Year of the Pitcher II, meet June. June, meet sluggers. Sluggers, meet baseballs. Runs, meet scoreboard.
Fantasy early rounders, meet expectations.
It has been another productive start for pitchers in fantasy this year, but we are starting to see things turn as the calendar flips to June and the balls are getting flipped out of the park. All those disappointing early round picks -- it was Albert Pujols a week ago -- should be starting to make their market correction.
Hanley Ramirez (back) is returning from the DL early this week, along with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman (abdominal), Matt Holliday (quad) and Joe Mauer (legs). That should help those owners who have held on to those disappointments early to reap the benefits later.
We will also get the return of Pablo Sandoval (wrist) and Alfonso Soriano (quad). Soreness is a lot less significant when the chill isn't going through the muscles and bones.
Last week, we outlined three leads in our fantasy section: 1. The payback of Pujols; 2. The rise of June call-ups; and 3. Buy low, sell high.
It was a fitting trio of topics, because those themes continued through the week. Prince Fielder and Troy Tulowitzki slugged like beasts. Mike Moustakas, Anthony Rizzo and Dee Gordon made instant impacts up from Triple-A. And now, the injured early rounders are making their June returns.
Those who sold the Marlins' Ramirez, the Nats' Zimmerman and the Twins' Mauer are going to be sorry. This trio hasn't been a model of health, but they are coming back this week as the mercury and run production is up.
Hitting is cyclical, and those career-steady stars are going to be levying some huge payback. They are so promising for fantasy owners, you likely want to start them sight unseen going into Fantasy Week 11 (June 13-19).
The slugging boys of summer are on their way back, pitchers be warned.
No one was hotter than Fielder in Fantasy Week 10 (June 6-12). He hit six homers and drove in 13 runs, going 10-for-20 (.500). It is the second consecutive week for a hitter amid a first half dominated by pitchers. Expect the runs to continue to pile up with the rising mercury. Keep on dealing pitching for hitting, particularly in Rotisserie, as we always suggest.
Past players of the week: 9. 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals; 8. SP Yovani Gallardo, MIL; 7. SP Michael Pineda, SEA; 6. OF Jose Bautista, TOR; 5. SP Francisco Liriano, MIN; 4. 2B Ben Zobrist, TB; 3. SP James Shields, TB; 2. SP Dan Haren, LAA; 1. SP Jered Weaver, LAA.
OF Matt Holliday (quad), Cardinals -- He is expected to be activated when eligible Saturday. His return will force Jon Jay and Allen Craig into more of a platoon. It could also force Lance Berkman into some starts at first base, which would slide Albert Pujols over to third and into eligibility there in leagues that require just five games.
C Joe Mauer (legs), Twins -- He is targeting a Thursday return. The catcher position is thin enough to consider starting him on a short week. No one cares about whom he will replace in the lineup mostly. He should get ample time at DH, too. It is noteworthy the Twins will be in NL parks next week in interleague play. Mauer starts when active, though.
3B Ryan Zimmerman (abdominal), Nationals -- Zimmerman looks good to go for Fantasy Week 11 (June 13-19). No one will miss who he is replacing.
LF Martin Prado (staph infection), Braves -- They were already short in the outfield with Jason Heyward (shoulder) down, so a guy like Eric Hinske will be a full-timer for mixed fantasy owners for a few weeks. Hinske homered in back-to-back games this weekend, too. Heyward is close to beginning a rehab assignment, perhaps expedited by the Braves' loss of Prado and absence of Nate McLouth.
SP Josh Johnson (shoulder), Marlins -- A quick return has become a June mystery. The amount of down time means you cannot expect him back before July now. Brad Hand will remain in the Marlins rotation and is a sleeper for deeper leagues. Javier Vazquez gets to stay for the time being, too.
OF Alfonso Soriano (quad), Cubs -- He is expected to be activated early this week and should be useful in NL-only formats if you need an outfielder. The best bet in mixed leagues is to let him prove healthy and productive before activating him.
SP Jake Peavy (groin), White Sox -- He might not need too much down time. He could return before the end of June at this point. The White Sox would likely stick with a six-man rotation, though, due to the surprising emergence of Phil Humber.
SP Bartolo Colon (hamstring), Yankees -- The hope right now is a quick trip to the DL for Colon, although his age and health history leaves plenty to the imagination. Hector Noesi could be a candidate for spot starts if the Yankees don't go with a prospect.
The most-added players:
1. 1B Anthony Rizzo, SD2. 3B Mike Moustakas, KC3. OF Brennan Boesch, DET4. SS Dee Gordon, LAD5. SP Jonathon Niese, NYM
Rizzo and Moustakas had great first weekends after call-ups, while Gordon has looked right away as a must-add in Rotisserie. These future stars can obviously impact fantasy right away. Boesch is a streaky slugger that is hitting .391 with four homers in June, making him a solid stopgap in mixed leagues at the deep outfield position. Niese has streaked since a slow April (1-4, 4.71), going 4-1 with a 2.56 in his past seven starts. He is a nice two-start sleeper this week.
The most-dropped players:
1. RP Aaron Crow, KC2. 2B Mike Aviles, KC3. SP Brett Anderson, OAK4. 2B Eric Young, COL5. C Mike Napoli, TEX
Anderson is making that dreaded visit to Dr. James Andrews, while Napoli is going on the DL, too, with an oblique strain. Fantasy owners are crossing their fingers for a July return at this point. Aviles' struggles allowed for the Moustakas call-up and fantasy owners will gladly accept that tradeoff. Aviles' Royals 'mate, Crow, lost his closer's role without even getting a save chance. Joakim Soria just turned it around in middle relief. Crow remains a strong option in leagues that use true middle men, though.
The most-scouted players:
1. 3B Pablo Sandoval, SF2. 3B Mike Moustakas, KC3. SP Chris Jakubauskas, BAL|4. SS Hanley Ramirez, FLA5. C Miguel Olivo, SEA6. 1B Anthony Rizzo, SD7. OF Matt Joyce, TB8. 3B Ryan Zimmerman, WAS9. OF Hunter Pence, HOU10. 3B Mark Reynolds, BAL
Kung Fu Panda makes his return and adds to a list of third-base options this week with Moustakas, the return of Zimmerman and the re-emergence of Mark Reynolds. Reynolds could streak significantly enough to be a must-start in all leagues again. He is notoriously -- in this case, famously -- streaky. He has five homers and 11 RBI in 10 June games. Jakubauskas is getting starts for the cooling off of Zach Britton's innings, but fantasy owners are wasting their time looking at the journeyman spot starter on that non-contender. The Mariners' Olivo is popping some homers right now and is a nice pick-up if you lost Napoli to the DL. Joyce and Pence have missed some time, but they should be fine to ride this week.
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.