Fantasy Fever Week 6
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If one were to inquire baseball fans on their opinion of the best player in today's game, an elite group featuring the likes of Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Roy Halladay and Miguel Cabrera would likely be the retort. Alas, while these athletes are amazing in their own right, they fall just short of one man who has taken the sport by storm.
Ironically, it is man who calls Canada home that is dominating America's Pastime.
Jose Bautista embarked his MLB career in an unorthodox manner in 2004, logging time for four different teams during his rookie season. In principle, Bautista occupied space on five rosters, becoming the first player in baseball history to achieve such a feat, as the New York Mets acquired and dealt Bautista on the same day. Bautista would have moderate success over the next five seasons, but never hit above .254 or knocked more than 16 home runs in a year.
So you can imagine why most in the baseball world were skeptical when Bautista blasted 12 bombs with a .287 average in May of 2010. Sure, Bautista had smacked 10 home runs in the last 30 games of 2009, but that was against September call-ups. Furthermore, critics found it improbable that Bautista would have a breakout campaign at age 29. With only four jacks in April, Bautista's mayhem in May was chalked up as an aberration. This claim was further supported by the Toronto slugger's June in which Bautista was under the Mendoza Line (.179) with four home runs and nine RBI.
In hindsight, April and June would be evidenced as anomalies, as Bautista would strike 34 more shots into the bleachers over baseball's final three months, compiling a league-leading 54 home runs on the season. Just as impressive was Bautista's career-high in batting average (.260), as well as totals of 124 RBI and 109 runs.
The Blue Jay Bomber resumed his power performance in the dawn of 2011, hitting nine home runs in April as well as sporting a .366 batting average. Bautista suffered some neck issues in early May that cost him a few games, but returned on May 8 and promptly sent another souvenir into the outfield stands. On the season, Bautista is leading the American League in walks, batting average, OBP and slugging, and his 10 home runs are second only to Curtis Granderson.
Yet Bautista hasn't received the acclaim that his statistical onslaught deserves, fantasy forum included. Due to a perceived one-hit wonder eminence or playing in relative obscurity in Toronto, Bautista is not discussed in the same breath as other members of baseball's upper echelon. This works out perfect for you, oh astute fantasy owner.
Undoubtedly it will take the services of your first or second-round draft pick, but Bautista could be yours with relative ease. When dangled with a name like Pujols or Votto, a fellow owner will almost certainly jump at the chance to acquire a more established name. While you may question why you would want to jettison a high-selection for Bautista, remember that, despite playing outfield, Bautista maintains position eligibility at third base, a spot whose depth is somewhat weak compared to years' past. Bautista as a fantasy outfielder is a beast in itself, but placing the reigning home-run champion at third? A full-fledged fantasy juggernaut.
The baseball cosmos may still be behind in realizing Bautista's true worth. But with a little ingenuity and foresight, you can attain the slugger's services and enjoy the dividends.
C: Chris Iannetta, Rockies. The Colorado backstop has been the lone bright spot in May for the slumping Rockies, hitting .360 with two home runs in his past eight games. Iannetta may be batting .230 on the season, but his patience at the plate has correlated to a .406 on-base percentage. Colorado had been delegating time between Iannetta and Jose Morales, but Iannetta appears to be the new full-time starter.
1B: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins. Sanchez has been scorching at the plate for Florida, hitting .464 with a .531 OBP in the past seven games. Sanchez submitted an admirable campaign in his first full-season with the Marlins in 2010, belting 19 homers with a .273 average. However, with Sanchez turning 28 in September, many projected that the first baseman had reached his potential and that a statistical increase was unlikely. Yet through 125 at-bats, Sanchez is hitting .328 with five home runs, 20 RBI, 21 runs and a .414 OBP.
2B: Martin Prado, Braves. Prado had a breakout year in 2010 hitting .307 with 100 runs and 66 RBI, earning his first All-Star selection in the process. Unfortunately for Prado owners, the Atlanta chameleon (Prado has manned six positions in his career) sputtered out of the gate, hitting just .238 through the season's first 25 games, alarming since Prado has historically excelled in April (career .295 average). Luckily for Prado proprietors he has improved in the past 11 games, hitting .333 with nine RBI and six runs. Upcoming games against Washington, Houston and Arizona should assist in Prado's progress.
SS: Erick Aybar, Angels. Since returning from the DL Aybar has been making up for lost time. After a hitless debut on April 20, the Angel shortstop is hitting .366 with seven stolen bases, eight runs and seven RBI. Aybar remains an injury liability and his lack of walks is disconcerting, but Aybar can enter into the elite at his position if he continues to produce a steady stream of steals and runs.
3B: Evan Longoria, Rays. Those waiting for Longoria to acclimate after his absence can rest assured, as the former Rookie of the Year hit .417 with five RBI and four runs over the weekend in Baltimore. Don't let an approaching series against Cleveland (team ERA: 3.25, fourth in the AL) act as a detriment towards starting Longoria this week.
OF: Jay Bruce, Reds. No one was happier to see the advent of May more than Bruce, as the Reds right fielder had an abysmal April average of .228. Bruce has made the most of the calendar turn, hitting .348 with three bombs and seven RBI. Bruce was expected to join the crème de la crème of fantasy outfielders in 2011, but that forecast has yet to come to fruition. Fantasy owners are hoping Bruce's recent upswing is the start of that prophecy being fulfilled.
SP: Fausto Carmona, Indians. Carmona's 3.83 ERA is inflated from the Opening Day Massacre at the hands of the White Sox (three innings, 11 hits, 10 earned runs). In his last three starts, Carmona has 14 strikeouts and a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings of work. Carmona is a must-start in his next outing against a lethargic Mariners lineup.
RP: Drew Storen, Nationals. Storen has taken the reins as Washington's closer, and with good reason: through 18.2 innings, the right-hander has a microscopic 0.48 ERA to go along with a 0.86 WHIP. The Nationals have been surprisingly relevant in the cutthroat AL East with a 16-18 record. If the team maintains this competitive fire, it should correlate to high save shares for Storen owners.
C: Buster Posey, Giants. San Fran fans and Posey possessors are praying that the Giant catcher is in a prolonged drought as opposed to suffering the infamous "sophomore slump." The reigning NL Rookie of the Year is hitting a putrid .167 in May with zero homers and two RBI. On the season, Posey is batting .241, well below the .305 mark he posted in 2010. Posey has improved on his plate patience, but his plummeting average has those in the Bay Area alarmed.
1B: Adam LaRoche, Nationals. LaRoche is a notoriously slow-starter, with a career average of .208 in April/March, so the .196 average shouldn't be too bewildering. What should be disturbing is the lack of power from LaRoche, who has just three home runs and 14 RBI. LaRoche shouldn't be dropped, but keep him on your bench until he emerges from his annual spring hibernation.
2B: Brian Roberts, Orioles. The Baltimore second baseman has just one hit in his last 24 at-bats. After playing in just 59 games in 2010, Roberts has yet to revert back to his 2009 form, which saw him swipe 30 bags and score 110 runs. Through 32 games this season, Roberts has a meager three steals and 14 runs, along with a .221 average. Unless discovering the fountain of youth at age 33, it's hard to imagine Roberts turning back into the All-Star caliber player from 2005 to 2009.
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. Tulowitzki's blazing start was an unexpected surprise for owners of the Colorado shortstop, as Tulo has traditionally struggled in the early going (career .240 hitter in April). But after finishing April with seven home runs, 17 RBI and .298, Tulowitzki is hitting just .100 with one homer in May. Tulowitzki is historically a second-half hitter (.312 in July to October) so don't get discouraged with subpar results in May and June. However, depending on matchups and depth on your bench, don't be afraid to sit Tulowitzki on the pine.
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs. Ramirez is batting just .192 in May with zero runs and one RBI. On the season, Ramirez is batting a solid .273 but has just one home run. The lack of power could be correlated to the cold and rainy weather, but Ramirez has some catching up to do to match the 25 long balls he hit in 2010.
OF: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians. Choo's May average of .138 has lowered his season mark to .225, well below 2010's figure of .300. Not helping matters was the negative publicity resulting from Choo's recent DUI arrest. Choo remains a viable fantasy outfielder thanks to his speed and run production. Nevertheless, until he improves his average, Choo is severely underperforming from his projected fantasy worth.
SP: Brett Myers, Astros. Myers submitted four strong starts to start the season, pitching 26.1 innings with a 2.39 ERA and 14 strikeouts. Since that juncture the wheels have fallen off, as Myers has surrendered five home runs in three starts with a 7.50 ERA.
RP: Jon Rauch, Blue Jays. With Frank Francisco taking over the closer's job in Toronto, Rauch's value has plunged. Retain Rauch only in deep AL-only leagues. Otherwise, search the waiver wire for more forthcoming save opportunities.
Waiver Wire Watch: Domonic Brown, Phillies and Kevin Correia, Pirates. As the Eric Hosmer sweepstakes showed, you can never be too early in gobbling up a hot prospect. Brown is hitting .409 in Triple-A since coming off the disabled list, meaning his call-up could be imminent. Even if you don't have a need for an outfielder, someone in your league may be intrigued by owning a young gun, providing valuable trade fodder. Those looking for more immediate help should seek Correia. Owned in 39% of leagues, Correia is 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 46.1 innings. He doesn't record a ton of strikeouts (21 on the season) but will provide relief for those needing help in ERA and WHIP.
Rookie Review: Eric Hosmer, Royals. The highly-touted prospect delivered in his opening series against Oakland, registering three hits and three walks. Hosmer earned the call-up by raking down in Triple-A with a .439 average and .525 OBP. Hosmer's already owned in 40% of leagues, but if he's still available snag him while you can.
Big League Chew Player of the Week: Justin Verlander, Tigers. The Motown hurler pitched his second career no-hitter against Toronto over the weekend, surrendering just one walk while striking out four.
Spit Your Tobacco At: Milton Bradley, Mariners. The unpredictable Bradley was designated for assignment by Seattle after hitting .218, although recent altercations with umpires and the hometown fans expedited the process.
Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.