When it comes to accolades, the second half is heavily underrepresented. Players that perform well in the first half receive recognition via the All-Star Game. By the time the second half concludes, the baseball world shifts its focus to the postseason and end-of-season awards.
Performances from the latter half of the campaign get picked apart by fantasy analysts, but rarely do we get to sit back and appreciate the players who performed the best in the final two and a half months of the regular season.
I’ve set out to identify each team’s best player in the second half in an effort to honor players who turned it on when we hit the dog days of summer and when the games counted most.
This won’t just be a selection of the players who generated the most WAR, the hitters who produced the highest wRC+, or the pitchers who posted the lowest ERA. Rather, it’ll take some nuance, feel, and of course, a finely crafted selection of stats, to make the correct pick for each team.
Listed alphabetically, here are the best players for every team in the second half.
2nd Half Stats (137 PA): .320/.380/.525, 5 HR, 2 SB, 143 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR
Corbin Carroll didn’t reach the same heights he did in the first half, which left the door open for Moreno to sneak in with his comeback run across the final two months. The backstop missed three weeks on the IL, but that didn’t stop him from turning a disappointing first half into a promising second half.
He led the DBacks in wRC+ and batting average while discovering a power stroke that has rarely been displayed throughout the entirety of his professional career. Combine that with above-average defense behind the plate, and Moreno recaptured the attention of prospect hounds and Arizona sports fans alike as they recalled the hype surrounding his initial promotion.
2nd Half Stats (309 PA): .342/.420/.615, 20 HR, 29 SB, 176 wRC+, 3.7 fWAR
It’s absolutely ridiculous that Acuña Jr. actually has competition for this honor. Matt Olson led baseball in home runs (24) and the Braves in wRC+ (180), while Austin Riley clobbered 21 dingers of his own while amassing more fWAR (3.2) than all but six players in baseball.
Even still, Acuña stood out amongst his constituents. Not only did he do the unthinkable by becoming the only member of the 40-70 club, but he did so by leading baseball in hits (94) and runs (67) in the second half while finishing second in swipes and fourth in fWAR.
Acuna was the only player to go 20-20 in the second half. He may have some competition for the second-half MVP Award, but he should have little trouble taking home the NL MVP Award.
2nd Half Stats (82.2 IP): 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 26.3% K%, 6.3% BB%, 2.1 fWAR
Bradish had stiff competition from a pair of rookies. Gunnar Henderson’s AL Rookie of the Year Award-winning second half and Grayson Rodriguez’s massive second-half improvement earned plenty of consideration. Bradish outpaced Rodriguez in almost every category and was more impactful than Henderson because of the Orioles’ desperation for good pitching.
The right-hander posted the third-best WHIP in MLB and led his team in wins (7), innings pitched, and strikeouts (84). He may not be considered an ace yet, but by the time the lights are shining brightest in the postseason, many unwitting baseball fans will learn his name the hard way.
2nd Half Stats (211 PA): .317/.417/.617, 15 HR, 0 SB, 175 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR
His season ended early due to injury, but his second-half performance across 54 games more than made up for an underwhelming first half.
After batting just .225 with a sub-league-average wRC+ through the All-Star Break, Casas turned it on in the second half, recapturing his form from the minors and his brief 2022 debut. He put himself in the running for the AL Rookie of the Year Award by pacing rookies in nearly every offensive category in the second half.
The most notable change was that he began to use the whole field. After pulling the ball more than 44% of the time in the first half, he pulled the ball less than 31% of the time in the second half, leading to a stretch of baseball unmatched by any rookie post-All-Star Break.
2nd Half Stats (298 PA): .320/.362/.565, 17 HR, 9 SB, 146 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
Both Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki did their best to claim this honor. However, Bellinger’s mix of contact, power, speed, and defense made him the complete package, as he led the Cubs on a chase for October.
The former MVP set himself up for a massive payday with a comeback campaign that didn’t end after a monster first half. No Cub tallied more hits (86), hit more homers, scored more times (50), or drove in more runs (67) than Bellinger did after the All-Star break. Those 67 RBI led the Majors.
2nd Half Stats (165 PA): .310/.333/.487, 4 HR, 6 SB, 122 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR
He did it again folks. Andrus looked like he was nearing the end of his days as a Major League hitter early last year, but a trade to the White Sox reinvigorated his bat as he went on to rack up 2.0 fWAR in just 43 games. The longtime middle infielder looked even more washed in the first half of 2023 with one of the worst batting lines in baseball (54 wRC+, 5th-worst in MLB).
Somehow, he found a way to get hot in the season’s final months once again. Andrus was the best batter on the White Sox by a comfortable margin, a shocking development given the presence of AL MVP candidate Luis Robert Jr.
2nd Half Stats (270 PA): .254/.325/.479, 12 HR, 11 SB, 109 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR
It took a late surge, but Friedl’s second-half heroics stabilized a young Reds lineup that was ailing without Joey Votto, Jonathan India, and Matt McLain. With four homers and three steals just this past week, he was one of just 15 players to rack up double-digit totals in both categories.
Friedl also paced his team in fWAR, triples (5), runs (37), and homers. In a recent First Pitch Podcast, I honored Friedl with the designation of “This Year’s Cedric Mullins“, and his run in the final week has certainly proven my point.
2nd Half Stats (165 PA): .254/.370/.522, 9 HR, 5 SB, 145 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR
Tanner Bibee and Gavin Williams deserve some sort of recognition for their impressive performances as rookie pitchers, but Naylor was the best rookie in Ohio in the second half. It went mostly unnoticed because he accrued the majority of his value by walking more than 15% and exhibiting catching prowess rarely seen from a 23-year-old.
Naylor led the Guardians in wRC+ and fWAR and fit the team’s theme of elite contact ability by punching out less than 20% of the time. The Guardians employ the best brother duo in baseball.
2nd Half Stats (267 PA): .293/.390/.568, 14 HR, 12 SB, 140 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR
With little competition, Jones ran away with this award by displaying his combination of power, speed, and discipline while taking advantage of the thin Colorado air in Coors Field.
He led the team in homers, steals, hits (67), runs (41), RBI (43), walks (34), wRC+, and fWAR as he officially broke out at the big league level.
2nd Half Stats (76.1 IP): 3.11 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 32.3% K%, 4.3 % BB%, 3.0 fWAR
Skubal made just two starts in the first half after recovering from flexor tendon surgery last year, but there was no rust on his arm as he was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half. The southpaw led MLB in fWAR in the second half while pacing his team in punchouts (91).
His second-half run was an even more significant step forward from his mini-breakout in 2022. It was a direct result of increased fastball velocity (+1.8 mph) and the best changeup in baseball (100th percentile, 40.4% CSW).
2nd Half Stats (255 PA): .344/.416/.564, 11 HR, 8 SB, 172 wRC+, 3.1 fWAR
The Astros lineup was unstoppable in the second half, featuring six players with a wRC+ better than 140. Altuve was the best of the bunch as he set records and reached milestones along the way. He hit for the cycle, went on a historic home run binge, and reached the 2000 hit threshold.
He sported one of the best batting averages in baseball and paced his squad in hits (78) and runs (50). He may have slowed down from his MVP levels a few years ago, but he’s still well on his way to earning a plaque in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.
2nd Half Stats (65.1 IP): 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 31.1% K%, 8.9% BB%, 2.2 fWAR
This one was basically a tie as Bobby Witt Jr. had a bonkers second half with 15 long balls, 21 steals, and a top-10 fWAR in baseball (3.2). Ragans gets the distinction as the team’s best player though, because of the surprising nature of his ascension to stardom.
After struggling as a reliever in Texas, Ragans became one of the few success stories the Royals have produced on the pitching side in recent years thanks to increased fastball velocity as well as a deep and deadly arsenal. He pitched to the second-best ERA in baseball and was a top-10 pitcher based on fWAR.
The southpaw might’ve increased his fantasy stock through his second-half performance more than any other player in baseball.
2nd Half Stats (198 PA): .318/.374/.587, 11 HR, 1 SB, 158 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR
Shohei Ohtani could win this distinction in his sleep, but the unfortunate end to his time with the Angels and his absence in September afforded Rengifo additional attention.
The switch-hitter’s season was also cut short due to injury, but he reached a level he had yet to display in the Majors, becoming the team’s best player after Ohtani went down and the rest of the team was shipped off or waived.
With little talent remaining on the roster for 2024, Rengifo has set himself up to be the team’s preeminent player.
2nd Half Stats (283 PA): .356/.456/.590, 13 HR, 7 SB, 186 wRC+, 4.1 fWAR
Betts may have faced the stiffest competition with the second half Freddie Freeman put together. Even still, he was, without a doubt, the best player in baseball in the second half. His obscene month of August carried him to MLB’s highest fWAR total, mostly by being the league’s best hitter by wRC+, but also because he played a decent right field.
If that’s not enough for you, he walked as much as he struck out and led baseball in batting average. If not for a never-before-seen power-speed season from Ronald Acuña Jr., Betts would’ve run away with the NL MVP Award.
2nd Half Stats (204 PA): .308/.363/.519, 9 HR, 0 SB, 137 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR
Tanner Scott nearly took this one by performing as one of the game’s best relievers, but Burger’s status as the best midseason acquisition helped him take the cake…or burger, if you like.
After being an all-or-nothing power hitter on the South Side of Chicago, Burger transformed into a contact-oriented player with decent home run totals in Miami. It was one of the more unexpected offensive transitions this year, but it helped him pace his team in wRC+.
2nd Half Stats (299 PA): .317/.389/.498, 8 HR, 4 SB, 140 wRC+, 3.2 fWAR
This was one of the harder decisions because there were a few great choices. Freddy Peralta was the best strikeout pitcher in the second half and Devin Williams was the best closer in the second half. Contreras was the choice though, as he ascended to being the best catcher in baseball.
Not only was he the best offensive and defensive backstop in baseball, but he was also a top-10 player in baseball altogether by fWAR. He surpassed even the likes of his All-Star brother in just two years and his landing in Milwaukee will be considered one of the biggest thefts of the decade.
2nd Half Stats (254 PA): .304/.374/.537, 11 HR, 1 SB, 151 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR
It had been quite a while since we last saw Kepler perform at this level, but a year of health and openings in the outfield afforded him the opportunity to get back to lifting fly balls into the bleachers. I’m sure he will be listed as one of the biggest benefactors of the shift ban as well.
He led the Twins in hits (69), doubles (16), runs (42), and fWAR. Royce Lewis‘ grand slam barrage and Sonny Gray‘s continuation of what was believed to be an unrepeatable first half were also in consideration.
2nd Half Stats (76.2 IP): 2.58 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 28.6% K%, 9.6% BB%, 1.8 fWAR
Senga made quite the first impression stateside. He didn’t slow down all season and became the fifth rookie pitcher since 1994 to eclipse 200 strikeouts. His ghost fork made him memorable, but his performance on the field made him stand out amidst a disappointing season in Queens.
He has set the stage for the exciting pitching prospects coming from NPB to earn big paydays in the coming offseasons.
2nd Half Stats (92 IP): 2.35 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 28.7% K%, 4.1% BB%, 2.6 fWAR
Aaron Judge did his best to remind everyone of his record-breaking 2022 campaign and Michael King joined the rotation and took his game to another level, but Cole put an exclamation point on his AL Cy Young Award-winning campaign with his excellent second half, capping it off with a complete game shutout in his final outing.
He trailed only Tarik Skubal in terms of pitcher fWAR and paced baseball in WHIP. He’s worth every penny the Yankees are paying him.
2nd Half Stats (282 PA): .268/.337/.508, 13 HR, 14 SB, 134 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR
No rookie was better than Gelof in the second half. Unfortunately for him, his welcoming party is likely to be diminutive due to his being a member of the worst team in baseball. The second baseman didn’t make his debut until after the All-Star break, but he made the most of the time he was given.
You don’t even have to sort for just the second half, Gelof was the best player on the A’s despite playing in just 65 games. He leads the team in fWAR and wRC+ and is the most promising player on a team headed in the wrong direction.
2nd Half Stats (294 PA): .300/.415/.593, 18 HR, 6 SB, 167 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR
Trea Turner’s second-half turnaround was the biggest storyline of the second half in Philadelphia, but Harper’s full recovery from Tommy John surgery shouldn’t go unnoticed. No Phillie racked up more fWAR or a higher wRC+ than Harper, and he did it all without seeing a single pitch from his usual spot in the outfield grass.
This guy is a one-of-a-kind player for a reason, and he proved, once again, that nothing will stop him from being one of the best hitters in baseball.
2nd Half Stats (208 PA): .309/.346/.552, 10 HR, 1 SB, 136 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR
David Bednar deserves a shoutout for leading baseball with 20 saves in the second half, but Hayes was the true star of the Pirates. He finally started lifting the ball, clobbering double-digit dingers, which would’ve been a career-high total by itself.
His marks in the fWAR and wRC+ departments led the team and he also led the way with 13 doubles. If you’d like a more in-depth look into Hayes’ breakout, check out my article outlining how he attained his true potential.
2nd Half Stats (82 IP): 1.54 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 30.5% K%, 15% BB%, 2.0 fWAR
Juan Soto nearly took this one by finding his power stroke, but Snell has an argument for being the best pitcher in baseball in the second half. He led MLB in ERA by a significant margin and was one of just seven starters with a strikeout rate of at least 30%. He’s just a month away from becoming the seventh player in history to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues.
Snell’s process of overwhelming with his stuff and not worrying about free passes is definitely one of the more unique ways a pitcher has reached this level of success, but you can’t argue with the results.
2nd Half Stats (242 PA): .285/.364/.537, 14 HR, 0 SB, 145 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR
Across four seasons in San Francisco, Flores has been one of the more underrated bats in the game. His wRC+ had fallen in each successive season in orange and black, and after he posted a sub-100 wRC+ across the season’s first two months, it looked like the league might have finally caught up with him.
Newsflash…it didn’t. He turned it on across the next four months on his way to the best season of his career, let alone with the Giants. He led his team in every offensive category except walks and steals.
2nd Half Stats (302 PA): .321/.377/.595, 18 HR, 15 SB, 165 wRC+, 3.9 fWAR
Rodríguez seemed to be struggling as a product of the sophomore slump, but a breakout August propelled him to surpass even his AL Rookie of the Year Award-winning campaign. The young outfielder finished second in MLB in fWAR and was one of just three players to go for 15 homers and 15 steals in the second half.
The sky is the limit for Rodríguez and he probably has the best shot at becoming the next player to join the 40-40 club. Cal Raleigh and J.P. Crawford also deserve some love after turning it on offensively. Both were worth at least 2.7 fWAR as they displayed exceptional defense at skilled positions.
2nd Half Stats (230 PA): .266/.383/.458, 8 HR, 6 SB, 134 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR
Nootbaar had a really fun season. Outside of finishing in last place in the NL Central, he helped Team Japan to a WBC victory and carried over the success from his debut campaign.
The left-handed hitter was also the best player in St. Louis in the second half. He led his team in doubles (11), runs (35), and in fWAR. Fun name, fun player, fun season.
2nd Half Stats (255 PA): .333/.408/.516, 8 HR, 0 SB, 161 wRC+, 1.9fWAR
When Díaz began the season by lifting the ball more than ever, I knew right then he was on his way to an MVP-caliber offensive campaign. His playing first base would likely hold him back WAR wise and with Shohei Ohtani as his main competition, he never really stood a chance, but the fact that he was able to hit balls over the fence for a full season for the first time ever was impressive enough.
The most impressive aspect was that he maintained everything else that made him one of the league’s best hitters. He rarely struck out and he posted one of the highest batting averages in baseball. The Rays never gave up on Díaz, and it paid off big time.
2nd Half Stats (251 PA): .311/.375/.662, 21 HR, 1 SB, 171 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR
I thought it was crazy that Seager reached 33 long balls last year. Then they banned the shift, and I wondered what kind of monster Kyle’s younger brother would turn into. Well, he surpassed my expectations and then some!
Not only did he boost his batting average by a crazy amount, but he also maintained and even improved upon the power gains he made last year. Seager didn’t slow down in the second half either as he finished top three in homers and top-10 in wRC+. He led baseball in slugging percentage.
2nd Half Stats (69.1 IP): 3.25 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 28.1% K%, 6.6% BB%, 2.3 fWAR
Davis Schneider’s small sample size was fun, but Yusei Kikuchi’s longevity performing as the best arm on the Blue Jays’ pitching staff earned him the distinction of best player in the second half. Kikuchi was quietly a top-five pitcher in baseball according to fWAR after the All-Star break thanks to a top-five FIP (2.62) and a team-leading 21.5% K-BB%.
When he was first signed out of Japan, he had high expectations, but he failed to reach them until he broke out this year. This is what Mariners fans dreamed of and what has become a reality for Blue Jays fans.
2nd Half Stats (296 PA): .245/.310/.434, 11 HR, 30 SB, 97 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
One of just two players on this list who took the honor with little competition, Abrams displayed his long-dormant power, finally exhibiting what excited prospect evaluators a few years ago.
All it took was for him to pace his squad in steals, runs (46), and fWAR. In doing so, he proved that he has the ability to be the best player on future iterations of a rebuilding Nationals ballclub.