Mike Trout, Fernando Rodney and 2012 Fantasy Baseball MVP Candidates
Let this one thing be clear before you begin: this is a list of Most VALUABLE Player candidates, not most outstanding players, so Miguel Cabrera will not be listed. Justin Verlander will not be listed.
With that being clear, it is often said one cannot win their league with a first round pick but one can lose it. If you drafted former Long Beach State Dirtbags Evan Longoria or Troy Tulowitzki early in your 2012 draft, you know what that means.
The players listed here have outperformed all expectations and the draft positions they cost to acquire. These are the players who win leagues because their owners were able to grab studs early and acquire these emergent studs later on, leaving their teams stacked. They are the most valuable players of 2012.
Chris Sale, Chicago White sox
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Chris Sale was just one of several relievers making the move to a rotation, and most of them did not pan out well. Daniel Bard has a 5.59 ERA and 1.638 WHIP in the majors this season, with minor league stints mixed in as the Red Sox attempted to convert him back to the bullpen. Meanwhile, Neftali Feliz started out well, but has not pitched in the major leagues since May 18.
Sale has gone 16-6 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.083 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 over 169 innings to this point. He was available in the late middle rounds of most drafts and may have been dropped after a week-long elbow scare early in the season that almost moved him back to the bullpen.
Since that scare, Sale has been nearly untouchable and produced exponentially more than anyone expected in his first year in the White Sox rotation. He is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons they are in the playoff hunt in September.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
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Granted, Andrew McCutchen was an early round pick in most drafts, but in standard 10-team leagues, he was usually available in the late-second or early third round and has emerged as a top ten overall performer.
Through 136 games, McCutchen sports a line of .338, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 16 SB, 96 R. McCutchen owners likely drafted at least two top-notch players before him, and found themselves stacked with upper-echelon talent once McCutchen exploded.
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
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Fernando Rodney was a fantasy after thought coming into 2012. He was predominantly undrafted and ignored. Even when Rodney took the unofficial closer's role in Tampa, most blew him off as a has-been.
For reference, in 2003, Eric Gagne won the Cy Young Award with 55 saves, a 1.20 ERA and 0.692 WHIP. Rodney currently sports a 0.69 ERA, 0.781 WHIP and 42 saves. Granted, Gagne's strikeouts were through the roof, but Rodney's 9.1 K/9 is still excellent and again, he was mostly added for free.
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
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Fantasy owners knew Edwin Encarnacion had power. But he managed to play just 315 games over the last three seasons, batting .251 in the process. His defensive ineptitude did not help the player known as E-5 earn more playing time.
This season, the Blue Jays determined they would give Encarnacion at bats as long as he was healthy, and he has rewarded them and fantasy owners with 38 HR, 97 RBI, and 85 runs scored while batting a very respectable .278.
Modern fantasy owners have accepted that power is increasingly hard to come by and this production from a mid-round pick certainly helped owners win throughout the power-starved season.
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
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Many fantasy owners went into 2012 drafts with the understandable plan of avoiding anyone who calls a batter's box at Petco Park home. The Padres' home stadium is known as a power vacuum and owners have done well to avoid Padres since it was constructed.
Unfortunately for those owners, they missed out on Chase Headley this season. Headley is now batting .282 with 27 HR, 102 RBI, 14 SB and 79 R. He is batting .331 with 11 HR since August 7 and has plugged a massive hole at third base in many fantasy lineups. Headley was available very late in most drafts and has grown into one of the great bargains of the season.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
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The ageless shortstop called "The Captain" has fallen in drafts for the past three years as owners expected the precipitous decline common with players in their late thirties. However, this is Derek Jeter and he continues to defy the odds at a position rife with underachievers.
In a year in which Troy Tulowitzki has been mostly unavailable and Hanley Ramirez has batted around .250 instead of the .300-plus people hoped for, Jeter's line of .323 with 15 HR, 90 runs scored and nine steals make him a top five option at the position at the tender age of 38.
You would be wise not to bet against him in 2013 either.
R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
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Another elder statesman on this list, R.A. Dickey was impressive the two years prior to 2012. He made 58 starts, with a 3.08 ERA, and 1.209 WHIP. Of course, fantasy owners found no shortage of reasons to doubt him coming into 2012.
First of all, knuckleballers are not known for their stability. Second, he is 37-years-old. Third, he had just 5.6 K/9 over that span. Dickey now sits as one of the more unlikely Cy Young favorites in recent memory with 18 wins, a 2.68 ERA and 8.6 K/9.
Those owners who saw him late in their drafts and were willing to give him a chance are reaping above and the beyond their hoped for rewards.
Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
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Most fantasy owners looking for a young starting pitcher to take a chance on in their March drafts were buzzing about Jacob Turner or Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran, who all got spring chances to win rotation spots.
However, on September 12, Wade Miley has 15 wins with an excellent 3.07 ERA. While his 6.5 K/9 leaves something to be desired, he has easily outperformed anything close to his flier draft status. Owners must be thrilled, especially those who grabbed him off waiver wires when he was considered a matchups stream play early on.
Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Chris Capuano entered 2012 with a 4.39 ERA and 57-64 career record in 181 games (156 starts) since he came up in 2003. He was appropriately ignored in drafts.
The Dodgers gave Capuano the chance he needed and 29 starts later, he boasts a 3.59 ERA, 1.185 WHIP and and 7.7 K/9. This is a starting pitcher who did not throw a single major league pitch between 2008-2009. In 2010 he mostly served as a reliever for Milwaukee. Now he stands to serve a key roll in a potential playoff run for Los Angeles, as well as fantasy owners.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Keep in mind that Mike Trout missed the first 20 games of the season when you read that his line is .332, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 45 SB, 114 runs scored. There are not words or precedence for what the 21-year-old has done since being called up to the Angels.
Having locked up the Rookie of the Year months ago, Trout now has his sights set on getting the Angels into the playoffs, and perhaps bringing home the AL MVP award in the process. This late-round flier, or waiver add has easily become the most valuable fantasy player of 2012.