Fantasy Fare: Make or break MLB players of 2011

JOEL COLOMBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 PM ET

TORONTO - With just 1 1/2 weeks to go in another predictably unpredictable fantasy baseball season, it’s time to take stock of the damage. In many cases, the fate of a fantasy team can fall on one or two players coming up with less-than-expected results. Or, it can work the other way for those who were able (or lucky enough) to sniff out the bargains. We’ll end our yearly baseball coverage, looking at some of the make and break fantasy performers in both leagues this season:

CATCHER

All-Fantasy — Alex Avila DET: Average and power stats not quite as good as Mike Napoli’s, but he came a lot cheaper on draft day. Yadier Molina STL: Got the AVG back up near .300 while hitting career highs in HRs and RBIs.

All-Fizzle — Joe Mauer MIN: A .287 AVG and one HR for every 97 ABs were both career worsts. Buster Posey SF: Pretty much irreplaceable after breaking his leg in April.

FIRST BASE

All-Fantasy — Carlos Pena CHC: Rewarded owners who gambled on that ugly .196 improving. Mark Trumbo LAA: Cheap draft-day fill-in for Kendrys Morales wound up a 27-HR fixture.

All-Fizzle — Adam Dunn CHW: A no-brainer with just 11 HRs and a sub-200 average most of the year. Joey Votto CIN: Owners paid heavily for a repeat of MVP stats, but instead got just very good.

SECOND BASE

All-Fantasy — Danny Espinosa WAS: A rookie gamble, his average was not as big a drag on power/speed stats as most feared. Dustin Pedroia BOS: Halted his gradual post-MVP skid with career highs in HRs, RBIs and steals.

All-Fizzle — Martin Prado ATL: Breakout all-star of 2010 hit 40 points lower than last year with no up-tick in power. Aaron Hill TOR/ARZ: Last year, the power went. This year, the batting average followed.

SHORTSTOP

All-Fantasy — J.J. Hardy BAL: Where was all this power last year, or the year before? Emilio Bonifacio FLA: A .288 average and 37 bags for the price of an end-game filler.

All-Fizzle — Hanley Ramirez FLA: And to think it was a coin-flip between he and Troy Tulowitzki for top fantasy SS, and even No. 1 overall pick, back in March). Tsuyoshi Nishioka MIN: Maybe those comparisons to Ichiro were a little strong?

THIRD BASE

All-Fantasy — Ryan Roberts ARZ: Cinderella story could wind up with a 20-20 season before it’s over. Jose Bautista TOR: Okay, he didn’t repeat his feat of 2010, but he came pretty darned close.

All-Fizzle — Chone Figgins SEA: All four wheels fell off at once. Casey McGehee MIL: Edges out Pedro Alvarez because he played the whole season while somehow cutting his 2010 stats in half.

OUTFIELDERS

All-Fantasy — Lance Berkman STL: Just when you thought he was all washed up. Michael Morse WAS: So, that’s what he can do with a full season of ABs. The entire starting Royals OF of Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon.

All-Fizzle — Carl Crawford BOS: Ghastly April doomed top-rated AL OF. Jason Heyward ATL: Sophomore jinx, and then some. Alex Rios CHW: Power, speed, contact all dried up at the same time.

PITCHERS

All-Fantasy — Ian Kennedy ARZ: Think the Yanks miss him and his 19 wins now? Ryan Vogelsong SF: Ultimate rags-to-riches story. Alexi Ogando TEX: Nice consolation after not being made a closer. Justin Masterson CLE: Preserved enough of his value after a blistering start. Justin Verlander DET: A bargain, no matter what you paid for him.

All-Fizzle — Ubaldo Jimenez COL-CLE: Pitching’s equivalent of Carl Crawford. A.J. Burnett NYY: Became a millstone in second half, Brandon Morrow TOR: No consistency start-to-start. John Lackey BOS: How did he get 12 wins with that 6.19 ERA? Francisco Liriano MIN: So much for last year’s comeback. Ryan Dempster CHC: Gradual decline hit high gear. Matt Thornton CHW: A lot of us paid heavily for saves he never got.

INJURY UPDATES

The Rockies were stung hard by injuries this week with Troy Tulowitzki (hip), Carlos Gonzalez (wrist) and Todd Helton (back) all out of the lineup. Tulo could be out for much of the final two weeks ... Jason Kubel (foot) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (oblique) are expected to join Joe Mauer and be shut down … Adam Jones will be out a little longer after aggravating a thumb injury … Chase Headley (finger) owners could have the Padres 3B back by Monday … Justin Smoak has been out with a groin strain … The Braves now say neither Jair Jurrjens or Tommy Hanson will be ready for the playoffs … There is a chance Erik Bedard could return early this coming week … Jose Tabata (hand) won’t be back … Tim Stauffer left Friday’s start with a stiff arm … Matt Holliday (hand) could be back by Tuesday.

HOT AND NOT

Hitters the past two weeks

Mike Napoli TEX

16-for-31, 4 HRs, 10 RBIs

Chris Denorfia SD

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448 (13-for-29), 1 SB

Ryan Doumit PIT

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444 (16-for-36), 1 HR

Brent Morel CHW

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261, 6 HRs, 12 RBIs

- - - - - - -

Orlando Hudson SD

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061 (2-for-33)

Michael Cuddyer MIN

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087 (2-for-23)

Asdrubal Cabrera CLE

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103 (4-for-39)

Geovany Soto CHC

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118 (4-for-34)

HOCKEY HITS

-- Vincent Lecavalier might turn out to be one of those early-round sleepers this season. The veteran Lightning C, whose fantasy stock has slipped along with his point total the past few years, heads into camp healthy for the first time since his 108-point season in 2006-07. In between was surgery on his knee, his shoulder and both wrists. “It just drains you,” he says.

-- Canadiens D Andrei Markov reportedly over-did it rehabbing his surgically repaired knee in the off-season, setting back his recovery after having it drained. The Habs are being tight-lipped about the situation, but it’s looking as if he may not be ready for the season opener.

-- The Flyers lineup — overhauled this summer with the trading away of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter — may see Claude Giroux centring James van Riemsdyk and the returning Jaromir Jagr as their No. 1 line. That trio has boom-or-bust written all over it, depending how far into the season JVR can carry the momentum of his playoff breakthrough, and how much the 39-year-old Jagr has left after three years in the KHL.

-- The Flames say G Miikka Kiprusoff will start fewer than 70 games this season for the first time since the lockout.

-- Patrick Sharp’s appendectomy will likely cost him the first week of the season. Without any training camp or exhibition play, look for the Blackhawks’ star winger to struggle through most of October.

-- Ryan Kesler of the Canucks says he isn’t going to rush back from his July hip surgery and may not suit up until as late as November.


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