|Will These Surprising Stars Continue to Shine?|
|AL or Nothing|
|Written by Ryan Carey|
|Thursday, 14 June 2012 05:42|
For the past couple of weeks Greg Morgan has been talking about how to approach mid-season leagues over at the NFBC. His articles got me to thinking about some of the players who have emerged so far this year and as such are likely to be hot commodities in these drafts, easily costing more than they did before the season. The challenge of course is to try and decide if you think players such as these listed below will keep up their hot starts, because for many of them, that means you will have to draft them much higher than your mind will tell you to. I have to admit, both reading Greg’s article and writing this one myself has kind of given me the urge to possibly try my hand at a mid-season league for the first time. I am very intrigued at seeing how differently the players come off the board, and in turn which names tumble as others rise. Who knows, maybe we’ll just play around and have a little fun in the Forums with a mid-season mock draft or something. In any case, here is my list of surprising stars to start the year
C - A.J. Pierzynski – I highlighted Pierzynski in the preseason as what I have viewed him as for the past few seasons, an underrated veteran backstop that you target late in drafts because he wouldn’t hurt your batting average. I was able to secure his services in more than a few of my leagues this year using that same old reliable strategy and so far it has paid off in spades as the 37 year-old is in the midst of a career season. His 11 home runs and 40 RBI’s are tops at the position for American League catchers and his .292 average and 31 Runs trails only Joe Mauer among everyday options. Despite drafting him in a bunch of places, I actually cut him in the Forum Subscribers league on May 13, when Jesus Montero gained C eligibility. Since then he been unconscious, hitting over .350 with 6 homers, 19 Runs and 19 RBI’s.
1B – Mark Trumbo – It took a little while for Trumbo to stake a claim to consistent playing time early in the season, but those owners who took a chance on him have been rewarded with his fantastic first half. His 14 HR’s have him on the path to surpassing last year’s 29, and his batting average is a surprising .329. He’s even chipped in 4 stolen bases and has basically been the player people thought they were getting when they drafted Eric Hosmer early in drafts. Considering he only hit .254 last year, his average is likely to tumble a bit as the season progresses, but his power is for real and the Angels will keep finding ways to keep his potent bat in the lineup. He’s logged 8 games at 3B, which has given him added flexibility in many leagues which is always a plus.
2B – Jason Kipnis – I am an unabashed Kipnis fan, and it thrills me to no end to see him having a breakout performance so far this season. He is the top rated second baseman in the AL thus far, with 10 home runs, 40 RBI’s and 15 stolen bases. The last number is the obvious eye-catcher, as it has him on a pace to steal 40 bases, which would be way more than anyone, myself included, predicted for the emerging star. While his production isn’t a total surprise, to see him out-producing established stars like Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano illustrates both how good he has been and the value of speed in fantasy.
SS – Mike Aviles – Aviles was a member of the All-Underrated team in March as a sneaky late round pick who had multi-position eligibility and would be hitting in a potent lineup in Boston. He has more than lived up to whatever price you paid to acquire him with a terrific April and solid May making him the second most valuable shortstop in the league behind only Derek Jeter. His 37 RBI’s are tops at the position and he smacked 8 homers and swiped 7 bases as well. He’s cooled off a bit since the calendar turned to June, and there is a definite chance the magic could be started to wane. While he should still retain enough value to be a strong MI the rest of the year, he is a player you may want to dangle in trade talks to see what you can get in return.
3B – Edwin Encarnacion – E.E. also made my All-Underrated team and here is what I feel was the key sentence in that write-up: “He has always had power; it’s just a matter of him finding the AB’s.” Well, he has found those AB’s and the Blue Jays have found another slugger to pair with Jose Bautista. Encarnacion has already matched last year’s 17 home runs, driven in 44, scored 34 runs and added 6 steals. He is one of the steals of the year and for where he was likely drafted, possibly the value pick of the year. I wish I had taken my own advice and drafted him somewhere this year, it just seemed like every draft I was targeting him in this year, someone liked him just a bit more. Congrats if you own him, enjoy the ride the rest of the way.
OF – Adam Jones – Jones was likely the highest drafted player on this list, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong here. He is the breakout player of the year so far, and has finally blossomed into the superstar that the Orioles had hoped he would become when the acquired him in the package of players from Seattle for Erik Bedard back in 2008. He showed a glimpse of what was to come this year in 2011 and if you targeted him after the top options were off the board, you have gotten first round production at a bargain price. He has delivered across the board production batting .306 with 18 home runs, 44 runs, 38 RBI’s and 9 stolen bases.
OF – Mike Trout – I was able to secure Trout in one of my many leagues this year, and that was on my Razzball Experts squad. I took a chance and stashed him on my bench, hoping he would get the call at some point. Well, he got the call earlier than we all expected and has been nothing short of extraordinary since then. He has been a revelation for the Angels, as his speed and tenacity has helped lead the Angels’ surge back up the standings. I don’t think anyone thought he’d be this good this soon, especially after his struggles last year. He has stolen 16 bases already, showed some pop in his bat with 6 home runs and is hitting a robust .341. He’s been so good; people are starting to talk about him as a serious MVP contender.
OF – Alejandro De Aza – The speedy OF turned his season around in May, and hasn’t looked backed since. He has 13 steals on the year and has scored 44 runs as the White Sox primary leadoff man. He has also managed to keep his average above .300. He has been a real pleasant surprise for those who gambled on his speed upside late in drafts. He should continue to steal bases and score a bunch of runs at the top of one of baseball’s most potent lineups.
UT – Josh Reddick – I didn’t want to leave Reddick off the list, so we will give him the UT spot. Of all the names on the list, Reddick is the one who may have gone undrafted. He has emerged from the logjam in the Oakland outfield, to become a must start in all leagues. You have to think that Boston would like to have a do over on the trade that sent him over as the key piece in the package for Andrew Bailey. His power has been a nice surprise as his 14 homers gives him a chance to hit 30 this year.
DH – Adam Dunn – He’s baaaccckkkk! Dunn has put last year’s disaster behind him by smacking 21 home runs so far. He still has a batting average you don’t want to look at, but if you gambled on the rebound, well you must be happy today. I drafted him nowhere this year, so I don’t have a stake, but hey good for him and good for you if you took a chance. I certainly could use his power on more than a few of my teams. Man, I just also realized how many White Sox there are on this list, which doesn’t make me so happy as an Indians fan.
RHP – Brandon Morrow – Morrow came into the season slightly underrated (yes he made the team in March) mainly because he had disappointed slightly in 2011 with an ERA of 4.78 and a WHIP of 1.28. He had the K numbers, and that is why you drafted him, but he has harnessed his control this year delivering a 3.03 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00. Unfortunately he just landed on the DL with an oblique strain that will put his breakthrough season on hold for the time being.
LHP – Chris Sale – If the season ended today, the lanky lefthander might very well win the Cy Young. He has 8 wins, 76 K’s to go along with an ERA of 2.049 and a WHIP of 0.924. It seems like just yesterday that he was briefly moved to the bullpen in the wake of some elbow discomfort. Fantasy owners were glad to see him back starting again, because since his return he’s been brilliant. After a rocky first start back, he has reeled off 5 straight dominating starts, including his masterful 15 K performance on May 28. He’s likely going to come up against an innings limit at some point this year, but until then he’s going to keep racking up K’s and winning games for the resurgent White Sox.
RP – Jim Johnson/Fernando Rodney – Both these guys deserve to be mentioned as both have been nothing short of stellar to start the year. Johnson was a guy I touted as a great guy to target as a potential third closer. Well, I obviously didn’t see the Orioles being nearly as competitive as they have been so far, but Johnson has 19 saves and has locked down a job many thought he had a tenuous hold on coming into the season. As for Rodney, he has taken advantage of the injury to Kyle Farnsworth and racked up 19 saves of his own to go along with a sparkling ERA of 0.94 with a WHIP of 0.76. To say that those are the best numbers of this journeyman’s career would be an understatement. Farnsworth is almost ready to return, but it will be as the set-up man now.
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