X Factors to Watch During Butler-Uconn Showdown

X Factors to Watch During Butler-Uconn Showdown

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With the first half in the books, here’s a look at a few players to keep an eye on heading into the second half.

Adam Dunn, White Sox Dunn had a disastrous first half on the South Side, batting just .160 with nine home runs. But if he starts living up to his contract (four years, $56 million), the White Sox should challenge for the American League Central title.

Dan Uggla, Braves– The Braves would like to trade for another hitter, particularly after losing All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones to knee surgery. But the easiest upgrade of all would be if Uggla returns to the 30-homer, 100-RBI form that made him an All-Star in Florida.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox– Pedroia played through pain in the first half, and his numbers suffered as a result. Perhaps he’s due for a big second half after falling short of an All-Star selection for the first time since his rookie year.

Zack Greinke, Brewers – Brewers general manager Doug Melvin parted with a big prospect package for Greinke last offseason. Now it’s time for the former Cy Young Award winner to produce. Greinke is having a mediocre year so far: 7-3 with a 5.45 ERA.

Carlos Beltran, Mets– In a likelihood, he will be playing for someone other than the Mets by this time next month. As a switch hitter who is still capable of playing center field, Beltran could give any number of teams a boost during the pennant race.

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Heath Bell, Padres– The Padres are almost certain to trade Bell, an All-Star closer, before the July 31 deadline. Suitors such as the Cardinals and Philliesare already lining up. It won’t be a surprise if the quick-to-tweet Bell appears in his first postseason this year – with a new team.

Vernon Wells, Angels– When the Angels missed onCarl Crawford and Adrian Beltre last offseason, they brought in Wells as their big offensive upgrade. He hasn’t filled that void yet, batting just .222 and spending time on the disabled list. But a big second half from Wells could push the Angels to a division title.

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees – Rodriguez opted for knee surgery rather than continue to play through pain at reduced production. The move should work out well for the Yankees in the long term, but, as with his hip in 2009, they can’t know for certain what he will offer once he returns.

Roy Oswalt, Phillies – When the season started, the Phillies had four aces. But as long as Oswalt is on the disabled list, they will have “only” four. Oswalt must be healthy down the stretch in order for the Philly rotation to have an edge against potential postseason foe San Francisco.

James Shields, Rays – Right now, Shields is a top-of-the-rotation starter for a Rays team that is contending in the always-brutal AL East. But if the Rays slip early in the second half – they entered the break six games back – then Shields could become the most coveted pitcher on the midseason trade market.

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