As we near the midpoint of the season, fantasy owners should be focused on trading for players who can produce statistics that exceed expectations. Taking a chance on a slumping star such as Robinson Cano or Ian Desmond is fine in April or May, but by now, a better plan is to focus on those who can hit the ground running on a new roster. The players listed below could each provide notable production without requiring a sizable investment.
Billy Burns, outfielder, A's
With a .324 batting average, 15 steals and 32 runs scored since joining the club on May 2, the outfielder has been a difference-maker in mixed leagues. With a terrific combination of plate skills and speed, Burns should be one of the most effective leadoff hitters in baseball this summer. Those who need an elite basestealer who can also hit for average and score runs should make an immediate offer for him. Burns is currently dealing with a minor hip flexor injury, which could reduce the trade cost for this excellent long-term asset.
Steven Souza Jr., outfielder, Rays
Despite hitting .217, Souza is on pace to finish the season with roughly 30 homers and 20 steals. Among players who can match the outfielder's 14 homers, only four -- Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Justin Upton and Manny Machado -- have also kept pace with his 10 steals. In an effort to boost their counting-stat totals, owners who have multiple high-average hitters should acquire Souza.
Alex Rodriguez, designated hitter, Yankees
Without the burden of playing in the field, the 39-year-old has had a resurgent offensive year. The slugger is on pace to finish the season with roughly 30 homers and 95 RBIs, and A-Rod could continue to excel as the No. 3 hitter on the second-highest-scoring lineup in the Majors. With little reason to expect a notable regression during the second half, Rodriguez is a terrific trade target for those who seek an elite power hitter.
Jhonny Peralta, shortstop, Cardinals
Offensive talent at the shortstop position is hard to find this season, which makes Peralta's reliable plate skills more appealing than ever before. Hitting .303 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 277 at-bats, the 33-year-old could make a major difference for owners who are stuck with an unproductive shortstop. Peralta should cost less on the trade market than top options at other positions, but he could still making a similar impact on some lineups.
Brian McCann, catcher, Yankees
While the first-half surges of Stephen Vogt and Russell Martin have drawn the attention of many fantasy owners, McCann has quietly hit .270 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs. Like Peralta, McCann can make a big difference by providing dependable production at a scarce position. Owners in need of a catcher should trade for McCann and use the waiver wire to fill their needs at deeper spots.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.