When drafting a fantasy baseball team, one dreams of having the categorical stat leaders in each stat. It obviously gives you a huge advantage when you ending up having the leaders. That allows you to fill in the rest of your roster to focus on some other category. If you dominate in homeruns and struggle in steals, and you are able to play 2 speed guys instead of one speed and one power guy, it just improves your roster flexibility. As we near the all-star break, are the guys leading the league for real, or should you think of trading them if you think it is just a hot start?
Home Runs: This group has players at the top that certainly are no strangers to it. Jose Bautista has 26 bombs so far this year. Bautista is followed up by Josh Hamilton (25), Adam Dunn (24), and Curtis Granderson (23). Joey Bats is no stranger to this list. In the past 2 years before this he had 54 and 43 homeruns respectively. This makes me believe that he once again will be around 50 homeruns. When scoring as well as homeruns are down in baseball this season, it makes it even more amazing. If you also take into account that he has some decent protection with Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus in the Toronto line up, it should be easier to maintain the pace. Bautista is no player to trade unless you are blown away by some offer or you lead your seasonal fantasy baseball league by a bunch of homeruns and in dire need of some other category.
Josh Hamilton’s 25 homeruns so far this year are somewhat of a surprise. Right away you may be thinking of his 4 homerun game he had earlier this year. That certainly makes headlines and has shown his ability to hit homeruns in bunches when he is on as in the HR Derby at Yankee Stadium for the All-Star festivities. He is also in a great Rangers line up. However, of the leaders in homers right now, this is the one I would recommend trading the most if someone is looking for power in their seasonal or weekly fantasy baseball league. Hamilton is a fantastic player. Do not get me wrong on that. However, he has never hit more than 32 bombs in a season. This, combined with the fact that he is probably the most injury prone of any of the leaders; he is a guy I would trade to a homerun struggling team. Do not underestimate his RBIs when evaluating him. Those are legitiment and will stay that way. I am strictly talking about his power in what I think will taper off some for the rest of the season. I think he will barely get to 40 home runs.
Adam Dunn has 24 homeruns already this year. If you drafted this guy, you had to have gotten more then you bargained for out of him. After his miserable year last year, Dunn was probably only drafted by those that take chances late in drafts, those that watch spring training or maybe only his parents if they play in fantasy baseball leagues. Whatever the reason, you are looking like a genius now. If you need homeruns, he will supply them. Dunn has unbelievable power and I have had him in fantasy leagues many years. However, he is probably another good guy to trade to a team starving for power. He will do everything he can to kill your batting average. You have to wonder if his lack of batting average and his propensity to strike out will interfere with playing time. I think he too will be close to 50 homeruns, but he will have his moments where it kills you to have him on your team. Granderson, Edwin Encarnacion and Ryan Braun, who are just behind Dunn in homeruns, make for better overall fantasy players. As far as homeruns are concerned, I can see each of them getting too or just near 40 homeruns this season.
RBIs: Most would think that whoever leads in homeruns would also lead in RBIs. Many times that is true, but sometimes it is not. RBIs can be an odd category. Playing on a potent offense can be very beneficial. A mere base hit can yield 2 RBIs while a player on a lesser team can hit home runs and keep getting just one RBI to his credit because they are often times solo homeruns. One example would be Trevor Plouffe vs Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera has 16 HRs to go along with 62 RBIs, yet Trevor Plouffe has 18 HRs, but a lousy 31 RBIs. Cabrera has twice as many RBIs in fewer homeruns hit. Josh Hamilton (73), Miguel Cabrera (62), Jose Bautista (62) and Carlos Beltran (61) are the league leaders in RBI.
Josh Hamilton, as I stated earlier, believe his power numbers will taper off. However, I believe he is probably the most dangerous RBI man in the game right now. He plays on one of the highest scoring teams in the league. There is usually someone on base when he comes to bat. Hamilton does not have to hit a home run to get RBIs all the time. Barring injury, Hamilton will probably have well over 100 RBI and closer to 120.
Miguel Cabrera, while not an extremely powerful homerun hitter, still is lethal in the RBI category because of the offense he is in as well. He also gets to face AL Central pitching which is not known for dominance. I would expect around 110 RBIs for Cabrera come years end.
Jose Bautista is very powerful hitter as talked about earlier in the home runs category. Bautista is in a great offense as well and is the only man I think that is in a position that may catch Hamilton. His power is amazing and he has the offense to make his homeruns count for 2 or 3 RBIs when he hits them. He has just recently got hot and I look for that to continue. I think he could have 120 RBIs by year end.
Carlos Beltran has had a resurgence this year. He has already knocked in 61 runs. The Cardinals have had a surprisingly good offense so far this year. Of all the leaders, Beltran is the one I would trade if I were to get a good offer. He very well may get over 100 RBI, but history is not on his side. Beltran has only gotten more the 61 RBIs once since 2008…IN A SEASON! He is injury prone and he is not getting any younger. I would think that the heat and humidity may lead to more days off for him, even if he does not succumb to an injury. I think he is a candidate not to break 100 RBI just because of this time off or injury.
Stolen Bases: This can be the single most frustrating category to handicap. It is the category not always just based on speed. How hard is it to cheer for players on you team to get hits, but then tell them to stop at first so you have a chance to steal a base? There are players that get many hits, but do not have a ton of speed or there are teammates that already occupy the next base making it impossible to steal it. There are also those with blazing speed that just can’t get on first base. It is hard to steal a base when you cannot get on base. Look at the leaders in baseball right now. You have Dee Gordon (28), Tony Campana (25), Micheal Bourn (22), and Mike Trout (22).
Dee Gordon is absolutely lethal on the base paths. He currently has 28 SBs. For you old timers, he has Vince Coleman 100 SB speed potential. Potential is the key, deadly, word in that sentence. What is so frustrating is that while he can steal 4 bases in a game easily, the most difficult thing is what I mentioned earlier, getting on first base. He bats a meager .228 on the season to go along with just 18 walks. He was even sent down to AAA to work on getting better and still leads the league in stolen bases. His lack of consistency will make Pepto Bismol your best friend. What makes his season total so hard to figure is that he has not been in the majors this whole season. He was sent to the minors to become more consistent. He has 17 errors that lead the league at SS even with time missed for playing in the minors. If he does not fix this, he will lose playing time. If you have a chance to get him, and you need steals, you have to hope he stays leading off and on the major league club. I do think he will get the playing time and steal close to 60 bases, but there is no doubt, this is the most high risk, high reward player in the steals department. He very well could end up with only 40 SBs because he continues his inconsistency, and the Dodgers choose to let him fix that in the minors.
Tony Campana currently has 25 SBs. That is even more impressive when you figure in that he has had less than 150 ABs. Currently, he is only playing against right handers, and since Anthony Rizzo was called up and the Cubs put Bryan LeHair in the outfield, his playing time is almost non-existent. One thing I do know, if you do not play, you can’t steal bases. Campana needs the Cubs to trade Alfanso Soriano and maybe another outfielder to clear him some time to play to even stay relevant. At this current pace, I cannot see him getting more than 35 SBs. He will only make pinch running appearances with an occasional start. No one can afford to have an active roster spot that never plays. If there are not any better players on the free agent list in your league and you have him, you can only hope to stash him and pray playing time becomes available. If playing time does open up and you hear Soriano and/or another outfielder has been traded off the Cubs and they are not getting a starting outfielder in return, I would suggest running, not walking to your computer to pick him up in seasonal and weekly fantasy baseball leagues. If you are at work and you cannot be on the internet, go home at lunch and get him! He has 70 SB potential with a full season of ABs.
Michael Bourn has the third most steals with 22 currently. While he has fewer stolen bases then the two guys ahead of him, Bourn will not have you hitting your head against a wall in frustration on most days. He is far more consistent this season than Campana and Gordon. Bourn bats over .300, plays on a decent offensive team with the Braves, and starts pretty much every game. While Campana and Gordon may give 4 SBs in a game to go along with several games of nothing, Bourn will consistently give you one stolen base in a game more often, and not nearly as many throw away games. In weekly fantasy baseball leagues, you can assuredly start him every week. Bourn can get 45 SBs this year staying healthy and will always have a couple stolen bases a week to help your team.
Mike Trout also has 22 stolen bases so far this year. While he is tied for 3rd on this list, he is probably the most helpful on fantasy teams. He has power, scores runs and bats leadoff for the Angels. He also has gotten these 22 stolen bases with the first month spent in the minors. Unlike Gordon, he was down in AAA because of youth and not because of poor performance at the major league level. Ever since his call up, he has been an important cog in the Angels line up. He is batting over .330 with 51 runs scored to go along with those stolen bases. Trout can easily get 50 SBs this season, and that is saying something playing for an American League team since they do not run as often. There are no signs of slowing down for this guy, and if you have him or you can manage to trade for him, your fantasy team will greatly benefit from it.