Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw and Analyst Alex Burwasser recap the top five first basemen this fantasy season as well as the top three busts.
TOP FIVE PERFORMERS
5. Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
In an offseason move that shocked many, Albert Pujols decided to leave St. Louis, his home for a decade where he won two championships, for the bright lights of Los Angeles in Anaheim. To the delight of jilted Cardinals fans, Pujols got off to a rough start for the Angels, even hearing some cat calls in his home park, but he more than made up for it over his final 105 games where he hit .319 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI. You can make a case that he may not be as dominant a hitter as he once was but he still put up his typical 30-HR, 100-RBI season, which always has fantasy value.
4. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals
Billy Butler has always been a very productive hitter throughout his career for the Royals but has consistently flown under the radar because he plays in relative obscurity in Kansas City. However, this year he was the subject of a national controversy when Robinson Cano decided not to pick him for the Home Run Derby in front of his home fans at Kauffman Stadium. Butler took the high road and did the talking with his bat the rest of the year when he finished with 29 home runs and 106 RBI, both career highs, all while hitting above .300 at .313.
3. Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
Much like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder moved from the top of the NL Central to the opposite league in the offseason. Fielder signed a massive nine-year contract which left many worrying about the long-term injury risk of signing a man of his size, but his performance in the first year of that deal quieted all the critics when he blasted 30 home runs and knocked in 108 RBI leading the Tigers to their second consecutive AL Central crown. Though Prince has had more powerful years, he hit over .300 for the first time in his career, checking in at a very impressive .313 on the season.
2. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, Jays
Encarnacion had been a solid player for Toronto since acquiring him from the Reds in 2009, putting up seasons of 20 home runs and a little more than 50 RBI on average in 2010 and 2011. This season, however, he completely obliterated those numbers with 42 home runs and 110 RBI, more in each category than the previous two years combined. In addition, Encarnacion also improved in other categories, setting career highs in stolen bases (13) and walks (84). What makes this rapid improvement all the more impressive is that he did it without Jose Bautista in the lineup who missed about half the year injured. Next year could be very intriguing for the Jays with those two bats healthy and producing in the middle of that lineup.
1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Tigers
There really is not much else you can say about the year Miguel Cabrera had for the American League champion Tigers. He was the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (led the AL in batting average, home runs and RBI) and he did it before the age of 30! In fact, Miguel Cabrera leads all active major leaguers under the age of 30 in hits (1802), home runs (321), and RBI (1123). We are not sure Cabrera is on his way to his second championship ring this year, but it sure looks like he will be on his way to Cooperstown one day.
TOP THREE BUSTS
3. Mark Teixiera, 1B, Yankees
Every year in his career besides his rookie campaign in 2003, Mark Teixiera has had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI, but not in 2012 when he hit only 24 home runs and knocked in only 84 RBI. Even more alarming for Teixiera is that he has seen his normally stellar batting average drop season after season. A perennial .280, and some years .300, hitter has not reached those numbers since 2009 when he hit .292. The last three seasons he has not hit above .256 including this year when he hit .251 and had a dreadful on-base percentage of .332. For the Yankees, he provides a lot of value with his defense at first base, but for fantasy owners, his value seems to be slipping fast.
2. Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Pirates
At the beginning of the year, many picked the Marlins and their revamped team with the acquisitions of Jose Reyes and Heath Bell among others to possibly win the NL East. Gaby Sanchez was one of the players set to contribute in the middle of that lineup, but much like the entire team, he was a gigantic disappointment. After the first 55 games of the season while hitting just above the Mendoza line at .202, Sanchez was sent down to the minors and subsequently traded to Pittsburgh. Though he fared better for the Pirates than for the Marlins, he still finished the year with a .217 average and only seven home runs, a huge dropoff from back-to-back 19 home run seasons in 2010 and 2011.
1. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
During Spring Training, there was a lot of buzz around the Royals that they may be the team on the rise given their farm system and dearth of young talent. One of the centerpieces of this renewed hope was Eric Hosmer, and after his rookie campaign in 2011, it was easy to believe given that he hit .293 with 19 HR and 78 RBI in only 128 games. Much like his team, Hosmer severely underperformed his expectations this year hitting .232 in his first full season in the majors with less home runs (14) and less RBI (60). You would hope that this is just your classic sophomore slump for the third overall pick in the 2008 draft and 2013 is a year he can replicate or even outperform his 2011 numbers.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw discuss whether or not the fans’ selections for the American League All-Star team were right and who should be starting the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
Mike Napoli of the Rangers was the fan choice, but White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski should be starting in the All-Star Game. Pierzynski is not one of the more popular players in baseball and was actually expected to lose his job coming into this season. However, he is hitting .285 this year with 14 home runs and 45 RBI.
Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays should be starting instead of Prince Fielder. Encarnacion has always had great potential but has been inconsistent in the past. This season, however, he is deserving of a starting spot in Kansas City with a .291 average, 22 home runs, 55 RBI and eight stolen bases.
The fans got this one right, voting in Robinson Cano of the Yankees. He’s batting .310 with 20 home runs and 46 RBI. Not only is he an All-Star but he is clearly the Yankees’ MVP.
The fans chose Adrian Beltre of the Rangers, which is a good pick because he is one of the best defensive players in baseball. Miguel Cabrera, however, is the best third baseman in the American League with a .314 average, 16 home runs and 62 RBI.
Derek Jeter is having a good season, but Elvis Andrus of the Rangers is the best shortstop in the American League right now. He is not a power hitter with just one home run but he’s batting .307 with 32 RBI and 16 stolen bases. The fans should have voted in Andrus instead of Jeter.
Of the three outfielders voted in, only one was the right pick by the fans. It wasn’t a surprise that Josh Hamilton was selected, and he is the right choice. He’s on pace for more than 50 home runs and 140 RBI this season.
Angels rookie Mike Trout should be starting in place of Curtis Granderson. Trout is batting .339 with nine home runs, 33 RBI and 22 stolen bases, and keep in mind that he started this season in the minor leagues.
Adam Jones of the Orioles should have been selected in place of Jose Bautista. Jones has a .302 average, 19 home runs, 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He has a bright future and is likely one of the next big stars in baseball.
David Ortiz was the right pick by the fans. He continues to put up big numbers with a .302 average, 21 home runs and 54 RBI this season. This is Ortiz’s eighth All-Star selection.
For more fantasy baseball insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Here’s a look at the best fantasy players of April and whether they are sustaining their production or regressing to a less impressive level of play.
Best April Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
April Stats: 14 runs, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, .316 AVG
Update: Since the change of month, Yadier Molina has only one RBI. Molina hurt his left hand in a game on May 8 and hopes to return to the diamond.
Conclusion: One of the most well-rounded catchers in baseball, Molina will remain one of the game’s best at his position, though Orioles masked marvel Matt Wieters may overtake him.
Best April First Baseman: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
April Stats: 15 runs, 7 HR, 20 RBI, .298 AVG
Update: Four hits and 3 RBI against the A’s on Thursday got Cabrera back in rhythm. His statistics have gone down a bit, but he remains amongst the best in baseball.
Conclusion: Cabrera is 100% legitimate and the best corner infielder in baseball right now.
Best April Second Baseman: Ian Kinsler, Rangers
April Stats: 24 runs, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, .298 AVG
Update: Though riding a six-game hit streak, Kinsler’s batting average has declined and he does not have an extra base hit during that stretch.
Conclusion: What makes Kinsler so valuable is the combination of power and speed. If he can keep the batting average closer to .300, he’ll be in the MVP conversation.
Best April 3rd Baseman: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
April Stats: 15 runs, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .322 AVG
Update: One of the biggest surprises in April, Encarnacion remains a valuable power bat in May, though the batting average has returned to normalcy.
Conclusion: Encarnacion should finally swat 30-home runs, but it may come with a disappointing average.
Best April Shortstop: Mike Aviles, Red Sox- 18 Runs, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB, .291 AVG
April Stats: 18 Runs, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB, .291 AVG
Update: Aviles has not been immune to the Red Sox struggles. His power numbers have come back to earth and his average has been in free fall this May.
Conclusion: Aviles is a fine middle infielder, but he is not the best. He over-performed in April.
Best April Outfielder: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
April Stats: 24 runs, 12 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .417 AVG
Update: Kemp has slowed down a bit and has yet to go deep this month. He remains one of the best hitters in baseball and likely MVP contender, but he is no longer running away with the honor.
Conclusion: He was bound to slow down as pitchers were bound to adapt. Josh Hamilton is now challenging him for supremacy in the Big Leagues.
Best April Starting pitcher: Jake Peavy, White Sox
April Stats: 3 Wins, 33 K, 1.67 ERA, 0.69 WHIP
Update: With two quality starts already this month, Peavy continues to dominate the fantasy scene. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last five starts and has only quality starts this season. He is 1-0 in May so far.
Conclusion: It’s been several years since we’ve seen this type of dominance from Peavy. Let’s hope he can avoid the injury-bug for the first time since he’s left San Diego.
Best April Reliever: Fernando Rodney, Rays
April Stats: 1 Win, 7 SV, 9 K, 0.87 ERA, 0.77 WHIP
Update: Rodney has added a win and two saves to his record this month without surrendering a single run.
Conclusion: This is looking pretty real and it all has to do with control. Rodney boasts a 14:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s the latest reliever to enjoy a renaissance after joining the Rays bullpen.
BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Host Julie Alexandria is joined by Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw to break down an expert’s fantasy baseball draft. The draft, which included fantasy experts from CBS, Yahoo!, and ESPN was a 28-round draft that consisted of additional positions such as Middle Infielder, Corner Infielder, and five outfielder positions. Additionally, the league includes more advanced statistics such as OBP and slugging rather than the typical batting average.
Here’s a look at the first nine picks by Shaw:
1) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2) Roy Halladay, Phillies
3) Cliff Lee, Phillies
4) Eric Hosmer, Royals
5) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
6) Adam Jones, Orioles
7) Howie Kendrick, Angels
8) Drew Stubbs, Reds
9) Derek Jeter, Yankees
Picking up with the 10th round pick, I drafted Josh Johnson, who similar to Stephen Strasburg has the ability to dominate on the hill, while also carrying serious health concerns. Again, having both Halladay and Lee as durable aces on his staff allows for these high upside gambles. The best case scenario would be incredible with Halladay, Lee, Strasburg, and Johnson all on the team.
Speaking of gambles, in the 11th round I took a chance that Adam Dunn will bounce back from one of the worst all-time seasons in fantasy baseball. Dunn has extra upside in this league as he is known for his high on base percentage as well as his slugging. Immediately after the draft I even received two offers for Dunn.
In the 12th round I drafted Danny Espinosa. There are concerns that he’s a free swinger who lacks consistency and will hit for a low average. On the other hand, he has a great combination of power and speed for a middle infielder. Plus, as a sophomore, it is rational to expect significant improvement this season.
I opted for a steady option in the 13th round drafting Nick Markakis. It is clear that his power will never materialize into 30-plus home runs, but he does reach base consistently and has some speed and pop too. Considering all the risks I’ve taken, this is a pick I had
The 14th round was a disaster for me. This league requires that we start two catchers and I thought Salvador Perez was a fine hitter with decent run production. Alas, he is injured and is expected to miss the first few months of the season. I will have to find an option off the waiver wire. Josh Thole, though limited in power, may be the safe bet since he will start and does have a respectable OBP.
I finally deployed by strategy to pick up closers in the later rounds with the selection of Sergio Santos. The hard-thrower gets a ton of strikeouts and should pick up 30-plus saves in Toronto. I followed with Joe Nathan in the following round. He dominated late last season and should have plenty of save opportunities with the Rangers.
I picked up my second catcher in the following round with Chris Iannetta. I see him as a potential Mike Napoli-type slugger who at best can slam 20 bombs with a .250 average. He does offer a nice OBP, which is rare for a catcher. Maybe he’ll even surprise me the way Napoli did last season on my fantasy team.
I grabbed another power bat in the 18th round with Edwin Encarnacion. He was tremendous in the second half of last season, seemingly changing his approach at the plate to become more of a patient hitter. The Blue Jays likely won’t tolerate another one of his trademark slow starts, so hopefully, this is the year that he puts it all together.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
Follow us on Twitter: @BloombergSports @RobShawSports @MicheleSteele
Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees
If you’re wondering how a 24-year-old hurler on the Yankees can have an 11-4 record and 3.85 ERA and still find himself on the waiver wire, I have your answer. Just check out the 1.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nova has had some things go his way this season such as solid run support and an uncanny ability to escape jams. Regardless, Nova has won seven straight decisions and has allowed as many as four runs just twice in his last eight starts. As long as you can deal without the K’s and a pretty high WHIP, Nova is not a bad pickup.
Jose Constanza, OF, Braves
If you’re curious why the Braves are suddenly sitting mega prospect and their everyday right-fielder Jason Heyward, there are two reasons. The first is that Heyward is struggling with just a .219 average and 30 RBI. The other reason is that the little-known and late-blooming Jose Constanza is hitting .382 with 13 runs scored. The 27-year-old is a speedster with little to no power. He swiped 23 bags with a .312 average before the call to the Majors this season. Constanza is nothing more than a hot bat who is stealing at bats away from the future of the franchise. Then again, we may have said the same thing about Jeff Francouer back in the day.
Mike Carp, 1B, Mariners
While top prospect Justin Smoak has dealt with his ups and downs and most recently a broken nose, Mike Carp has shined bright with a .320 average, four home runs, and 24 RBI in 38 games. Carp was acquired by the Mariners for closer JJ Putz a few years back from the Mets. He blasted 29 home runs at Triple-A last season, but hit just .257. This year, he blasted 21 home runs in 66 games while hitting .343. In other words, Carp has earned a serious look in the Big Leagues, and at 25-years old, he will get his chance for the remainder of the season. Feel free to take a look in fantasy leagues, though as is the case for any hitter that plays half of his games in Safeco, the odds are against him.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays
Try explaining this, in his first 70 games, Edwin Encarnacion reached base at a rate of 28%. Since the All-Star break, Encarnacion has reached base 47% of the time. What gives? Well, we always knew that the Blue Jays slugger was one of the streakiest hitters in baseball. He also has a knack for big second halves. The 28-year-old corner infielder is also playing for his career now that mega prospect Brett Lawrie has been called up. The good news is that he remains young enough for the Blue Jays to provide him with regular at bats. So Encarnacion will have his opportunity to win over a spot for next season’s club. As far as potential, Encarnacion has plenty of it. He blasted 26 home runs back in 2008 and 21 last season in just 332 at bats.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Rockies
Finally some noise from the closer report, the 36-year-old Rafael Betancourt will take over for the recently injury Huston Street. The last time that Betancourt allowed an earned run was July 6th, just before the All-Star break. Betancourt has nailed down one save over the last week and his 58:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season ranks amongst the best in baseball. Street will likely return at the end of the month, but if he’s out longer than that and the Rockies continue to struggle, you have to think to Rex Brothers, who at 24-years old is supposed to be the closer of the future, will get some save opportunities.
Follow us on Twitter: @BloombergSports @RobShawSports
Ailment: Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians
The former Indians MVP candidate has been slowed by injuries and will now miss the next month because of another knee injury coupled with a sports hernia. Even when he was on the field, this is not the Sizemore who was routinely a first round pick in fantasy leagues. Nope, the All-Star who once swiped 38 bases has not stolen a single bag this season through 61 games.
Cure: Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres
It seems like he has been a top prospect for more than a decade. The truth is that at just 24-years-old, Maybin is still plenty young, and he is currently enjoying his best season to date. He seems to fit well in Petco Park playing small ball with 44 runs and 17 steals through 80 games.
Ailment: Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
After a stellar rookie campaign we expected more of the same from Chacin this season. However, the Rockies hurler has inexplicably lost his demand, most recently walking seven Braves on Thursday. His ERA spiked to 3.60, which isn’t bad at all for the ballpark he pitches in, but still Chacin has surrendered four or more runs in four of his last five starts.
Cure: Vance Worley, SP, Phillies
The 24-year-old hurler came out of nowhere, but it looks like he is here to stay. Injuries to Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt have thrust Vance Worley into the Phillies rotation and he has responded with a 6-1 record and a 2.02 ERA. He can still get plagued by wildness at times, but he does rack up a decent amount of whiffs, and he has won his last four decisions.
Ailment: Ty Wigginton, 3B/1B/2B/OF, Rockies
This is what happens to streaky hitters. Ty Wigginton was on top of the world in June with 8 home runs and 18 RBI. However, he has yet to go deep once this month and his average this month is down to .204. It’s not a bad idea to look for other options.
Cure: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays
Just 28 years old, Encarnacion has 107 home runs under his belt, but they do come in bunches. He has been red-hot since the All-Star break with a home run and a .400 average. With the veteran seeing the ball so well in a fine lineup, it’s not a bad idea to invest in his fantasy services for the short-term.
Ailment: Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers
He was once the best closer in the business and he holds the record for most saves in a season, however, a less than dominant tenure in New York landed him in Milwaukee where he now offers middle relief. Despite pitching in middle relief, K-Rod was credited with a blown save on Thursday. He does not get enough strikeouts or offer a low enough ERA and WHIP to remain on a fantasy roster.
Cure: Edward Mujica, RP, Marlins
Marlins manager Jack McKeon showed his cards this week, stating that if Leo Nunoz gets moved, Mujica becomes his closer. This is well-deserved to Mujica, who boasts a 35:5 strikeout to walk ratio. His 2.85 ERA and 0.87 WHIP makes him a solid pick up for fantasy managers hoping to snare a closer for later in the season.
by Eno Sarris //
This past week has been a tough one for the third base position. Ryan Zimmerman underwent abdominal surgery and will be out up to another six weeks. Pablo Sandoval will miss at least that much time with a broken hamate bone. David Freese also broke his hand. Scott Rolen is having shoulder issues. Ian Stewart was sent down to the minor leagues. Pedro Alvarez is struggling with the whiff. If you have multiple teams, odds are you are looking for a third baseman in at least one league. We’ll break down some options here, tiered by league depth, so that you can sort through the mess.
It’s hard to know exactly which players are available on your waiver wire, but chances are, if you’re in a ten-teamer, Chase Headley is out there for you. Ideally, you’d like to play him against righties and away from home – so if you can platoon him in this manner, go ahead. As a batter, Headley has made some strides. He’s showing the best walk rate of his career and his power is up from last year. He has a lifetime BABIP of .330, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a little luckier on balls in play despite owning a current .301 BABIP. By the end of the year, Headley should be hitting around .260 with double digit home runs and steals, so he’s a decent stop-gap player. Of course, if you are lucky enough to find Chipper Jones on your waiver, he’s a much better option. But Headley’s no bum. Finally, the best option is probably Jed Lowrie, who made his fifth start (eighth game) at the position on Tuesday night. If he’s available and eligible, he’s your man.
Standard Mixed Leagues
Edwin Encarnacion is doing everything he’s always done in terms of his plate discipline and hit trajectory stats, but the power hasn’t been there. It’s a little much to ask him to recover his power so soon after a wrist injury, but that might be what you are stuck with. If power is your sole goal, you may want to go with Ian Stewart, who is now back in the major leagues. In interviews he has practically demanded that he play every day. If the team allows him that – it’s not like Jose Lopez is a better option (with his 1 OPS+!), and Ty Wigginton is also a flawed player – he could go back to striking out a little less than a third of the time, which would probably result in an Encarnacion-ish .250 batting average with power. If every hit counts, Danny Valencia has had bad luck so far this season and should at least be able to hit .265 or so going forward.
AL- and NL- Only Leagues
In these leagues, you’re mostly just screwed. In my 11-team AL-only, the best waiver option is either Omar Vizquel or Matt Tolbert. I’d take Tolbert, mostly just because he’s playing often because of the current state of the Twins infield. If Andy LaRoche is available in your league, he’s been seeing more time for the Athletics and has been acquitting himself well. On the NL side, Mike Fontenot is getting more playing time at shortstop and, because of his position eligiblity, actually create some trade value for himself by stealing the starting shorstop role in San Francisco while your third baseman is out. That’s how bad Miguel Tejada has been this year. Over with the Reds, Daniel Descalso is probably the man taking over for Freese right now, but watch Allen Craig if he’s available, as he’s the best bat in this paragraph – but he’ll have to build up eligibility at the positon, most likely.
Third base is hurting right now, literally and figuratively. Hopefully some of these free agent options will help you survived until you get your third baseman back.
For more check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office 2011.