Fantasy Baseball: 8 Players Who Surprised Us in 2011
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
Fantasy baseball always seems to yield a larger field of surprises each season than do basketball and football, whether it be under performing guys or studs that come out of nowhere.
With the baseball season coming to a close, it's a good time to look back at some players that had seasons that we weren't expecting.
Players like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Roy Halladay are studs that we love, but aren't that exciting to talk about because of their crazy consistency.
The following takes a look at a handful of guys that may have either ruined your season or perhaps locked up a playoff birth for you.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA
Nick Laham/Getty Images
While injuries have certainly played a part, Ramirez has had the worst season of his career by far. He's been a perennial top five pick over the last few years, as he has been a lock for at least 20/20 at the weak shortstop position.
Ramirez is batting only .243 on the year. He normally bats at least .300, including a .342 clip just two seasons ago.
His power numbers are also well down from his usual output, as he got off to an abysmal start over the first two months of 2011. His 20 stolen bases are about the only thing that he's done that he was expected to this year.
The talented shortstop has done a lot better after Jack McKeon took over as manager. He expects to return this week from a shoulder injury and looks to pickup where he left off as he had a very strong month of July.
Curtis Granderson, OF, NYY
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
All that has been separating Granderson from superstardom in his career has been his inability to hit left-handed pitching. Well, hes changed that around this year in a big way, currently hitting .278 against them while being .226 in his career overall.
The five-tool player is enjoying his best season by far in the big leagues, and is on pace to almost double his production from last year, his first with the Yankees.
Granderson is currently tied with last year's big surprise Jose Bautista for the league lead in home runs, and is also top 20 in stolen bases. He's been the best hitter in a lineup that includes a handful of future Hall of Famers.
After his fantasy stock fell greatly after 2010, it's now as high as ever. Granderson has a chance for a 40/30 season.
Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, STL
Jeff Curry/Getty Images
After watching Lance Berkman in 2010, it seemed for all the world that he was pretty much done. His power numbers were cut in half and his normally great OPS was way down.
Fast forward to this year and Berkman is just like the player that he was in his prime with the Houston Astros. His power numbers are on par with the best of the game, and his average is back up to respectability.
Berkman was at best a late-round flier in fantasy drafts in 2011. For anybody that drafted him or picked him up early in the season when he was hot, they got a top-50 player very cheap.
Adam Dunn, DH, CHW
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
The addition of Adam Dunn by the Chicago White Sox was supposed to do wonders for their chances in 2011. He's been a top power hitter in the game for many years.
Dunn entered this season hitting at least 38 home runs in eight consecutive seasons. He is probably not even going to hit 20 this year after switching to the American League.
If his dip in power numbers aren't surprising enough for you, than his average should do the trick. Dunn has never hit for great average, but his current clip of .163 is the worst seen by a regular in the last 100 years.
After being drafted in the top 50 in fantasy leagues, you can find Dunn in the free agent pool in almost any league you look at.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, CLE/COL
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
After looking like the best pitcher in baseball throughout the first half of 2010, expectations were high for Ubaldo Jimenez. He has not come close to meeting them over the last year plus.
In his time with Colorado and Cleveland this year, Jimenez has an ERA of 4.71 and a WHIP of 1.42, not something fantasy owners were expecting of their ace. The strikeouts have been there but he has had issues with walks and home runs.
After putting together solid seasons in 2008 and 2009, he has kind of turned into a feast or famine pitcher. If he brings his best stuff, he can be lights out, but otherwise he gets hit hard.
Ian Kennedy, SP, ARZ
Len Redkoles/Getty Images
Perhaps the biggest reason the Arizona Diamondbacks are challenging for a playoff spot in the National League is the emergence of starting pitcher Ian Kennedy. The youngster was pretty solid last year, but has really had a breakout 2011 campaign.
A 17-4 record with an ERA around 3 puts Kennedy right up there with the other fantasy aces in the game. He's also been one of the more consistent starters as he hasn't had many ups and downs.
Kennedy was barely even ranked among the top 50 starting pitchers on draft day, and has outperformed his draft position by a huge margin. Not only has he been a difference maker for his Diamondbacks, but also his fantasy owners.
Craig Kimbrel, CP, ATL
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
If you took away the month of May, Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel would be putting together one of the best seasons ever by a closer. Even with that included, however, he's had an incredible year.
The second-year reliever is currently tied with John Axford for the most saves in baseball with 40. That combined with his overpowering numbers (he leads all relievers with 103 strikeouts) has really made him a nice story in 2011.
Kimbrel was ranked in the middle of the pack among closers on draft day. That's not a bad bargain for a player who has been strong in all pitching categories that you are looking for in a closer.
Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Take away his no-hitter on May 3rd and Liriano has had a very disappointing 2011 season. He's put together a few great seasons in his career, but also a couple duds now.
Liriano has a 4.84 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, and has had issues of consistency all season long. His strikeout numbers are also a little down as well, and it has been a year to forget.
The Twins ace was ranked among the top 20 starting pitchers at the start of this year, but anyone who took him there might not be looking forward to the playoffs. He has been a year on year off player of late though, and could bounce back nicely in 2012.