Kemp, Reyes, Tabata are among surprises of young fantasy season
Three is the magic number in baseball. Three strikes, three outs, and now three weeks. That's how long it generally takes to get a decent lay of the fantasy land.
There are some notable, if not surprising, things to digest as we near the three-week point. Albert Pujols, the No. 1 overall pick, is hitting just .239. Hanley Ramirez, the second overall pick according to average draft position, is at just .244. They are both getting hotter of late, though.
Here are some of the pleasant surprises:
Kemp spent most of last season in Joe Torre's doghouse. He is spending it in the fantasy penthouse right now, scoring the most points among hitters through Fantasy Week 2 (April 11-17). Kemp, who turns 27 in September, is hitting .474 with three homers, 12 RBI, 12 runs and eight steals (.546 OBP and .719 SLUG) through 57 at-bats. His latest heroics might have ended Ryan Franklin's tenure as the Cardinals' closer (consider adding Mitchell Boggs or Jason Motte if you need a sleeper for saves).
Kemp is talented enough to maintain this stretch of fantasy dominance. He has long been considered a future fantasy first-rounder. It only makes sense it could happen at 27, the age of breakthrough.
A pair of Jose's have had strong starts to the season. The Mets' Jose Reyes looks every bit of a contract-year breakout at .315-1-6-11-6 (.351-.493) and leading fantasy with 73 at-bats. The latter stat is the most impressive, but he'll need to sustain his health.
The Pirates' Jose Tabata, known for his prowess in steals, has added power to the résumé, though, going .310-3-4-13-8 (.420-.517). He is just one homer from his 2010 Pirates total already. He looks like a must-start in all leagues.
Logan Morrison, like Tabata, has displayed the kind of power out of the gate that most believed would be a few years away. Instead, Morrison has four homers and his corner outfield 'mate Mike Stanton, also a second-year player, surprisingly has zero. You had to figure that would be the other way around. It is still very early, but Morrison looks worthy of a start in mixed formats now.
It has to be given Troy Tulowitzki, with apologies to Dan Haren, who led all pitchers again with a pair of dominant starts. Tulo, who turns 27 in October, already has seven homers -- a pace of one every other game. The preseason talk of him overtaking Hanley Ramirez as the No. 1 shortstop looks completely justified. The question will be, as it always is with him, can he stay healthy for a full 162. He has only one season of more than 545 at-bats in his four-year career. He is the right age to set career highs across the board, though.
The top few replacements this week are actually those returning for themselves.
We were criticized a bit for our curious faith in a rebound year from Berkman. Even we couldn't have envisioned this start from the former elite fantasy slugger. This is a mere hot streak, but a few more of these and he will be a must-start in all fantasy leagues, through thick and thin. He is already a must-own. The position versatility with outfield and first base helps, too.
The Twins have decided -- actually, Nathan himself decided -- it is best if he pitches in non-pressure situations for the time being. It is rare a closer takes himself out of the role, but it should be a temporary thing. Matt Capps, 27, is good enough to start to start in all fantasy leagues for as long as he holds the role (or Nathan decides he is not fit for it).
The Red Sox might be leaning toward a switch from Marco Scutaro to the younger and more potent bat of Lowrie. It is a mere curiosity Lowrie has a seven-game hitting streak going and turned 27 years of age Sunday. This is the beginning of a breakthrough. Own him in any size league immediately. He is still available in 60 percent of leagues.