Fantasy Baseball: 10 Biggest 'Unsung' Heroes of the Fantasy Season so Far
Picture yourself back in March when you were completing your fantasy draft.
You selected players like Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista and Buster Posey to provide offense. Then you selected players like David Price, Jared Weaver and Cole Hamels to anchor your pitching.
These were your stars, the backbone of your team and you expected them to perform well and carry you to the championship.
Before the draft is over, though, there were those last few rounds. You likely did not think much about them as you were already picturing the championship trophy due to the earlier rounds of the draft.
Because you had to pick someone, if you decided to even stay for the last few rounds, you chose guys like Josh Reddick, Carlos Ruiz and Chris Sale.
Little did you know, five months later these final picks, who may have just been roster fillers, would be crucial parts to your team's success. These players were not expected to do much, but have exceeded all expectations and have become your team's "unsung" heroes.
They are not the names constantly repeated on ESPN, but without the following players your team may not be as successful as it is with them.
Dunn may have been the biggest fantasy bust in history during 2011.
He scored only 36 times, hit only 11 home runs, drove in 42 RBI and had a .159 batting average. A high school freshman would not even be expected to hit that bad.
If Dunn could hit the reset button, he would have hit it with a sledge hammer. By the way 2012 is going, I would say he did.
Dunn is a 2012 "unsung" hero because this year he has scored 65 times, hit 31 home runs, recorded 75 RBI and has a .205 batting average.
Dunn should never be counted on for his average, but the rest of his numbers are reminiscent of his younger days.
It is very likely that Dunn was not drafted until the last few rounds and someone thought, "Why not?"
He has definitely given you a good reason to be glad you drafted him.
Encarnacion is a player that most drafted because of his ability to count as a first baseman or a third baseman. In my own league, I saw that he was not even drafted.
Everyone expected the Blue Jays to be centered around Jose Bautista and gave Encarnacion little thought.
Well, since the very first week, Encarnacion has been nothing but a stud. He may get no media attention for filling in for the injured Bautista, but people who own this player know that their teams would not be the same without him.
Encarnacion has put up monster numbers this year with 69 runs scored, 29 home runs, 77 RBI and he is batting a solid .288. Plus, he has 13 steals.
I bet many owners are now thanking themselves for their brilliance in adding Encarnacion, and they should.
Josh Reddick was an unknown coming into this year. He had shown some flash during spot-starts with Boston, but he was never given a chance to show what he could do until he became an Athletic.
Naturally, people do not go around drafting backups that were traded. In this case, Reddick became the giant "worm" that everyone wanted to get as the season got going.
Whoever snagged this "worm" should be very satisfied.
Reddick has scored 64 times, stolen 10 bases, driven in 60 RBI and has surprisingly hammered 25 home runs.
His surprising power and scoring ability have not only helped the A's compete, but he has become a staple for fantasy owners.
Do not be surprised if Reddick is considered a top fantasy outfielder come next season.
Catchers are not the most valued players by any means, but for those who were unable to draft Buster Posey or Mike Napoli they had a chance to strike gold with Carlos Ruiz.
Ruiz was probably originally drafted to be a backup, but when his batting average did not drop below .350 whoever had him would have noticed.
Ruiz is batting .335 now with 47 runs scored, 14 home runs and 58 RBI.
On a team that has seen expected stars Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence struggle, Ruiz has taken over as the backbone and is now the backbone of fantasy teams across the nation.
Adam LaRoche is not only helping the Nationals win, he is helping fantasy owners win as well.
LaRoche was likely not drafted in your league and was destined to live as a free agent. When the season started, though, so did LaRoche.
LaRoche has become a solid first baseman for those who were quick enough to grab him.
LaRoche is batting a respectable .268 with 50 runs scored, 23 home runs and surprisingly has driven in 74 RBI.
Owners of LaRoche can only laugh at those people who drafted guys like Adrian Gonzalez and wasted a high pick.
Alfonso Soriano had been part of trade rumors during the deadline, but I know he is not being shopped in fantasy.
As a late round pick, this outfielder has been all reward for those willing to take him.
Soriano is not going to be in the MVP race anytime soon, but he is a better guy to have than Cameron Maybin, for example.
Soriano is batting .265 with 42 runs scored, 20 home runs and has been very productive with runners on as he has 69 RBI on the year.
He was probably a depth guy or added to fill an outfielder spot left vacant next to a guy like Justin Upton, but he has become a consistent force that came at a bargain.
Last year, I had my own experience with Clay Buchholz.
He was coming off a 17-7 season and I was expecting him to be my third starter, but he was often injured and every time I looked it seemed like he was getting "shelled."
This year, I wish I had selected him because he has become the guy I needed last year.
He has a high ERA of 4.24 and a low amount of strikeouts at 86, but he has been so much better than these numbers show. To see how well he has pitched, just look at his record.
Buchholz is 10-3 and is 6-1 since June. Also, since June, he has allowed more than two runs on only two occasions, and he received the win for one of those.
He was probably selected as a fifth starter or a replacement for an injured pitcher, but he has moved up and will be on my list for next year's draft.
One of my favorite players for this category is Lance Lynn.
He was a pure pickup in that he was a free agent to everyone unless you have been keeping track of the Cardinals' farm system.
All Lynn has done this year is win 13 games, strikeout 133 batters and post a 3.52 ERA.
He was not meant to be the guy. The Cardinals had Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia.
Thanks to Carpenter being injured, Lynn was given his shot and fantasy owners have been nothing but pleased.
Chris Capuano may be the most shocking hero on this list.
He is a veteran pitcher, but he was just a back-end guy.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers, he has become a veteran that fantasy owners can look to when they need a good start.
Capuano has 10 wins, 125 strikeouts and he has a very good 3.29 ERA.
Last year, he had a 4.55 ERA and 12 losses. This year, he has a 3.29 ERA and has helped put the Dodgers in the hunt for a division crown.
All of these players have been exceptional and owners must be happy to have them, but there is one player that would receive the "Unsung" Hero Award if there was one.
Chris Sale has been an elite pitcher this year and the Chicago White Sox would not be as good as it is without him. Furthermore, fantasy owners need to thank their lucky stars that they were able to grab him.
Sale was in the bullpen last year. He was just a reliever who would sometimes be a setup guy.
Now, Chicago has made him a starter and he has proven to be an "ace" for the team.
Sale has 13 wins with 121 strikeouts. This is great, but what put him in the elite category of pitchers this year are his 2.59 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
He is young, dominant and no one has exploded onto the scene this year more than Chris Sale.
Owners should enjoy him now because in 2013 he will be among the ranks of David Price and C.C. Sabathia when it is time to draft.