When it comes to my fantasy leagues, I try not to seriously pay attention to the standings until around Memorial Day. That resolution is usually broken within the first week of the season. When it comes to my fantasy leagues, I try not to seriously pay attention to player statistics until around Memorial Day, when the sample size reaches the point where player statistics deserve to be taken seriously, particularly those of the players who are exceeding expectations. I’m usually more successful with following this second resolution, but with Memorial Day fast approaching, it’s just about time to study those numbers.
On that note, let’s turn our attention to the NFBC Player Rater, which assigns a score to every player in each category relative to the league average before adding it all up to produce a total score. So, who are the top three hitters and top three pitchers at the one-quarter mark of the season?
Not a huge surprise, as Tulo is arguably the top fantasy shortstop when healthy, with Hanley Ramirez being the only player remotely close. Staying healthy has always been the key for Troy, as he’s averaged just 110 games played over the past four seasons. So far, so good on that front, as he’s played in 40 of the Rockies’ 43 games this year. As for his performance on the field, I’d say that a .389 batting average with 11 homers, 33 RBI and 38 runs scored is pretty good.
Now this one is a surprise. If I were to tell you back in early-April that a Rockies’ outfielder would be the #2 ranked hitter in mid-May, someone nicknamed “Car-Go” would have come to mind. Blackmon has been a highly touted prospect for quite some time, but despite a number of opportunities, he’s failed to stick in the big leagues for good. I think it’s safe to say his spot is secure this time. How about a .331 batting average with nine homers, 30 RBI, 34 runs scored and eight steals through 41 games? His minor league track record suggests that the strong batting average and stolen base total could be for real while the power might be an aberration. Also note that seven of his nine home runs have come at Coors Field.
I’m still kicking myself over passing on Stanton in Tout Wars in favor of a much more expensive Ryan Braun, but I was understandably concerned that the weak supporting cast in Miami’s lineup would significantly hurt Giancarlo’s RBI production. Well, all Stanton has done is tally a major league leading 42 RBI through his first 43 games to go along with 11 homers and a .402 OBP. Part of this can be attributed to a shockingly dominant Marlins’ offense that ranks 2nd in the NL in both runs and OBP. Though it remains to be seen how much longer Miami can overachieve in these areas, Stanton is clearly an elite talent who should only get better.
1. Johnny Cueto
What does the #1 pitcher on this list have in common with the #1 hitter? Yup, the topic is health. Cueto’s 2013 stat line was extremely impressive in every column except the one labeled “IP”, but he’s clearly put his injury woes behind him, and through nine starts, his 2014 stat line kind of looks like the 2013 Clayton Kershaw line. Can Cueto finish the season as the top-ranked fantasy starting pitcher? I have my doubts, as Johnny’s historically pedestrian strikeout rate (yes, I know he leads the Majors in whiffs heading into Saturday’s games) will always limit his upside. But can he finish the season as a mixed league ace? Sure, why not.
2. Max Scherzer
File this one under the “not surprising” category. Anyone who thought that Scherzer was due for a letdown following his 2013 Cy Young season can forget about it. As of Saturday, Max boasts an American League-best 1.83 ERA and his 73 strikeouts place him in a tie with Jon Lester for the Junior Circuit lead. He’s in line for a big payday this winter. File that under the “obvious” category.
Even the most optimistic of Tanaka believers probably didn’t expect this. I mean, a 6-0 record with a 2.17 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 through eight starts? During draft season, Tanaka was one of the most frequently discussed players, as he was so tough to rank. The general consensus was that he definitely belonged in the top-25 among starting pitchers, maybe even the top-20. But, there would surely be an adjustment period. Apparently not. As someone who wasn’t exactly targeting Tanaka in drafts this year, I never thought I’d be saying this, but would I be surprised if Masahiro finishes the season as a top-5 starter? At this point, it’s awfully hard to bet against him.