h2h Corner ~ I’m a Believer: All-star Game, American League Position Players Edition

Welcome to June’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).

For this month’s version, I’m focusing on your Major League All-stars.

I’m a believer that:

Ichiro Suzuki is undervalued in fantasy leagues. You read me right. The 19th best outfielder from the first half and current 52nd best player is underrated. Here’s why: .362 & .393, as in his average and his on base percentage. Especially in AVE, Ichiro can really make up for your poor performers who mash and do nothing else (heeeeey Ryan Howard). His ability to single-handedly pick up a category a week is undeniably useful. Oh, and he is also on pace for about 100 runs and 40 SBs. The only thing that hurts him is a lack of power and the inability of his fellow Mariners to knock him in.

Derek Jeter will not steal as many bases in the second half as he did in the first. Jeter has gone an impressive 17/20 in SB attempts this year. He already has more SBs this season than he has had in any season since 2006. In the last two seasons, his SB success rate was 67 percent. Expect him to get caught a few more times down the stretch.

Joe Mauer’s power numbers will come back to earth *but* he will remain the top backstop over the second half. Call me a doubting Thomas, but well, until there is significant empirical data, I’m not buying it. There is simply nothing in his major league career that suggests Mauer is a 30 HR a season hitter. In 1,073 minor league ABs, Mauer hit nine HRs – NINE! Still, when you look at the remaining top five backstops: Sandoval, Inge, Martinez, Suzuki, and Napoli (if Sandoval doesn’t qualify), it isn’t hard to see Mauer standing at the top of the heap when all is said and done.

Mark Teixeira will end up with over 50 HRs. Big Tex has really only had one good month, May, in which he hit .330 with 13 HRs. In the other two completed months this season, Teixeira amassed a grand total of seven HRs. Teixeira’s career slugging percentage is .584 and .605 in August and September/October and when the weather heats up the ball starts flying – oh and apparently it is easy to hit HRs in the new house that Ruth built. So yeah, Teixeira will end up with over 50 HRs, which means he has another 29 in him.

Jason Bay is making me look good. Currently the fourth best outfielder and 13th best player, Bay is on pace for 40 HRs, 110 runs, 140 RBIs, with useful ratios (.260/.380 AVE/OBP). He has amassed these numbers, even in the midst of an abysmal June and July. Bay will pick it up after the break and continue an impressive season.

Josh Hamilton cannot be trusted. I wasn’t as bullish on Hamilton (ranked him the 17th best hitter) as many other prognosticators. I don’t fully buy guys until they have at least two seasons of data under their belt. Sure I’ll miss out on great players like Evan Longoria, but I won’t waste a number one pick on Hamilton. Still, Hamilton plays in Arlington and posts great second half numbers (.303 AVE, .372 OBP, .519 SLG), so he could be a top 10 player down the stretch, if he stays healthy.

Evan Longoria is a tad overrated. How many third basemen are ranked ahead of Longoria by Yahoo!? Would it surprise you that the answer is six? I bet it would. While people like Mark Reynolds and Chone Figgins probably won’t end up with better stats than Longoria, would you stake your life that David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, Kevin Youkilis and Pablo Sandoval won’t? Sure Longoria could end up with better numbers, but it’s not definite, is it? Longoria has the name cache that some third basemen don’t, so if you can move him for a couple of players including a Sandoval or Youkilis – or even Figgins – if you need SBs go right ahead.

Aaron Hill is proving why you don’t draft based on “position scarcity.” There are six players with second base eligibility among the top 50 players in Yahoo! leagues. There are 10 second basement in the top 100 players in Yahoo! leagues. Ok, off my soap box. Hill will likely finish with the third highest total of HRs among second baseman, in the top 10 for runs scored, and in the top five for RBIs. Not bad for someone you could have gotten for $1 at auction or off the waiver wire.

Victor Martinez owners are both very happy and a bit concerned. Martinez, the fourth best catcher through the first half, leads the position in runs, is fourth in HRs and first in RBIs. However in June and July, Martinez has posted a .240/.322 and .121/.211 AVE/OBP. While he was abysmal in the ratios in June, he belted seven HRs. I think the All-star game came at the right time as Martinez should benefit from the rest.

Justin Morneau appears to be among the steadiest players in the Major Leagues. What makes this better? Morneau is the ninth ranked player so far and is on pace for 110 runs, 40 HRs and 140 RBIs. Before the All-star break Morneau is a .280/.352/.497 (AVE/OBP/SLG) hitter – after the break: .289/.353/.516. While those are pretty similar, he does tend to slow down at the end of the season. In August and September/October, Morneau has put up: .255/.328/.451 and .264/.334/.431 lines respectively. You might want to think about riding him through July and then trading him before his possible August swoon.

Carlos Pena is the anti-Ichiro and for that reason, somewhat overrated. There are nine first basemen ranked ahead of Pena, mostly because Pena has a .229 AVE and .364 OBP (which is serviceable, but below average for a first baseman). While Pena does really help in the HR categories, he kills your ratios. So while gaining HRs, you better have someone like Ichiro to pick you up from week to week or Pena’s power is cancelled out by his inability to get on base. Furthermore, of those nine players ranked above Pena, I really only see two of them (Mark Reynolds and Pablo Sandoval) potentially finishing the year below him.

Kevin Youkilis just keeps getting better. Even though Youkilis spent some time on the DL, he is on pace to have more HRs and runs than in any other season of his career. While Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria grab a lot of the headlines, I’d rather have someone like Youkilis manning either first or third for my squad. Youkilis has four more runs, two less HRs and three more RBIs than Cabrera. Pretty comparable, eh?

Jason Bartlett, shockingly, will not continue this pace. One reason: Bartlett’s career BAbip is .325 while his 2009 BAbip is .392. He will not be able to sustain a near .400 average on balls in play. He’ll have the best year of his career – no doubt – and the steals will be there, but expect his runs, HRs and RBI to decrease.

Brandon Inge sold his soul to the devil. There is no real statistical reason to suggest that Inge will not continue to have success. Inge has, simply, come out of nowhere to be the number three catcher, the number eight third baseman, and the 20th best outfielder. At this point, it’s likely he’ll continue his pace to hit around 40 HRs. Still, you should be using him as your catcher. If you have another catcher you need to trade that player for whatever you can get. Wasting Inge’s catcher eligibility is a poor use of resources.

Michael Young is living off of one month, April/March. I’ve never loved Young relative to his draft position, as he really only helps in average and runs and hasn’t hit over 14 HRs since 2005 or knocked in over 94 RBIs since 2006. This season, Young managed six HRs in March/April, which has seemingly put him on pace for a 20+ HR season. However he hit only one in May and three in June. I’d be trading him based on that 20+ HR pace – I doubt he’ll get there.

Carl Crawford will have his most useful fantasy season yet, though not for the reason you think. Sure, Crawford is on pace for 80+ SBs, however, what is more impressive is that he should approach 20 HRs, finally rekindling the promise of his 2005 and 2006 seasons, during which he hit 15 and 18 HRs. In addition, Crawford will likely score and knock in more runs this season than in any other season of his career. It’s funny that, after so many years of being a borderline first round pick, he ended up having the year everyone knew he was capable of this season.

Nelson Cruz will have a better second half than first (in which he was the 13th best outfielder and 38th best player). Cruz should see his average rise in the second half as he will likely post a higher BAbip (just .269 in the first half). If that happens, he could score even more runs and post more RBIs. That said, even with the poor BAbip, he is on pace for 100 runs, 40 HRs, 105 RBIs and 26 SBs. That’s a pretty impressive year.

Curtis Granderson is a very underrated outfielder and blogger. Granderson is on pace for 100 runs, 36 HRs, 80 RBIs, and 30 SBs. Granderson is likely going to be everything people thought Sizemore would be. While he has had an impressive first half, his second half could be even better. His career BAbip is .327, and over the first half it was .275. So, if that corrects itself, Granderson could see more runs, RBIs and SBs. Can you tell I like Granderson?

Torii Hunter is too entertaining for his own good. Since 2004, Hunter has played in over 147 games just once. In addition to the injury bug, which oddly resembles an outfield wall, Hunter is slowing his HR pace. Hunter has 17 HRs on the year, yet has hit only nine since the end of April. From here on out you should count on four HRs a month or so. Much like the power, Hunter’s stolen base numbers have dropped off precipitously. He stole nine bags in May, but hasn’t topped two in any other month. The RBIs will continue to be there if healthy, but he looks to be reverting to his normal 25-17 pace.

Adam Jones single-handedly made the Erik Bedard trade worthwhile. When the Orioles were trading Bedard, my Yankee-fan friends said that was something you simply didn’t do with a #1 pitcher. I countered by citing Bedard’s injury history, his pending free agency and the fact that the Orioles didn’t have the farm system to compete while Bedard was an effective pitcher. Little did I know, they’d land a bounty of players for him. Adam Jones is clearly the centerpiece (but don’t sleep on Chris Tillman). The only disconcerting thing about Jones’ season so far is the lack of steals. Still, he will hit over 20 HRs, score over 100 runs and knock in around 100. Not bad for a 23 year old.

Ben Zobrist is a far better major leaguer than minor leaguer. If you play Zobrist 162 games a year in the bigs, he’ll hit you 30+ HRs according to his major league stats. Yet in 1,336 ABs, Zobrist hit just 23 in the minors. It’s astounding what he has done. Forgotten in his prodigious power is his stolen base potential. Zobrist stole 58 bags in the minors. Put him on a team that likes to steal and he could pilfer 15 bags over the second half. I’m done trying to figure out Zobrist – enjoy the power, the position eligibility and the steals. He’ll be the steal of the season (see what I did there? Forgive me, I’m tired. There are too many All-stars).

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