In the spirit of the All-Star game this week; I thought I’d whip up a couple of my own special All-Star teams. First up we have our All-Surprise team, containing some of the fantasy stars who have emerged from their mediocre pasts to be key cogs in your teams. Then next we’ll have an all-disappointment team, who will be attempting to resemble the New York Mets, coming into the season looking promising and pinning your title hopes on these players; but ended up as useful as the Nats bullpen. So let’s kick it off with:
Catcher – Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
This one seems fairly clear cut, although an honourable mention to Tyler Flowers who’s been great for the Braves. But Avila has re-emerged as a reliable option for those who failed to get one of the top catchers on their draft board. Avila looked like he was on the downturn when he hit only .210 with a .682 OPS between 2014-16 with the Tigers and White Sox. But this season he’s reversed the trend; hitting .299, with a .958 OPS to go along with 11 HRs. Not bad for a guy who almost certainly went undrafted in your league (if he didn’t, tell me why!). The Tigers catcher should now be locked into many starting catcher spots for the rest of the way, given the extreme lack of depth at the position this year.
First Base – Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
A month ago, this would’ve been a no-brainer for me; but in the last month and a bit Justin Smoak made it tougher not to pick him here. In the end though, Zimmerman held off the charge and claims his place on the real-life All-Star starting lineup to boot! Obviously, as a Nats fan, it’s been an absolute joy to behold him barrel almost every single ball he hits now (Top 20 in average exit velocity) which has been the primary driver behind his .330 average, 19 HRs and 63 RBIs; all of which are top 15 marks in the NL this year. He may well have been drafted in your leagues as a small scale bounce-back candidate; but with a potential platoon with Adam Lind lurking he likely went undrafted. That quickly changed, and I am proud to say I bought into him in several leagues early on, reaping the rewards.
Second Base – Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
You don’t understand how much I really wanted to give this to Scooter Gennett who is now tearing up the NL Central with the Reds, but Ramirez’s ascension to Fantasy Superstar has been nothing short of remarkable! There was a question mark as to whether he could continue last season’s heroics, as previous evidence (just 8 HRs, 44 RBIs and a .239 average) didn’t look great in 2 and a bit years of action. But he’s gone one better than last year, hitting .332 with 17 HRs, 62 Rs and 48 RBIs. His speed has suffered a little bit, with only 9 swipes this season, but he’s an asset in just about every imaginable category right now. So if you picked him up in the middle rounds of your draft, I tip my virtual cap to you.
Third Base – Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
One of the more ironic moments of the season so far (I’m sure John and Tom won’t thank me for reminding them) is that the Red Sox are currently in desperate need of a third baseman. But last off-season they decided to trade away Shaw for Tyler Thornburg and now the new Brewers man is making them regret that decision daily. With a .299 batting average, 19 HRs and 65 RBIs, he’s right up there with the Nolan Arenados and Jake Lambs in terms of fantasy production. And you never know, he could be helping steer the Brew Crew to a first playoff berth since 2011. Mike Moustakas was the nearly man here, you might be able to tell he’s in his contract year with his stats so far..
Shortstop – Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
When I first looked up some of Elvis Andrus’ stats for this post, I was a bit taken aback by the fact he’s still “only” 28 years old. Having been in Big Leagues since 2009, Andrus had always been a middle of the road shortstop who could hit for a good average and chip in with stolen bases. This season however, has been a breakout to a top tier shortstop. He’s already smashed his single season HR record with 11 so far this year, and has 20 SBs on the season so far. You still want more? He’s also set to have 100 Rs and 100 RBIs, all whilst hitting his usual .300. He’s really taken a leap forward in barrelling up the ball as his current career best slugging and OPS will testify, allowing him to drive in more runs and be a fantasy stud. Andrelton Simmons missed out as he tries to get his bat to keep up with Gold Glove defence.
Outfielder – Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Any other year and this place in the team would be Adam Duvall‘s; but the year that Aaron Judge is having, this was the easiest choice of the bunch to make. Before the season, knowing Judge was the starting right fielder, we all knew the power potential but there was a serious batting average risk. What has followed has been nothing short of incredible. I’m sure I don’t need to give you the narrative again, but he has 30 HRs before the All-Star break and to put to bed his average concerns, he’s hitting .329 with an absolutely absurd 1.139 OPS, yes 1.139! He’s making a case to be a top 5 fantasy player next year, and that’s no joke at all with the pace he’s on: 60 dingers, 140 Rs and 120 RBIs. Maybe even if things go his way, he could be a rookie Triple Crown winner. Just…wow.
Starting Pitcher – Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers
The NL West seemingly gained another great pitcher this season (and re-discovered one with Zack Greinke missing out on this place), as Alex Wood has gone 10-0 heading into the All-Star break with a stunning 1.67 ERA and minuscule 0.89 WHIP. As he was out injured for a while his counting stats don’t stand out overall but on a rate basis, he’s actually out-pitching Clayton Kershaw. He has a 10.82 K/9 compared to Kershaw’s “measly” 10.65, the ERA and WHIP are lower, and he could at least match Kershaw’s 13 wins with full playing time. All this from a player who previous to this season was just 27-30, with a 3.34 ERA and an 8.1 K/9. Wood was originally a reasonably well regarded prospect, but he’s outperforming even the best in the game! A true 2017 rotation ace.
Relief Pitcher – Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies
Oh what could’ve been for a lot of teams who passed up the opportunity to sign Greg Holland in the off-season (including my own Nationals, grrr). The doubts about whether he was ready to pitch like he used to following Tommy John surgery were only added to when he signed for Colorado in the off-season and left him on several “Do Not Draft” lists. 4 months later, Holland wasted no time climbing back towards the top of the closer mountain with a league-leading 28 saves, a 1.63 ERA and 43 Ks in just 33 1/3 innings. The Rockies got an absolute steal. Craig Kimbrel‘s return to elite form this season (and an insane 16.25 K/9 ratio) is also notable, to say the least.