Successful fantasy baseball owners will draft teams that have a strong balance of well-established blue chip players and a few up-and-coming players looking to take the next step to stardom. The blue chip players act as a strong foundation, providing a consistent level of production from week to week, while the budding stars tend to be hit-or-miss fliers. Although it is much harder to predict the success of these fliers, finding the proverbial diamond in the rough is critical for a championship run.
Here are the five biggest offensive surprises of the 2011 season (through 70 Games)
Curtis Granderson, OF Yankees
55 R, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 10 SB .280 BA
Granderson was ranked 30th overall on our Kramerica Sports 2011 Outfielder rankings, primarily because of his disappointing .247 batting average for the Bronx Bombers in 2010. Through 70 games of the 2011 season, Granderson has been on an absolute tear, leading all players with 59 runs scored and tied atop the leader board with 21 homers.
Although Granderson has been a highly productive fantasy player in previous seasons, he has yet to display the shear power numbers we are seeing this year. He is on pace to set career marks in every single statistical category and is one of the main reasons why the Yankees are still alive in the highly competitive AL East.
Lance Berkman, OF Cardinals
42 R, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB .310 BA
The Big Puma has been a delight for fantasy owners in 2011 as he has returned to his previous form that made him a star in Houston. Berkman has found a home in St. Louis batting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holladay, hitting an impressive 17 home runs while driving in 52 runs. He is tied for second among NL outfielders in home runs and RBI, and his .310 batting average has made him one of the most valuable outfielders in all of baseball.
Yahoo Sports gave Berkman a preseason rank of 283, while we here at Kramerica Sports thought so highly of him that we did not include him our rankings. Berkman looked every bit of his 35 years of age, and his .248 batting average in 2010 led us to believe he was all but done.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS Indians
44 R, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 9 SB, .298 BA
The shortstop position was thought of as being one of the shallowest positions in fantasy baseball this season, with only a few viable fantasy options behind superstars Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki. These two players were valued so highly that we ranked them as No. 3 and No. 4 respectively on our top 200 rankings.
Through 70 games of the season, Tulo has mostly lived up to his billing while Hanley has been marred by injury and has fallen off the fantasy baseball planet. In his stead, budding superstar in the making Asdrubal Cabrera emerged with his fellow tribesmen as one of the biggest surprises on the season.
Cabrera leads all American League shortstops in home runs, runs scored and runs batted in. His solid play propelled the Cleveland Indians to the top of the AL Central and gave his fantasy owners a much-needed shot in the arm from the middle infield position.
Matt Joyce, OF Rays
44 R, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 9 SB, .298 BA
What a difference a year can make. This applies to fantasy baseball just as it does to other aspects of life. Take for example Matt Joyce, a second-year outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2010, Joyce batted a less than impressive .241 in 216 plate appearances for the Rays as he struggled to get onto the field. Through 65 games of the 2010 season, Joyce has increased his batting average to .318 and has matched his home run and run-scoring production from the previous campaign.
Joyce has supplanted himself as the Ray’s every day right fielder and is well on his way to becoming a household name in fantasy circles. With a preseason Yahoo Ranking of 390, Joyce has been an excellent free-agent acquisition and is currently rated as the 17th best fantasy outfielder.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B Marlins
36 R, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB, .312 BA
With a preseason ranking of 220 by Yahoo Sports and as the 17th overall first baseman on our Kramerica Sports Top 200 list, Gaby Sanchez was not exactly a highly touted commodity this spring. Although some websites did tout him as a breakout candidate for 2011, I doubt many of those same sites could have predicted these numbers.
Through 70 games, Gaby has mashed 12 home runs and driven in a respectable 43 runners for the Marlins. In addition, Gaby has delivered an excellent .312 batting average for fantasy owners. At the time of publication, Sanchez is ranked higher than fantasy studs Ryan Howard, Kevin Youkilis and Billy Butler.
Melky Cabrera, Brennan Boesch, Michael Morse, Ryan Roberts, and Alex Gordon
This article was originally published on www.kramericasports.com, the home of free fantasy baseball news, rankings, and advice.