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The Latest Edition of the 2012 Fantasy Baseball All-Star Team

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterJune 15, 2012

The Latest Edition of the 2012 Fantasy Baseball All-Star Team

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    The following slideshow touts my picks for the "Fantasy All-Star Team, Pre-Father's Day Edition."

    To clarify, this 28-man listing honors all major league statistics through June 14 and does not necessarily reflect a player's status in the last 30 days or his ranking during the preseason.

    The competition amongst outfielders, starting pitchers, third base and second base was particularly intense. And yet, this should hardly mollify the embedded masses who might react harshly to the omissions, or snubs, with some hitters and pitchers.

    Luckily, we've already taken the time to acknowledge the snubs.

    Enjoy the show!

Special Mention: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Before revealing the omissions list, I wanted to give a special shout-out to Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp (12 HR, 28 RBI, 30 runs, two steals, .355 batting), who would have been a no-brainer, All-Star pick if he had remained healthy all season.

    But those are the breaks that sometimes accompany a player with all-world potential...and balky hamstrings. With two separate stints on the disabled list, outfielders like Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen had enough time to catch, pass and ultimately boot Kemp from the studs list.

    Perhaps, he'll make it onto the next countdown.


    Noteworthy All-Star Omissions

    As of June 14, these 53 major leaguers have fostered terrific starts to the season, but for whatever reason, fell short of making Bleacher Report's "Fantasy All-Star Team, Pre-Father's Day Edition."



    Hitters

    David Ortiz, Red Sox
    Michael Bourn, Braves
    Mike Trout, Angels
    Bryce Harper, Nationals
    Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
    Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
    Albert Pujols, Angels
    Matt Holliday, Cardinals
    Starlin Castro, Cubs
    Yadier Molina, Cardinals
    Prince Fielder, Tigers
    Jason Kipnis, Indians
    Brandon Phillips, Reds
    Elvis Andrus, Rangers
    Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
    Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
    Jose Reyes, Marlins
    Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
    Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
    Adrian Beltre, Rangers
    Austin Jackson, Tigers
    Andre Ethier, Dodgers
    Josh Willingham, Twins
    Jay Bruce, Reds
    Austin Jackson, Tigers
    Martin Prado, Braves
    Angel Pagan, Giants
    Curtis Granderson, Yankees
    Alejandro De Aza, White Sox



    Pitchers

    Jake Peavy, White Sox
    Jered Weaver, Angels
    Felix Hernandez, Mariners
    Roy Halladay, Phillies
    Cliff Lee, Phillies
    Madison Bumgarner, Giants
    Chris Capuano, Dodgers
    CC Sabathia, Yankees
    Johnny Cueto, Reds
    Yu Darvish, Rangers
    Zack Greinke, Brewers
    Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays
    C.J. Wilson, Angels
    A.J. Burnett, Pirates
    Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
    Brandon Beachy, Braves
    Scott Diamond, Twins
    Fernando Rodney, Rays
    Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
    Santiago Casilla, Giants
    Craig Kimbrel, Braves
    Jason Motte, Cardinals
    Joe Nathan, Rangers
    Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 8 HR, 35 RBI, 29 Runs, two steals, .361 BA

    Skinny: This may be Exhibit A as to why it's never wise to invest a high draft pick on a catcher every March.

    Yadier Molina (8 HR, 32 RBI, 28 Runs, six steals, .324 BA) and A.J. Pierzynski (11 HR, 40 RBI, .292 BA) have been stellar to date, but Ruiz (a Round 16 pick during March) clinches this countdown spot with formidable stats in four categories...and a .361 batting average that has no peer among catchers.

    For good measure, Ruiz boasts a .420 on-base percentage, .579 slugging and 1.000 OPS. He also has a superb .392 batting average since May 16.

    Even with Philly's star power up and down the roster, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Ruiz and pitcher Cole Hamels are the clear-cut club favorites for MVP.

First Base: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 44 RBI, 41 Runs, four steals, .362 BA

    Skinny: Votto (.426) is the only player at his position hitting at a .400 clip in the 30 days.

    Since May 16, Votto also holds the following rankings among first basemen: First in runs (20), first in hits (40), first in doubles (11), third in homers (seven), fifth in RBI (20), second in steals, first in batting average, first in on-base percentage (.513), first in slugging (.766) and—surprise—first in OPS (1.279).

    In other words, Votto has more than justified his No. 5 overall status back in March; he's also in the charter-member discussion for National League and Fantasy MVP.

    As a result, it was easy to select Votto over Prince Fielder, Paul Konerko or Miguel Cabrera for All-Star honors—although one of the trio gets his due later in the countdown.

    One last measure of greatness: Very few players can dominate the walks-to-strikeouts ratio like Votto (52/49). His plate discipline is off the charts.

Second Base: Robinson Cano, N.Y. Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 11 HR, 30 RBI, 41 Runs, one steal, .294 BA

    Skinny: Even with solid numbers through 62 games, Cano remains the surest bet for statistical excellence from mid-June to late September.

    Just look at the indicators: Cano boasts supreme marks with on-base percentage (.348) and slugging (.522); and from a categorical standpoint, he's a good bet for 25 homers, 100 runs and a .300 batting average.

    On the negative side, you can bet the farm Cano won't replicate last year's output in RBI (118) or steals (eight).

    Still, those are minor annoyances for a dynamic player who's sure to offer plenty of fantasy goodness throughout the summer.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 6 HR, 20 RBI, 35 Runs, five steals, .319 BA

    Skinny: It pains me to say this, but the race for shortstop MVP has been a real drag.

    Sure, Starlin Castro and Rafael Furcal had stellar starts to the season, and Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie and SS-eligible third baseman Hanley Ramirez have been sturdy assets in recent weeks.

    For the most part, though, it's been a mish-mash of occasionally exciting, often deflating players watching over the six-hole—except for Derek Jeter.

    At his position, the Yankees icon ranks first in runs, first in hits, seventh in homers, second in batting average (100 minimum at-bats) and seventh in on-base percentage (.369). He's also one of the few shortstops with an OPS above .800 (as of June 14).

    Put it all together and Jeter simply makes more sense than his fellow competitors—even Elvis Andrus.

Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets

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    2012 Stats: 8 HR, 36 RBI, 44 Runs, seven steals, .358 BA

    Skinny: With the Mets, David Wright leads the club in runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, steals, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS (1.042).

    When compared to third baseman Miguel Cabrera, Wright has the edge in runs, doubles, batting average and walk-to-strikeout ratio (42/33).

    Also, keep in mind that Wright has only 218 official at-bats (through June 14). He's a master of efficiency.

    Simply put, Wright is the most viable candidate for hot-corner glory over Miggy, Hanley Ramirez, David Freese, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rodriguez.

    As for Mark Trumbo, there was an easy compromise for that battle.

Utility Spot: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 39 RBI, 28 Runs, four steals, .328 BA

    Skinny: From the opening bell, Trumbo has had a remarkable season for the Angels, so much that it would be a crime to exclude him from All-Star consideration.

    Among third basemen for May, Trumbo ranked in the top seven in homers (second), RBI (seventh) and batting average (third). Heck, the slugger even tallied three steals for the month!

    And for June, Trumbo already has a pair of two-homer games and separate efforts of four RBI and six RBI. In fact, Trumbo has raked in multiple homers on June 5 and June 10...which means his next double-blast should occur later today, June 15.

    Bottom line: While it's true Trumbo only has 212 MLB games under his belt, there's no indication of a slump anytime soon.

    He's the perfect low-key, three-positional asset (3B/1B/OF) in fantasy.

Utility Spot: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 35 RBI, 33 Runs, .364 BA

    Skinny: Konerko was the hottest hitter on the planet from May 14-29 (.568 batting, five homers). He's also a healthy yearly lock for 30 home runs...and an eighth season of 28-plus homers since 2004.

    His early-season greatness aside, Konerko shall remain a sell-high commodity in fantasy circles, based on one unavoidable truth:

    His age (36) suggests that Konerko won't be able to maintain this prodigious hitting pace once the calendar hits August and September. It also gives Doubting Thomas fantasy owners a baseless excuse to believe the slugger will melt in the Chicago summer heat.

    But Konerko has a career homer range of 62-70 for the months of July, August and September (at least 326 games per month) for a rough average of one homer every 4.93 games. His per-game homer average for the months of April, May and June is about 1/4.78.

    In other words, don't let the facts get in the way of a popular myth about Konerko's powers of sustainability.

Utility Spot: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    2012 Stats: 4 HR, 22 RBI, 40 Runs, 11 Steals, .321 BA

    Skinny: There will be no humble-bragging on my part regarding Altuve's standing in the fantasy realm.

    In this case, I am happy to take full credit for the kid's overnight success story, morphing from fantasy afterthought to top-five second baseman with the steadily improving Astros.

    (Uh, yeah.)

    While no one could have foreseen Altuve's three-category dominance back in March, it's worth noting that he didn't go more than three games without a base hit in 2011, and when extrapolating last year's stats over 150 games, he could have been in line for 75 runs, 20 steals and a .285 batting average.

    Not bad for a 21-year-old kid, huh?

    Well, now that he's one year older and no stranger to the ins and outs of the major leagues, it would be wrong to predict that Altuve will encounter a major drop-off in production from this point forward.

Designated Hitter: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 22 HR, 50 RBI, 39 Runs, .227 BA

    Skinny: It's not in my nature to bestow All-Star honors to random guys hitting .227, but it's impossible to ignore Dunn's prodigious marks in homers, RBI, runs, on-base percentage (.368) and OPS (.940).

    How's this for weird? Dunn has struck out 99 times and drawn only 49 walks this season. Couple that with the aforementioned .227 average and there's really no rhyme or reason for his sneaky-good penchant for getting on base.

    Can Dunn continue this incredible pace of remarkably disparate numbers? Who knows.

    But in the scope of this countdown, none of that matters.

Outfield: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

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    2012 Stats: 16 HR, 48 RBI, 49 Runs, nine steals, .322 BA

    Skinny: CarGo's brilliant year can best be encapsulated like this:

    He currently leads the Rockies in runs (49), hits (76), homers (16), RBI (48), steals (nine), batting average (.322), OBP (.382), slugging (.610) and OPS (.992).

    From a 30-day perspective, he's also batting a ho-hum .343 with nine homers and 22 runs.

    The funny thing is, there are plenty of 12-team leagues out there where one lucky owner landed Joey Votto, Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton and Melky Cabrera in the same draft, adhering to the time-tested philosophy of value, value, value.

Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Stats: 22 HR, 62 RBI, 42 Runs, six steals, .330 BA

    Skinny: No player garnered more attention in May than Hamilton and with good reason. Basically, he needed only six days of insane production to clinch a spot in the All-Star countdown.

    From May 7-12, Hamilton smacked nine homers (off "only" 12 hits) and 15 RBI—a run of devastation that likely won't be replicated all season.

    For the month of April, Hamilton got the season rolling with nine homers, 25 RBI, 20 runs, two steals and an absurd .395 batting average.

    For May, Hamilton racked up 12 homers, 32 RBI, 19 RBI, two steals and a .343 batting average. He also tallied excellent peripheral marks with on-base percentage (.405), slugging (.781) and OPS (1.187).

    For June...does it really matter? No matter how you slice it, Hamilton is the No. 1 player in fantasy baseball right now.

Outfield: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 Stats: 18 HR, 39 RBI, 45 Runs, nine steals, .306 BA

    Skinny: The Orioles should be applauded for recently signing Adam Jones to a lucrative contract extension. Not only is he the key to a Baltimore playoff run this season, but Jones is also the primary building block for a franchise that may have the requisite pieces to contend for the next five, seven or 10 years.

    (At least it's Jones's ship to captain until Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy earn big-league promotions sometime in the next 18 months...but we'll cross that bridge at a later date.)

    From a 30-day perspective, Jones' numbers (seven homers, 16 RBI, 16 runs, three steals, .311 batting) essentially sync up to his season-long prowess. Throw in a .353 on-base percentage, despite a poor walks-to-strikeout ratio (14/48), and Jones has a great shot at finishing the season with an OPS above .950.

    Bottom line: If you have the means to acquire Baltimore's breakout star in a blockbuster trade, I highly recommend it.

Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwuakee Brewers

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    2012 Stats: 16 HR, 42 RBI, 39 Runs, 11 Steals, .309 BA

    Skinny: My stance on Ryan Braun's overturned suspension from the offseason has been well-documented in this blog, so let's not rehash that argument.

    Let's also not debate the greatness of his numbers after 59 games—a groove that has Braun ranking first in runs, hits, homers, RBI, steals, on-base percentage (.386) and OPS (.973) among the Brewers hitters.

    In terms of the big picture, I have no regrets about attaching a No. 5 overall ranking to Braun during the preseason, even if he wasn't a likely candidate to replicate last year's output in steals (33) and batting average (.332).

    Bottom line: Of the seven outfielders listed here, Braun might have the most decorated five-category record by season's end.

Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2012 Stats: 11 HR, 37 RBI, 34 Runs, 13 Steals, .326 BA

    Skinny: From an individual standpoint, McCutchen (11 HR, 32 RBI, 36 runs, 11 steals, .325 batting) is having one of the most remarkably balanced seasons of any hitter.

    From a team standpoint, it's a miracle the Pirates are in second place in the National League Central (32-30) and contending for a playoff spot.

    Not with that anemic lineup (only two other hitters have OBPs above .300). Not with that patchwork starting rotation (3.52 ERA/1.29 WHIP).

    Of course, McCutchen doesn't pitch...but if he did, perhaps, Pittsburgh wouldn't be counting the days before Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Mark Appel comprise one of baseball's best one-two-three pitching punches.

    In the meantime, the good people of western Pennsylvania can hope that McCutchen keeps the Pirates in the pennant race and posts career highs in homers (23), steals (33) and batting average.

Outfield: Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 5 HR, 31 RBI, 46 Runs, 10 Steals, .363 BA

    Skinny: Leave it to Cabrera to notch 11 hits in the first 10 games of June and be woefully off his own hitting pace of May (51 hits for the month).

    But that's the price of greatness one must pay after tearing up the majors since April 2011. In that stretch (spanning 216 games), Cabrera has 23 homers, 118 RBI, 148 runs, 292 hits, 30 steals and a .333 batting average.

    From a 30-day perspective, he's also hitting at a .406 clip with three homers, five steals and 24 runs.

    And to think the Giants acquired Cabrera from the Royals for pitchers Ryan Verdugo (prospect) and Jonathan Sanchez (1-2, 6.75 ERA, 1.86 WHIP).

    It goes without saying: Cabrera was a no-brainer All-Star pick.

Outfield: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 19 HR, 47 RBI, 38 Runs, six steals, .298 BA

    Skinny: I couldn't resist the inclusion of a seventh outfielder.

    More importantly, it would have been incredibly foolish to ignore the stealth production of Carlos Beltran, a distinguished veteran presence who, statistically speaking, who has admirably filled the void of Albert Pujols in St. Louis.

    I marvel in Beltran's consistency within his career and the season at hand, but I also love his production from a 15-day (four homers, .311 batting) and 30-day perspective (six homers, 15 RBI, .301 batting).

    In other words, he's the perfect anchor for the All-Star outfielders.

Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 8-2, 2.18 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 96/16 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: If Cain had never notched the 22nd perfect game in MLB history on June 13, he still would have been a lock for the All-Star list.

    But it's safe to say, that successful run at perfection (and baseball immortality) clinched the spot.

    In all honesty, Cain's amazing season hasn't really been that much of a surprise. I had him ranked as the No. 11 pitcher during the preseason—the highest status of any other national fantasy writer—and even lamented that I wasn't being generous enough with that thinking.

    Barring a major injury or some unforeseen event, Cain is a virtual lock to break his career-best marks in wins (14), ERA (2.88), strikeouts (179) and WHIP (1.08).

    He also has the inside track to finish the season as fantasy's No. 1 pitcher.

Starting Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets

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    2012 Stats: 10-1, 2.20 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 90/19 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: From every angle, R.A. Dickey's numbers have been nothing short of insane—in a good way.

    In the last 30 days (spanning six starts and 45.2 innings), Dickey has a 5-0 mark, 0.79 ERA, 0.64 WHIP and a Cliff Lee-esque strikeout-to-walk ratio (58/4), and in that span, he has gone four straight starts without surrendering one earned run.

    Since May 16, Dickey also ranks second in wins, first in ERA, first in K/BB ratio, first in opponents' batting average (.163) and first in WHIP, among starting pitchers.

    And in his last 10 starts, Dickey has yielded two or less runs eight times...with just 11 total runs in that span (72.2 innings).

    The only thing missing from Dickey's 2012 resume? A no-hitter.

Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 8-2, 2.05 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 76/18 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: The month-by-month numbers for Chris Sale and R.A. Dickey run eerily similar, with both hurlers remaining on track for MLB All-Star berths next month.

    Since May 13 (totaling five starts and 36.2 innings), Sale has a 5-0 mark, 0.98 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 43/7 K/BB ratio.

    In that span, Sale also ranks second in wins, third in ERA, fourth in K/BB ratio, second in opponents' batting average (.150) and second in WHIP, among starting pitchers.

    Simply put, we may not see simultaneous domination like this from any pitching duo all season.

Starting Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 8-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 100/20 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: Finally, we have a countdown where it doesn't matter if the Nationals are pondering the unconscionable act of shutting down or limiting the innings of Strasburg sometime in September—regardless of the club's playoff-contending status.

    For this list, it only matters that Strasburg currently ranks fourth in wins and was the first pitcher to reach 100 strikeouts.

    In his last five starts (all victories), Strasburg has a 2.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 44/8 K-BB ratio, and for the season, Strasburg has surrendered only two runs or less in 10-of-13 outings.

    The scary thing: Strasburg can still take his greatness to another level. He just needs to catch fire—again.

Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 6-4, 2.66 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 103/23 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: Verlander might not be having a vintage season of Cy Young assumption and league MVP consideration, but the numbers are still pretty damn good.

    For starters, Verlander is the current MLB leader in strikeouts (passing Stephen Strasburg on June 14). From a 30-day perspective, the Tigers ace also has two wins, a 2.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 47/11 K-BB ratio.

    In eight of his last nine starts, Verlander surrendered three or less runs eight times, and in that span, he recorded 68 strikeouts and 15 walks.

    And just like Strasburg, Verlander hasn't even come close to tapping his ultimate potential for the season.

Starting Pitcher: Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 10-2, 2.42 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 86/27 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Lynn (MLB's first 10-game winner) is the biggest surprise of the All-Star countdown—ahead of Mark Trumbo and even Jose Altuve.

    Lynn's best year in the minors (2009—three different levels) doesn't even compare to his April-June greatness in the majors. Of his 14 starts this season, Lynn has allowed just three runs or less 13 times...and that one "clunker" resulted in four runs and five strikeouts on May 18. (Boo-hoo.)

    The beauty of this countdown: There's no need to speculate on Lynn's staying power as a first-rate pitching asset or go through the arduous process of matching his current value to sell-high trades.

    For this countdown, we must only appreciate how Lynn has significantly helped the Cardinals rotation flourish without Chris Carpenter and with Adam Wainwright enduring the expected ups-and-downs of pitching after elbow surgery.

Starting Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 8-2, 2.35 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 89/30 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: From my vantage point, Gio Gonzalez has been the best No. 2 pitcher from any MLB club to date, which at first blush, seems like a back-handed compliment.

    But in Gio's case, he has very few peers in the majors this season, regardless of team affiliation or preseason fantasy status.

    That's the praise that accompanies 11 straight starts of three runs allowed and at least five strikeouts—although it's probably better to celebrate Gonzo's per-game average of 7.8 strikeouts in that span.

    Of all the pieces I've traded this spring in various baseball leagues, Gonzalez holds the key to my greatest regret.

Starting Pitcher: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 9-3, 3.34 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 92/19 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: Around April, there may have some debate over where Hamels stood amongst the elite pitchers in fantasy baseball.

    But his glorious May of five wins, a 2.13 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 36/9 K-BB pretty much erased all doubts on that front.

    My take: Not only is Hamels the best fantasy pitcher on the Phillies right now (ahead of Cliff Lee and the injured Roy Halladay), his only peers—from a deeper perspective—may be Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.

    There's no need to clutter that statement or compartmentalize Hamels' fantasy impact with bite-sized stats. The body of work speaks for itself.

    Minus a recent mini-funk, Hamels has been an excellent source of fantasy goodness.

Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 5-3, 2.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 81/21 K-BB ratio

    Skinny: Last but not least (among starting pitchers, that is), we have the amazing Kershaw and the quietest bid for back-to-back Cy Youngs in baseball history.

    In his last 10 starts, Kershaw has gone at least seven innings nine times, he's allowed three or less runs eight times and he's racked up six or more strikeouts eight times.

    And from a 30-day perspective, Kershaw has a scintillating 34/8 K-BB ratio.

    Bottom line: Kershaw may be flying under the radar, compared to R.A. Dickey, Matt Cain and Stephen Strasburg, but all things being equal, don't you like his chances of repeating Cy Young honors by season's end?

    After all, he's still the same enterprising southpaw who allowed just two or less runs in 13 of his final 14 outings last year.

    He's always just a surge of confidence away from repeating that feat.

Closer: Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians

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    2012 Stats: 0-1, 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 20 Saves

    Skinny: As stated many times in this blog, I really only care about saves and WHIP with closers...which should explain why I'd never take one in the first 10 rounds of a 12-team roto draft.

    If ERA was a concern, I would have likely dumped Perez immediately after his Opening-Day meltdown against the Blue Jays (three runs allowed).

    If strikeouts were my sole focus, I would have reached for Craig Kimbrel in every March draft.

    Instead, I'm thrilled with Perez's low-key progress in his last 25 appearances—20 saves (in 20 chances), four runs allowed, a 1.55 ERA and 0.83 WHIP.

Closer: Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 Stats: 1-0, 1.26 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 19 Saves

    Skinny: How great has Johnson been for the surprising Orioles?

    For his worst game of the year (June 5 vs. Boston), Johnson allowed two runs and blew the save—but still ended up with the victory.

    That roller-coaster day notwithstanding, Johnson has been virtually infallible for Baltimore, stupefying hitters at every turn and bringing remarkable stability to a pitching corps that was once shaky, at best.

    And now that Johnson has already eclipsed a career high in saves, his focus should turn to finishing the season with a sub-1.00 ERA and 70 strikeouts (his personal best: 58).

Closer: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 4-2, 1.13 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, seven saves

    Skinny: From a strict "closer-only" perspective, it might have made more sense to target Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon, Joel Hanrahan or Fernando Rodney for the final countdown spot.

    But who can deny the greatness of Chapman—before and after he became the Reds' full-time closer?

    In his first 24 appearances (April 5-June 6), Chapman didn't allow a run, and his blown save/loss against the Tigers on June 10 was aided by an unfortunate passed ball that extended the rally.

    From the perspective of strikeouts (56), opponents' batting average (.110) and WHIP (0.69), Chapman cannot be topped compared to his short-relief brethren.

    And with just one viewing of his 102-mph fastball, it's clear that Chapman's days of wreaking havoc are just starting.

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