We are a month and a half into the 2010 season and, as expected, some players are playing well above expectations while others are falling short of them. It should also be expected that the overperformers thus far are no more likely to continue to overperform than any other player and the same holds true for underperformers regarding underperforming.
Well the above statement is not exactly true, statistically it is, but the underperformers are more likely to lose playing time, get sent to the minors, or find themselves on the DL so even if they should regress and begin playing better given continued playing time, playing time is no guarantee.
With that said, here are the top overperformers so far:
Vernon Wells — Amazingly, Wells is performing like a player worthy of a $126 million contract so far in 2010. Although a recent series at Fenway rained on his parade of a season (0-for-12 there), Wells is still batting .298 with 10 home runs and two steals. He is not getting lucky on balls in play (.307 BABIP) but is simply hitting the ball hard and far often. Perhaps offseason wrist surgery was the trick and Wells can maintain something close to his current high level of production for the rest of the season.
Paul Konerko — It feels like a year much closer to 2004 when I see that Konerko is the MLB leader in home runs. It is now six years later and surprisingly that statement currently is valid. Don't get fooled into thinking that his low .198 BABIP means that his average should rise quite a bit. When he stops hitting home runs at his current machine gun pace, the negative impact of those flyballs getting caught on his average will offset the gains by a higher BABIP. Just be happy he's on your team if he is.
Kelly Johnson — Johnson has battled his way back from a frustrating 2009 season and now in Arizona has resurrected his career. Even more than Wells and Konerko, Johnson is blasting homers at a rate he never came within shouting distance of before and as a result is likely to regress fairly heavily in that category. Still his owners should be happy with his current 11 home runs and can still expect a few more homers with plenty of doubles the rest of the way.
Alex Rios — Last year it felt like the Jays sent the ghost of Alex Rios over to Chicago and, well, if that's true it seems the rest of his body made the trip this year. Rios is hitting the ball hard and stealing plenty of bases—two things he seemed to partially forget last year. If only Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Wells and Rios had synchronized their monster seasons, the Jays could have had an offense worthy of the AL East.
Jason Heyward — The past two rookie "phenoms" to break into the majors—David Price and Matt Wieters—did so without inspiring too many "ooohs" and "aaahs." Heyward, however, impressed straight from spring training, smashing in the Braves assistant GM's car, then hitting a home run in his first major league at bat and blasting seven more home runs since. Right off the bat, Heyward has proven himself to be a superstar in the making, which is good enough for me to put him on this list.
Casey McGehee — With a merely average minor league career to his name, probably no one thought McGehee would perform much above replacement level when playing time fell his away after Mat Gamel was demoted to Triple-A in 2009. When the season ended and the dust cleared though, McGehee walked away with an impressive .301 average and 16 home runs—both career highs compared to his prior minor league seasons.
The projection systems rightfully predicted fairly heavy regression from him in 2010, but once again McGehee is defying gravity so to speak, batting .311 with eight home runs already. It is hard to imagine a player improving as he is promoted to the majors, but let's give McGehee some credit; he has developed into a major league ballplayer and a pretty good one at that.
Julio Borbon — Leading up to the MLB season, Borbon became such an industry favorite I began wondering if drafting him came with a free back rub or something else of the sort that I was missing out on. Now Borbon owners might actually want the back rub because of the pain he and his .503 OPS have inflicted on them. His impressive minor league track record and rookie season make me believe Borbon will figure things out at some point this season.
Chris Coghlan — Another sophomore slumper, Coghlan has lost all semblance of his former self in 2010. His current line including a .214 average with a pair of homers and four steals is light years away from preseason expectations. At least the home runs have come in his last two games, the latter home run being a three-run, pinch-hit blast that might delay the promotion of Mike Stanton for now and signal Coghlan's breaking out.
Victor Martinez — Drafting an elite catcher early places a lot of pressure on that catcher because even performing a little below expectations makes them a bust of a pick. Martinez currently is not playing terribly—at least when compared to the other names here—but his .230 average and five home runs leave much to be desired. Especially considering that catchers are performing relatively well at the plate thus far, Martinez needs to increase his production.
Chone Figgins — I'm sure the thought has passed through more than one Mariners fan that Figgins is double-crossing Seattle and he still has with allegiances with the Angels as he bats .182 in a Mariners uniform. Assuming that is not true though, Figgins should see his average rise throughout the rest of the season, but he certainly was over drafted in the preseason.
Paul has been managing fantasy baseball teams for many seasons and writing for THT Fantasy over the past year (and counting). In his first year competing in expert's leagues, he is both surprised and happy to say he finished in the top 30% of his three leagues. He welcomes readers' thoughts at his email here or in the comments below.