless they make a trade, this team will still struggle offensively. A healthy Phil Nevin and *some* kind of contribution by Griffey could be the difference here. How far will Astacio and young arms Padilla and Gagne be able to carry them in the second half?

West Coast Yankees (8 All-Stars)

John Smoltz (*)
Manny Ramirez (*)
Todd Helton (*)
Robin Ventura
Robert Fick
Andruw Jones (*)
Odalis Perez
Jimmy Rollins

First Half Review:
Oh how the mighty have fallen. At first glance, the Yankees fall is as surprising as the Bombers rise to the top, however a steady climb up the ranks in the last month may well spell trouble for the rest of the league in the second half. Injuries have kept this team back offensively while perhaps the leagues best bullpen has done it's job well.

Second Half Outlook:
The hitting should improve in the second half with the addition of Magglio Ordonez, Jimmy Rollins and Aramis Ramirez; as well as a healthy Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield. The big trade that sent ace Randy Johnson to the Senators at the end of the first half left this team without a proven starting pitcher. Good free agent pickups of Weaver and Perez have kept them in contention so far and grabbing Wade Miller might be enough to put them on top. Look for them to continue climbing the ranks in the second half.

Senators (5 All-Stars)

Randy Johnson (**)
Jose Vidro
Paul Konerko
Lance Berkman (*)
Freddy Garcia (*)

First Half Review:
The recent addition of Randy Johnson makes this rotation one of the best in the league. A team without many glaring weaknesses, they will miss the contributions of Ordonez and Rollins in the second half. Still a very solid keeper core. Can Berkman continue producing at this pace all season?

Second Half Outlook:
Freddy Garcia, Joel Pineiro and Roy Oswalt are a great group of young starters and the core of this team is one of the best in the league. Perhaps a little light in some offensive categories, right now, they are either a trade or season away from competing with the top teams. Last year, they came on strong in the second half - will they have time to do the same this year?

Whitesnake (9 All-Stars)

Byung-Hyun Kim
Torii Hunter
Mike Piazza (*)
Sammy Sosa (*)
Omar Vizquel
Garret Anderson (*)
Shawn Green (*)
Roy Halladay
Richie Sexson

First Half Review:
A solid draft and the resurgence of Shawn Green has had Whitesnake in contention for most of the season. With a host of underrated fantasy players, the team's production has raised a few eyebrows. All-Stars Torii Hunter, Byung-Hyun Kim, Omar Vizquel and Richie Sexson were great draft pick-ups and the keepers have performed well so far. Curiously, Jose Jimenez has been relegated to the bench since coming over in a trade even though he has been a very solid closer this year.

Second Half Outlook:
If the pitchers remain solid and the young stars continue to produce at this level, this team could surprise a few people; especially if the manager becomes more active and manages the pitching staff better.

MovingINTODaCellar (3 All-Stars)

Jose Hernandez
Jason Giambi (*)
Derek Jeter (*)

First Half Review:
Slow starts and injuries plagued what looked to be a very competitive team in the first half and have sent DaCellar into rebuilding mode. With perhaps the worst first half performance from their keepers (Alou, Boone, Cirillo) DaCellar has struggled offensively and their young pitching has been inconsistent. Positioning themselves for a strong keeper core, DaCellar has made some bold trades and is looking to build around young talent.

Second Half Outlook:
Perhaps as a result of the injury plagued first half, DaCellar sent Pedro Martinez away from consistent slugger Brian Giles. This trade may move DaCellar down in the standings this season but give them a desperately needed reliable bat in the OF and reduces their overall team injury risk. If Pedro returns to form over the next few years, this could look like a very bad trade; but if Pedro misses half the year again this season or next it will have paid off big time. Counting on young pitchers is a tough way to win in fantasy baseball, but Beckett and Prior are as close to "can't miss" as you can get and should be able to carry this team in a few years.

CJ's Giants (2 All-Stars)

A.J. Pierzynski (*)
Scott Rolen (*)

First Half Review:
As first year mangers, team Lambert was at a disadvantage coming into the season and has struggled in the first half. Bad luck with supposed ace starters Chan Ho Park and Kevin Brown have really hurt the team. Perhaps a bit of homer-itis has plagued the team at times too as Giants OFer Shinjo has taken up a valuable roster spot for much of the season. Best move of the first half: trading 39 year old Roger Clemens for 34 year old Mike Mussina.

Second Half Outlook:
The team appears to be drifting a bit as pitchers that are on the DL have stayed in the rotation and slugger Jim Edmonds has inexplicably been benched for nearly a month. More active management could have kept this team in the middle of the pack, but it is doubtful they will be able to compete this year. The outlook for the future looks surprisingly good. A young core of Pujols, Williams, Rolen, Edmonds, Alomar, Pierzynski, Pettite and Mussina and a good draft next season could turn this team around in a hurry. At this point, the management may look to play for the future and try to make trades to improve their keeper position.

(*) indicates this player was kept from last season
(**) indicates this player was kept by another team last season and was acquired by trade this season in exchange for another keeper player(s)
(***) indicates this player was kept by another team last season and was acquired by trade this season in exchange for non-keeper players(s)