With the first quarter of baseball coming to a close shortly, there has never been a better time for the Peckin’ Order to get back into the swing of things, no pun intended. Teams are approaching their 40th game of the season and as much as we have had some player surprises, teams have done a little shocking of their own.
Who would’ve thought the Baltimore Orioles would be leading the AL East after 36 games? Not I. The Orioles have come out throwing punches and drop kicking just about every opponent they have faced so far compiling a 22 – 14 record, more than 25% of the wins they have had in each of the last 7 seasons. Meanwhile, the Red Sox who are on a 4 game winning streak are still 3 games under .500 at 16 – 19, a record no one thought would happen with Bobby V at the helm.
In the National League, the Washington Nationals currently lead the Eastern division with a 22 – 13 record while the former NL East Champion Phillies sit below .500 after 36 games.
When it comes to players, I must say I told you so. Albert Pujols (1B, ANA) currently has.510 OPS with only 1 homer in his first 142 at bats, while Paul Konerko (1B, CHW) ranks in the top 10 of 1B in OPS with .957. And that’s not all I was correct about, See: Mike Morse (1B, WSH), Gordon Beckham (2B, CHW) and Ryan Roberts (3B, ARI).
With that said, let’s check out the players at each position that are climbing up the charts.
Carlos Ruiz (C, PHI) is one of the only true bright spots in the Phillies offense so far. He currently leads all catchers with at least 100 at bats in OPS at .965 he has driven in 23 smacked 6 dingers and scored 16 runs. Just below him is Matt Weiters (C, BAL) who is second among catchers with at least 100 at bats in OPS with a .902. Weiters has knocked 8 pitches over the outfield fence driven in 20 runs, and scored 21 to help lead the Orioles to their first place position.
Bryan LaHair (1B, CHC) is tearing the cover off the ball. LaHair has a 1.154 On base + Slugging percentage hitting 9 big flies with 20 runs batted in and 16 runs scored. He currently leads the league in OPS for first baseman and ranks 3rd among them in homers. Another shocking revelation is that of Adam Dunn (1B, CHW). This South Sider is currently first in homers for a first baseman, second in runs scored, runs batted in, and his OPS of 1.003 ranks fourth among first baseman.
After hitting at least .290 in each of the three previous seasons prior to 2011 Omar Infante (3B, MIA) saw a bit of a decline last year. He is showing so far that it was an abnormality with a .304 average so far, Infante has the highest OPS of any second baseman with at least 100 at bats and has 6 round trippers while stealing 2 bags. Jose Altuve (2B, HOU) has been a nice fantasy addition for some teams with OPS over .830 Altuve has stolen 6 bags and scored 20 runs. He isn’t a power hitter so the power numbers won’t be there, but he can get on base and steal bags two things everyone can use a little more of.
Cody Ransom (SS, ARI) hasn’t gotten the At Bars so far, with only 45 on the year. However in his limited time he is making fantasy owners demand more playing time. He has a .289 average with 4 homers 12 runs batted in and has compiled an OPS of .982 tops among all shortstops with at least 45 at bats. As much as I like to rub it in when I am right, I’ll be the first to step up and say it when I am wrong. And I was flat out wrong about Rafael Furcall (SS, STL). Obviously there is still a lot of time left and he can get injured at any time, however, thus far he is on fire. Furcal is currently hitting .370 with 7 stolen bases and 25 runs scored. He only has 2 homers thus far but has 16 runs batted in to show for it.
Another player I was wrong about was David Wright (3B, NYM). Before the season started I wrote that he was someone you wanted to stay away from. However after 118 at bats Wright has four homers, and leads the league in OPS among 3B with 1.083. Wright has scored 25 times and driven in 21 runs while stealing 3 bases. Un-owned in more than 40% of leagues Will Middlebrooks (3B, BOS) is ripping the cover off the ball in his limited playing time. Middlebrooks will most likely be sent back down to the minors when Kevin Youkilis (3B, BOS) comes back from the DL but his 4 homers and above 1.000 OPS is going to make it hard for Bobby V to pull that trigger.
It isn’t a surprise that Carlos Beltran (OF, STL) is playing good, but that he is playing THIS good. Beltran has been on a steady decline in power output since his 41 homer 2006 season. So far in 2011 he already has 13, and we are only just about to reach the quarter mark. If he continues on this pace, he will shatter those 2006 numbers. Jay Bruce (OF, CIN) has always been known for his power potential but he has yet to be able to get the average up to match. This year seems to be a bit different as in his first 126 at bats he is hitting .302 with 10 homers and 26 runs batted in. He has also swiped 3 bags which isn’t normally his strong suit.
Jake Peavy (SP, CHW) has been an injury waiting to happen for several years now, and much like with Rafael Furcal there is plenty of time for him to get injured. However, in the first quarter of the year, Peavy is tied in quality starts with 7 and currently boasts a 1.89 ERA with 44 strike outs in just over 52 innings pitched. Brandon McCarthy (SP, OAK) started his career with Texas and couldn’t seem to get things going. But since being moved to Oakland he may have found the right home. McCarthy has 6 quality starts in 2012 with an ERA under 2.60 and 36 strike outs in 52 innings pitched.
Jim Johnson (CL, BAL) was named the closer this year, and in just 15 appearances already has 11 saves more than any other previous year’s total. Not only is he closing games (13 Game Finishes of his 15 appearances) his ERA is under 0.60 second lowest among closers with at least 10 saves. The closer with the lowest ERA in that group is Fernando Rodney (CL, TB) who has a 0.54 ERA with 10 saves. While Rodney is currently giving up more hits than Johnson is his strike outs and walks are better than Johnsons to go along with his 16.2 innings pitched so far.
It is within good reason that some of these players won’t be available to you when you look through the waiver wire. But if they are, these guys are immediate pickups. They are all playing great baseball and with larger sample sizes the majority of them should keep it going throughout the long haul.
Written by Justin Mandaro exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com
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