Ever wonder why we love our sleepers and busts lists? It’s the root-for-the-underdog thing. We all love the underdog, and rightfully so. Underdogs rock.
For us fantasy baseball ninjas, our sleepers are our underdogs. Our heroes. Busts are our overrated villains. So, who have been our heroes in 2010?
For this formula, Yahoo preseason ranking versus current ranking for the top 100 hitters in baseball were factored together with performance in the 5×5 categories.
Let’s get to it. The 25 most valuable hitters in baseball through June 16, 2010:
1. Jose Bautista (Preseason: 327th, Current: 55th) — Despite an AVG-killing .227, Bautista has 18 homers, the second most in the majors, to go with 41 runs and 43 RBI. He’s not likely to keep this up, but most of us thought he would have fallen off by now. If he comes out of the All-Star break doing this, look out.
2. Brett Gardner (P: 325, C: 21) — Gardner’s 22 steals — tied for the third highest total in the majors — and 44 runs go well with his surprising .322 average. Like we said in yesterday’s update, Gardner’s been lucky in the average department. The steals are legit and in that lineup the runs are not absurd.
3. Kelly Johnson (P: 328, C: 42) — Johnson raced out to the homer lead early in the season and his pace has slowed considerably since then. He has retained value, however. Johnson has hit at a .333 (14-41) clip with eight runs and eight RBI in his last 10 games.
4. Scott Rolen (P: 273, C: 25) — A surprising member of the 45-RBI club — more than Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard and Justin Mourneua, to name a few — Rolen has14 homers and is hitting .311. He already has more homers and 22 less RBI than he had with Toronto and the Reds in 2009. He maintained his .305 all season in 2009 but his historic fragility should concern you.
5. Vladimir Guerrero (P: 145, C: 6) — One of the players who spawned this look at early MVPs, Vlad has 14 homers, 54 RBI and a .336 average. I recommended skipping DHs in your draft during the preseason. Vlad is single-handedly making me look like an idiot.
6. Troy Glaus (P: 450, C: 90) — The thing about Glaus is, everyone treats him like he’s as injury prone as Scott Rolen. The truth is, he’s not. Glaus, who is sixth in RBI in 2010 with 49, was injured in 2009 but had at least 20 homers in each of the four years before that. He’s played in at least 149 games in seven of his 11 major league seasons. Glaus had a monster game Monday — homer, four hits, three runs, three RBI — and is available in 33% of Yahoo leagues.
7. Alex Rios (P: 142, C: 8) — A steal for owners, Rios’ power surge has slowed, but his 19 steals — he has three in the last nine games — are in the top seven in the majors. No player has had a better speed/power combo (13/19) so far in 2010. My bold statement for this post: Rios continues this pace and is in the running for AL MVP.
8. Paul Konerko (P: 271: C: 31) — Has slugged 17 homers and driven in 46 RBI in 2010. He only has one homer in his last 10 games, but Konerko has continued to produce for fantasy owners. I wasn’t confident about it, but I projected him for 30 homers and 85 RBI in the preseason. I’ll say it with more authority next time.
9. Colby Rasmus (P: 191, C: 22) — There’s no way he maintains a .298 average the whole season, but he has 13 homers and eight steals and a 25-20 season is not out of the question. The sell high is right now.
10. Chris Young (P: 190, C: 29) — One player I made a late push for in several leagues, Young hasn’t disappointed. He has 12 homers, 11 steals, 33 runs and 44 RBI and a surprising .277 average. He’ll keep it up.
11. Vernon Wells (P: 185, C: 32) — As good as the Young blurb makes me feel, Wells’ 15 homers, .282 average and 80 runs+RBI makes me cringe. He’s on pace to demolish my projections.
12. Carlos Gonzalez (P: 125, C: 19) — Another outfielder who was available late and led to me picking far to many OFs in 2010. Gonzalez is hitting .301 with 10 homers, eight steals, 41 runs and 42 RBI.
13. Josh Hamilton (P: 75, C: 10) — Hamilton disappointed owners early in the season but has turned things around of late.
14. Nick Swisher (P: 228, C: 40) — With 42 runs, 42 RBI, 11 homers and a .301 average, Swisher’s been a fantasy game-changer.
15. Corey Hart (P: 183, C: 54) — Two disappointing seasons lowered Hart’s value in 2010. His start didn’t help matters. Many owners found him available on the waiver wire when he started to heat up. Now he has as many homers as Konerko and more than Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez.
16. Robinson Cano (P: 28, C: 2) — The highest rated preseason player on the list so far. Cano, expected by many to slump in 2010, has lived up to our expectations.
17. Jose Guillen (P: 330, C: 86) — Not drafted in many leagues, Guillen has been one of the top waiver pickups in 2010. He’s hit 13 homers with 39 runs and 41 RBI with a not-so-damaging .262 average. The high R and RBI totals are surprising considering Guillen is a Royal. That also explains why he’s available in 42% of Yahoo leagues.
18. Josh Willingham (P: 231, C: 58) — Every season I pick him up off waivers at least once and play him for a stretch — that’s me recommending you do the same. He’s available in 32% of Yahoos right now and has 12 homers and 40 RBI.
19. Miguel Cabrera (P: 11, C: 3) — How good do you have to be to be a highly rated player in the preseason and still make this list? Cabrera leads the majors with 19 homers and 56 RBI and is eighth with 45 runs. His .330 average isn’t horrible either.
20. Carl Crawford (P: 20, C: 9) — What was said about Cabrera, but Crawford is hitting .300 with 22 steals (third best in the majors) and has scored 50 runs (third best).
21. Marlon Byrd (P: 288, C: 43) — Keeps impressing, especially that .329 average.
22. Evan Longoria (P: 7, C: 4) — Like Cabrera and Crawford, Longoria has exceeded expectations and is one of the best hitters in the game. Top 5 in 2011? Top 3?
23. Casey McGehee (P: 326, C: 101) — We told you McGehee would be a hero in 2010.
24. Justin Morneau (P: 46, C: 15) — One of the more surprising names on this list, mostly because of his stunning, and completely unmaintainable, .344 average.
25. Kevin Youkilis (P: 27, C: 12) — If fantasy baseball was a clock, you could set it to Youkilis. The annual model of consistency, he’s got 54 runs, 12 homers and a .312 average.
So, ninjas, how many of these “MVPs” have you rostered in 2010? How many have you sold high on? Let us know in the comments.