Head’s up dynasty league captains: this story is for you.
Conventional wisdom used to say that a hitter’s prime year will arrive in his age-27 season. If that’s the case with this group, 2016 and beyond are going to be banner offensive years for fantasy owners. You may own one or a handful of the players mentioned below. If so, you are fully aware of their value. But others in your leagues who presently own some of these players may not be as astute with their studies as you. Take advantage!
With the first month of the season gone, I’d like to introduce the All 24-and-Under Fantasy Offense. By season’s end, this team will rival the best roster in any league. You have my billion-dollar guarantee, which is backed by the First National Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
But before we get too wrapped up in things that don’t really matter in real life, do yourself a favor and check out the perspectives in this Rick Reilly column.
CATCHER: Wilin Rosario, Rockies, is batting .299 with 7 HR, 14 R, 19 RBI, and 3 SB. His K/BB rate so far is 23/4, but this Mile High stud ranks fourth among all catchers thus far. He’s 1-for-17 in the past week, but don’t give up on this kid. He hit .270 with 28 HR last season in the mile high air. Honorable Mention: Salvador Perez, Royals. The popular draft-day sleeper has been quiet most of the season, but he’s raised his average to .279 since the third week of April. The power will come. So will everything else but steals. However, the 20/3 K-to-BB rate is a bit concerning for a guy who is known for his contact.
FIRST BASE: Freddie Freeman, Braves. The 23-year-old had huge expectations coming into the season and didn’t disappoint in his first five games (.412/1HR/7RBI), but an oblique injury against the Cubs on April 6th landed the young phenom on the DL. Since returning on April 23rd, he’s hit .351/1 HR/8 RBI. If you drafted him for the anticipated breakout season, keep the faith. Honorable Mentions: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs. Going into a game at Miami on April 26th, Rizzo was hitting .173. Since then, he’s raised his average to .254, has clubbed 9 HR, knocked in 25, scored 17, and stolen 4. He plays for a horrible team, but this young man is going to be well-known in the immediate future. Matt Adams, Cardinals. Another April oblique casualty, this one on the 22nd, was seemingly the only thing that could get the sizzling Adams out. He played so well in his 24 ABs (.542/3 HR/8 RBI) the Cardinals had a nice position problem on their hands: how to fit Adams, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and Matt Holliday into the same lineup. Add prospect Oscar Tavares to the conversation and the mixture is right for Adams, who was recalled to the Cards on Tuesday, to be traded sometime this summer. Stay tuned. Eric Hosmer has to be included in this group. He’s experiencing growing pains, but look for him to come together in a huge way sometime soon. He has power AND speed, folks. It’s going to happen, I promise. Don’t be the guy who forgot about this stud.
SECOND BASE: Jose Altuve, Astros. After splashing onto the scene last year with a .290 average and 33 SB (as well as 7 HR), Altuve was a trendy pick at 2B this season. So far, he hasn’t been running as expected (3 SB) and it’s not because leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman (.216) is clogging the base paths. Why Altuve isn’t the first stick in this line-up is beyond me. He’s hitting .338, has scored 15 runs, and leads the Astros with 17 RBI (maybe that’s why he’s not leading off). He’s done most of his damage from the two-hole. To produce in this lineup is to be worth owning! Honorable Mentions: Josh Rutledge, Rockies. His batting average (.252) is inching toward respectability, making his power/speed (4 HR/5 SB) numbers notable. He’s worth a look, especially since he gets half of his ABs in Colorado and qualifies at both 2B and SS. Padre Jedd Gyorko isn't a sexy stat guy, but since May 1st, he’s hit .360 with 3 HR to bump his season average to .271 and he also qualifies at 3B.
SHORTSTOP: This position is stacked for years to come, but a few stand out for now: Jean Segura, Brewers. When Jose Reyes went down on April 12th, I was surprised to see this young gem smiling at me from the waiver wire in one of my Yahoo! leagues. He is presently the second ranked shortstop in the game, thanks to a .339/4 HR/16 R/13 RBI/8 SB slash – and his .384 OBP (tied with Altuve) is topped only by Bryce Harper (.400) and Starling Marte (.393) among the 24-and-under players with eligible ABs. Honorable Mentions: Starlin Castro, Cubs. No need to waste time here. He’s only 23 and we all know his capabilities. Didi Gregorious, Diamondbacks. In a limited sample (39 ABs), Gregorious is proving his worth to the Arizona offense. A concussion on April 26th put him out of action until last Sunday, but he came back swinging (2-3 with a HR). He’s had at least one hit in all ten games he’s played so far (.436 with 3HR) and is definitely worth watching from this point forward. Elvis Andrus, Rangers, is worth owning if you have a need for speed. The Braves’ Andrelton Simmons took Bronson Arroyo and Logan Ondrusek deep Monday night in a 3-hit effort to raise his line to .252/4 HR/17 R/15 RBI. After a slow start at the plate, Simmons has hit .300 in the past two weeks with 3 HR/8 R/8 RBI. He’s also been bumped up to lead-off. Hitting in front of Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann only increases this young man’s value.
THIRD BASE: Since April 21st, Orioles corner Manny Machado has raised his BA from .250 to .314. He also has 5 HR/25 R/21 RBI/3S B. I came into the 2013 season thinking he was overrated, but Machado is certainly proving me wrong thus far. He presently ranks #4 among all 3B in MLB (and #20 overall) – and he doesn’t turn 21 until July. Honorable Mentions: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays, proved last year he could live up to the hype. An early-season injury gave him a late start this year, and he’s struggling at the plate (.187/3 HR), but all three of those homers have come in the past two weeks. Don’t give up on the kid; he’ll reward your patience. I still believe in Royals 3B Mike Moustakas, despite his career .246 BA. This kid has major pop; have patience with him-- at the moment, he’s in a lineup full of underachievers. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, made a case for himself in 267 ABs last season (.288/15 HR/54 RBI), but has struggled mightily to begin 2013 (.192/6 HR/12 RBI). He’s also striking out nearly eight times more often than he walks. Look for him to right the ship, but don’t wait too long if another capable 3B is available. Walt Weiss recently placed Nolan Arendo in the two-hole of his potent Rockies lineup, although he’s likely to get bounced around depending upon matchups. The 22-year-old has 3 HR since being called up on April 28 and is hitting a cool .294 with 8 RBI-- take notice!
OUTFIELD: Everybody knows about Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jason Heyward. We've seen so much production from the 23-year-old Stanton it’s hard to believe he’s still such a young pup. He already has 96 HR and 241 RBI on his resume. By comparison, Barry Bonds had 41/107 at the same age (23 years and 6 months). Stanton was struggling in a weak Marlins lineup prior to hitting the DL, but DO NOT CONSIDER giving up on this kid. You've been warned.
Despite the concerns and expectations from some who could actually see Trout’s cape, the kid is having a great season so far. If you trade this stud away, cue up this song for later. Harper is in a minor slump (2-for-19), but nobody is worried about his production. Heyward recently had surgery (appendectomy), but will return soon. Like Stanton, he’s a pup with a big bark (Career: 61 HR, 201 RBI, 42 SB).
Now that the horses are out of the way, what do we make of Pirates leadoff hitter Starling Marte, whose monster stats rank him behind only Miguel Cabrera in the Yahoo! game the past month? Has Rickey Henderson been reincarnated while he’s still alive? I'm not saying Marte will approach the standard Henderson set for leadoff hitters, but his power/speed/average combo is certainly impressive. Give this kid some love and treat him like a keeper, because he is.
Marcell Ozuna, Marlins, recently followed Jose Fernandez as the next young talent to grace Marlins Park, filling in for the injured Stanton. So far, he’s producing and is worth a wait-and-see stash if you have roster space. In 31 ABs through Tuesday night, the 22-year-old Dominican has posted a .419 average with a homer and five doubles. He’s has a history of strike-out issues, but according to the Miami Herald, those issues are in the past. To believe or not to believe?
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