Fantasy Baseball: 10 Biggest Early Season Surprises to Pick Up ASAP

Stephen SkinnerContributor IIApril 27, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Biggest Early Season Surprises to Pick Up ASAP

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    With the opening of the 2012 Major League Baseball season came several surprises who, either because they were unknown or because their history indicated they should go untouched, were left undrafted by fantasy owners.

    This article will examine 10 players that should be picked up now before others in your league catch on.

Jordan Zimmermann

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    There was a glimpse of his talent last season.  Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals started 26 games in 2011 and went 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA.  Not too bad for a 25-year-old pitcher.

    This season, he appears to have taken his game to another level.

    To date, Zimmermann has started four games for the Nats, and sits at 1-1 with a spectacular 1.38 ERA.  What really may be impressive to fantasy owners is that his WHIP is 0.704 and he is 4-for-4 in the all-important quality start category.

    If you are in a fantasy league where Zimmermann is still available, grab him now because he is only beginning the upside of his career.

J.D. Martinez

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    J.D. Martinez of the Houston Astros raised some eyebrows when he had 35 RBI in just 53 games last season.

    He has picked up where he left off.

    Currently Martinez is hitting .313 with 18 RBI in 18 games.  At just 24 years of age he appears ready to place himself in the upper tier of fantasy baseball outfielders. 

    If he's available in your league, grab him.

Bartolo Colon

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    A spring chicken he is not.  Bartolo Colon has been around the Major League Baseball block a time or two and along the way has picked up a few tricks.  Last year, while pitching for the New York Yankees, Colon was partly responsible for the team's success as through July he was 8-6 with a 3.30 ERA.  Eventually he tapered off to end the season at 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA, but it still was a comeback of sorts for the 38-year-old.

    In 2012 Colon finds himself as a valuable piece to the Oakland A's starting rotation, and he has begun the season in much the same fashion as he did in 2011.  To date he is 3-2 with a 2.62 ERA for the Athletics, and is 4-for-5 in quality starts.

    Fantasy owners looking for an early quick-fix to their rotations should look no further than Bartolo Colon.  Given that he now takes the mound in a pitcher-friendly park, he might just go on to a great fantasy season.

Cody Ross

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    He has only played more than 150 games once in his nine seasons at the major league level, but Cody Ross will be given the chance to play every day in the spotty Boston outfield.

    A career .261 hitter, Ross comes off a season with the San Francisco Giants where he hit .240 in 121 games.

    So far, he has been a pleasant surprise for the BoSox as he has five HR and 15 RBI in 17 games.  His average is .267 which is where it will probably remain for most of the season.

    With a regular spot in a powerful lineup, 31-year-old Cody Ross may finally be in for a career year.  Now would be the time for fantasy owners to get him on their rosters.

Jason Hammel

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    Unless you are Ubaldo Jimenez, pitching in Colorado can be the equivalent of banishment to Siberia. 

    February of this year must have felt like a second chance at life for 29-year-old Jason Hammel when he was traded by the Rockies to the Baltimore Orioles as part of the deal that sent the Os star pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado.

    Hammel appears to be making the most of that second chance in 2012.  Through four starts he has an unexpected 1.73 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.  Just as impressive is the fact that he is striking out nearly a batter an inning (25 Ks in 26 Innings pitched).

    If this continues, he will be a hot commodity among fantasy owners, so make your move while you still can.

Derek Jeter

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    Many Yankee fans, including myself, thought that 2011 marked the beginning of the downhill slide into the twilight of Derek Jeter's career.  Through July 4 of last season his batting average had dipped to .256.  By the end of the year he had raised it 41 points to .297, but some of us remained skeptical about ever seeing our captain at his best again.

    I went so far as to write an article arguing that he should be dropped in the order.

    Boy was I wrong.

    Jeter has entered 2012 with a vengeance.  Currently riding a 15-game hitting streak (including four straight multiple-hit games), he sits second in the league in batting average at .420.  He has four home runs and an on-base percentage of .442.

    If fantasy owners in your league have made the mistake of leaving Derek Jeter off their rosters, correct that error now and pick him up.  The New York Yankees' captain is back!

Javy Guerra

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    26-year-old Javy Guerra of the Los Angeles Dodgers is currently tied for the most saves in the majors with seven. 

    There is a good chance he will remain atop that category.

    The Dodgers sit in first place in the NL West as they are led by hitters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier who both have begun 2012 in spectacular fashion.  On the mound, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are paving the way for one of the National League's best rotations.

    All of it means there will be many more save opportunities for closer Guerra.

    Coming off a 21-save, 2.21 ERA season, the Dodger closer should be able to use the increased work load to move into the elite closer status.   If your fantasy team needs more saves, look west and grab the stopper in Los Angeles.

A.J. Pierzynski

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    In fantasy terms, A.J. Pierzynski has always been looked at as a second-tier player at the catcher position.  2012 may change all that.

    Currently Pierzynski is hitting .339 with 15 RBI in 15 games for the Chicago White Sox.  Not too bad for a lifetime .285 hitter who averages 45 RBI a year. 

    With a resurgent Adam Dunn and the always dependable Paul Konerko hitting directly in front of him in the "pale hose" order, A.J.'s RBI total may end up well above his career high of 77 in 2004.

    If that does happen, it will put the 35-year-old backstop among the elite fantasy catchers in the game.

Nick Swisher

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    Nick Swisher has averaged 27 HR and 85 RBI over the three seasons he has spent as a New York Yankee.  So, what makes him a surprise for fantasy owners?

    Through 18 games, Swisher has driven in 21 runs for the "Bronx Bombers". 

    Sitting sixth in a lineup that includes RBI machines Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano in front of him, the Yankee right fielder is third in the league (and first on the team) in Runs Batted In. 

    Should this pace continue, he will shatter his RBI career high of 95 set in 2006.  Before he eventually declines back to his normal averages, now would be the time to "harvest" his current surge.

Jake Peavy

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    The last time his ERA was below 3.00 was 2008, and fantasy owners of Jake Peavy have been waiting ever since for a return of that pitcher.

    The wait may finally be over.

    Jake Peavy has begun 2012 as the fantasy stud he once was.  In 28 innings pitched he carries an incredible 1.28 ERA and a league leading 0.733 WHIP.  If it is wins you are looking for, he has those as well, sporting a 3-0 record over four starts.  In those 28 innings he has struck out 26 batters and has gone 4-for-4 in quality starts.

    If your league has overlooked Jake Peavy, it won't for much longer, so when you finish reading this sentence, go get him.