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Man in a box: Players performing beyond bounds of the routine

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I was driving with my wife the other day over streets that I travel daily on my way to work. Being the observant type that I am, I commented on the "new" store that had just popped up on the corner a few blocks from our house. My wife proceeded to tell me I was a doofus and that the store in question had been there for almost a year. I'd been driving that path every day and had failed to notice a very prominent building that was painted neon orange in order to draw attention.

My wife says I'm oblivious; I like to call it focused. You're probably not as "focused" as I am, but I bet you're guilty of similar offenses in fantasy baseball. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our daily routine and the players on our teams that we don't notice important things that are right out there for us to see, like ...

... Evan Longoria's 12 stolen bases. Yeah, I knew he was hitting near .300 and displaying his usual power, but I hadn't noticed the 25-steal pace. No, you're not going to steal him away from some unsuspecting owner, but his newfound speed is just one more thing that makes him one of the best players in fantasy baseball.

... or the fact that Alex Rios is nearly on pace for a 30-HR/40-SB season. After hitting just .247 last year with 17 HRs and 24 SB, many gave up on the idea of him reaching the superstar potential we thought he had. This season he has been an unheralded fantasy stud. He's already hit 13 HRs and stole 21 bases to go along with a .313 average. In a typical 5 X 5 roto league, he's produced as much value as any hitter in baseball, yet no one is talking about it.

... Shane Victorino providing a nice power/speed package of his own. Victorino's previous career bests in HRs and RBIs are 14 and 62. He's currently on pace to blast 26 HRs and drive in 99 runs. He's also giving his owners the speed that was expected. His .249 BA is hiding a huge leap in production. The average will come up near his .280 career mark, making Victorino a Top 20 hitter.

... Carlos Gonzalez being one of the best young players in baseball. Matt Kemp and Justin Upton get all the hype as being the best of the new crop of five-category studs, but Gonzalez is out producing those two, plus other more hyped players like Andre Ethier, Torii Hunter and Matt Holliday. He's been a little injury prone, but Gonzalez is a fantasy stud who is getting zero hype.

It's not just these hitters that are escaping the eye of many owners. There are plenty of pitchers flying under the fantasy radar as well; such as ...

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... Jered Weaver, who has leaped into the elite realm of starting pitchers. Weaver has always shown flashes but lacked the strikeout numbers to join the Tim Lincecums and Roy Halladays of the world. This year he's bumped his K/9 up by almost three Ks to 10.45 and is on pace for almost 250 strikeouts. Weaver is actually out producing Lincecum in three of the four starting pitcher categories. He's just been a little unlucky on the win front, which is why we aren't hearing too much about him, but all his numbers signal his arrival as a true fantasy ace.

... Jeff Niemann, possibly the best pitcher that no one seems to know about. Rays teammate David Price gets the hype and his numbers are deserving, but Niemann has been right behind him in production. Niemann enters the week with a 2.71 ERA and 1.06 WHIP and has gone at least six innings in every start this year. He's not flashy and lacks a big strikeout pitch, but the 6-9 righty has been an unsung source of pitching value.

... Ryan Dempster, who just keeps on keepin' on, as they say. I'm not suggesting he's a Top 10 starter, but did you realize he's on pace for 226 Ks and currently has a career-best 1.17 WHIP? Neither did I, because the Cubs are so lackluster that Dempster's quality numbers are going unnoticed.

... Jamie Moyer, the old man who just keeps winning. Moyer's nine wins aren't so surprising with the Philly lineup behind him, but check out the spiffy 1.05 WHIP. I went to check out some of his advanced stats from earlier in his career, but they don't exist. The 47-year old pre-dates all but the most basic stats. I mean, this guy played on a team with Ron Cey for heaven's sake. Moyer has lost a little off his "fastball" since last year, dropping from an average of 81.4 mph down to his current 81.1, but that 74 mph changeup is still dancing. Obviously the strikeouts won't be there, but how much fun is it to win your league with a pitcher that's almost twice your age.

... Trevor Cahill, a pitcher half the age of Moyer. Cahill had some shaky numbers last year (1.44 WHIP and 4.5 K/9), and hasn't received half the hype of teammate Brett Anderson. If you look at their minor league numbers, though, Cahill beats Anderson in ERA, WHIP, and even strikeouts. The young righty has started to realize his K potential, striking out 26 hitters in 27 innings. Many fantasy owners will write him off as a fluke built around the ever elusive win category, but a look at his current numbers and a track record that supports them says he's for real.

... Brad Lidge, a pitcher who has quietly put up great numbers since returning from the DL. Lidge had become a four-letter word in fantasy circles, but in 11 innings, he's struck out 16 batters against just three walks. He's currently got a 3.27 ERA and 1.18 WHIP and seems to be gaining steam. The Phillies are being careful with his usage, but expect them to go to him more often as they gain confidence in him.

I could go on with this list for awhile, but I've got to go buy school supplies for my son, who is getting ready to start kindergarten this August ... scratch that; my wife says he's actually going into second grade and has been in school for two years now ... then she called me a doofus.

* All statistics current as of June 27.

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Doug Anderson is the Executive Editor at Look for Man in a Box every Tuesday and catch him on The Fantasy War Room, Thursdays at 8 ET. Wanna climb in the box and talk baseball? E-mail Doug at