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There are some good candidates out there for Most Improved Player in baseball this year. A guy named A-Rod comes to mind, with 10 HRs and a .914 OPS, when it wasn't even obvious in spring training that he could still turn his old hips fast enough to crank the ball for extra bases.
Prince Fielder, 1B, TEX, is another possibility, with his MLB-leading 52 hits coming into this week after a season lost to injury. Elsewhere, Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE, a former top 25 player who fell much lower during a couple of dismal, injury-riddled years, has returned to his old multi-category-contributing self.
For my money, however, no one beats Bryce Harper, OF, WAS. His 15 HRs are tied for the league lead, his 38 RBI lead all of MLB, and his .338 average isn't bad either. In fact, Harper was the No. 1-ranked player in Yahoo! standard leagues entering this week. The "most improved" part comes in when you consider Harper has already surpassed his HR and RBI totals from his 100-game injury-plagued season of a year ago. His numbers not only earn him Most Improved Player, but also Most Valuable Player thus far.
Coming into this season, and even up until a couple weeks ago, plenty of people were still questioning whether Harper would ever live up to his long-held promise as a former No. 1 pick and sure-thing phenom. The people eager to call him a bust might have forgotten how young his still is: In his fourth season, he is not yet 23 years old (not until October).
The returns so far suggest that if you gambled a second round pick on Harper, or continued to hold him as a keeper despite a disappointing 2014, you made a decision that just may carry you to the fantasy postseason.
* Yahoo! Closing Time eyes buy-low candidates Brandon Crawford, SS, SF, and Curtis Granderson, OF, NYM. Crawford is one of those guys usually just a bit off the radar - he usually doesn't hit for average, but brings a fair amount of power at a position not famous for it, and to a team filled with grinders rather than power hitters. His current .285 average will probably come down a little at some point, but he leads the SS position with 25 RBI, and is second in HRs with six.
* USA Today highlights Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI, a May call-up from the minors. He has not gotten near the attention of a certain recent 3B call-up in Chicago, but Franco could contribute some fantasy power stats once he gets acclimated to MLB-level pitching. The flawed Phillies probably will give him all the time he needs.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.