Which batter belongs?

One way I offer perspective to those who overreact to their fantasy teams’ hot or cold starts is to note that teams are made up of players, and the level of significance of the standings is likely also reflected in the player rankings. Sure, things are beginning to settle in, but there are also some quite foreign names among the players whose 2013 production has ranked as elite.

That said, each year, a number of players come out of nowhere and stick as top-25 or top-50 players. Today, I’ll look the offensive players currently in the top 25, but who were projected outside the top-100 and choose which I think has the best chance of retaining elite value for the full season.

My current choices are Chris Davis, Coco Crisp, Nate McLouth, Dexter Fowler, John Buck, and Wilin Rosario.

McLouth does have some potential and Buck does have legit power, but they will likely be borderline roster-able in 12-team mixed leagues by year’s end. I’d sell high on either without question.

Some expected big things from Rosario, but there are still a few things that worry me, mainly his plate discipline. I wouldn’t be in a rush to trade him, but I’d entertain offers. He should finish as a top five catcher, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Even as an elite catching option, it’s difficult for catchers to break into the very top of the season rankings among all players.

When it comes to Chris Davis, the most impressive thing I’ve seen from him this year has been improved plate discipline. We need to see if this continues for the season—I’m not yet convinced. As of now, I still expect basically the same thing I did coming into the season. But, if the walk rate holds for a few more weeks, I may have to reassess Davis and his sublime power

Coco Crisp is a good player who has been beset by injuries and had his production capped by hitting atop some weak offenses. There’s no reason why a healthy Crisp can’t flirt with being a top-75 player and provide 40 or more steals. But, retaining top-25 value is a reach. He’s unlikely to hit above .280 and is below average in homers and RBI.

This leaves us with my choice among this group—Dexter Fowler. I was incredibly high on Fowler coming into this season and have reaped the rewards in the leagues in which I nabbed him. There’s a lot to like about Fowler. He’s displayed very good on-base skills both in the minors and in the bigs and has consistently upped his ISO each year as a pro. Is this the year that a significant number of his doubles and triples become homers? It’s certainly within the realm of possibility. Though, I don’t expect him to continue to hit homers at this clip, 17-22 dingers is quite possible, as he enters his prime (age 27) and shows continued development. Also promising is that five of eight early season long balls have come away from Coors.

The other area that would really boost his game would be an improvement as a base stealer. Fowler certainly has the speed to be a very good one, but he has never seemed to get the technique down pat. He’s stolen as many as 43 bases in the minors, but never at a very good success rate. In the majors, he’s ran less often each year, as his inability to turn his speed into highly successful stealing revealed itself. Still, he’s three for four early in 2013 and could still put a total in the mid-teens.

As long as Fowler continues to get on at a high rate, he’ll have plenty of chances to both swipe a few bags and score a bunch of runs. An end season line of something like .300/90/20/70/15 does not seem unrealistic at all, and that’s just outside top-25 production—maybe top 40 or so. I would not move Fowler for anything but an established stud.

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