With just about a week left in the fantasy baseball season, it’s clear that this week’s matchups are as important as ever. With some unexpected contributors making waves across fantasy circles, owners need to be extra cautious when setting fantasy baseball lineups this week to ensure that nothing will impede the progress toward the crown.
1.Carlos Gonzalez, OF COL: .342 AVG, 33 HR, 113 RBI, 107 runs, 25 SB
My pick for NL MVP, Gonzalez is a legitimate chance to finish the season as a 30/30 player. Add that to the fact that he’s going to win the batting crown, fourth in homers, first in RBI, and first in runs scored, I can’t seem to find a single flaw in this kid’s game. A legitimate first round fantasy baseball pick in 2011, Gonzalez has legitimized himself among even the baseball elite.
2.Buster Posey, C SF: .326 AVG, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 54 runs, 0 SB
One of this year’s front-runners for NL Rookie of the Year, Posey has burst onto the scene with a vengeance and looks like he’s locked in for the stretch run. Like Joe Mauer, Posey’s value as a catcher makes him even more valuable in fantasy baseball leagues than he already is. What makes his feats most impressive is that the production has come in just 99 games played.
3.Jose Bautista, OF TOR: .265 AVG, 50 HR, 115 RBI, 102 runs, 8 SB
Undoubtedly the best fantasy baseball waiver wire pickup in 2010, Bautista’s 50 taters mark the first time that it’s happened in the MLB since the 2007 season. A truly remarkable story, Bautista has now shattered his previous career high in the category by 34 homers and he may not be done quite yet. Attributing his newfound power stroke to a mechanical alteration he made in his swing, Mr. Bautista has put his name in the record books. And to the owners that rolled the dice on him, well done.
4.Carlos Beltran, OF NYM: .246 AVG, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 19 runs, 3 SB
Beltran is clearly not the player that he once was after recurring knee troubles, but that doesn’t mean that he’s regressed to a slouch, either. After an extremely lousy start, Beltran has come alive of late and is batting .345 over his last 14 games. A former borderline first round fantasy pick, Beltran is now an intriguing fantasy baseball sleeper for the remainder of this year and heading into the 2011 campaign.
5.Dan Uggla, 2B FLA: .288 AVG, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 94 runs, 4 SB
After requesting a 5-year, $58 million contract extension from the Fish, Uggla has been putting up the numbers that support his asking price. The best power option at the second base position outside of Robinson Cano, Uggla has set career highs in numerous offensive categories this season. It’d be amazing to see what he’d be capable of doing on a playoff-caliber club, but even playing for the Fish his value is undeniable.
1.David Price, SP TB: 18-6, 2.84 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 179 K
One of the biggest value picks this season, Price has really blossomed into a top-line starter for the Tampa Bay franchise. Now exceeding the potential that surrounded him coming out of Vanderbilt as the first overall pick a few years ago, Price has been one of the biggest (if not the biggest) reasons that the Rays have been able to keep up with the Yankees all season long, despite the magnanimous differential in payroll. With a 2.06 ERA over his last five starts, it appears he’s solidified his CY Young candidacy and may even be considered the front-runner by the end of the week.
2.Madison Bumgarner, SP SF: 6-6, 3.06 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 79 K
Often overshadowed by his rotation mates, the young Bumgarner has really established himself as an integral part of the Giants future. Even though the wins have been elusive of late, Bumgarner has pitched very well and deserving of a better fate. Start him with confidence this week against an out-of-contention Arizona team as the Giants are looking to surge toward the finish line.
3.Randy Wolf, SP MIL: 13-22, 4.24 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 135 K
Despite a rather mediocre season line from Milwaukee’s big free-agent acquisition, Wolf has been much improved of late and looks like he’s locked in right now. Over his last three starts (23 IP), Wolf has allowed just two earned runs and has struck out at least six in each outing. With an impending matchup at New York against the Mets and youngster Jon Niese (who has really struggled of late), Wolf should make for an intriguing play for owners looking to gamble.
4.Max Scherzer, SP DET: 12-10, 3.40 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 181 K
Perhaps the best story of the season, Scherzer has been downright dominant since his return from the minor leagues earlier this season. Posting electric strikeout numbers and making opposing hitters look helpless at the dish; Scherzer’s near 200-strikeout season seemed like only a pipedream a short time ago. Entering the 2011 season, he’ll be a consensus top 10-fantasy baseball starting pitcher.
5.Nick Blackburn, SP MIN: 10-10, 5.23 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 58 K
Blackburn’s recent success has been extremely surprising given his absolutely atrocious start. After beginning the year 1-6 with a 10.05 ERA, Blackburn was demoted to Triple-A for a brief stretch. Since his recall, he’s pitched at least seven innings in each of his six starts and opponents are hitting just .213 against him in those starts. Despite his inability to blow hitters away, it’s clear that he has a better understanding of how to pitch and should continue to be effective for owners looking for fantasy baseball starting pitchers.