With the All-Stars named on Sunday night, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the top fantasy players at each position based on their performances in the first half and their rankings on Draft Day. You might be surprised to learn that you could have had a lot of these first-half stars late in your draft.
Now for the roll call at each position, followed by their Average Draft Position (ADP) in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship:
The best player and best bargain at this position are one in the same, as Russell Martin of the Dodgers hovers over the other backstops. Through Saturday, he was hitting .296 with nine homers, 52 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 46 runs. His ADP was 165, which means he was a REAL bargain for you. Honorable mention goes to Cleveland's Victor Martinez, who was hitting .323-14-65 with 40 runs. His ADP was 43, as he's held his value as a third- or fourth-round pick.
Again, the best player and best bargain is Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, who's making a strong case for National League MVP. Fielder is hitting .284 and leading the NL with 27 homers, while adding 66 RBIs and 57 runs. His ADP was a solid 59, but he was one of the Top 10 fantasy players of the first half. Earning honorable mention was Boston's Kevin Youkilis (.326-9-43 with 48 runs), whose ADP was 256.
Philadelphia's Chase Utley is the best second baseman in baseball and he proved that again in the first half, hitting .327-15-66 with six stolen bases and 58 runs. His ADP was 7th overall; and despite a slow start, he's living up to that billing. Baltimore's Brian Roberts also deserves mention with his solid first half, hitting .326-5-24 with 25 stolen bases and 49 runs. His ADP was 42. The best bargain at this position is Atlanta's Kelly Johnson, whose ADP was 311 when he started the year with only outfield eligibility. He's hit .279-8-39 with six stolen bases and 49 runs and is now a solid second sacker for fantasy teams.
Jose Reyes is battling Alex Rodriguez for the honor of Fantasy MVP in 2007. He is hitting .317-4-34 with 39 stolen bases and 55 runs. Two other Top 20 players at this position include Florida's Hanley Ramirez (.320-11-29 with 24 stolen bases and 65 runs) and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins (.283-13-47 with 15 stolen bases and 65 runs). But the best bargain here is unquestionably Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, who is hitting .281 with 18 homers, 51 RBIs and 47 runs after being the 311th player selected on Draft Day.
A-Rod went fourth on Draft Day, but he has been the best fantasy player of the first half, hitting .330 with an MLB-best 28 homers, 79 RBIs and 73 runs. He also has stolen nine bases. Two of the best bargains at the Hot Corner include Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton (.320-9-31 with 13 stolen bases and 36 runs), whose ADP was 235, and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun (.349-7-25-6 with 30 runs), who wasn't selected by many teams on Draft Day.
The top five outfielders from the first half were all bargains on Draft Day. Grady Sizemore went 15th overall but has been a Top 5 player thus far, hitting .285-13-40 with 23 stolen bases and 67 runs. Rounding out our Top 5 outfielders with their ADPs are: Gary Sheffield (ADP of 68, hitting .290-18-52-11 with 69 runs), Magglio Ordonez (ADP of 129, hitting .370-13-68-2 with 65 runs), Torii Hunter (ADP of 71, hitting .303-17-63-11 with 48 runs) and Ichiro Suzuki (ADP of 24, hitting .368-5-39-23 with 56 runs). The best bargains at this position include Philadelphia's Shane Victorino (ADP of 223, .265-8-33 with 22 stolen bases and 50 runs), Milwaukee's Corey Hart (ADP of 200, .318-10-31-16 with 38 runs), and Houston's Hunter Pence (ADP of 393, .330-8-35-7 with 29 runs).
There are five standouts who deserve recognition here. They include C.C. Sabathia, who leads the majors with 12 wins after being picked 86th overall. Also deserving of recognition are: Brad Penny (ADP of 226, 10 wins, 2.00 ERA 1.12 WHIP, 77 Ks), Danny Haren (ADP of 109, 9 wins, 1.91 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 93 Ks), Jake Peavy (ADP of 51, 9 wins, 2.09 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 119 Ks) and Johan Santana (ADP of 9, 9 wins, 2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 120 Ks). The best bargain on Draft Day was the Mets' John Maine, whose ADP was 251. All he's done in the first half is earn 9 wins with a 2.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 84 strikeouts.
Milwaukee's Francisco Cordero blew three saves in June, but he still was the best reliever of the first half (ADP of 85, 27 saves, 2.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 47 strikeouts). I'll name three other closers to the All-Fantasy All-Star team: Jose Valverde (ADP of 132, 26 saves, 2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 37 Ks), J.J. Putz (ADP of 80, 0.95 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 41 Ks) and Takashi Saito (ADP of 94, 22 saves, 1.34 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 42 strikeouts). The best closer bargain was Tampa Bay's Al Reyes (17 saves, 3.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 38 Ks), whose ADP was 400.
If you have a lot of these guys on your fantasy teams, then you're probably contending for a few league titles. Good luck as well during the second half of the season.
WELCOME TO THE BIGS
It was a weak week for minor-league call-ups, but a few stand out. At the top of the list is Minnesota RHP Matt Garza, who is expected to make his first start on Friday. Garza spent the first half of the season at Triple-A Rochester, where he went 4-6 in 16 starts with a 3.62 ERA, a 1.35 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 92 innings. During nine starts with the Twins last year, he was 3-6 with a 5.76 ERA. The 23-year-old has good talent and a major-league fastball, but I'm not sure he's disciplined enough yet to excel in the majors. He's an interesting pickup for the second half of the season, but he does come with some risks. Proceed with caution.
The Red Sox called up their top prospect, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, but it will be a short-term promotion. With Coco Crisp sidelined for a few games with a thumb injury, Ellsbury go the call from Triple-A Pawtucket and went 1-for-4 in his debut on Saturday night. Ellsbury, 23, hit .452 with 13 RBIs and 8 stolen bases in 17 games at Double-A Portland before hitting .277 with 11 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 50 games at Pawtucket. He's not a fantasy pickup just yet as he should return to Pawtucket this week, but he's definitely a top prospect for 2008 as he's penciled in as the Red Sox centerfielder of the future.
He's not a prospect, but 37-year-old Troy Percival was called up to the majors this year by the Cardinals, who need late inning help. Percival, who was out of baseball last year, earned a win in his first game with the Cardinals and could see some innings in a setup role for Jason Isringhausen. He has minimal fantasy value now, but watch his situation nonetheless.
NEWS 'N NOTES
James Loney is now a fulltime starter at first base for the Dodgers as Nomar Garciaparra has been moved to third base. Loney now has solid fantasy value, as he's hitting .440-3-14.
Brian Fuentes has been removed as the closer in Colorado after blowing four straight saves this week. Look for Manuel Corpas to take over that role as I just don't see Jorge Julio, LaTroy Hawkins or Jeremy Affeldt holding down this role in Colorado.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Most of the top prospects have been promoted, but keep an eye on Oakland 1B Daric Barton and Milwaukee LHP Manny Parra. Barton, a former catcher, hit .675 during a current 20-game hitting streak at Triple-A Sacramento and is now hitting .329-6-48 there. The A's don't have a spot for him, but he's a solid prospect nonetheless. Parra was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A and threw a no-hitter during his second start with Nashville, striking out 11 against Round Rock. He is 8-4 with a 2.45 ERA between Huntsville and Nashville and could be a late season call-up for the Brewers.