Fantasy Baseball: Jeff Karstens and 8 Surprise Stars of 2011

Joe PetruloCorrespondent IIIJuly 18, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: Jeff Karstens and 8 Surprise Stars of 2011

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    Jeff Karstens has defined what has been an interesting fantasy baseball season in the MLB.

    Not only has he helped the Pittsburgh Pirates return to relevance, but he has helped fantasy baseball teams across the nation with his surprising statistics.

    Players have shockingly great statistical seasons like Karstens seemingly every year.

    This year is no different, and there are a number of players who have come from the bottom of draft boards to the top of fantasy lineups.

    Let's take a look at five surprise fantasy studs for 2011.

8. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees

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    If the 2011 season ended today, Curtis Granderson's statistics would look like everyone expected on draft day.

    Granderson's statistics today appear to be a normal season total for him.

    His career high home run total for a season is 30. Through 91 games, he is at 25 home runs and counting.  He has already surpassed his previous second high total of 24.

    His career high in RBIs is 74. He is already at 68 this year.

    Granderson is hitting one point above his career average, and his slugging percentage is .570, up from a .490 career average.

    Most people probably expected Granderson to have a good season, but his outstanding statistics that make him one of the best fantasy players around are undoubtedly a bit surprising.

7. Michael Cuddyer, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    Michael Cuddyer is now in his 11th year as part of the Minnesota Twins organization.

    He has had an up and down career, but this season is turning out to be one of his most impressive.

    Cuddyer is coming off of a solid year in 2010, which may make his 2011 campaign expected.

    However, no one saw his improvement in getting on base coming.

    He used to be an inconsistent power hitter, with an outlier season in 2009 that included 32 home runs and 94 RBI.

    This year, he is clicking on all cylinders.

    His batting average is at .293, up from a .272 career average, and his on-base percentage is at .371, up from a .345 career mark.

    These percentages are both career highs, and those numbers are definitely pleasantly surprising for fantasy owners.

6. Matt Harrison, LHP, Texas Rangers

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    The Texas Rangers have one of the most explosive lineups in all of Major League Baseball.

    Pitching has been a problem ever since the team's bats have heated up.

    Last season, the San Francisco Giants pitching staff proved that great pitching wins over great hitting in the World Series as they defeated the Rangers.

    This year, Matt Harrison has been a breath of fresh air for the organization.

    His first two attempts at being a Major League starter for the Rangers failed horribly, making only 26 starts in two seasons.

    This year, he has come out of nowhere to become one of the best starters in the rotation.

    Harrison's 2.91 ERA is far below his 4.57 career mark, and he has been able to grind out 111.1 innings in 18 starts,

    Harrison has been a huge help to the Rangers and fantasy owners, and not many people expected it.

5. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

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    In 2010, Mark Trumbo played in eight games for the Angels.

    He had one hit in 15 at-bats, and ended up with a .067 BA and .125 OBP.

    This year, he is hitting .257 with 18 HR and 43 RBI as a full-time player for the Angels.

    Trumbo has been surprising in the sense that he is a rookie with power.

    It is not often that rookies can establish themselves early enough to put together a full season, and then back it up with consistent numbers in the power categories.

    He was probably passed on in most fantasy drafts, but has become an asset to every fantasy lineup.

    His power numbers and hitting percentages are sure to help fantasy owners this season and in future years.

    In the future, however, he won't be a surprise anymore. 

4. Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    This season, Jordan Zimmerman, not Stephen Strasburg, is getting fans excited about the Washington Nationals pitching staff.

    Zimmerman is 10th in Major League Baseball in ERA this season.

    After two sub-par years making spot starts and finding it difficult to remain in the starting rotation, he has become the star of the staff this season.

    Zimmerman has a 2.66 ERA and 1.07 WHIP to boast.

    Many fantasy owners that currently have him on their team may have not even drafted him.

    Still, they must be happy with the production he has given them.

    This year, Zimmerman is the exciting young pitcher in the capital, at least until Strasburg returns. 

3. Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    No matter how much hype surrounds a rookie, most people usually expect growing pains.

    Michael Pineda is an exception. He has broken all kinds of rookie stereotypes by becoming dominant in his first season. 

    Thus far, Pineda has posted a 3.03 ERA, 12th best in the AL, and a 1.04 WHIP, seventh-best in the AL.

    He even fanned two batters en route to a hit-less inning pitched in the All-Star Game.

    Alongside Felix Hernandez, the Mariners have a scary one-two punch in the pitching rotation.

    Pineda will likely be a valued pick in fantasy baseball next season.

    This year, he will go down as one of the biggest surprises in fantasy baseball.

2. Justin Masterson, RHP, Cleveland Indians

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    Justin Masterson had been consistently below average in his short MLB career until this season.

    For whatever reason, Masterson has figured things out in 2011, posting career-best numbers in nearly every category.

    His 2.80 ERA and 1.24 WHIP has added up to an 8-6 record for a Cleveland Indians team that got off to an extremely hot start this season.

    Masterson has always had the potential to be a solid starting pitcher, but has not been able to find the consistency he has needed.

    This year, much to the delight of his fantasy owners, he has taken his career to new heights and turned into one of the more impressive surprise studs of 2011.  

1. Jeff Karstens, RHP, Pittssburgh Pirates

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    Jeff Karstens has been in and out of the bullpen his entire career.

    This year, he appears to have found a home in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Karstens has turned into one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball this season.

    He is second in the NL in ERA at 2.34, and third in WHIP at 1.03. The resurgence of the Pirates has helped him to an 8-4 record.

    Karstens is one piece of the puzzle that has helped make the Pirates relevant again.

    His success on the field statistically has probably helped some fantasy teams make unexpected comebacks in 2011.