With Major League baseball opening the All-Star balloting yesterday, now is the perfect time to review the candidates for various fantasy awards this season. What? You say the season has just started and we really don’t have enough data to elect All-Stars, let alone hand out fantasy awards? Well if you don’t like it, pass this column by and hang tight for the 2010 All-Star balloting, which is due to open next Friday.
On to the awards…
Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX and Matt Kemp, OF, LAN
Kinsler hit for the cycle earlier in the season and has completely filled up the stat sheet with 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, and 6 SBs to go along with a .453 average and 14 runs in his first 13 games. Extrapolate those numbers out to a conservative 130 games and you’re looking at one of the best fantasy seasons ever. Kemp is second to Kinsler in Yahoo rank after putting together a .392/.439/.745 line with three home runs and four steals. Kemp is already making those owners that snagged him in the third round of drafts look like geniuses.
Honorable Mention: Nick Markakis, OF, BAL; Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI; Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, DET.
Fantasy Cy Youngs
Zack Greinke, SP, KC and Johan Santana, SP, NYN
I predicted I would own Greinke in a lot of leagues when I wrote the SP Positional Tiers. Apparently a lot of my leaguemates are reading my material, as I only ended up with the KC hurler in one league. Greinke has been magnificent, allowing no earned runs in 20 innings this season. Santana has been even better than advertised, with 27 Ks in 19.2 innings and a 0.46 ERA. Anyone that landed both these players on a team has a great shot at winning the pitching categories this year.
Honorable Mention: Heath Bell, RP, SD; Jonathan Broxton, RP, LAN; Jarrod Washburn, SP, SEA; Andrew Bailey, RP, OAK.
Fantasy Rookies of the Year
Ricky Romero, SP, TOR and Dexter Fowler, OF, COL
Romero has taken a lot of heat for having the nerve to be selected in front of Troy Tulowitzki in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft. Well, Romero looks to have put it all together and shows that the Blue Jays actually made a wise investment. His first three starts have been highlighted by a 13/4 K/BB ratio, 1.71 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, with a 2-0 record. Fowler was a surprise addition to Colorado’s Opening Day roster and has delivered, with 2 HRs and 3 SBs in 38 ABs. That projects out to a 25/35 season if he can get 570 ABs. Is he the next Nate McLouth?
Honorable Mention: Travis Snider, OF, TOR; Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX; Jordan Schafer, OF, ATL.
Fantasy Comebacks of the Year
Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR and Orlando Hudson, 2B, LAN
Hill was knocked out by a concussion in 2008, and his bat was never the same. Astute owners nabbed him deep in their fantasy drafts, and Hill has rewarded them with a .368 average and five home runs in 68 at bats. Hudson is taking full advantage of hitting in front of Manny Ramirez, and his outstanding play has carried him to a .393 average with two home runs and four stolen bases. It turns out second base was a much deeper position than anyone thought this year. Kudos to owners of Hill and Hudson.
Honorable Mention: Jarrod Washburn, SP, SEA; Kevin Millwood, SP, TEX; Paul Konerko, 1B, CHA.
Fantasy Busts of the Year
Chien-Ming Wang, SP, NYA and Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI
I would have liked to write about two highly-touted, highly-drafted players in this spot. However, Wang’s historically bad start has forced him to be given the award for biggest bust of the American League. Drafted in nearly all leagues (and still rostered in over 40% of Yahoo leagues), Wang has fired off three ugly outings resulting in an 0-3 record, along with a 34.50 ERA and 4.83 WHIP. You read that right, he’s allowing nearly five batters an inning through his first three starts. Rollins owners were definitely expecting more than zero steals in his first 12 games. Project that base-stealing pace out, and Rollins is in line to finish the season with 47 less steals than a year ago, when he stole 47 bags.
The Chris Shelton Double-Edged Sword Award
Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/3B, FLA
Could it be anyone else? Bonifacio was drafted in virtually no leagues in the preseason, but an Opening Day performance that included an inside-the-park home run and three steals had owners racing to the waiver wire to claim the speedster. After opening the season with five consecutive multi-hit games, Bonifacio only managed three hits in his next 33 at-bats leading up to Wednesday’s action, where he went 1-for-5 and recorded his first stolen base since April 8. A few more weeks of poor play will send him to the bench in favor of Triple-A slugger Gaby Sanchez.
Fantasy Sleeper That Paid Off Award
Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX
We knew he would have trouble maintaining a high average, but Cruz’s power potential had owners snapping him up in the middle rounds of their draft, and his stock rose as much as anyone’s throughout the preseason. Well, it turns out that we were all right to be giddy about his potential, as he has blasted six home runs through his first 49 at bats of the 2009 season. Congratulations to the owners that reached a bit to make sure they landed this sleeper du jour.
Closer With the Shortest Leash Award
Jason Motte, RP, STL
Tony LaRussa handed Motte a save opportunity in the Cardinals’ first game of the season. Motte took the immense responsibility to heart and stunk up the joint, to the tune of four earned runs, a blown save, and a loss. LaRussa wasted no time in demoting Motte to being just another bullpen arm, and Motte has responded with only one earned run in his last six appearances. With Chris Perez back in the big leagues, it looks like Motte’s chance at the closer job has passed.
What are some other notable award-deserving performances of the 2009 season? Discuss in the link at the end of the article. You can also e-mail comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now go get your All-Star votes in!
R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years, making him an addict at this point. He loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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