Drafting Albert Pujols this season required a certain amount of courage. It meant disregarding the metrics that indicated his career was on the steep decline, and disregarding the foot injury he sustained last year that ended his season prematurely and made him move like he was in slow motion. It also meant disregarding the consensus by the sports community that he may have the worst contract in this history of baseball. It meant having enough blind faith in his past success to shell out decent coinage to a wilting power hitter who plays at first base, a position that's rather easy to fill.
And that courage is being rewarded in full. After an awful first eight games, where Pujols hit no home runs and produced just one RBI while batting .200, the 34-year-old has hit six home runs over his last 10 games and is having his best April since he was a member of the Cardinals. It's unlikely he'll reach the heights he was at in St. Louis, when he was the No. 1 hitter in fantasy baseball. But then again, he doesn't have to be that good for his owners to have pulled off a massive steal on draft day. And besides: he's still hitting in front of Mike Trout, and will eventually be hitting ahead of Josh Hamilton again. Even if he's not spry enough to hit 42 home runs and collect 118 RBI, like he did in 2010, he's still in an awesome enough lineup that as long as he can stay healthy and keep hitting around .300, he's bound to put up some impressive numbers.
Of course, his owners may also be benefiting from the fact that Pujols is only a few home runs shy of hitting No. 500 in his career. A healthy Pujols is going to hit home runs regardless, but right now there's a good chance Pujols wants to get to the milestone and be done with it, which works just fine in fantasy, since his owners just want home runs from him as well. The Angels play at Washington and at the Yankees this week, and there's a good chance he'll produce the two home runs he needs to join the 500-club. It's been a few years, but Pujols looks to be a dependable, elite slugger again. Or he will be, so long as he can stay healthy.
For Your Consideration
● Marcell Ozuna went 2-4 with a homer and now has three home runs and 10 RBI on the year. Ozuna has played in all but one game for the Marlins, has hit safely in 15 of the 16 games he's played in, and has spent the last few days hitting in front of Giancarlo Stanton, which is good for his run total if nothing else. Ozuna is batting .343 so far and does carry a quaint amount of upside. The 23-year-old doesn't possess the greatest power in the world, but if you need a hitter who can help your batting average, he's not a terrible option. Ozuna is available in 83% of Yahoo! leagues.
● Jose Valverde had yet another shaky outing Saturday night against the Braves, and now there's a report that Papa Grande is done as the Mets closer, which should come as a surprise to no one. Farewell Pape Grande: you and your horribly erratic pitching will not be missed. Once again, the likely candidates to replace him are Kyle Farnsworth, Gonzalez Germen and Carlos Torres. Germen was recently knocked around, so he may have taken himself out of consideration for the time being. Farnsworth is likely the pitcher to inherit the job, as he has the most experience. But he also has Valverde-esque qualities that make him a potential disaster in the making, so it'd really be better for everyone if Torres and his starter eligibility got the job. Either way, we'll find out soon.
● LaTroy Hawkins pitched a clean ninth inning against the Phillies to record his fifth save of the year. There wasn't a great deal of belief in Hawkins when he was named the Rockies' closer ahead of Rex Brothers, but Hawkins has been just fine and Brothers has struggled. Hawkins was pretty solid as the Mets' fill-in closer towards the end of last year as well, so the 41-year-old reliever deserves a little credit. As chaotic as the closing landscape is, Hawkins is somehow one of the most consistent closers in baseball. Anyone reluctant to pick him up off the waiver wire should do so if they still can.
● Josh Reddick went 3-5 and drove in a game-winning RBI single yesterday. Reddick, after getting off to a truly miserable start, is 6-9 with a home run over his last two games, and has raised his batting average from .098 to .200. Reddick was quite useful just two years ago, when he produced 32 homers, 85 RBI, 85 runs and 11 steals, and if he can keep hitting, he might eventually find himself back in the standard leagues conversation.