Surprises lurk around every corner in Fantasyland. Each year in leagues of all shapes and sizes, well-knowns and relative unknowns reach unexpected heights carrying their brainy investors to the pinnacle of success. As fantasy "experts" it's our job to discover, dissect and disseminate recommendations about these breakouts to the masses. Sometimes our prognostications are eerily accurate. Other instances, we write 500 glowing words on an outfielder that winds up BELOW a pair of Hairstons in overall value by year's end. Yep, both dreadful Jerry and sorry Scott.
Hey, 'dems da breaks in a wildly unpredictable business.
But the Noise, undeterred by last year's gross misfires, is again determined to put neck-on-chopping-block in an attempt to predict this year's statistical giants. Speaking as the owner/operator of TEAM HUEVOS would you expect anything less?
It's time to go bold or go home. In honor of the Cards/Marlins opener Wednesday night, here are a dozen insane-in-the-membrane prognostications for the upcoming fantasy season:
Yu Darvish finishes in the top-three of the AL Cy Young race, top-10 among mixed-league starters
The Piano Man will likely throw his Baldwin out a window if this actually occurs, but Darvish has looked the part of a high-end SP1 this spring. His expansive repertoire, consistent mid-90s heat and business-like demeanor are quite convincing. The import's sensational 11-K performance in six innings versus Colorado on March 30 could be a precursor of what's to come. His eight walks in 15 innings raises an eyebrow, but wildness can be very effective (See Zack Grienke last year). Add that to his endurance and expected run support, and a 20-3.00-1.20-225 line is fathomable.
Paul Goldschmidt smacks 38 homers, finishes ahead of Mark Teixeira among first basemen in total value
Despite a sluggish spring, Goldy will still be the Schmidt. His aggressiveness at the dish combined with a skyward 21.1 HR/FB percentage over 156 at-bats last year and a friendly home environment are strong indicators he could blast his way into the NL home run title mix. Throw in his ability to steal bases and a top-five end line at his position isn't out of the question.
Jacoby Ellsbury channels Carl Crawford 2011, fails to blast 15 homers and wraps year outside the hitter top-30
His supporters would tell you otherwise, but Ellsbury is far from a slam dunk this year. Trusting Ryan Leaf to fill then deliver your drug prescription from Walgreen's might be less risky. The outfielder's spike in ISO (.230 in '11, career .152) and subsequent jump in long-balls a year ago has an outlier feel. His slap-happy profile in previous years resembled more Ichiro rather than Ortiz. He will contribute soundly in BA, steals and runs, but a substantial drop-off in the HR department is very likely — Joe Mauer 2010 revisited. An unfortunate history of nicks and scrapes only enhances the chances.
Sean Marshall emerges from the bullpen fray in Cincinnati, tallies 40 saves
Officially announced as the Reds' closer on Tuesday, Marshall is clearly in the saves pole position for Cincy. He should be. His strong execution in tight spots last year with Chicago and excellent peripheral numbers (4.65 K:BB in '11) are certainly end-game worthy. Skeptics will continue to throw support behind Aroldis Chapman, but Marshall's polish, experience and vote of confidence from Dusty Baker arrow to a standout year. With Cincy expected to be a contender in the NL, he could vie for the league's saves crown. He's a legit RP1.
Yoenis Cespedes becomes baseball's first 30-20 rookie
The wind energy generated from the rookie's bat, if harnessed, could power NorCal for weeks, but his assertive attitude at the plate and prize-fighter build are reminiscent of the Bash Brothers. Also blessed with plus speed, he could contribute solidly in key categories. After going 2-for-6 with a homer in Tokyo, Yo is well on his way to a banner campaign. However, with three Ks in that series, expect him to challenge Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn for the AL lead in Golden Sombreros.
Kendrys Morales goes .300-30-100-80 in a triumphant bounce-back year
Quietly, Morales' perceived value has crept upward this spring. Now at or near 100-percent after two long years of recovery from a broken leg, his arduous journey back to the lineup is nearing completion. Locked in at the plate over the past couple weeks, it's conceivable he could meet or exceed what he accomplished in '09 (.306-34-108-86). Albert Pujols' presence certainly helps out his cause. Those that robbed leaguemates blind drafting the 1B/OF at or around his 185.6 Y! ADP will soon be laughing all the way to the bank.
Dee Gordon breaks Jose Reyes' mark for most steals by a player in a season this century (78)
It's only appropriate the son of "Flash" is a blur on the basepaths. From gate-to-gate he might be the fastest player in the National League. Exhibiting more patience this spring (7:7 K:BB split in 63 at-bats), he's on the brink of a break out. If his keen eye carries over into the regular season and he avoids the DL, he's a near lock for 50 steals. Rap another .300 BA, and he channels the baseball ghost of Rickey Henderson. Bank on him sitting atop the leaderboard in steals for years to come.
Joel Peralta won't relinquish the closer gig in Tampa, slams the door 30-plus times
Kyle Farnsworth is already dinged, likely D.L. bound with elbow soreness. If the incumbent is sidelined for an extended time period, look for the setup man to instantly deliver. Peralta was quite effective when pressed into a ninth-inning role late last August, going a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities. His fly-ball rate is a bit unnerving, but he routinely misses bats (8.11 K/9 in '11) and has plenty of experience in high-leverage situations. If you punted saves on draft day, seek him out pronto.
Desmond Jennings does his best Eric Byrnes/Davis impersonation and joins the ultra-exclusive 20-50 club
Only 11 players in big league history have poked 20 homers and swiped 50 bags in a season. Hanley Ramirez was the last to earn membership in 2007. Most scouts would support the idea Jennings could satisfy the latter threshold, but the former is more of a stretch, especially when considering his very bland 9.4 HR/FB rate a season ago. Still, his three jacks in a spring game on April 1 imply his power might be further along than most think.
White Sox leadoff man Alejandro De Aza finishes inside the top-50 among hitters
Flying way under the radar (46-percent owned), the Sox's starting center-fielder is in a prime position to greatly outproduce draft day expectations. With Paul Konerko and a resurgent Adam Dunn hitting behind him, the table-setter could yield a bounty of fantasy riches. A .280-12-55-95-30 campaign might be just around the corner. Essentially, he's Drew Stubbs with a more savory BA.
Brett Jackson earns a promotion by the end of June, overtakes Marlon Byrd in center and notches double digits in homers and steals the rest of the way
The Cubs' top prospect nearly made the team out of camp stringing together a .276/.400/986 tally over 29 spring at-bats, an effort which nearly prompted Theo Epstein to deal Byrd. Most scouts believe Jackson possesses solid, but not extraordinary offensive tools. It's doubtful, even when he refines his strike-zone recognition, he will slap a .280-plus BA annually. Still, a 20-22 player between two levels (AA and AAA) last year, he is capable of compiling very useful fantasy numbers upon recall. A torrid start by the 23-year-old at Iowa and Byrd's North Side days will be numbered.
Perennial hot-dog-on-a-stick Brandon Morrow finally puts it all together, winning 20 games while leading the league in strikeouts
Morrow, the ultimate "wiener" tease, has failed to live up to the hype bestowed upon him by numerous fanalysts, including yours truly. Injuries, inefficiencies and general ineptitude stymied his growth. But in his third full year as a starter, the 27-year-old is determined to become more efficient. If he cuts back on free passes (3.46 BB/9 in '11), keeps the ball down in the zone (1.06 HR/9) and works deeper into games, the payoff will be enormous.
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