Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox has long been considered just an above-average slugging first baseman. Many have written him off as a good slugger who isn't one of the top 10 sluggers at the position. However, Konerko has had career years in the last three years, and he currently is near the top among first basemen.
The average fantasy owner wouldn't be looking for Konerko's name near the top in OPS. Nevertheless, there he is, sitting ninth in the majors (.999) and third among first basemen, behind Joey Votto and Brian LaHair.
Konerko is second in the American League in on-base percentage (.427). He trails only Votto and LaHair in that category among first basemen as well.
He's eighth in the AL in slugging percentage (.573) and trails only LaHair among players who primarily play first base.
Konerko has done alright to this point in the home run department. He's hit seven thus far, including one on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers. His at-bats-per-home-runs rate is 18.7, 0.5 above his career average.
He'll pick up as the season progresses. Konerko hits a home run every 14.1 at-bats on his career in June.
That he has seven to this point is fine for his rate, and he'll soon pick up and surpass LaHair—who currently has 10 home runs—as the top home run-hitting first baseman.
Konerko will soon be close with Votto as the top first-base option for this season. LaHair will begin to regress to the mean in the next two months. Players like LaHair, who debut at age 30, don't have great success. LaHair would be hard-pressed to keep up his 1.153 OPS and 10.8 at-bats per home run.
Meanwhile, Votto will stay up there down the stretch. His splits show a drop in production in the month of June (.292/.379/.494), but he's strong in the second half of the season. His slugging percentage is better in the second half than the first half (.569 to .536).
Votto, who currently leads the NL in doubles (16), walks (34) and times on base (72), is the premier first baseman in the majors. With Prince Fielder making a slow adjustment to the AL, Votto is the most fearsome first baseman.
However, Konerko will be with Votto step-by-step. Even though the White Sox captain is 36 years old, he's a steady star. He's calm and healthy.
With 39 home runs and a .393 on-base percentage in 2010 and 31 home runs and a .388 on-base percentage 2011, Konerko has shown an ability to maintain production with age.
He'll be strong down the stretch, knocking the ball out of the park and getting on base consistently. Fantasy owners have little choice but to take notice of Konerko after years of brushing him aside in pursuit of bigger-name sluggers like Votto and Fielder. He'll remain with Votto at the top throughout the season.