Victory in fantasy baseball is usually determined by players on a hot streak. Have the right players in your lineup at the right time and you’re going to win.
Few people drafted Edwin Encarnacion, Laynce Nix or Jose Guillen this season, but if anyone had them in their lineup last week, they got a serious boost and probably won several categories thanks to their contributions alone.
The key, however, is spotting which players will stay hot and which ones will be ice cold. Let’s take a look at the top 15 players (hitters and pitchers) from the last week and see who deserves their spot among the elite:
1. Edwin Encarnacion — He’s still available in 84% of Yahoo leagues and I recommend picking him up. He’s not going to have another six-homer week — thanks Diamondbacks! — but he’s a legit 25- to 30-homer threat if he can stay healthy. With this fast start, we could push that up to 35. Beware the batting average. At best he’ll hit .265 with more than 100 strikeouts. He can’t keep up this torrid pace and if he does expect a serious regression later in the season.
2. Ben Zobrist — In Missing from the top 50, I said Zobrist’s best month was June and that if he goes on a hot streak he’ll be right where we want him to be. He hit a pair of homers, sstole three bases and hit .519 last week.
3. Kevin Youkilis — Four homers and 10 RBI in a week is a lot, even for Youkilis.
4. Nelson Cruz — Hit .476 this week with 2 home runs and 8 RBI. He also stole a base. This is Nelson Cruz in 2010, hopefully you already own him.
5. Jason Bay — His value this week came in the form of a .526 average, 9 runs and 2 homers. He added 3 RBI and a stolen base. Don’t expect more 2-homer weeks, but the other numbers are right on the money.
6. Adam LaRoche — Owned in 55% of Yahoo leagues, LaRoche is somoene to consider on waivers. He’s gone at least 66/25/83 in each of the last two years and has shown an ability to hit for average. In the last week he has 3 homers, 7 runs and 8 RBI to go with a .421 average. He gets even better when the summer months kick in.
7. Josh Johnson — In a two-start week — you’ll catch a theme with the two starting pitchers on this list — Johnson struck out nine and earned a pair of wins in 13.0 shutout innings. Johnson’s been one of the best pitchers in fantasy this season. There’s no indication that will change.
8. Michael Young — Hit .500 with 2 homers, a steal and 6 RBI in the last week. He also stole a base and scored five times. This is what I said about Young in the preseason rankings: “Who says 3B is weak? This is the 10th guy. Check those projections. Projections: 85/15/80/10/.300.”
9. Joey Votto — Hit .357 with 2 homers, 8 RBI and 2 steals. We should just refer to him as the Chinstrap Ninjas first baseman of choice moving forward. Dude can rake. You can’t have him in any league me or jzak play in.
10. Clay Buchholz — Struck out 15 in 14 innings over two starts. He earned a pair of wins and registered a 1.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. His WHIP (1.40-1.38) and batting average against (.257-.256) were lower in 2009 when he had an ERA more than a run higher. Buchholz is a good pitcher, but I still doubt he’s this good over a whole season. He is available in 45% of Yahoo leagues, so if you want the risk you might be able to have the risk.
12. Shin-Soo Choo — Got both of his homers in one game and two of his three steals in another. He also mixed a pair of 3-hit games in with a couple 1-fers and 0-fers. Those are the kinds of performances that can be frustrating in daily leagues, but Choo is on pace for 20 homers, 30 steals and a .300 average. He’ll approach all of those numbers.
13. Laynce Nix — I hate to use platoon players on my teams, so I can’t really recommend Nix, who is available in 99% of Yahoo leagues. He has more at-bats against righties than against lefties, and in the last week hit 3 homers and drove in seven runs while hitting .500. He produced all of those counting stats over three games when he got 13 at-bats. If he wasn’t competing with Jonny Gomes and Jay Bruce, he might get more playing time. I’d recommend him then.
14. Jose Guillen — Owned in 62% of Yahoo leagues, Guillen is somewhat available. He hit .375 with 3 homers, 7 runs and 6 RBI last week. Guillen can go on hot streaks that carry fantasy teams and he can finish with more than 20 homers in a season when he stays healthy.
15. Torii Hunter — Hit a pair of homers, scored eight times, drove in six and stole a base while hitting .308. Hunter is a consistent hitter, but his numbers take a slight dip in the second half. In 2009, at age 34, Hunter had his best statistical season, setting personal bests in average and OPS while maintaining his power (22 homers).
Which of these guys is least likely to be in the top 15 next week? Who is most likely to return? Let us know in the comments.