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If you manage to look beyond the fact that pitchers are joining the disabled list in record numbers, the 2014 baseball season has been a fairly predictable one. That's good for fantasy team owners - we like to see all the work we put into crafting our expectations and drafting our players proven worthwhile. It so rarely happens.
Yet, if you take a look at the top performers of the season's first half, there are almost no surprises:
Best Batter: The No. 1-ranked pre-season player - Mike Trout - is the No. 1-ranked player at the All-Star break. For a little while, Trout, like his team, was underperforming, but he has turned it on the last two months (22 HRs, 73 RBI, 10 SBs, 1.006 OPS total for the season), and the Angels' hot play over the span bodes well for a guy who's capable of filling every stat category on the board.
Best Pitcher: We'll call this one a tie. He's not currently the top-ranked pitcher in Yahoo!, but Clayton Kershaw has rebounded from an early trip to the DL by posting a recent scoreless streak of 41 2/3 innings. Even though he missed time early, he has been compiling what could translate to career-best numbers by the end of the season, a neat trick for a guy who already has two Cy Youngs. Kershaw has 11 wins, 126 strikeouts, a 1.78 ERA, and the best stat of the bunch, a ridiculous 0.83 WHIP.
Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez is in fact the No. 1-ranked pitcher in Yahoo! right now, and could be on to a career-best year himself, with 11 wins, 154 strikeouts, a 2.12 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. The first stat there is the most intriguing one - 11 wins at the season break for a guy whose last four season totals are as follows: 13, 14, 13, 12. He has never had a 20-win season, but seems destined for it.
Best Rookie: Obviously, no argument here: Jose Abreu. He's blown past all expectations to post a league-topping 29 HRs, 73 RBIs and .921 OPS. The only way things could be better for fantasy owners, who probably snatched him up in middle to late draft rounds, is if he played for a team less hapless than the Sox - his RBI and runs scored (49) would be much higher.
Best Surprise: Little Scott Kazmir. He was one-time fantasy favorite for his strikeout numbers alone, but fell far amid injuries and spent 2012 out of baseball after being cut by the Angels the year before. He did manage 10 wins with the Indians last year, but already has eclipsed that this year with 11 wins, 108 strikeouts and a 2.38 ERA. Barring injury and absolute implosion, he's a great candidate for 20 wins, given Oakland's domination this year.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.