The All-Star break has come and gone, and we have a better idea of which fantasy baseball draft picks were worth their rank in the preseason. Here is a list of players who were not remarkably high on preseason draft lists, but have shown us a thing or two during the first three months plus of the season. If you were lucky enough to take a gamble on one of them, chances are your position in the standings reflects that. Of course, it may also reflect the guys you took a gamble on that are no longer on major league rosters…
(1) James Shields – SP, TB
Shields has been a tough-luck loser of late, until last night (giving up 6 earned runs). Obviously he’s not been contributing to wins the past several weeks, which means his other stats are pretty darn good. A 2.60 ERA, along with a WHIP of 1.00 proves this point. Shields’ average draft position in ESPN leagues? 209th. If you picked your ace that late, you’re a better man than I.
(2) Asdrubal Cabrera – SS, Cle
Cabrera’s rise to the top of the AL shortstop pool was meteoric. His pre-allstar break numbers: .293 with fourteen homers and 51 runs batted in. Those are suggestive of Coors Field! And he came right back after the break with three homers in five games. Who saw this coming? Not the masses who made him the 198th pick, on average, in the Fantasy Baseball Drafts.
(3) Josh Beckett – SP, Bos
He may be the biggest name on this list, but he wasn’t so popular on draft day, going 202nd on average. Most recently, Beckett threw eight innings of shutout ball, allowing a single baserunner – a first inning, infield single to the fleet-footed Evan Longoria (Don’t ask me if that is supposed to be sarcasm or not). But he was already turning in a stellar 2011, with career lows for both ERA and WHIP. To say he’s rebounded from a subpar 2010 is an understatement.
and now, the NL…
(4) Lance Berkman – OF, StL
He already has eleven more homers than in all of 2010, and as many as he hit the year before. That year (2009) was probably the start of his decline, or at least that’s what pundits said before this year’s stellar performance. His speed may have waned, but Berkman has provided tremendous value for his owners this year.
(5) Jair Jurrjens – SP, Atl
Okay, so Jurrjens belonged at the top of the list before he laid an egg last night against Washington (six earned in five innings). That outing alone raised his ERA from 1.87 to 2.26. He still makes the cut, however, as few anticipated this kind of breakout year. My guess is that last night was the exception rather than the rule; simply the law of averages equalizing his incredible season ever so slightly. Look for the young right-hander to rebound, although I’m not sure I’d pick him against Joey Votto and the Reds this Friday.
(6) Craig Kimbrel – RP, Atl
So another braves hurler makes our short list. Kimbrel was named the closer before the start of the season, and despite some making the case for Jonny Venters to assume the role early in the season, Kimbrel has done nothing but get better. He hasn’t blown a save since June 8th, and has a whopping 72 strikeouts in only 47 innings. He will be near the top of the rankings, if not at the top, for 2012 Fantasy Baseball Drafts.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Francouer, OF, KC; Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM