McCutchen, Trout help scramble expected fantasy rankings
They say the toughest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. Andrew McCutchen, 25, and Mike Trout, 20, the NL and AL batting leaders, made that look like child's play in the first half.
No, the toughest thing in sports might be achieving perfection in fantasy. It is just not possible. This is this writer's mea culpa for being far less than perfect.
We break down some of the good, much of the bad and a lot of ugly from SI.com's preseason preview content as we enjoy the midsummer respite, err, Classic.
Breakouts? More like breakdowns.
It is the belief here the baseball player's prime is age 26-32, with 27 tending to be the breakthrough for fantasy value. Yes, there are some success stories, namely Matt Cain, Adam Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Price, Jed Lowrie, Gio Gonzalez and Carlos Gonzalez, but the list looks bad right now. Tim Lincecum, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria have had the worst seasons of their careers, not their best.
Breakthrough candidates like B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Mat Gamel and Ian Stewart have been breakdowns, not outs.
The third season for a starting pitcher tends to be the time when their arm is equipped for 200-plus innings and the rise to fantasy acedom. Now, this is a category that takes a full year to analyze, but most of our preseason top-10 doesn't have a full year to consider: Brandon Morrow (on the DL), Wade Davis (in the bullpen), Daniel Hudson (out for the year) and Derek Holland (was on the DL). Madison Bumgarner, Matt Harrison, Jordan Zimmermann, Phil Hughes and Bud Norris have had their moments, but, again, this list hasn't come through for fantasy owners.
This category tries to take advantage of the perception of a player being injury-prone and giving you added value for someone that can outperform their draft position. While Josh Hamilton, Stephen Strasburg, Jake Peavy, Johan Santana, Joe Mauer and David Wright have been gems, most of our preseason top-10 hasn't come through better than the masses expected (Hanley Ramirez, Kendrys Morales, Andrew Bailey, Buster Posey and Ryan Howard).
This is one of the categories that has come through. It was said this year stands to rival the greatest rookie years of all time, namely the 2001 Albert Pujols-Ichiro Suzuki class. It has done that and then some with the immediate stardom of Trout, Bryce Harper and Yu Darvish. At least yours truly got something right.
This is another hodge-podge list that has be to deemed more failure than success. The great breakthrough stories of Chris Sale, Mark Trumbo and Kenley Jansen trump the disappointments of Brandon Belt and Dustin Ackley, et al.
You should expect this category to be a mixed bag, but the wild successes of Josh Hamilton, David Wright and Matt Cain (he signed an extension after the column was written) should give the check to the "good" column.
These are wider categories, which combine all those above and adds in players coming off disappointing years or players we have yet to see the best of. On these lists, we find Adam Dunn, Bryan LaHair, Lowrie, Aaron Hill, David Freese, Bumgarner and ... McCutchen! That's enough to consider them a general success.
This category tends to be the least popular in the court of public opinion because no one likes to hear bad things about the players they have high hopes for. As much as it is correct to see Ellsbury here, we balance that with yet another ugly prediction the wheels would come off the Jose Bautista bandwagon. Predicting the latter is getting old, particularly since it never proves true. It also makes our preseason bust picks, well, a bust.
As for the rest of this week's fantasy baseball trends ...