In the fantasy baseball world, it’s difficult to discern if a player will be scorching hot for a week, a month, or a season.
For example, owners who picked up Edwin Encarnacion in 2012 reaped the benefits for the whole season. Managers who added speedster Jordan Schafer last year bemoaned his awful for the second half.
Of the players who are currently hot pickups, the following will be legitimate contributors to a fantasy roster for the rest of the season. Count on them for production beyond their recent hot streak.
Kelly Johnson, TB 2B/OF (73.8 percent owned, 57.4 percent owned increase)
If you need a second baseman and Johnson is still available in your league, make sure you snatch him up before he’s universally owned.
Dating all the way back to his time as an Atlanta Brave, the two-position player has been a solid choice at second. As a Brave in 2008, he hit .287 with 12 homers, 69 RBIs, 86 runs and 11 SBs.
His best fantasy season was 2010, though, when Johnson clubbed 26 home runs and 71 RBIs. That was with a .284 clip, 93 runs and 13 SBs, too.
In 2012 with the Toronto Blue Jays, Johnson hit a meager .225. However, his 2009 season between the aforementioned seasons featured a similar .224 average. Expect him to continue at around the .275 rate he’s hitting this year, as he’s shown the ability to rebound and hit consistently.
On top of average, the Tampa Bay Ray will give you a little speed, runs and good power numbers at second base for the rest of 2013.
James Loney, TB 1B (34.1 percent owned, 24.1 percent owned increase)
Another Tampa Bay player made the short list of both hot and smart long-term pickups.
Loney was a top prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers years ago. His career started fizzling a little in 2012, so the Dodgers traded him to the Boston Red Sox. In Boston, the first baseman hit a forgettable .230 with eight RBIs in 100 at bats.
The Tampa Bay Rays inked Loney to a low-risk deal, and he’s easily outperformed his pay so far. After Monday night, he’s hitting a major league-leading .376.
While the average will definitely drop, Loney is far from a fluke.
With the AAA Las Vegas 51s in 2006, he hit an incredible .380 for the season (according to baseball-reference.com). He has the capability to sustain a high batting average for a whole year, though he hasn’t hit over .300 for a full season in the majors before.
Adrian Beltre, now a career .279 hitter, hadn’t either when he hit a blistering .334 in 2004. It can happen in baseball.
Expect Loney to hit somewhere around .330 for the season, with power numbers on par with his 2008 and 2009 output (13 HRs, 90 RBIs both years).
Travis Wood, ChC SP (64.8 percent owned, 35 percent owned increase)
The lovable losers are in the middle of another terrible season, but their rotation (apart from Edwin Jackson) has been incredibly good.
Wood sports the best ERA of any Cubs starter so far this season, with a ridiculous 2.03 after his eighth straight quality start (via the Chicago Tribune).
The young hurler was once the third-best prospect for the Cincinnati Reds (according to BaseballAmerica.com). Wood was acquired by the Cubs in the Sean Marshall trade, and he flashed a lot of potential in a decent 2012 season.
It seems he’s finally lived up to that potential by using an arsenal of pitches.
According to FanGraphs, Wood mostly throws four pitches: a fastball, a slider, a changeup and a very effective cutter.
Wood isn’t a great source of strikeouts (36 Ks in 53.1 IP so far this season), but expect him to have a good ERA and WHIP to go with a decent win total for the Cubs at the end of 2013.
*All ownership statistics for ESPN fantasy leagues. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.