First- Half All-Stars
Contributed By: Ray Flowers of www.FantasyBaseball.com
With the all-star break wrapping up, I thought it would be appropriate to skip the mailbag this week and to spend some time detailing my first-half all-stars. Now these al-star lists are all over the place, so you’re probably sick of reading them, so I thought I would tweak things a bit. My all-star list is not a rendering of the best players in fantasy baseball. My list is a rendering of the out-of-nowhere all-stars of the first half. You know, the guys who you were “forced” to draft in the 23rd round of your draft because there was no one left. The guy who you grabbed because he played for your home team. Or the guy you drafted because he bares a slight resemblance to you and your significant other thought he was cute. Basically, these are the players that no one predicted much success for entering the 2006 season, but as we look back on the first half these guys have been difference makers.
First-Half, Out of Nowhere, All-Stars
1B Kevin Youkilis, BOS (.297-10-43-60-5)
The “Greek God of Walks”, as dubbed by A’s GM Billy Beane, has 55 BB through 88 games leading to a .407 OBP, the 15th best mark in baseball. Because of his ability to get on base, Youkilis has spent the majority of the season in the Red Sox leadoff spot and has scored 60 runs, the 23rd highest mark in baseball. Not bad for a guy with 287 career at-bats entering the season
2B Brandon Phillips, CIN (.306-7-44-42-16)
Don’t lie, you didn’t even have him on your draft list did you (I didn’t)? Phillips wasn’t even on a major league roster at the start of the season, though after his 17 RBIs in 7 games in April, someone surely picked him up. After 22 RBIs in April, he has just 22 in his last 218 at-bats, but his overall numbers are still stellar, especially that .306 average and those 16 SBs which are golden coming from a waiver-wire pickup.
3B Freddy Sanchez, PIT (.358-5-49-50-1)
As I wrote last week, this guy has been flat out amazing. He has suited up for 54 games at 3B, 14 at SS and 7 at 2B (he also played 58 games at 2B last year). Sanchez is hitting .3581, just barely behind Nomar Garciaparra’s .3582 for the NL lead.
SS Jamey Carroll, COL (.324-3-19-46-5)
I could have listed Orlando Cabrera who is coming off a streak of reaching base in 63 straight games (the longest streak since 1960), but Cabrera was drafted in most leagues whereas Carroll, I would venture, wasn’t drafted in a single 12-team mixed league in the country. Carroll is hitting .404 against lefties in 57 at-bats, and is hitting an equally impressive .383 at home in Coors Field.
C Josh Bard, SD (.369-5-20-17-0)
Bard was nothing more than an after thought this year. After only 7 games in Boston where he unsuccessfully attempted to catch Tim Wakefield, Bard was sent back to San Diego in a trade for Doug Mirabelli. Bard has hit like crazy when he has been in the lineup even posting a .997 OPS in limited appearances (130 ABs). Mike Redman is also worthy of mention here since he is hitting .357, meaning that Twins catchers are hitting a combined .372 (Joe Mauer is hitting .378).
OF Alexis Rios, TOR (.330-15-53-46-9)
Rios already has a career-high in HR, and is working on career bests in AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS. In particular, the OPS improvement really jumps off the page. In his career prior to this season his OPS was .711, while this year it’s .968. His leg injury makes his status for the rest of the way highly uncertain, but that doesn’t effect his spectacular performance thus far.
OF Gary Matthews Jr., TEX (.328-10-47-47-5)
Matthews has never hit over .276, knocked in more than 55 runs or scored more than 72 in a season. He is on pace to destroy all of those totals this year. The big difference for Matthews has been playing time as he is on pace for his first 500 AB season. It’s worth noting that Matthews entered the season with a career OBP of .327, and his batting average this season is .328 (with a .374 OBP).
OF Reed Johnson, TOR (.365-4-21-52-8)
Only 23 men who have ever played have scored over 100 runs in fewer than 425 at-bats, and Johnson is on pace to be the 24th this season. Johnson is hitting .333 vs. lefties, .394 vs. righties and .388 since June 1st. So tell me, why he isn’t in the lineup every day?
SP Bronson Arroyo, CIN (9-6, 3.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP with 98 K in 130 IP)
Arroyo went from being a 5th starter/long reliever in Boston to a hitters paradise in Cincinnati and he has somehow excelled. Arroyo has been bombed his last two starts giving up 11 runs in 11.1 IP, not to mention 21 baserunners, but overall his numbers are fantastic. Arroyo is 6th in the NL in ERA, 7th in WHIP and 11th in K, all of this from a pitcher with a career 4.59 ERA and 1.36 WHIP entering 2006.
SP Justin Verlander, DET (10-4, 3.01 ERA, 69 K, 1.17 WHIP)
Verlander threw career-high 129.2 innings last season so his 110.2 first half innings are a slight concern. However, Verlander’s performance thus far has been brilliant with the 3rd best win total in the AL, the 5th best ERA and the 10th best WHIP. While he does own a decent 2.09 K/BB ratio, how is it that a guy who consistently throws over 95 mph averages only 5.6 K/9IP?
SP Brad Penny, LAD (10-2, 2.91 ERA, 82 K, 1.21 WHIP)
Penny is always an injury risk and because of those injuries he won only 16 games the past two years. Penny is healthy this year, and now he even started the all-star game. Penny hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2001, he has thrown 108.1 innings thus far, and his WHIP over his last 295.2 IP is a solid 1.25.
SP Kenny Rogers, DET (11-3, 3.85 ERA, 65 K, 1.19 WHIP)
Uh, this one makes no sense at all. Well it sort of does. Rogers is strong in the first half, he is 22-7 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over the last two years, before he collapses in the second half (10-10, 5.11 ERA, 1.57 WHIP). Will the trend continue this year?
SP Tom Glavine, Mets (11-2, 3.48 ERA, 82 K, 1.32 WHIP in 119 IP)
Glavine enters the break with 11 wins after his previous three relatively unsuccessful seasons in NY when he earned 9,11 and 13 wins. Glavine also has 82 Ks after averaging 99 the past three season’s, a strange development for a 40-year-old. Glavine has slowed tremendously in his last 46 IP with a 4.89 ERA and 1.67 despite a 3-0 record.
RP Darren Oliver, NYM (3-0, 2.15 ERA, 36 K, 0.97 WHIP in 50.1 IP)
Olive is one of the reasons the Mets are where they are, and NO ONE would have predicted that. This is a man who entered the season with a career ERA of 5.07 and a WHIP of 1.54 not to mention the fact that he didn’t even pitch in the major leagues last year. The only way he was drafted this year was if someone was related or they thought he was good-looking.
RP Takashi Saito, LAD (3-2, 2.14 ERA, 57 K, 0.86 WHIP with 8 SV in 42 IP)
Pitching in middle relief before being elevated to the closers role for the Dodgers, Saito has been a revelation. With a 5.2 K/BB ratio and a .172 BAA, Saito has been flat out dominant. If you remove the 5 earned runs he gave up in 1.2 IP on May 2nd and 4th his season ERA would be 1.12.
RP Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (2-1, 0.59 ERA, 47 K, 0.72 WHIP with 26 SV in 46 IP)
Papelbon has moved from being the 5th/6th starter in the Red Sox rotation to become the most dominant closer in baseball. Of all pitchers who have ever stepped on a major league hill the record for lowest ERA ever recorded in a single season by a pitcher with over 70 IP is 0.61 by Dennis Eckersley in 1990, a mark that Papelbon is currently challenging.
RP Akinori Otsuka, TEX (2-3, 2.13 ERA, 30 K, 0.92 WHIP with 17 SV in 38 IP)
After producing a decent follow up to his excellent rookie season for San Diego last year, Otsuka moved to the AL to pitch in an extreme hitters park in Texas. After Francisco Cordero struggled, Otsuka has stepped into the closers role and been amazingly efficient for the Rangers. Not bad for a player who most likely was on waivers at the start of the season.
RP J.J. Putz, SEA (1-0, 2.11 ERA, 58 K, 0.77 WHIP with 16 SV in 42.2 IP)
Thought to be no more than the 3rd option in the Mariners bullpen at the start of the season (behind Eddie Guardado and Rafael Soriano), Putz would likely be “the” story out of the bullpen if not for Papelbon. With 58 K and only 7 K, Putz has an unearthly 8.3 K/BB ratio while averaging 12.2 K per 9 IP. What does a guy need to do to make the all-star team?
Ray Flowers, a member of SABR and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association can be reached with comments/questions or suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also don’t forget to listen to his fantasy baseball radio show at www.fantasybaseball.com, where you can call in for live advice, on Friday’s from 2-3 PM EST.