While 2012 has been filled with a variety of different story lines, it could be the rookie impact that really defines the season and sets it apart from most others. From the spring hype of Bryce Harper to the amazing dominance of Mike Trout to the now suddenly surging Manny Machado, this year has been all about the youngsters. With each and every step closer to the playoffs and World Series, the buzz around the league remains with the inundation of young talent that MLB has seen, particularly from these three individuals.
Forget about Pujols’ move to the Angels. He was a dud for the first month and then everything he did post-April had a footnote attached that mentioned his ineffectiveness until Trout arrived on the scene. The Nationals are in first place in the NL East? They could win the whole thing this year and the focus would still likely remain on the fact that Harper is currently struggling with a .174 average since the All Star break. And how about the Orioles making massive improvements and leading the wild card right now? It means almost nothing unless we’re talking about how Machado is the first player to ever hit two home runs and a triple in his first two professional games and is currently batting .375 with five runs scored, three home runs and seven RBI through his first four.
We’ve got a new era being ushered in here and when the fantasy rankings come out next season, there are going to be a lot of new faces at the top of the list. Sure, we’ll see the usual suspects like Pujols and Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano, to name a few, but given the talents of just these three, there’s no question that owners are going to be turning much of their attention towards upside and youth as opposed to just proven talent. Could Trout garner a first round draft choice next season? Where will Machado go amongst the game’s shortstops and third basemen? If Harper finishes the season strong and helps the Nationals win a title, how much will he be worth? Answers to these questions will obviously be determined early next season, but for now, it’s all in the kids’ hands.
Now let’s hit the highlights…
|Josh Hamilton, OF TEX||2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB|
The sleeping giant is officially awake. After nearly two full months of angst and frustration for Josh Hamilton and his owners, it looks as if we are back to normal and he is hitting like a beast should hit once again. He is currently riding a 10-game hit streak and is batting .357 with three home runs and 15 RBI. Even with the slight swoon, his overall numbers are still ridiculously impressive with 32 home runs, 99 RBI and a .291 average. With a strong finish, he’s going to make a lot of owners happy they stuck with him rather than panicked.
|Neil Walker, 2B PIT||5-5, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB|
|Jesus Montero, C SEA||2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI|
|Adrian Gonzalez, 1B BOS||2-3, 2 R. 2B. HR, 4 RBI, BB|
|Chris Capuano, SP LAD||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 10 K|
|Jon Lester, SP BOS||W, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 12 K|
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker had a day that was awfully close to getting the top honors here. In fact, the decision was made by a coin flip as I just couldn’t decide which performance actually meant more to their teams – fantasy teams, that is. Walker reached base all six times he was up and pushed his average up to .294 for the year. It was the third five-hit game of Walker’s career and second this season. Moving him to the two-hole in front of Andrew McCutchen has been a huge boost to Walker’s overall value.
Is it safe to say that perhaps Jesus Montero has finally arrived? The two-homer performance caps off an amazing run as Montero has multi-hit games in four straight and six of his last seven starts. He is batting .464 (13-for-28) over that span with five runs scored, two home runs and five RBI. As the Yankees get next to nothing in production from behind the plate and watch as Michael Pineda attempts to recover from a horrible shoulder injury, their regret for making the deal must be growing exponentially.
Adrian Gonzalez is another giant who finally stopped hitting the snooze button. After posting a rather un-Gonzalez-like .283 average with six home runs and 45 RBI in the first half of the season (339 at-bats), he has hit a mammoth .393 with seven home runs and 35 since the All Star break (107 at-bats). Perhaps it was the shoulder again, bothering him throughout the first half, but whatever it was, it has apparently passed. While he won’t reach his career average in home runs, he should still post a .300-plus average for the year with another 100-plus RBI season.
Chris Capuano’s outstanding season continues as Sunday’s heroics have left him with a 3.11 ERA for the season with 11 wins and 135 strikeouts in 150.1 innings. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning gave up an innocuous one-out hit, and came back in the eighth to strike out two of three to close out his day having thrown 102 pitches. Hard to bet against him going into Atlanta for his next start.
And then finally, there’s Jon Lester. While Sunday was a vintage Lester performance, his consistency moving forward is still very suspect at best. After all, as impressive as this start looked, the outing lowered his ERA to a still-putrid 5.20 for the season. It was the first time in six starts where he had allowed one or fewer runs and with an impending start against the Yankees on the road coming up, the confidence level isn’t all that high.
|Dan Uggla, 2B ATL||0-4, 3 K|
|Gorkys Hernandez, OF MIA||0-4, 3 K|
|Drew Stubbs, OF CIN||0-4, 3 K|
|Ross Ohlendorf, SP SD||L, 18.00 ERA, 2.67 WHIP, K|
|Corey Kluber, SP CLE||L, 16.20 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 4 K|
A rather unimpressive day for all of them here. Gorkys Hernandez and Corey Kluber can at least cite inexperience in their defense. The other three just need to step it up next time.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, CHW – arm (questionable)
Scott Rolen, 3B CIN – back (questionable)
Jason Kipnis, 2B CLE – neck (questionable – may return August 13)
Jarrod Dyson, OF KC – ankle (questionable)
Denard Span, OF MIN – shoulder (questionable)
Brandon Inge, 3B OAK – shoulder (doubtful)
Travis Snider, OF PIT – hamstring (questionable)
Mike Carp, 1B/OF SEA – hip (questionable)
Yunel Escobar, SS TOR – elbow (questionable)
Colby Rasmus, OF TOR – groin (questionable)
Kelly Johnson, 2B TOR – groin (questionable)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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