Top 5 MLB Leaderboard Surprises: Fuld, Berkman, Masterson, Street, Gordon
Names like Roy Halladay, Jose Bautista, and Joey Votto were expected to be near the top of the leaderboards before the 2011 season started. Meanwhile, every year there are a handful of surprise players that capture the attention of Major League Baseball. With that in mind here are five players you would not expect to be at or near the top of the leaderboards in April:
The fifth man in a five-man return for Matt Garza, Fuld has become a cult-hero in Tampa Bay. Due to the sudden retirement of Manny Ramirez and the oblique injury to Evan Longoria, Fuld was thrust into an everyday role with the Rays. He responded by hitting over .350 for most of the month and settled in as the team’s leadoff hitter. Fuld finished April on a 0-18 streak which dropped his average to .289; however, even as a .280 hitter, his ability to talk a walk should keep him on base quite a bit. After just two stolen base attempts as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Fuld’s speed has been unleashed in Tampa Bay. The American League leader in steals for the month of April (10), should continue to run wild and score runs with a good offense behind him.
Berkman has been an offensive star for most of his career. That said, in 2010, he hit just 14 home runs in 122 games. A rejuvenated Big Puma has surfaced in St. Louis. In less than 100 at-bats in the month, Berkman belted eight home runs; more than half of his season total from last year. He is third in the National League in runs score and fourth in RBI. Of course, he won’t hit .393 all season, but the potential for 60-plus extra-base hits is a possibility.
A former top prospect in all of baseball, Alex Gordon found himself back in the minor leagues last season. After a position switch to the outfield and more recently first base, Gordon is in the American League top 10 of several offensive categories including: average (.339) on-base percentage (.395), runs scored (20), RBI (19), and doubles (12). Gordon has been very fortunate on balls in play which is inflating his early season stats. Considering most of his value is tied to his batting average, he could be a sell high candidate.
After going a combined 10-23 in 2009 and 2010, Masterson went 5-0 in the month of April. The groundball specialist will not get a ton of strikeouts (6.0 K/9 so far), but does a good job of keeping the ball in the park. His 2.18 ERA will certainly regress, but playing for a more talented Cleveland team makes him a candidate for double-digit wins. If his infielders continue to gobble up grounders, Masterson could be one of the better pitchers in the American League all season.
When healthy, Street is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. In the past he has battled arm injuries – including 2010 when he missed the first two and a half months with shoulder inflammation. Upon his return, Street saved 20 games in 44 appearances. Seemingly healthy in 2011, he has racked up 10 saves in the first month of the season. In terms of peripheral numbers, Street’s strikeout and walk rate so far are within ticks of his career numbers. His velocity is down a bit, but he proving his durability with 15 appearances and 16.1 innings in the first month. A healthy Street plus a good Colorado team could mean 40-plus saves with a sub 3.00 ERA.
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