Alcides Escobar has four stolen bases on the year after stealing 42 at triple-A last season. In the meantime Alex Gonzalez has 13 home runs, only three short of his total from 2009. While some big names remain at the top of the rankings, there are a number of surprises so far this season both good and bad.
1. Hanley Ramirez – While this type of start is considered “slow” for a player of Hanley’s stature, he has still been productive and has plenty of upside for more in the season’s second half.
2. Troy Tulowitzki – On his way to another fine season mixing AVG, power and a little stolen base potential.
3. Derek Jeter – Same home run and stolen base totals as Tulow with more RBI for now. Unlike the young Tulow, Jeter is more likely to see his pace slow a bit in the second half, but that still wouldn’t keep him from putting up valuable fantasy numbers. Only an injury can hold back his talent.
4. Elvis Andrus
– Andrus may be sporting a very high .371 BABIP, but a high BABIP, to a point, sustainable. Andrus is combining top-level speed with above average line drive skills while limiting the amount of times he hits fly balls. Those three factors can indeed lead to sustainably high BABIPs over the course of a full season. Juan Pierre
in his prime and Michael Bourn
last season are examples of this. Will Andrus maintain a .371 BABIP all season? Unlikely, but don’t be surprised if he keeps it well above .300 while stealing 40-plus bases and scoring 100-plus runs.
5. Ben Zobrist
– The Zobeast is back! Well, sort of. After a miserable April in which Zobrist failed to homer, he came on strong in May hitting .352/.400/.514 with four home runs. He’s not going to produce at the pace he did last season, but the is still upside for something just under a 20/20 season when all is said and done. See second base ranking
6. Jose Reyes – Reyes obviously needed some time to get his offensive game in order after missing just about all of spring training and a bit of April to medical issues. The good news is that he has had no hamstring issues and that his swing is starting to come around. Reyes has raised his AVG every month and his eight stolen bases in May are a good sign that he will keep up a good stolen base pace going forward.
7. Erick Aybar – Last season Aybar hit .312, but that was a bit aided by a .338 BABIP. To this point in 2010 he has still seen a high BABIP, but with less help his AVG has dropped to .272. The good news is that Aybar has displayed more patience and drawn more walks. This has helped him remain in the leadoff spot, which has led to a good amount of runs scored. Also, Aybar, who stole as many as 51 bases back in high-A ball, is on pace to steal 20-30 bases this season.
8. Alex Gonzalez – Hitting .270 with 13 home runs has made Gonzalez a very valuable fantasy bat this season, but his plate discipline issues could still cause some problems with his AVG going forward. Gonzalez has swung at 40 percent of pitches outside the strike-zone this season and has a whiff rate of about 23 percent. Surprisingly, this has not led to more strikeouts, but there is that risk going forward.
9. Juan Uribe
– Has shown 20 home run power in the past and could approach that this season, but too much of a low contact/free swinger to maintain a high AVG. See second base ranking
10. Jimmy Rollins – The biggest issue with Rollins’ value the rest of the season is that he is not likely to be a big stolen base threat once he returns from the DL. Without the big stolen base numbers, he’ll have to hit for AVG with some power to crack the top five once again. How long will it take for his swing to come around after so much time off?
11. Marco Scutaro – The injury to Jacoby Ellsbury has been a blessing to Scutaro owners, as he has taken over leadoff duties in Boston. This, combined with a respectable .282 AVG and .357 OBP, has led to more runs scored than originally projected. As long as he remains in the leadoff spot, he’ll have value in all formats.
12. Ryan Theriot
– We were spoiled by a blazing April. Now, Theriot’s numbers are back to normal, which is good, but not great. he should end up with another .285, 20-plus stolen base season. See second base ranking
13. Orlando Cabrera – We know the book on Cabrera. He’ll crack a few home runs, steal 15-20 bags and score a good amount of runs hitting leadoff for the Reds.
14. Rafael Furcal – Staying injury free is the key to Furcal’s value the rest of 2010 and that is something that hasn’t worked in his favor so far. If he can stay on the field, 20-plus stolen bases and a good amount of runs scored could be in the cards. However, the injury risk alone keeps his ranking down a bit.
15. Stephen Drew – Back in 2008, Stephen Drew hit 21 home runs. That total dropped to 12 last season and he only has four on the year so far. Unless the power comes back or the middle of the D-Backs order can find more consistency, Drew will have to raise his AVG to raise his value. That is not something we can’t count on at this point.
16. Maicer Izturis
– It’s all about playing time for Izturis
. Brandon Wood will come off the “DL” at some point and is out of minor league options. When it comes down to it Izturis is the better player, by far, but we’ll have to wait and see how the Angels play this situation. If Izturis can get the at-bats, he could move up these rankings. See second base ranking
17. Jason Bartlett – Still a decent option when he returns from the DL, but last season’s “career year” a thing of the past.
18. Ian Desmond
– Lowered his strikeout rate every month and is starting to hit more line drives in June. Desmond could end up with a 10/15 season, which is mostly useful in deeper leagues. See second base ranking
19. Yunel Escobar – He was never a great fantasy option anyway, but injuries have really caused him to take a step back this season. There should be some value going forward, but it won’t be anything more than just good.
20. Alexei Ramirez – At this point we sort of have a grasp on what type of hitter the Cuban Missile is. He is a free swinger who doesn’t hit many line drives. He has decent power, but he doesn’t drive the ball consistently enough to maximize it. His speed has been OK in the past, but with only two stolen bases on the season, he isn’t helping much in that category. If he continues to swing that bat like he is, which is very likely, then there just won’t be enough production to bring him up the rankings.
21. Alcides Escobar – Four stolen bases on the year after stealing 42 at triple-A last season. Without the steals his value will remain very low.
22. Starlin Castro – He’s 20-years-old and playing regularly in the big leagues, so I’ll give his struggles a pass. While his future is very bright, I’m not sure there is much value for this season.
23. Clint Barmes – Without the 23 home run power he displayed last season, he’s just an AVG killer. The potential for a second half power surge makes him worth keeping in mind.
24. Jhonny Peralta – It seems like the 20-plus home run threat is gone now. Without that, he’ll have to drive in more runs to hold any value outside of AL-only leagues.
25. Everth Cabrera – Strained hamstring for a player who’s only value comes from stolen base potential = not good.
Yuniesky Betancourt – Right now a usable AVG is the only thing keeping Betancourt afloat. He is hacking away more than ever so far this season (38.5 percent chase rate), so the risk of a regression in AVG is certainly there. If that happens, his value is gone.
Mike Aviles – Hitting .300 is great, but he’s not a full time player and has only six RBI in 129 at-bats
Edgar Renteria – Wouldn’t sustain his .326 AVG anyway. Now, when he comes off the DL, where does he play with Uribe and Sanchez playing so well?
Miguel Tejada – Some kind of slump bug has hit the Orioles lineup this year. Tejada may have some AVG left in him yet, but his skills are in a noticeable decline.
Brendan Ryan – Not likely to hit for the same AVG he did last season. Defense is his forte, which holds no value in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Keppinger – Nothing more than a source of decent AVG in deeper leagues.
Asdrubal Cabrera – Due back sometime in July, Cabrera may need some time to get his swing back. The power wasn’t showing up much anyway, so his arm injury could limit that production even further this season.
J.J. Hardy – A wrist injury is never a good thing for a player who’s value comes from the potential to hit home runs.
Christian Guzman – Guzman did this same song and dance early last season and ended with a hollow .284 AVG. He HAS to hit for AVG as there is little value for him in just about any other category. Also, his .304 AVG has been aided by a .353 BABIP, which has been a product of a lot of grounders finding their way to the outfield grass.
Reid Brignac – Decent option when he gets playing time, but .393 BABIP is aiding .303 AVG.
Cliff Pennington – Could end up with 20-plus stolen bases this season, but with little AVG.