Fantasy Baseball 2012: American League Hitters Watch List for May 21-27
Here's a rundown of four premium American League hitters (and one slumping wild card) who should fare well for the week of May 21-27:
1. OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Do we really even need to list him here every Monday? If you didn't already know that Hamilton (.400 batting average since May 6) was the hottest hitter on the planet and most destructive force in baseball...then you're either too wrapped up in soccer or not into fantasy baseball.
Either way, what good are you? Jokes aside, Hamilton's greatness extends far beyond that six-day window of absurd devastation from May 7-12 (nine homers, 15 RBI). He is a prime candidate to win the major league Triple Crown; he's also an untouchable trade commodity at this point...short of a deal involving Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Matt Kemp or Carlos Gonzalez, plus Jered Weaver and Gio Gonzalez as classic throw-ins.
For the week, Hamilton draws the Mariners (road) and Blue Jays (home).
2. 3B/OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Please ignore Bautista's low batting average...because it's the only indicator that suggests he won't finish with superlative numbers.
There's a reason why Bautista crushed 97 combined homers for the 2010 and '11 seasons, tops among all MLB hitters (by a long shot). There's a reason why Bautista (11 HR, 25 RBI this year) was a consensus top-five pick in roto drafts back in March. There's a reason why Bautista nearly has a 1:1 walks-to-strikeouts ratio, despite the .217 average: His excellent plate discipline of seasons past is still there for almost every at-bat.
Bottom line: Bautista has a strong shot at 38 homers, 100 RBI and a .280 average by season's end.
3. DH David Ortiz, Red Sox
Ortiz (nine HR, 29 RBI, 29 runs, .335 batting) remains a four-category force. In fact, he looks like a shoo-in to match or eclipse last year's figures in runs (84), homers (29), RBI (96) and batting average (.309).
It might be unduly cruel to set the bar so low for Ortiz. With an excellent walks-to-strikeouts rate (18/21) and superb OBP (1.009), he could possibly rival his 2007 numbers—35 homers, 117 RBI and .332 batting.
For the week, Ortiz visits two hitter-friendly stadiums—Fenway Park and Oriole Park/Camden Yards.
4. 1B Justin Morneau, Twins
The sooner people realize that Morneau (six combined RBI for May 17-18) has shown little ill-effects from the concussion problems that curtailed his 2010 and '11 seasons, the sooner they'll realize he could be a top-20 first baseman by season's end. Forget about the .237 batting average. Watch any Morneau at-bat on DirecTV's Extra Innings package and you'll see that he rarely gets fooled or cheated at the plate. He's pretty much dialed into opposing pitchers right now, and I would be shocked if his stats didn't improve from this point forward.
Morneau faces the Tigers (home) and White Sox (road) this week.
5. OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
If only Ichiro had started his major league career at age 23 (instead of 27), he'd be a legitimate threat to eclipse Pete Rose's all-time record for base hits (Ty Cobb's second-place total of 4,191 would have surely been topped).
But none of that matters to the fantasy owner who only sees Suzuki as a .280 hitter on a ballclub full of young, but underdeveloped talent. But here's something to consider: Through 43 games, Ichiro already has 15 multiple-hit games. That's a clear sign the old man isn't fading off into the sunset anytime soon—he still has the hitting prowess to dominate for sustained periods.
Suzuki has seven home dates with the Rangers and Angels this week.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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