2011 MLB Fantasy Fever From WhatIfSports.com image

Fantasy Fever: Jumping for Joyce

Fantasy Fever Week 10

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
June 7, 2011

Baseball is a fickle game. The sport is one gigantic oxymoron, as the only constant is inconsistency. Streaks and slumps are a fundamental and inescapable truth, magnified to the nth degree. Unlike other athletic contests, these predispositions affect superstars and scrubs alike. It's how Albert Pujols, the greatest hitter baseball has seen in the past 30 years, can seem prosaic at the plate for two months and then proceed to awaken with four home runs in three days.

The same sentiment explains why fans are reserved when someone challenges the theoretical norm. Jose Bautista's torrential 2010 went relatively unrecognized, as many waited for the Toronto's sluggers numbers to return to his historical output. Universal praise only occurred when Bautista crossed the 50-homer plateau in late September.

This phenomenon is occurring again in 2011, with Matt Joyce as the current case study. Joyce is leading the league with a .348 average to go along with 10 long balls, 34 RBI and a .405 OBP. Yet skepticism remains concerning the long-term prospects of Joyce, despite logging 187 at bats on the year. Although he had success in the minors, Joyce had a .243 lifetime average in 490 at bats in the majors heading into the season. Not helping matter is Joyce's inability to hit left-handers, as the Tampa outfielder is batting just .222 against southpaws (compared to .377 versus righties). Additionally, Joyce has an abnormally-high BABIP of .385 which will surely lower throughout the season.

But for all the reservations surrounding Joyce, optimism abounds. Joyce owns a higher line drive percentage (22.2 percent) than years' past, and with the return of Evan Longoria, is now provided with protection in the lineup. Batting third and possessing power, Joyce will continue to rack up ribbies and runs. More importantly, for the first time in his career, Joyce has the benefit of suiting up every day for Tampa. The Rays may eventually call upon prospect Desmond Jennings, but that promotion would not affect Joyce's playing time.

So when will Joyce earn the faith of fantasy owners? Truth be told, his performance for two months in baseball's toughest division should be ample evidence that Joyce is the real deal. He may not win the batting crown, but Joyce will continue to be a fantasy force throughout the season.

Freddie Freeman Freeman is wielding a hot bat.

Start 'em:

C: Carlos Santana, Indians. The struggling Santana has started showing signs of life, hitting .355 since May 27. More impressive has been the Cleveland catcher's patience at the plate, posting a .392 OBP in May and a .409 figure in June.

1B: Freddie Freeman, Braves. Freeman was one of baseball's hottest hitters the past week, smacking five doubles on his way to batting .480 in the last six games. Since May 2, Freeman is hitting .321 with 12 runs and 13 RBI. Owners may aspire for more power out of the position, but Freeman will be a solid source for average.

2B: Daniel Murphy, Mets. With Ike Davis sidelined for the foreseeable future, Murphy has capitalized on the opportunity at first. Murphy has been scorching as of late, hitting .567 in the past eight games and raising his season average to .309. Owned in just 10 percent of leagues, benefit from Murphy's eligibility options by placing the Met at second.

3B: Chase Headley, Padres. Friar fans have been waiting for Headley to display the talent that made him the 2007 Texas League Player of the Year, and it appears that promise is finally coming to fruition. Headley is in the midst of a 15-game hitting streak and is hitting .280 with a .385 OBP on the season.

SS: Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays. After hitting .299 with 14 homers and 76 RBI in 2009 with Atlanta, Escobar had the worst season in his four-year career in 2010, hitting a pedestrian .256 to go along with four bombs in split service with the Braves and Blue Jays. Escobar has bounced back in the first two months of the 2011 campaign, hitting .290 with seven long balls and a .371 OBP.

OF: Michael Bourn, Astros. Although the stat is experiencing a relative revival, stolen bases are still a fantasy delicacy, which what makes Bourn's preeminence on the paths that more impressive. Bourn has swiped seven bases in the past seven games, bringing the outfielder's total to 25 on the season. Additionally, Bourn is swinging a hot bat, hitting .344 in the past week.

SP: Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks. Since joining the starting rotation on May 14, Collmenter has a 1.23 ERA and miniscule 0.68 WHIP thanks to walking just four batters in 29.1 innings.

RP: John Axford, Brewers. Subtract Axford's nightmarish Opening Day performance (0.2 innings, four earned runs) and Milwaukee's closer has a 2.03 ERA. On the season, Axford has 16 saves and should continue to accumulate more finishes if the Brewers continue their winning ways.

Sit 'em:

C: Geovany Soto, Cubs. Soto is batting a buck seventy-six since returning from the DL last week. The Chicago backstop had a .226 batting average before a strained left groin shelved Soto on May 11.

1B: Aubrey Huff, Giants. Don't let last week's three-homer barrage fool you; Huff is struggling at the plate with a .222 average and .282 OBP.

2B: Ian Kinsler, Rangers. Kinsler is hitless in 19 at bats in June and is hitting .220 on the season. The good news is Kinsler has remained healthy, an issue that historically has plagued the second baseman. Yet Kinsler proprietors should be concerned that the Texas slugger has just two bombs since April 23, a far cry from the 31 dingers in 2009.

Lightning Rod

Francisco Rodriguez Rodriguez is mired in a funk.

3B: Casey McGehee, Brewers. Time to officially pull the plug on McGehee, who finished May with a .218 average, two home runs and 10 RBI. McGehee has begun June without a hit, dropping his season average to .238. With a third of the season in the books it's hard to see McGehee replicating his 2010 season (.285 average, 23 home runs, 104 RBI).

SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals. Desomond has failed to reproduce last season's rookie success, struggling to the tune of a .221 average and .260 OBP.

OF: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners. Ichiro has been the definition of consistency in his 11-year career, batting over .300 in every campaign and leading the league in hits six of the past seven seasons. But through 60 games, Ichiro is hitting .264 and has yet to hit a homer. There's still plenty of time for the perennial All-Star to turn it around, but at age 37, the sun may be setting on Suzuki's career.

SP: Max Scherzer, Tigers. After his first nine starts, Scherzer was 6-0 with a 2.81 ERA. His last four starts have been on the opposite side of the spectrum as Scherzer is 1-3 with a 10.24 ERA and his WHIP has risen to 1.49. Scherzer has historically been at his best in June and July, but remain cautious with the Detroit pitcher.

RP: Francisco Rodriguez, Mets. Although initially showing signs of dominance, the much-maligned Met has unraveled at the seams. In his last five appearances, Rodriguez has surrendered eight runs in 4.1 innings, including 11 hits and two walks.

Waiver Wire: Edinson Volquez, Reds. The 2008 All-Star was sent to the minors after sporting a 6.35 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in his first 10 games (as well as calling out teammates for a perceived lack of run support). In Triple-A Louisville, Volquez appeared to right the ship, posting a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings. Owned in just 33 percent of leagues, Volquez has enough upside to make an impact on your team's win and strikeout totals.

Rookie Review: Brent Morel, White Sox. Morel is batting .344 in his last eight games for the White Sox. The Chicago third baseman hit .322 in two stops in the minors last season, and is batting .257 in the Bigs in 2011.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. The former MVP snapped out of his season-long slump with four home runs, including two game winners, against the Cubs this past weekend.

Spit Your Tobacco At: Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. And not for blaming his teammates for their two straight walk-off defeats. Instead, Zambrano earns condemnation for attempting to break a bat on his thigh, only to fail in his first endeavor.

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Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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