Athlon Sports gets you ready for this weekend's fantasy baseball action
Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
We are less than a month away from the All-Star game, which will be held July 10 in Kansas City. While the majority of this year’s top fantasy producers will find themselves in KC for the mid-summer classic, we thought we would take a look at some of the current (entering Thursday’s games) category leaders. You may be surprised at more than one of these.
Batting Average: It may be a little surprising to find that Paul Konerko is leading the American League with a .376 average, but he is a five-time All-Star who’s hit over .300 in four other seasons and carried a .282 career batting average into this season. What is definitely surprising, however, is who is currently third in the AL, Mark Trumbo. Last season Trumbo finished second in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year after posting a .254-29-87 line for the Angels.
This season, Trumbo is off to an even better start, fueled largely by a .328 batting average, which is more than 70 points higher than his 2011 mark, and improved plate discipline. He’s already walked 18 times in 201 at-bats this season, compared to 25 in 539 in ‘11. Trumbo’s fantasy value is only enhanced by the fact he’s eligible at three different positions – 1B, 3B and OF — and he’s a top-15 player at all of them currently.
Runs: Carlos Gonzalez leads the majors and National League with 48 runs scored and Ian Kinsler leads the AL with 47. But can you guess who’s tied for fifth in all of baseball with 44 runs? That would be Alejandro De Aza. The young White Sox outfielder has settled in nicely in the leadoff spot and has been a valuable all-around fantasy contributor this season. Besides the runs, De Aza is batting .308 with four home runs, 27 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Not bad for someone who’s currently owned in less than 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues, especially considering he’s a top-10 outfielder.
Home Runs: Josh Hamilton, who is this season’s fantasy MVP so far with a ridiculous .335-22-62 line, leads baseball with his 22 bombs. Currently in second place you ask? None other than Adam Dunn, who hit his 21st home run on Tuesday. Remember, Dunn is the same guy everyone thought was done after hitting just 11 home runs in 2011, along with driving in only 42 hitting a pitiful .159. Just 62 games into this season, he’s almost doubled his home run total from last season and already has more RBIs (47). The batting average (.226) is still a problem, as are the strikeouts (leads the majors with 98), but an OPS of .928, along with the power and run production certainly make Dunn more appealing, at least this season.
Stolen Bases: Emilio Bonifacio went on the disabled list on May 20 with a thumb injury. At the time, the Marlins’ speedy utility man was running away from the rest of the league with 20 stolen bases. Since he’s been on the shelf for more than three weeks, it’s not surprising we have a new clubhouse leader. The new front-runner, however, is not Michael Bourn (he has 17) or Jose Reyes (16) nor is it Dodgers’ burner Dee Gordon (20). No, the current top base-stealer is none other than Tony Campana. The Cubs’ outfielder has swiped 21 bases in just 123 at-bats. Campana, who is owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues, doesn’t offer any other fantasy value other than his speed, but if you have room for him on your roster and have patience, he could prove to be a difference-maker when it comes to stolen bases.
There’s also Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis who has 15 stolen bases to go along with his 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, 44 runs scored and a .283 batting average. Put it all together and you have the top second baseman in all of fantasy baseball right now. Another pleasant surprise at second has been Houston’s Jose Altuve, all 65 inches of him. Altuve, who stands a mere 5’5”, leads all second basemen with a .321 average, and his 11 stolen bases are second only to Kipnis. He’s also scored 40 runs, hit four home runs and driven in 22. Altuve is proof that good things, even when it comes to fantasy baseball, do indeed come in small packages.
Wins: The current major-league leaders in wins are the Mets’ R.A. Dickey and Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, two guys who have 10 wins each and probably went undrafted in virtually every league. Besides them, the Rangers’ Matt Harrison has just as many wins (8) as David Price and CC Sabathia have. Also, a Dodgers’ left-hander has eight wins, only it’s Chris Capuano and not Clayton Kershaw, last season’s NL Cy Young winner who has five victories so far in 2012.
ERA: Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy is the only qualified starter with an ERA of less than 2.00 (1.98) at this point in the season. As good as Beachy’s been, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale has been better. Sale leads the AL with a 2.05 ERA and is arguably one the top fantasy pitchers to this point as he has eight wins, 76 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings pitched, and a WHIP of 0.92.
Pittsburgh’s James McDonald (5-2, 2.39 ERA, 73 Ks in 75 1/3 IP) and Arizona’s Wade Miley (7-3, 2.39 ERA) also have been pleasant surprises and valuable SPs. There’s also Capuano, who’s putting up career-best numbers (8-2, 2.87 ERA) in a Dodgers’ uniform.
WHIP: He doesn’t “qualify” in terms of innings pitched, but the numbers that Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman has put up so far deserve recognition. Chapman, the Reds’ seventh-inning guy turned setup man turned closer has allowed just 12 hits and four earned runs in 32 innings so far, while striking out 56. That’s right, he currently maintains a nearly 5:1 strikeout-to-hits allowed ratio and has a 0.69 WHIP and 1.13 ERA, in addition to the the four wins, six holds and seven saves he has registered so far. He had value before he became the Reds’ closer, and now you could make the argument that he’s the most valuable relief pitcher in all of fantasy baseball.
Ernesto Frieri has taken a similar path to Chapman as he’s gone from a bullpen arm in San Diego to the closer in Anaheim, while producing similar numbers in the process. Frieri is 1-0 with five holds and six saves on the season, with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in only 30 innings pitched.
Saves: It, along with wins, may be one of the more despised categories in fantasy baseball, but regardless, in the vast majority of leagues saves still count. To that end, Cleveland’s Chris Perez currently leads the way with 20, followed by Baltimore’s Jim Johnson’s 19.
Also among the leaders are Tampa Bay’s Fernando Rodney and San Francisco’s Santiago Casilla, two guys who weren’t the closer for their respective teams when the season started. Rodney took the job for the Rays when incumbent Kyle Farnsworth went down and he hasn’t looked back, collecting 18 saves along with two wins while posting a 0.94 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. Casilla got the Giants’ closing gig after they lost Brian Wilson to a season-ending elbow injury, and he’s since posted 17 saves with a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
Alfredo Aceves also has made the most of an unexpected situation, taking over for an injured Andrew Bailey as Boston’s closer. Aceves has racked up 15 saves while striking out more batters (35) than innings pitched (31 2/3), despite having a pretty high ERA (4.83), most of which is the result of a few rough appearances earlier in the season.
DL Watch and Other Injury News
*Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (.273-6-26) aggravated his left hamstring injury on Wednesday, leaving the game in Colorado in the second inning. He was returning to action after missing the previous four games because of the hamstring issue and after re-injuring it last night, a trip to the DL seems likely. He’s already spent time on the DL, having missed three weeks of action in May because of an injured wrist.
*Oakland A’s right-hander Brandon McCarthy was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday due to shoulder soreness. McCarthy (5-3, 2.79 ERA) has already spent time on the DL this season for the same issue and it looks like he could be sidelined once again.
*Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow (7-4, 3.01 ERA) was placed on the DL on Wednesday with a strained left oblique. Morrow, who was leading the AL in complete games with 3 at the time of his injury, left his start against Washington on Monday after throwing just nine pitches. It is not known how long he will be out at this point.
*Texas placed right-hander Alexi Ogando on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with a strained right groin. Ogando had been moved back to the rotation because of injuries to two of the Rangers’ other starters — Derek Holland (fatigued shoulder) and Neftali Feliz (strained elbow ligament). Ogando is expected to be out for at least a month and the Rangers will more than likely utilize multiple spot starters in his place until Roy Oswalt is ready to make his 2012 season debut.
*Jered Weaver threw bullpen sessions on Monday and Tuesday as the Los Angeles Angels’ ace starts his return from a lower back injury that resulted in him going on the DL on May 29. Weaver is scheduled to throw a simulated game before the end of the week and if there are no setbacks he could return to the mound for the Angels’ home series against San Francisco, which starts on Monday.
*Carlos Zambrano is expected to make his next scheduled start on Friday against Tampa Bay after leaving his last start with back stiffness. The Marlins’ pitcher lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Saturday against the Rays and gave up seven runs before departing. That was by far Big Z’s worst outing of the season, as the enigmatic right-hander has been solid for Miami in his first season, going 4-4 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 12 starts so far, nine of them quality starts.
— By Mark Ross, published on June 14, 2012