h2h Corner ~ I’m a Believer: May Edition

Welcome to May’s “I’m a Believer” column. Yes, I got the name from a Monkees’ song. And yes, I like the song. Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote it, as well as many other songs by the Monkees? Isn’t Neil Diamond cool (Red Sox fans)? Therefore – fantasy baseball love notwithstanding – aren’t I cool (hello, transitive property)?

Didn’t think so. But at least you now have “Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer…” stuck in your head (Co-Stan-Za, by Mennen).

Now that we have two months of results, we can begin to make more accurate assessments of fantasy players and the season. This is why some owners won’t make a trade until June. In June you need to sell those players that outperformed projections in April/May and who you know won’t continue their torrid pace. I’m here to help by providing you (free of charge no less) with a handy dandy list of those surprising performers who will continue to produce as the season progresses. These are the players you should keep in the fold, i.e., I’m a believer in their production.

You might remember that I profiled some hot starters in late April – I’m happy that I discussed Adam Lind, Adam Jones, Nick Swisher, Jason Bay, Russell Branyan, Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Edwin Jackson, and Javy Vazquez. But that’s the past and this is the future.

I’m a believer in:

Jason Bay – Outfield, Boston Red Sox – Bay, currently the seventh ranked player in Yahoo!, has scored 42 runs, hit 16 HRs, knocked in 55, and hit .280 with a .398 OBP. I loved Bay at draft time as a premiere talent who would be available in later rounds. It’s nice when players make you look smart. I think my prediction of 120 runs, 35 homers, 125 RBIs, and a .295 average will happen. Bay could very well be a top five outfielder at the end of the season.

Adrian Gonzalez – First base, San Diego Padres – Gonzalez is the 11th ranked player in Yahoo!. Like Bay, I thought he would be available in later rounds but still put up first/second round production. Gonzalez is also on every one of my teams, which is nice. The only concern going forward is that Gonzalez might get the Barry Bonds intentional walk treatment, as no one else in San Diego apparently knows how to hit. Gonzalez should still smack 40 HRs, no problem, while approaching 100 runs and RBIs. Not too shabby at all.

Johnny Damon – Outfield, New York Yankees – I ranked Damon as the 34th best hitter going into the year. Yahoo! currently has him as the 24th best hitter. The power probably won’t continue at this rate, but don’t expect a tremendous fall from grace. He should continue to hit around .300 with an OBP around .370, which means he is a lock to score 100+ runs. Damon becoming a 25-15 player seems about right.

Robinson Cano – Second base, New York Yankees – Cano is hitting .303 and it’s the end of May!!! That is a three exclamation point announcement. Here are four averages: .309, .344, .285 and .348 – those are Cano’s batting averages in June, July, August and September/October. These should continue this season, and they will very likely improve. If you trade Cano for his current value, I think you aren’t getting enough. He is going to be a top five second basemen, without question.

Shin-Soo Choo – Outfield, Cleveland Indians – Choo is hitting .297 with a .407 OBP. He has added 32 runs, 32 RBIs, seven HRs, and nine SBs. That is not bad production in a weakened Indians’ lineup. He’ll post a 15-15 season easy with probably 70-80 runs and RBIs. I buy his current pace and 60 overall ranking.

Michael Bourn – Outfield, Houston Astros – Bourn was more of an afterthought when it came to speed this season. However, he has shown a propensity to get on base (.294 AVE and .366 OBP), which no one should have expected. Bourn has taken advantage of his increased OBP, stealing 19 bases and scoring 33 runs on the season. This production should continue, and Bourn should continue to be a decent source of speed without destroying your ratio categories.

Yovani Gallardo – Starting pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers – Gallardo has been a fantasy tease for what seems like forever. He debuted in 2007, going 9 -5 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 101 Ks in 110 innings. Well, so far, that tease has come through this season. As the 47th ranked Yahoo! player, Gallardo has posted 71 Ks, a 2.84 ERA, and 1.08 WHIP in 73 IPs. Unless Gallardo gets injured, this pace will continue.

Erik Bedard – Starting pitcher, Seattle Mariners – Yahoo! ranks Bedard as the 73rd best player, owing largely to good ratios (2.37 ERA/1.12 WHIP) and a solid strikeout rate (a hitter per inning). His season is looking oddly like 2007, during which he struck out 222 batters en route to posting a 3.16 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP – in the American League East, no less. The American League West is a much easier division, and Bedard’s number should benefit.

Javier Vazquez – Starting pitcher, Atlanta Braves – Vazquez has 93 Ks in 76.1 IPs. That is awesome. Vazquez has also managed a 3.54 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. The last time his WHIP was this low was in 2003, which was, not so incidentally, the last time he pitched in the National League. Vazquez should continue this pace and will likely see his ERA come down a bit. Enjoy the ride.

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