Friday, July 13, 2012

Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Stories of 2012 So Far...

Here's to a fun second half. Enjoy. 

1. Mike Trout’s arrival as a future stud has turned into Mike Trout’s arrival as a present stud. He’s got a chance of leading baseball in steals, runs, and average while missing almost a month.
2. Bryce Harper hasn’t been quite the same as Trout, but he’s been pretty good too. He has 27 extra base hits and 8 steals. Not bad for a 19-year-old.
3. Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay are a combined 5-10. Halladay will be back in less than a week. Lee has the 4th best xFIP in baseball.
4. Not one, but two somersaults from Aroldis Chapman. He also wasn’t bad when you take out the theatrics. Chapman struck out 52 in his first 29 innings while not allowing an earned run.
5. The MVP in the NL for the first half of the season was Andrew McCutchen. He has single-handedly made the Pirates a playoff caliber team when they haven’t tasted the postseason in two decades.
6. Albert’s April. Pujols had 0 home runs, 4 RBI, and a .217 average. The buy-low opportunity was there as Pujols has since turned it around.
7. Pujols is not the only guy that has turned these around this season. Francisco Liriano had an ERA over 11 in April, but got it under 3.00 in the month of June while striking out a hitter per inning.
8. Matt Kemp’s April. If we could get the car up to 88 MPH, a Pujols for Kemp swap at the end of April would be nice.
9. The Nationals rotation. Baseball’s best ERA at the break and the team needed it. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth were hurt and ineffective for most of the first half, which pressed the promotion of Harper sooner than the organization would have liked.
10. More no hitter! Aces Matt Cain and Jered Weaver both threw no-hitters. Cain had a perfect game. Journeyman Philip Humber also threw a perfect game and has not done almost nothing right since.
11. 37-year-old R.A. Dickey is the best pitcher in baseball and absolutely nobody saw it coming. Dickey leads the league in wins and WHIP. He’s also going to have a chance at the strikeout crown as the Mets figure out a way to have him pitch more than every fifth day in the second half.
12. Trevor Bauer’s much-anticipated call-up and unorthodox routines have resulted in downs and ups to date for fantasy owners.  
13. The Red Sox loss to the Yankees on April 21st. It’s been a hard first half of the season for the Red Sox, but no loss could summarize more than the 9-1 blown lead on April 21st. Thankfully Humber’s perfect game stole the show nationally from a historic collapse.
14. The emergence of Ernesto Frieri at the back end of the Angels bullpen. The Padres better hope that Alexi Amarista or Donn Roach develops into a decent player because if they had waited longer on Frieri they could have had multiple suitors at this point in the year.
15.  Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was the move of the off-season. Not for the Royals.
16.  Not far behind is the Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey swap. Reddick is on pace for 37 home runs and 15 steals. While Bailey is on pace for a 0.00 ERA. That explains why trading for Sanchez has been worse for the Royals.
17.  Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda was the anti-climatic move of the off-season. Montero has been ehh in Seattle and Pineda might throw from flat ground in September.
18.  It is still a wait-and-see, but the Nationals can’t complain about what they got in the Gio Gonzalez trade. No starter has been stingier about giving up home runs (0.35 HR/9) this season.
19. One of the more under the radar free agent signings of the off-season was Josh Willingham signing a three-year deal with the Twins. He is on pace for 36 home runs and 114 RBI.
20.  Jose Bautista has 27 home runs and could lead the league in home runs again. Fair to say he wasn’t a fluke in 2010.
21. Mark Trumbo has quietly helped carry the Angels back into the playoff race and gotten himself to an All-Star game. Believe it or not, there was a time this year where Trumbo couldn’t crack the lineup. Lost in all that Trout has accomplished in his first season, Trumbo is a top thirty player.
22.  Prince Fielder’s departure and the PED controversy that surrounded Ryan Braun all pre-season have of course led to Braun’s struggles. Oh no wait. They haven’t. Braun’s 50-game suspension was lifted and he is once again a top-five fantasy player.
23.  98 runs, 34 home runs, 94 RBI, 15 steals, and a .293 average for Edwin Encarnacion since the start of last year’s second half.
24.  86 runs, 16 home runs, 85 RBI, 0 steals, and a .298 average for Adrian Gonzalez since the start of last year’s second half.
25. Brandon Belt is finally getting a chance to play everyday in San Francisco. The results have not been spectacular, but Belt is going to be a mixed league play from here on out.
26.  Eric Hosmer has the sophomore blues. Let’s not panic just yet though. His walk rate has improved, his strikeout rate has improved, and his BABIP is due to improve.
27. The Trouts and Brauns of the world don’t come up everyday. For those managers that believed Jason Heyward would eventually hit, your faith has been rewarded. Heyward is healthy and has already matched his 2011 home run output and surpassed his 2011 steals output.
28. As the defensive lineman Julius from Remember the Titans said “attitude reflect leadership.” The Miami Marlins have a new park, several new faces, and a Dolphin-Go-Round in left center field. They also have Ozzie Guillen who wasted no time getting the Miami community acquainted with his mouth. The Marlins are in fourth in the NL East, but that didn’t stop them from acquiring Carlos Lee.
29.  Speaking of the Marlins new park, according to ESPN Park Factors it’s the 8th best park for runs in the big leagues this year.
30.  It has been a bad year for veteran pitchers used to dominating, but no pitcher has fallen farther than Tim Lincecum. Lincecum’s walk rate is up by more than one walk per 9 innings and his velocity has never been lower.
31.  Kevin Youkilis was traded in part because Will Middlebrooks emerged, but also because he looked done at age 33, but has looked good so far in Chicago.
32.  Although he’s stayed on the field, it is apparent that Justin Morneau will never even be a fraction of the player that won the MVP in 2006. He is 9 for 85 (.105) against lefties this season.
33.  Coors Field is a great place to hit. As a consequence of this, Rockies pitchers easily have the worst ERA in baseball, which doesn’t help players like Drew Pomeranz gain value in fantasy baseball. The Rockies are willing to try anything as evidenced by their 4-man rotation with a 75 pitch limit.
34. Josh Hamilton is a great hitter. He hit 4 home runs in a game against the Orioles on May 8th. He has already surpassed his home run output from 2011.
35. As always injuries have been a great excuse for fantasy teams and real teams that don’t meet expectations. Perhaps nobody has been more missed than Evan Longoria. When it’s all said and done, he will miss more than 3 months.
36.   The all-injury team also includes Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Kemp in the outfield.
37.   Robinson Cano is the best player on the Yankees and it isn’t even close. He also is now an easy top five pick for 2013.
38.  Troy Tulowitzki was most likely picked ahead of Ellsbury and Longoria as a 27-year-old at a thin position. Unfortunately he might not be back until September.
39.  The Phillies tandem of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley take the first and second base spots on the All Injury Team – although fantasy owners had ample time to prepare for their absences so be careful before crying foul. 
40. At catcher (at least he’s catcher eligible) Victor Martinez is also a player that fantasy owners had plenty of time to prepare for the absence. Martinez could be back as soon as August – well ahead of his original schedule.
41.  The list of pitchers is long as usual, but the hardest injury for fantasy teams to take on was Brandon Beachy going under the knife. At the time of his injury, Beachy was getting strikeouts and leading the NL in ERA. Roy Halladay, Dan Hudson, Cory Luebke, and Brandon Morrow could also be added to this team.
42. One of the more frustrating stories of the season (even for this Red Sox fan) was Mariano Rivera shagging fly balls. Retirement will have to wait.
43.  Jake Peavy has been a great story. He has 120 innings at the break – a mark he hasn’t reached since 2008.
44.  Derek Jeter is still really good. He’s been mixed league worthy and is hitting over .300. Defense is another issue.
45. The best shortstop this season though has been Ian Desmond. Desmond has an excellent chance to finish with over 20 home runs and 20 steals. He was likely undrated in your mixed league.
46.  Jason Kipnis had been the best second baseman until Cano caught fire. Kipnis is almost a lock to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. He might have gone undrafted in your mixed league.
47. A.J. Burnett has 10 wins for the first place Pirates and the team hasn’t lost a game he’s pitched since May 2nd.
48.  With a pace of 22 home runs and 15 steals and an average over .300, Paul Goldschmidt has put a tough April behind him and is translating a promising minor league career to the Majors. Ditto for Bryan LaHair who is an All-Star.
49. Alex Rios is hitting 91 points higher than he did last season.
50. David Wright is hitting 97 points higher than he was last year.
51.  Roy Oswalt is back pitching in Texas but pitching for the Rangers now. His signing got more fantasy hype than Oswalt could ever back up as he is a spot starter in mixed leagues.
52. Yu Darvish actually has delivered on the hype for fantasy owners. He is tenth in strikeouts and will be an All-Star.
53. The expectations for Matt Moore before the season were unfair. He hasn’t delivered, but still shows great promise striking out 96 in 99.2 innings.
54. In his first season with the Tigers, Prince Fielder has been the same kind of player he has been his whole career. He is hitting .299 and on-pace for 300 RBI, but the team is in the middle of the standings.
55. Michael Fiers has been brilliant for the Brewers in 7 starts and even better for fantasy owners striking out more than hitter per inning. Not to be out done, his teammate Marco Estrada has 55 strikeouts to 10 walks and a 1.02 WHIP.
56. Michael Young is hitting just .263 and on track to not be a top 100 player for the first time since 2002.
57. After getting a huge deal to resign with the Reds, Joey Votto is not letting up at all. His average, on base, and slugging are all better than they were in 2010 when he was the NL MVP.
58. Perhaps the only story topping the Pirates as a first place team is the Orioles as a playoff contender. No bigger reason for that than Adam Jones. Two seasons ago, Jones had 19 home runs and 7 steals. At the all-star break, Jones has 20 home runs and 11 steals.
59. Jim Johnson has also been fantastic for Baltimore. He leads all of baseball in saves and has blown just one in the first half.
60. The Nationals will have to make a tough call on the innings, but Stephen Strasburg is clearly the same pitcher after Tommy John Surgery. He leads the NL in strikeouts.
61. Coming back from TJ isn’t always as easy as Strasburg would have us believe. Adam Wainwright’s ERA is 2 runs higher than it was in 2009 and 2010 before surgery.
62. I know he is in the minors, but what about the season of Billy Hamilton? With 100 steal potential, he will change the way that a fantasy lineup can be made when he is ready.
63.  To continue on the trend with minor leaguers tearing the cover off the ball, it’s good to see Anthony Rizzo succeeding in Chicago. The next best hitter that needs to get the call is Wil Myers. He has 27 home runs at two levels this year.
64.  Adam Dunn is crushing the ball again. And also blowing the pack away in strikeouts. Dunn has 134 strikeouts at the break, Carlos Pena is second with 110, but don’t overlook the fact that nobody (not even Joey Votto) has a better walk rate.
65.  Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke will be on the trade block. With new contracts to play for look for a monster 2 and a half months regardless of what happens. 
66. In a contract year, Michael Bourn has already established a new career high in home runs.
67. Everth Cabrera is 15 for 15 in steal attempts.
68. Alex Gordon has dropped off tremendously at the plate with a pedestrian 5 home runs and .777 OPS. He does have 27 doubles which is good for second in baseball.
69.  David Ortiz will not shut up about his contract, but the Red Sox will deal with it given that McCutchen, Hamilton, and Votto are the names that are ahead of him in OPS.
70. Fernando Rodney has 38 strikeouts to only 5 walks. And a bow and arrow.
71. Trevor Plouffe hit more home runs in June (11) than Justin Upton has hit all season (7).
72.  Ryan Zimmerman hit 3 home runs in his first 57 games this season. He received a cortisone shot on June 26 and has hit 5 home runs in 11 games since.
73. Carlos Gonzalez is on pace for more than 115 runs and 115 RBI. He is without question the best player in fantasy baseball over the past 2 and a half seasons.
74. Dan Haren has been terrible and it might be because of a bad back. Hopefully he can come off the DL and be Dan Haren.
75. It’s been a typical season from catchers. Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Brian McCann (although heating up), Buster Posey, Miguel Montero, Joe Mauer, Alex Avila and Matt Wieters are all giving less than that we expected.
76.  On the flip-side, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Wilin Rosario have been pleasant surprises.
77.  Chris Sale has made an incredible transition to the starting rotation. Daniel Bard has not. It’s funny how we grouped the two together at the start of the year.
78. Johnny Cueto has a 2.33 ERA since the start of 2011. Only Jered Weaver has a better ERA in that time.
79.  Ryan Vogelsong is tied for the Major League lead in quality starts with 15.
80.  Yovani Gallardo also has 15 quality starts. And a 3.74 ERA. And a 3.90 xFIP. Quality starts isn’t always a great metric to measure a pitcher.
81. Saves are unpredictable as usual. Only 13 of the players that were expected to be their team’s closer before the season started have been their team’s closer uninterrupted by injury or lack of performance. With the trade deadline looming, expect a few more changes to happen.
82. James McDonald has the fifth best ERA in all of baseball. Of course three of the players in front of him are Ryan Dempster, Chris Sale, and Vogelsong. 
83. Vogelsong and Dempster have stranded more runners than any pitcher in baseball (84.2%).
84. Austin Jackson is hitting .332 with a .953 OPS. Yet he has just 7 steals.
85. Brett Lawrie is living up to expectations as a 20/20 threat in his first full season. He will need to pick it up in the home run category, but has made up for a lack of power by scoring 51 runs. He has 27 runs in 31 games since being moved to the leadoff spot.
86.  Hanley Ramirez is hitting .245 for more than a season now. Based on his 84 games played this season, I’m ruling out injury as an excuse. One thing that hasn’t helped is the fact that he’s getting infield hits about half as much as he used to and therefore is making less effort to put the ball on the ground.
87. Craig Kimbrel is nastier this year than he was as the best closer in baseball last year. Opposing hitters are batting .116 against him.
88. One of my preseason darlings, Cameron Maybin, hit a ball 485 feet but hasn’t done much other than that. He is hitting just .212.
89. The new Wild Card is changing the way that head-to-head leagues manage the playoffs in September. All but 5 teams are within 6 games of a playoff spot in the NL, and all but three teams are within 3 games of a playoff spot in the AL.
90. Look out for Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio stole 20 bases while only being caught once in the season’s first half, and played in less than half of his team’s games. He could still steal 50 this year.
91. The pitchers are still controlling the era. The league ERA is right at 4 on the dot, which is actually higher than last year, but more than a quarter of a run lower than 2009.
92. Rafael Furcal has missed just 3 games and could play in over 100 for the first time since 2009.
93. Josh Johnson and Erik Bedard have made 17 starts for the Marlins.
94. The injury prone keep the momentum going! Ben Sheets is trying a comeback with the Braves.
95. Kerry Wood is…Kerry Wood is in commercials for State Farm for some reason.
96. Ubaldo Jimenez has the second worst xFIP in baseball (Barry Zito has the worst).
97. Max Scherzer is striking out more than 11 batter per 9 innings and has an xFIP of 3.28 (11th in baseball).
98. Desmond Jennings is learning from B.J. Upton. After showing much promise last year, Jennings has been injured, striking out more, walking less, and hitting for a terrible .231 average.
99. Kenley Jansen has 63 strikeouts in less than 40 innings.
100.  Ian Kennedy has seen his ERA go from 2.88 last year to 4.26 this year. 

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