Throughout the off-season, Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove previewed one player per day in counting down the top 149 players of fantasy baseball. Obsessive-compulsive behavior aside, we thought we’d keep with the 149 theme and dish everything out in one article. Here are the top 149 fantasy baseball stories of the first half:
149. The Dodgers. Real baseball and finances might be a problem for this last place squad, but last I checked there was a 30-game hitting streak and a number one overall player flowing out of this team and into the laps of fantasy owners. When Hiroki Kuroda gets traded in the second half the bankruptcy will become more of a story in fantasy.
148. Miguel Cabrera’s DUI not affecting play. One of the biggest stories of Spring Training was Cabrera’s arrest for DUI in Florida. While it’s clear Cabrera needs Dr. Drew’s phone number, it hasn’t hurt his play like some thought it would.
147. Another season. Unless your name is Brandon Webb. Webb at this point should probably just announce his retirement.
146. Dustin Ackley’s arrival. Keeper leagues care more, but for daily leagues this has been pretty anti-climatic so far.
145. John Lackey’s attempt at pitching. With 2 1/2 years at $15 million a year left on his contract, Lackey is having the worst year of his career with a 6.84 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. This could be Daisuke 2.0 (see below).
144. The reason they call it the Big C. The Cincinnati Reds have such a wealth of riches at catcher, it’s gluttonous. With Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hannigan holding court in the majors, they have Devin Mesoraco raking in AAA (.303 BA, 9 HR’s, 49 RBI’s) and first round pick Yasmani Grandal just getting promoted to AA. Expect a trade to open up some PT for the youngsters.
143. Youth movement starting in Kansas City. The deepest system coming into the season has seen some parts move up. Moustakas is up and more on Hosmer later. The question with Kansas City is just how much can Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer yield. Joakim Soria probably won’t get moved.
142. Josh Collmenter’s freaky delivery. Collmenter has been arguably the best pitcher for the Diamondbacks this season with a 2.92 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. His distinctive delivery is fooling hitters but the question is if they will catch up in the second half.
141. Matt Garza getting worse after switching from AL East to NL Central. In the AL East: 3.91 ERA, 1.25 WHIP. In the NL Central: 4.26 ERA, 1.33 WHIP. Good thing he doesn’t have to face the Yankees and Red Sox this year.
140. Ryan Roberts back from the dead. Despite having a great set of ink on his body, Roberts has done little to consider him a regular at a big league level. But a new strength and conditioning program in the off-season has propelled him from potentially being out of baseball into a regular for the D’Backs and a cheap power/speed option for fantasy owners.
139. Scott Rolen is starting at third base for the National League All-Star team? Is he owned in your league? More importantly, should he even be owned in your league?
138. Chicks love Paul Goldschmidt. Despite hitting .314 with 35 HR’s and 108 RBI in High A in 2010, you were apt not to find Paul on any Top 10 Diamondback prospect lists coming into the season due to scouts concerns over how his long swing and abundance of K’s would perform against advanced pitching. 86 games into the 2011 season and he’s already mashed 25 HR’s and 78 RBI’s in AA while increasing walk rate and decreasing his K rate to acceptable levels. Making him a player to watch in the 2nd half!
137. Zach Britton’s rise and fall. Kind of goes along with the Orioles season.
136. Edinson Volquez or Johnny Cueto? Before this season it was a hard question to answer. Not so much anymore.
135. What happened to Phil Hu… Phil Humber? He’s added a fourth pitch and has been one of the season’s brightest surprise. Phil Hughes? He wishes he had a first half like Phil Humber, but appears healthy for the second half.
134. LoMo has been pretty good away from Twitter too. He has 12 home runs despite missing some action.
133. Anibal Sanchez is best piece of Josh Beckett trade…in 2011. Threats from manager Jack McKeon to put out cigars on his neck (I’m joking…probably) seems to have lit a fire under Hanley in June and July, but Sanchez has had a fantastic first half.
132. Jorge Posada Lineupgate. Since the middle of May when all the fireworks went off, Posada is hitting .291 – 60 points higher than his season average.
131. Strasburg has running mate in Jordan Zimmermann. Let’s hope Strasburg’s Tommy John bounce back is as strong as Zimmerman’s. Zimmermann hasn’t allowed an earned run in four of his last six starts.
130. Chase Utley is back and better than ev… Well actually he’s been very boring since his return. The good news is that the leg hasn’t shut down his running game. He’s 8 for 8 on steals.
129. Roy Halladay saving the Phillies’ bullpen. Over his last 42 starts, Roy Halladay has thrown at least 6 innings. With the injuries in the bullpen this year (Lidge, Contreras, Madson), they’ve needed it.
128. The odyssey of Aroldis Chapman. His line in May: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 9 BB, 216.00 ERA. His line in July: 6.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA. With Francisco Cordero struggling as of late and in a contract year, Chapman could walk into the closer’s gig.
127. Ian Stewart is done. So much for 25 to 30 home runs per season.
126. Derrek Lee is done. At age 36, it was way too much to ask him to replicate anything from his last 14 seasons.
125. Coco Crisp has played in more games than he did last year. He’s fourth in baseball in steals as a result.
124. Howie Kendrick is doing a little of everything. He is eligible at three positions and by the end of the month will have an average over .300 with double digit power and steals.
123. Big. Fat. Bartolo. Colon. What exactly did he get injected with in the Dominican Republic?
122. Jeremy Hellickson not getting strikeouts. His first half was effective, but Hellickson had a K/9 greater than 8 everywhere he went coming up including last season’s cup of coffee with the Rays. This year his K/9 is under 6.00.
121. Matt Joyce. Who needs Carl Crawford or Carlos Pena? Joyce is having a better season than both of them put together.
120. Todd Helton. I feel young again!
119. Brian Roberts on the DL. Two seasons in a row of nothing from one of the best 2Bs of the last decade.
118. Kyle Farnsworth: The Closer. His ERA was more than two runs worse after the all-star break last year, but if he repeats that feat again this season he will still go over the preseason expectations just about everyone had for him.
117. Smoak provides closure for Cliff Lee’s success. Seattle fans had to watch a player that started last season with their squad take a division rival to the World Series. While Justin Smoak has been awful this month, he has showed some promise.
116. Mike Trout’s arrival at 19 years old. Doubt he’ll stay long, but the first 19-year-old since Justin Upton will be a major star in years to come.
115. Adam Lind bouncing back. He’s not accompanied by Aaron Hill, but he does have another teammate helping him in the Blue Jays lineup. That’s led to 52 RBIs in only 67 games.
114. Rain, rain go away! In the season’s first seven weeks there were 30 rainouts (last year there were only 21). One of the theories for the game being dominated by pitchers has been the weather. Gio Gonzalez won’t disagree for a different sort of reason. He gave up 7 earned that never counted because the game was one of those 30 rainouts.
113. Mark Reynolds hitting like it’s 2009. The steals will never come back but the 40 + HR power is. And two other telling stats of his revival in Baltimore: career high walk rate (14.9%) and Career low K/rate (27.2%).
112. Mark Reynolds fielding. He has 20 HR’s and 20 errors (!) on the season. The question is will he end up with more HR’s or errors by the end of the year?
111. The versatility of Danny Espinosa. Many thought Ian Desmond would be the stud MI prospect in Washington but Espinosa’s dual threat play (16 HR’s and 11 SB’s) has made him a legitimate NL All-Star candidate at 2B. All this while Desmond tries to hit above .220.
110. Ryan Zimmerman. The Jayson Werth signing has helped nobody. If Zimmerman was actually playing well though, the Nationals would be in the race.
109. Dillon Gee. Who needs Johan Santana?
108. Jonny Venters helping from the position nobody wants. The Braves won’t move Kimbrel out of the 9th inning duty, but Venters was the highest ranked reliever in baseball for the first 10 weeks of the season.
107. Ryan Franklin’s demise. Closers that don’t get strikeouts are always red flags.
106. Sergio Santos’ rise. If Franklin’s strikeouts weren’t attractive, Matt Thornton and Chris Sale and their strikeout potential moving into Bobby Jenks’ job was. As it turns out neither player got much of a chance to save games because of Santos’ dominance.
105. Johnny Damon helping his Hall of Fame consideration. Ranked in the top 125 and pretty much doing the opposite of what Manny Ramirez did. Damon needs two more healthy seasons to get 3,000 hits.
104. Gordon Beckham is a bust. It is not premature to proclaim it. The guy from a fantasy standpoint will be another Markakis at best (no doubt earning future bile from FBHS). He doesn’t have terrific power or speed and apparently he can’t even hit for average.
103. Torii Hunter is almost done. Last season he was caught stealing more times than he was successful. This season hasn’t been any different. Trout should be ready to take over some place every day next season and Hunter appears to be the worst of the Angels remaining outfielders even while earning $18 million.
102. Chone Figgins will make $17 million in 2012 and 2013. Not playing for the Mariners. He’s been worse than last season and is symbolic of the Mariners’ offensive failure the past two seasons.
101. The Cleveland Indians. Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin were no where to be found among the many promising potential starters this season. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner aren’t on the disabled list.
100. Jay Bruce has 20 home runs. The best player in May is painfully streaky and hitting for a low average, but he’s worth holding for his next hot streak.
99. No DH in Interleague Play. With a 9 game road trip, the Red Sox (and fantasy owners) were without David Ortiz bringing up the age old question on if league rules should be consistent across both the NL and AL.
98. Carlos Beltran is starting the All-Star game. He could have been had for a quarter on the dollar this offseason. Now he is tied for second in baseball in doubles.
97. Josh Johnson’s reliability. Last year he stood up head-to-head owners and this year he’s standing up everybody. Johnson let Tommy John surgery kill two seasons before that. At what point does he get lumped into the Sheets/Prior/Wood/Harden/ category of starters?
96. Brian McCann becoming the best catcher in baseball. And the Braves didn’t have to spend $184 million to get him!
95. Tampa Bay’s 2nd Half Reserves. With Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore tearing it up in minors for the 3rd straight year, the Rays have the luxury to trade a major leaguer with a replacement in hand. You could hear B.J. Upton or even James Shields come up in trade rumors.
94. Jonathan Sachez’s Walk Rate. Among pitchers with at least 60 innings, only Kyle Drabek’s is worse. Sanchez was the second best starter on a world champion last year.
93. The Tigers’ patience with Magglio Ordonez. He was not ranked in the top 1,000 in the season’s first half. Still the Tigers have hit Ordonez third in the lineup 37 times including in their game on Sunday.
92. Manny being Manny. I guess Clown College finally accepted his application, or perhaps he was just getting an honorary degree. Either way, a fittingly disgraceful end to one of the most enigmatic, yet productive players of all time.
91. Daisuke being…Daisuke. After paying over $50 million to talk to his “parents” about “adoption,” the Red Sox would happily send this whiny child back where he came from. He might have thrown his last pitch in the majors.
90. Delmon Young and Denard Span giving the Twins nothing. Let’s blame most of Minnesota’s failures on the JMs (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau), but don’t forget about these guys.
89. Starlin Castro gives Cubs fans something to work with. Castro is ranked in the top 100 and could be playing in the first of many All-Star games.
88. Dominant Yankee set-up man not named Rafael Soriano. The Yankees paid $35 million over 3 years to be a dominant set-up man for Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. With Soriano on the mend (and pitching poorly before the DL stint) David Robertson ($460K) has emerged as the Yankees most reliable middle man with a 1.27 ERA and ridiculous 14.3 K/9.
87. Aaron Crow and Brandon League making the All-Star team. I understand that you need to have a Royal (although Alex Gordon might be more deserving) but what’s the rationale for Brandon League?
86. Andrew McCutchen not making it. Carlos Beltran has had a good year but McCutchen deserved to be one of the manager’s initial pick with his best pre-steroids Barry Bonds impersonation, rather than the 287th injury fill-in.
85. Freddie Freeman is the next great first baseman in the NL East. We saw the emergence of Ike Davis (too bad for what’s been a good Mets team) and Gaby Sanchez last year. Freeman has four homers in the last week.
84. Brandon Belt is not the next great first baseman in the NL West. At least not yet. Belt has been sent down, called-up, injured, and sent down again. The Giants are not ready to release one of their veterans and in their defense, Belt hasn’t forced them into that position.
83. The sub 1.00 WHIP. Six starting pitchers (Beckett, Shields, Haren, Verlander, Hamels, and Weaver) have a WHIP under 1.00. Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana were the last starters to finish a season with a WHIP under 1.00 in 2005.
82. Alex Gordon star still burning. 4 years after his initial call-up, Gordon is finally living up to his potential, providing a reliable veteran (?) bat to the Royals young lineup.
81. Clayton Kershaw’s excellence. There’s a lot of talk about Halladay and Lee in the NL, but Kershaw has been just as dominant against NL hitters with a MLB-leading 10.13 K/9 and a Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 2.45 (4th in MLB.) Some team may find a prize when MLB takes over the Dodgers.
80. Michael Young continues to be one of the most boring players in fantasy. Consistency is the greatest rival of excitement. Young continues to hit in Texas despite trade demands and he has eligibility everywhere in the infield except shortstop.
79. Pittsburgh Pirates over .500. Impressive season from the young Pirates so far this year. They’ve done it with great starting pitching, good defense and dash of McCutchen. You may not see a huge drop-off with Alvarez and others coming back from the DL.
78. Hunter Pence is the best player nobody’s seen. The Houston Astros star is raking (.325 & 59 RBI) as the only good hitter in the Astros lineup (no offense to Michael Bourn or Carlos Lee). If only there was a team that could use a right field bat? Paging Theo Epstein!
77. Bud Norris using his strikeout ability for good. Striking out batters has never been a problem for Norris (career 9.1 K/9). But this year his ERA and WHIP (3.46 ERA & 1.25 WHIP) are in line with his nasty stuff.
76. Yunel Escobar finding his way in Toronto. A year ago at the break he had no homers with a .238 average. This year he has 9 homers and a .291 average.
75. Francisco Liriano’s 5 wins and 5 ERA. Many managers didn’t even start him when he pitched his no-hitter. Up until that start, he had one quality start in five tries. And the inconsistency hasn’t stopped. Will he be traded?
74. A Carpenter, a Wainwright and a Miller. Cardinals 20-year-old Shelby Miller has quietly put himself into the conversation as the best pitching prospect in baseball. With a 13.8 K/9 in 9 starts in High A ball, he was quickly promoted to face advanced hitting in Double A. The result? 7 starts with a 1.90 ERA and 1.078 WHIP. Miller, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and a healthy Adam Wainwright will terrorize NL Central line-ups in 2012.
73. Russell Martin is healthy. He has cooled since a hot start, but in the loud New York media market there isn’t a whole lot of screaming for Jesus Montero.
72. Todd Frazier is going to be a good player. With 15 HRs and 15 SBs at Triple-A Louisville, he is next year’s Danny Espinosa. The problem is where will he play? Third base? Will he be moved out of Cincinnati?
71. C.J. Wilson has become the Rangers ace. After Cliff Lee moved to Philadelphia, the Rangers rotation was a huge question. Wilson has proved last year was no fluke and talks a big game too.
70. The Mariners offense. They are on pace to score more runs than last year, but that means very little when they finished last in 2010. Even with a DH, are they worse than every National League team?
69. The Uptons are living up to the hype. Last year both players were disappointments. This year both are ranked in the top fifty and they are 2 of 15 players that could potentially steal 20 bases and hit 20 home runs.
68. Juan Pierre’s flat tire. The engine isn’t running like it used to. Just 13 steals in 23 attempts one season removed from 68 steals.
67. Stephen Strasburg could make rehab starts next month. He needs to pitch again for baseball’s sake. No ballpark has buzzed with the electricity that he generated last year so far this season.
66. I love it when you call me Big Papi. In the same season that his ol’ pal Manny left the game because he wasn’t capable of performing without a little help, Ortiz is having his best season since 2007.
65. Rickie Weeks is healthy..for two seasons in a row, and two seasons in a row we are seeing him ranked in the top fifty. I guess he’s stepped it up with baby bro trying to steal headlines away.
64. Elvis Andrus has 26 steals. I had him as overrated coming into the season. Not so much now. He needs just 8 more steals to set a career high.
63. Fan’s Minute Maid Escape. This has to be the best orchestrated field run by a fan in quite some time.
62. Drew Stubbs is on strikeout alert. Stubbs has struck out 122 times this season and walked just 36 times. That’s not good for a leadoff hitter, but Stubbs has the other tools to get away with it.
61. Matt Holliday’s Solid Season. Two DL stints and a subpar season from Pujols hasn’t stopped him from having an OPS of .995. Zero steals is concerning after he had 9 last season.
60. We still don’t know – where will Heath Bell go? There are plenty of teams that need relief help. The only question for fantasy owners is will he be a closer or set-up man for his new team.
59. Aramis Making a name for the Ramirez Clan. Hanley and Manny haven’t had things go as planned this year, but Aramis has picked up the slack – especially lately. He has 13 home runs since June 1st.
58. Brennan Boesch taking another step. He hit a little as a rookie last year, but has been better this season. Magglio Ordonez has no place hitting third in the Tigers lineup anymore with the way Boesch has played.
57. Alex Rios hasn’t had a good month. Do you drop him at this point?
56. Ryan Braun adding SB’s to his repertoire. It’s no surprise Braun is hitting for average (.320) and power (16 HR’s, 62 RBI’s) but it’s his near 40 SB pace this year that has vaulted him into the discussion as the #1 player in fantasy baseball. Well, if he can stay healthy.
55. Adrian Gonzalez hitting for average away from Petco. Everyone knew that he’d be a monster once he left Petco, but he’s on pace for about the same number of home runs he had a season ago. The difference this season is that Gonzalez is hitting for average and has more ducks on the pond.
54. Pedro Alvarez not building on 2010 power. The hope was that he would become more disciplined and lower his strikeout rate this season. The strikeout problem hasn’t gone away and the power was down before he got injured. These growing pains are almost as bad as Jason Heyward’s.
53. MLB talking realignment. While there is nothing set in stone, the talk of realignment will be an issue to keep track of this off-season.
52. Will Jonathan Broxton just have Tommy John surgery already? Broxton’s fall from closing out last year’s All-Star game to being a fantasy has-been happened so quickly that the rest of the Dodger bullpen seems to be in a perpetual confused funk.
51. Dan Uggla’s batting average. Just a notch below Buzz’s girlfriend from Home Alone. Woof.
50. Jered Weaver dominating the AL: After a breakout campaign in 2010, Weaver has earned the right to start for the AL in this year’s All Star game.
49. Julio Teheran can’t crack the Braves rotation. The rotation is balanced with youth and veterans, but most importantly is very talented. Talented enough that Teheran (the most talented pitcher in the minors) and his sub two Triple-A ERA can only come up for a couple spot starts.
48. Brandon Beachy’s strikeout breakout. The biggest surprise on the Braves staff has been the emergence of Brandon Beachy. His 10.4 K/9 would lead all MLB starting pitchers if he qualified in innings. The question is how good can he be?
47. Michael Cuddyer has been the best “fantasy utility man.” He plays four positions and is going to get more than 75 runs and RBI, close to 15 steals, close to 25 home runs, and close to a .300 average. That’s doing everything.
46. Alexi Ogando. If you told me in March that a Rangers reliever would go from a reliever to an All-Star starting pitcher, I sure wouldn’t have guessed it would be Alexi Ogando.
45. Shin-Soo Choo’s freedom hasn’t helped his performance. You think he’d be fired up that he doesn’t have to serve in the Korean army anymore, but his play certainly hasn’t reflected that. Rather than asking about a potential 30-30 season, people are wondering whether or not to drop him.
44. Jason Heyward has been over-hyped. In over 700 at-bats he hasn’t hit 30 home runs yet and has a .261 average. Jay Bruce comes to mind in recent memory as an example of why we can’t even think of giving up on Heyward yet.
43. No power for Mauer. This shouldn’t be a headline, but one of the most overrated players in fantasy baseball has lived up to the label this year. He has 0 home runs.
42. Ben Zobrist’s 8 RBI game. He was hitting .205 going into that game.
41. Rafael Furcal or Dee Gordon? Furcal has been injured and ineffective hitting just .185. Gordon is clearly the future, but is he ready to be the now?
40. Homers from Hosmer. Well, at first anyway. He hit 5 homers in May and none in June. He has 3 already this month. He is very promising.
39. Alex Avila has been a savior at the catcher position. He’s ranked third at the position and has also helped make Jim Leyland’s decision to have Victor Martinez play DH much easier.
38. Kendrys Morales lost for the season (again). It’s to the point where if he comes back and has a good season, he’s automatically going to be Comeback Player of the Year. In other words, chances are better that he’ll be the player he’s been for the last year rather than the player he was in 2009.
37. Turns out Konerko’s 2010 wasn’t a fluke at all. The old man has put together a top twenty season to date.
36. Hanley struggles to begin year. Every season has it’s disappointments and Hanley’s season has been that, but he will hit in the second half?
35. Michael Bourn is crushing the field in steals. Will a potential trade change anything?
34. Evan Longoria’s not taking the next step to stardom. Last year he had an ordinary (for a 2011 first round pick) 22 home runs and this year at the break he only has 11. Playing hurt and missing time on the DL hasn’t helped.
33. Kyle Lohse can pitch. Lohse claims he feels healthy for the first time in a long time.
32. Baseball is NOT on strike. At a time when the NBA and NFL are wondering if next season is going to happen, MLB is showcasing their best talents in the All-Star game. That’s a good thing.
31. Down goes Posey! No play in 2011 has been as controversial as Scott Cousins collision with Buster Posey at home plate. I doubt any rule changes will come out of it, but it is a shame we’ll have to wait a year to see the next of Buster Posey.
30. Derek Jeter reaching 3000. HR off David Price to reach the milestone. A fittingly great moment for a great career.
29. Derek Jeter’s declining skills. In an off-season where the Yankees essentially were bidding against themselves for Jeter’s services, the SS has seen a severe decline in his offensive numbers for the 2nd straight year. Two telling stats: 65% of his batted balls have been ground balls (2nd straight year) and 11% have been line drives (lowest of career).
28. Prince Fielder cashing in. The scary thing is that he’s on pace for a better year than 2009. And that means a lot of money for the Scott Boras client.
27. Jose Reyes cashing in. His recent injury notwithstanding, Reyes has shown why he is one of the most electric leadoff men in the game. He leads MLB with 15 triples. Last year’s leader hit 14 all season. If he can prove healthy in the 2nd half, he may earn himself a pay-day that eclipses Carl Crawford’s deal this past winter.
26. Albert Pujols losing money? With a wrist injury and pedestrian numbers (well, for him) in his age 31 season, Pujols may need a huge 2nd half to set contract records come this off-season.
25. Ubaldo Jimenez is 3-8. Drafted as an ace for most teams, Jimenez has had a season not even worthy of being drafted at all.
24. Cliff Lee’s scoreless streak. The most dominant 34 inning pitching stretch of the season: 34 innings, 0.00 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, 21 K’s, 3 shut-outs.
23. Michael Morse. The story would have been ranked higher if the first suicide squeeze attempt had gone worse a week ago.
22. Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball. It’s too bad he doesn’t get to put those skills on display in Arizona, but then again neither will seemingly half the players named to the team.
21. Bryce Harper showing up pitchers in the minors. While some question his character for showing up a minor league pitcher earlier this season, he’s shown he belongs at the top tier of MLB prospects and will be a major contributor next year in Washington.
20. The unfortunate events in Arlington. Everyone’s thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Shannon Stone. Hopefully Josh Hamilton understands this accident couldn’t have been prevented by him.
19. Jair Jurrjens ERA. There is some separation between the ERA and FIP, but he’s been great nonetheless.
18. The next stud pitcher in Seattle. Michael Pineda (3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) went from potential rotation member in spring training to option 1B for the Mariners. At the time of this writing he ranked 13th on the ESPN player rater, 1 spot ahead of teammate and Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.
17. Adam Dunn’s strikeout rate balloons. It’s looking more and more like a lost season for the Donkey. That adjustment to American League pitching is not going at all like a lot of fantasy owners had planned.
16. Josh Beckett’s return to form. Apparently his knee injury isn’t serious enough to keep him out of the All-Star game. Strange statistical fact – since joining the Red Sox in 2006, Beckett seems to have awful seasons during the even years, and great ones in the odd years. Drafter beware in 2012.
15. James Shields’ return to form. Or you could just call it the best season of his career.
14. Stolen Bases are up. Better pitching and less runs both leading to more aggressive approaches. The average team is on pace to steal 110 bases, up almost 10 steals per team from last season.
13. Vogelsong. He should be pitching for the Newark Bears right now, but instead he’s headed to Phoenix for the MLB All-Star game. Awesome story.
12. Zack Greinke’s lost it. Well not really, but a 5.69 ERA looks horrible especially after switching to the NL. The good news is he has a K:BB rate north of 6 and is a prime candidate to turn it on in the second half.
11. Jacoby Ellsbury is healthy and hitting for power. He already has established a career high in home runs. He owns the 8th best line drive rate and won’t go anywhere.
10. Matt Kemp being as good as he was supposed to be last season. What is this all due to? Patience at the plate (on pace to shatter his career high in walks and OBP) and steal percentage.
9. Craig Kimbrel’s 70 strikeouts in 45 innings. The top ranked fantasy closer will be Rookie of the Year.
8. The emergence of Asdrubal Cabrera. Perhaps he’ll slow down the pace, but what a shot of life he’s been to a position that lacks depth and has had even it’s most reliable performer struggle.
7. David Wright’s continued demise. Even before he was placed on the DL, Wright’s strikeout rate was rising for the fourth consecutive year. He appeared to be a perennial top five pick as a 26-year-old three seasons ago. Now the question is if he’s a top fifty player.
6. Big outfield contract failures. What’s the refund policy on Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth? Too bad Boras and company won’t listen to the complaints of front offices this off-season.
5. The era of ERA is here. Awful word play aside here, the league ERA is down by almost three tenths of a run. And you thought it was a good time to buy a home!
4. Contract years…enabling two guys to make the Mets a .500 team. Allowing for miracle healing procedures from broken wrists. And allowing for a whole new system of a home run derby to be created in-season.
3. Lance Berkman leads the NL in home runs. He was not ranked in the preseason top 150 virtually anywhere.
2. Curtis Granderson’s assault on left-handed pitching. Granderson’s OPS against lefties in 2009 was .484, and .647 in 2010. This season it is .925.
1. Jose Bautista proved that last year was a fluke. Last year he couldn’t hit for average, this year he can. He’s also crushing the field in walks.
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