2010 Fantasy Baseball Surprises Both Good and Bad

Every year there are a number of surprises – good and bad.  Some of them are mild in the form of a decent player simply stepping his game up to a new level.  A few, though, seem to form out of thin air and proceed to drive the majority of us nuts as they put up ridiculous numbers over the course of the season.  Let’s examine some of the 2010 surprises and see if there is anything that suggested such performances.

Batting Average

Carlos Gonzalez (.340) – First of all, Gonzalez was a consensus Top-50 prospect in all of baseball in 2008 according to the Baseball America writers.  This, alone, does not forecast success, but more often than not, it is a good place to start.  Secondly, if you look at his 2009 splits you’ll notice his white-hot second half production: .385/.428/.736/1.164.  Clearly, that line is absolutely unsustainable unless your name is Bonds, Pujols or Miguel Cabrera, but it was a very loud hint as to the type of production in store for Gonzalez.  A .389 BABIP never hurts either.  Keep that in mind when ranking him for 2011.

Adrian Beltre (.328) – Also benefiting from a fortunate BABIP (.340) and the lure of a big money contract, Beltre found much of his success by leaving Seattle and the spacious confines of Safeco Field.  Even those factors would not lead someone to project a .328 season from a guy who has only hit above .300 one time in his previous 12 seasons.

Omar Infante (.340) – What do you know?  Another surprise season bolstered by BABIP.  This time its Infante’s .378 clip.  His season probably comes as the biggest surprise because not only is he a .276 career hitter, but he had only played over 100 games twice in his career.  His versatility could still make him a valuable asset to fantasy owners in the 2011 season, but don’t bank on another .340 season.  In fact, don’t be surprised if he’s a lot closer to his career average in the .275-.285 range.

Home Runs

Photo of Jose Bautista by Icon SMI

Jose Bautista (47) – It seems like this guys is hitting a HR every other night.  Most people will tell you that they had no idea whatsoever that this power outburst was coming, many people may say that they had never even heard of Jose Bautista.  A few, however, can honestly tell you that they could see a power spike coming – maybe not quite to the tune of 47 homers, but a spike nonetheless.  P.S. I was not one of those few.  The big clue in Bautista’s case was his September and October performance in 2009 when he slugged 10 HR in his final 30 games.  He also followed that up with five more home runs in 57 Spring Training at-bats.  Nobody really paid him much attention or gave him much respect leading up to 2010, but the clues were there for anyone who wanted to take a flier on him after the draft.


Delmon Young (100) – This is another case of a former top prospect coming into his own.  As we all know, Young was the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball only a few years back so he clearly has talent.  So, while his 100 RBI up to this point qualifies as a surprise for 2010, it is also something that most baseball people and fans have expected to happen to occur at some point.  There was really nothing from his 2009 season that suggested his modest breakout campaign.  If you’re hell bent on finding something you can point to the fact that he wasn’t terrible and he still possessed the aforementioned talent.  Sometimes there aren’t any major clues to suggest a good upcoming season so you just have to hop on the hot starts and hope they’re legit.


Mat Latos (2.43) – I will sound like a broken record by the end of this, but the main thing about Latos is that he has talent – evidenced by his No. 2 prospect ranking in the Padres organization in 2009.  He didn’t have a great debut in 2009 (4.62 ERA in 50.2 IP) so this is one of those “leap of faith” pickups or late round fliers.

Clay Buchholz (2.48) – Can I say “ditto” here?  Speaking of talent again, Buchholz was regarded as a top-5 prospect by most well-respected baseball people and rarely listed out of the top-10, if ever.  Unlike Latos though, Buchholz did provide some clues in 2009 to suggest his ensuing improvement.  His 2.87 ERA in September was a small sample, but also the type of sample that often warrants further investigation and a late-round draft choice.


Jered Weaver (218) – The strikeout total itself isn’t terribly surprising.  We all knew that Weaver could rack up strikeouts.  However, the rate (9.62 K/9) is what causes the eyebrows to raise.  His K/9 stood at 7.74 in 2008 and 7.42 in 2009 so there was no linear progression to suggest such a big leap.  As a matter of fact, his 2009 K/9 even regressed from the first half to the second half.  This is one of those head scratchers that adds some extra fun to the game.  Sometimes people will just get lucky with some of their picks.


Matt Capps (38), Kevin Gregg (31) John Axford (21) – I’m not trying to push my personal strategies and philosophies here, but these three are the perfect example for why owners should not go crazy about closers early in the draft.  Not to the point where they are passing up impact bats and high production starting pitchers.  This isn’t even to mention guys like Koji Uehara, Hong-Chih Kuo, Hisanori Takahashi and Chris Sale who emerged out of nowhere at some point in the season to gain a share of the closer’s role.  This is the case each and every year without fail.  Don’t overpay for saves.

The guys listed above are the ones that put wide smiles on their owners’ faces.  These guys helped form playoff teams and will help win championships over the next few weeks.  While everyone loves the guys who breakout or come out of nowhere to reach stud status, you also have to be mindful of the other end of the spectrum.  These are the studs that rip our guts out and smile, but unlike Sour Patch Kids, there won’t be any sweet following that sour.  In no official category, here are a few of the guys who killed fantasy teams this year.


Grady Sizemore (.211 BA, 33 G) – Cue my No. 1 bounce back/sleeper candidate for 2011.  The elbow injury hampered him in 2009 and it seemed as though it caused him some problems this season as well. That became a moot point though because he was lost for the year after undergoing left knee surgery.  Knee injuries are never good news and it remains to be seen how he recovers, but at least the elbow will be healthy.

Jacoby Ellsbury (18 G) – No wonder his BA stuck at .192 and his SB total stalled at seven.  He played a good portion of those 18 games while his ribs were still fractured.  Ellsbury’s injury was the product of misfortune and a lack of baseball fundamentals that we all learn when we’re in coach pitch – calling fly balls. Hopefully you weren’t the one in your league to use a top-3 pick on this guy.

Delmon Young’n It

Photo of Matt Wieters by Icon SMI

Matt Wieters (11 HR, .396 SLG) – Well, the most hyped and heralded prospect of 2009 finished out the season strong which suggested some nice things for 2010.  Unfortunately, the “rules” of fantasy baseball prognostication are more like the “i before e, except after c” rule – there are a lot of times when it does not apply.  Nobody will dare throw out the “B” word regarding Wieters yet, but the buzz will definitely be held in check when its time to rank players for 2011.

Cameron Maybin, Joba Chamberlain, Rick Porcello – To be fair, nobody was banking on these guys playing as big a role for their fantasy teams as those that drafted Wieters with one of their top 10-12 selections, but they still expected more from the trio than they provided.  Maybin can’t stick in the Majors, Joba can’t stick in the rotation and Porcello just stinks.  On the bright side, each of them is young and the prices will be low in 2011.

Simply Disappointing

Ryan Braun (22 HR) – I’d be too harsh if I called Braun’s season bad, but I’d also be livid if I passed up Miguel Cabrera, among others, for a .494 SLG season from a guy who slugs .554 for his career.  There is no way around it, Braun simply left numerous managers looking for more in 2010.

Adam Lind (.228 BA) – I won’t mince words with Lind.  He sucked this year.  If it wasn’t for his 22 HR, he would be looking at going undrafted in 2011.  His .263 BABIP suggests some bad luck, but those who used a fifth round pick on the 2009 slugger were left without much production.

Former Aces

Johan Santana (6.51 K/9) – Did Santana really have a bad season?  No.  Was he a fantasy ace?  No.  I realize most people did not expect him to be a No. 1, but there were also a lot of people who expected him to be closer to his old ways.  I admit, I am splitting hairs a bit with Santana because there are only two issues with Santana and only one of them is stat related.  As far as the stats go, where the hell are the strikeouts?  My other concern is his second surgery in just over a year.  This time its on his shoulder to repair a torn anterior capsule.  He’s not free-falling, but he’s been taking a step backward each season since 2008.

Josh Beckett (5.83 ERA) – If you really sit down and check the stats, you might conclude that Beckett is not exactly an ace.  Even if the fantasy baseball community recognized this when drafting him, they still expected him to be a solid No. 2 or an incredible No. 3.  Instead he was a liability and a headache.  I can’t tell you what the problem is.  It makes no sense for a pitcher with Beckett’s stuff to struggle as much as he has.

There are several more players who could be peppered throughout this list, but it would take me hours to highlight each of them.  The main point was to illustrated that there are several clues and hints that can point you into the right direction in terms of breakout performances if you look in the right places and are willing to be open minded and take some chances.  However, there are things that are going to happen each year – both good and bad – that no amount of prep will lead you toward or shield you from.  These are the times when its better to be lucky than good.

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