Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton averaged 32 homers, 115 RBI, 97 runs, nine steals and .328 batting during the 2008 and '10 seasons.
1. The story behind Josh Hamilton's magic during even-numbered years is no tall tale
For the top-40 outfielders and top-60 fantasy players countdowns from March, I made a special point of chronicling the stark differences between Hamilton's MLB numbers in 2008/2010 compared to 2007/2009/2011...and how big things should be expected in 2012, an even-numbered year.
Well, so far, so good for the Rangers slugger (four HR, six RBI, 10 runs, .390 BA, 1.137 OPS), who should be extra-motivated to pile up monster stats heading into his free-agent offseason.
And to think, most fantasy owners could have landed Hamilton within the first 32 picks of 12-team drafts.
Regarding the trade market, it's never too early to fleece another owner for Hamilton's services, provided you're prepared to surrender one or two superb players. But whatever the terms, Hamilton (per-season averages of 32 HR, 115 RBI in 2008/2010) should enjoy a healthy edge by season's end.
As a trial balloon, try dangling a Round 4 outfielder (Jay Bruce or Nelson Cruz) and Round 6 pitcher (Ricky Romero, Madison Bumgarner or Ian Kennedy) for Hamilton But act now...before the Rangers slugger goes on a certifiable tear for two or three weeks.
2. Brett Lawrie won't be a black hole of fantasy regret after all
I'll never forget the image of Lawrie sporting an "0-for-6" on the Blue Jays' Opening Day TV broadcast sometime around the 13th inning, and thinking to myself the kid would buckle under the pressure of unreal expectations—at least in April.
But Lawrie has been golden ever since Toronto's record-breaking marathon victory on April 5, going 11-for-30 with one homer, four runs and seven RBI. He also has one steal in three attempts.
Was it irresponsible to project fantasy greatness on a player with only 150 MLB at-bats heading into the season? Probably. Was it ambitious to lump Lawrie (39 HR, 100 RBI, 62 steals, .296 BA in 1,278 minor league at-bats) in with the Blue Jays' group of 25-homer mates? Perhaps.
Is it crazy to think Lawrie can be a top-seven third baseman by season's end...even with Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez now part of the hot-corner brigade? Absolutely not.
Updated projections: 22 HR, 85 RBI, 91 runs, 17 steals and .294 BA.
3. Danny Duffy may already be the fantasy ace of the Royals' rotation
It's too early to label Luke Hochevar (1-1, 7.84 ERA, 1.65 WHIP), Luis Mendoza (0-2, 5.59 ERA, 2.28 WHIP, 3/7 K-BB) or Jonathan Sanchez (8.22 ERA, 2.22 WHIP) as fantasy roadkill in 12-team leagues; but good grief, is there any sustainable hope for this trio? Can they hold onto their jobs past the All-Star break?
Can they even last until June 1, when the Royals could conceivably call up stud prospects like Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb or Chris Dwyer, without disrupting the "Super Two" arbitration process?
Which brings us to Duffy. It would be naive to suggest he won't have the occasional clunker in his first full MLB season. But the lefty with the blazing fastball and multi-pitch repertoire also has the total game to deftly handle short- and long-term jams. It's been a while, but Kansas City has a young southpaw who's worth keeping in mixed and AL-only leagues.
On the trade market, he's worth the price of a No. 5 outfielder.
On waivers, feel free to swap out Duffy (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 8/4 K-BB) for any of the above names...or anyone from the Twins' staff, as well (a subject for another day).
4. Felix Hernandez's Groundhog Day experience is finally over
I cannot verify it, but King Felix has to be the first pitcher in MLB history to post back-to-back-to-back starts against the same team (Athletics)...in three different cities (Tokyo, Oakland, Seattle). If he's not, someone please set the record straight.
Hernandez (3.80 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 19/4 K-BB) must be chomping at the bit to face hitters not named Reddick and Cespedes or Barton and Pennington. (Lord knows I am.) On Thursday, he'll confront the always-schizophrenic Indians hitters, a group that walloped Royals pitching over the weekend, but scored only four or fewer runs in their first four games.
From a fantasy angle, Hernandez will likely be a top-10, two-start asset in Week 4 (@ Detroit, @ Toronto).
From a trade standpoint, his commensurate 1-on-1 value equates to a top-seven corner infielder or top-six outfielder.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.