Eric Mack
Monday April 25th, 2011

Fantasy Baseballers love statistics, particularly the trendy ones like strikeout-to-walk ratios, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and OPS (on base plus slugging). Sometimes you just need to understand a good baseball player.

Some are easy to see, because they stick on the stats pages like superheroes. The starts of Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki come to mind.

Well, stat hogs are getting some rewards for their patience in the starts of Lance Berkman (.377 average, six homers, 15 RBI, 14 runs, 0 steals, .449 OBP and .725 SLUG) and Carlos Quentin (.293-6-16-7-0, .376-.646). These OPS monsters are slugging like the MVP candidates they used to look like as solid middle-to-late round picks.

Most of the top hitters in fantasy to date have come as expected from the early rounds. Kemp, Braun, Votto and Tulo were near the top of their positions in every making ranking. Even Jose Bautista (seven homers) was a top-30 pick in average draft position.

The industry standard for evaluating a player tends to be a three-week period. Well, look at who chimes in through three-plus weeks at No. 10: the anti-stat hog, and out-machine, Jeff Francoeur himself.

Drafted in just 14 percent of leagues, Frenchy has seen his ownership rise to 82 percent. There are believers again!

Albeit only because they can read the stat sheet.

He hasn't been this good since his rookie season, perhaps. But there is something to be said for a player who is finally away from the pressures of living up to the expectations of Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox and the New York market.

Kansas City can be a nice place to thrive away from the limelight. Francoeur, somewhat like Berkman and Quentin, just might be a lot better than anyone would have imagined this season.

He is not only worth owning at this point, but he is a must-have -- seam-stat-heads be damned.

Now on to our usual Monday review of this week's trends ...

It is tough to compete with a pair of complete-game victories, so the Rays' James Shields wrests the player of the week honors from the Angels for the first time this season. Shields struck out nine and seven in his two starts and allowed just four hits each time, capping it off with a shutout Sunday. Ryan Braun, 27, and a surprisingly resurgent Daisuke Matsuzaka get honorable mentions.

Past players of the week: 2. SP Dan Haren, LAA; 1. SP Jered Weaver, LAA.

Here are some of the more intriguing players who are coming into playing time due to injury:

3B Evan Longoria, Rays -- He is hoping to be activated for the Rays homestand this upcoming weekend. A healthy return before next Sunday will make him a must-start in all leagues for Fantasy Week 5 (May 2-8).

Zack Greinke, Brewers -- He is targeting a May 4 return, but he still needs to get through at least one more successful rehab outing. He will be a risk next week, but a strong performance next time out will make it a risk worth taking.

RP Ryan Madson, Phillies -- With Jose Contreras (elbow) joining Brad Lidge (shoulder) on the DL, the Phillies are down to closer option No. 3. Madson is a viable addition in all leagues and should be a valuable source of saves well into May. The Phillies have a great rotation to get him ample save chances. Antonio Bastardo (0.00 ERA through nine games) is the most intriguing up Madson's setup men. Danys Baez and Kyle Kendrick will have to pick up slack in the latter innings, as well. Bastardo could be be groomed to close long term in the near future, though.

Darren Oliver, Rangers -- The Rangers are going to go with a bullpen by committee with Neftali Feliz (shoulder) shutdown for the next couple of weeks at least. Oliver picked up a save Saturday and another veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes got it done Sunday. Darren O'Day hasn't been his normal stellar self of late, so saves will likely go to the grizzled vets Oliver and Rhodes from the left side. Rookie Cody Eppley is an O'Day-like sidewinder from the right side, and he made a nice debut, but he will work the setup innings vacated by Oliver and Rhodes along with O'Day and talented 25-year-old Pedro Strop, who was once considered a viable closer prospect. Dave Bush and Brett Tomko will remain in long relief.

OF Corey Hart, Brewers -- The Brewers might be getting him back Tuesday from his season-opening DL stint due to an oblique injury. He is a potential must-start in all leagues, when healthy and going well, so track his progress through the weekend.

The most-added players:

1. RP Mitchell Boggs, STL 2. SP Kyle Lohse, STL 3. RP Madson, PHI 4. SS Jed Lowrie, BOS 5. OF Sam Fuld, TB

Madson and Boggs are closers for contenders now, while Lohse looks like he is going to win 15 games this season. Lowrie is enjoying a breakthrough in his age-27 season, while the LegendofSamFuld.com continues somehow. Fuld is a must-have in Rotisserie leagues, but that's about it.

The most-dropped players:

1. RP Ryan Franklin, STL 2. 1B Brandon Belt, SF 3. 3B Scott Rolen, CIN 4. RP Sean Burnett, WAS 5. 3B Ian Stewart, COL

Franklin is worthless now that he no longer serves a closer's role, and Belt is back in the minors where he belongs for now. Stewart doesn't belong in the minors and won't stay there long. He should be back up as the Rockies' everyday third baseman again in May. Pick him up and stash him if he was dropped in deeper leagues, particularly NL-only formats.

The most-scouted players:

1. RP Madson, PHI 2. 2B Darwin Barney, CHC 3. 3B Ryan Roberts, ARI 4. RP Boggs, STL 5. OF Carlos Gomez, MIL 6. 1B Albert Pujols, STL 7. 3B Maicer Izturis, LAA 8. 3B Casey Blake, LAD 9. SS Lowrie, BOS 10. SP Randy Wolf, MIL

Barney and Roberts are just hot at the plate right now and shouldn't be considered outside of deeper NL-only leagues. Gomez, Blake, Lowrie and Wolf are streaky options useful as pick-ups in mixed formats right now. This looks like a breakthrough year for Lowrie, and likely Gomez, too.

Eric Mack rounds up the Fantasy Baseball movers and shakers every Monday of the season at SI.com. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.

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