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Being a fantasy baseball fanatic, I traffic in trends, predictions, rumors, obscure statistics and conspiracy theories, among other things, but almost never in common sense.
A lot of what's fun about fantasy sports is the intense analysis that goes into it as you look to prove that you know the players and their abilities better than any other manager in your league - maybe better than the players do themselves.
But such hubris is likely to bite you in the ass once in a while, or perhaps often. Your in-depth research and your desire to wow your opponents with unexpected moves during the draft will turn up a few gems for you, but you may also pass up the biggest diamonds of all. In the course of over-thinking, I underestimated several players who have gone on to be fantasy stars this season.
In the interest of self-flagellation, here's my All-Underestimated Team so far this season:
C - Russell Martin, NY Yankees: Most of the planet had written Martin off long ago. Yankee Stadium will beef up anyone's numbers, but conventional wisdom suggested he would merely being keeping a seat warm for highly-touted prospect Jesus Montero, and otherwise might only play against lefties. Martin's 8 HRs and 24 RBIs suggest otherwise.
1B - Lance Berkman, St. Louis: A brief trip to New York late last season was disastrous, and Berkman suddenly looked about 50 years old, and as much like Fat Elvis as he ever has in his career. But a slimmer version recommitted to playing outfield showed up this spring, and with 11 HRs, 35 RBIs, and a .341 batting average, he has been one of the biggest surprises this year.
2B - Ben Zobrist, Tampa: The defections of Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford were supposed to hurt guys like Zobrist, who hit poorly before but subsisted on the walks, stolen bases and runs that came from hitting somewhere near one of those other guys in the lineup. Zobrist had a quiet 2010 after a breakout 2009, but 8 HRs, 28 RBIs and 5 SBs have made him a great draft bargain.
SS - Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland: Fantasy-wise, he has always been a promising but perennial backup. Who knew he would choose 2011 for his breakout year, with 10 HRs, 34 RBIs and 7 SBs so far?
3B - Jose Bautista, Toronto: He's leading the league again in home runs, and again it makes no sense to me at all. I still think pitchers refuse to accept his power and serve him fastballs that end up reinforcing it, but in any case, 19 HRs and a league-leading 41 walks with a .353 average make him the player of the year.
OF - Curtis Granderson, NY Yankee: Like Martin, his fly balls may be turning into homers in Yankee Stadium. He's among the HR leaders, but where did the guy who used to collect triples and SBs go?
OF - Matt Holliday, St. Louis: The most vanilla slugger in the game. He's a middling power hitter, but his .350 average and 13 doubles have him playing up to his pre-draft rank at the fringe of the top 20. Not many players can say that.
OF - B.J. Upton, Tampa: Still not living up to his longstanding promise, but 7 HRs, 27 RBIs and 8 SBs puts him among the multi-stat leaders.
UTIL - Michael Young, Texas: He was a tough call at draft time because it wasn't clear where or even if he would play for Texas. However, he has more doubles than anyone else at 16, and his 64 hits have him second in the majors in that category.
SP - Shawn Marcum, Milwaukee: Marcum had his moments with Toronto, but I felt he was generally inconsistent, and didn't understand his high pre-draft ranking in some quarters. Being backed by a powerful offense has helped, but Marcum really has excelled with 6 wins, 62 strikeouts and a 2.37 ERA.
RP - Francisco Rodriguez, NY Mets: With his off-field problems and the Mets' poor play last year, I expected a dismal season, but he's second only to Leo Nunez in saves at 15.
* Bleacher Report wonders if it's time to trade Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit, who is having probably his best season.
* ESPN takes a closer look at Albert Pujols' bad start and wonders whether he is just destined to have a bad year. Perhaps, but it's going to cost him millions if he does.
* SB Nation welcomes Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia, back from a prolonged stay on the DL. I may be in the minority on this, but I think we have long since seen the best Utley has to offer.
* Yahoo! Roto Arcade is on phenom watch with Brett Lawrie, Toronto 3B prospect. Too bad for him, Bautista plays the hot corner in that town.
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