Fantasy Baseball 2017: Surprising early-season contributors

The Fantasy Baseball season is only five weeks old, and already we have seen so many unexpected performances from unheralded players.

Let’s be honest, no one thought that the top-4 home run hitters would be Ryan Zimmerman (ADP 355), Aaron Judge (ADP 264), Eric Thames (ADP 211) and Mark Reynolds (ADP n/a), but that is the Fantasy Baseball world at the moment.

Greg Holland was the 30th closer drafted yet with 13 saves, he has more than Kelvin Herrera, Roberto Osuna and A.J. Ramos combined.

Before this season, Jeff Samardzija had a career strikeout rate of 8.10 SO/9. In 2017 he is striking out batters at 10.42 SO/9, the highest rate of his career. Unfortunately, this is not translating into wins as he is the only 0-4 starter in the game.

Here are a few other noticeable items from these first few weeks.

With nine home runs, Astros Marwin Gonzalez has more than Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa combined. While his bat is this hot, the Astros will find ways to keep him in the lineup. His production is hard to ignore. Check your waiver wire, Gonzalez is available in 40% of CBS, 47% ESPN and 34% Yahoo leagues

Yonder Alonso of the Oakland Athletics has already tied his career high of nine home runs. Best known for elite defense at first base and the ability to get on-base, Alonso is flashing the power that we thought would never come. The left-hander has 1.053 OPS and is available in 63% of CBS leagues, 77% ESPN and 69% Yahoo.

You know that power/speed guy who was a sensation in Korea and is now back in MLB? No, not that one, I mean the player that hit 28 home runs, 34 doubles and stole 24 bases in the KBO in 2015 and is now patroling the outfield in Detroit. Jim Adduci is owned in less than 3% of leagues yet only Ryan Zimmerman has scored more runs over the last 15 days. Adduci is slashing .349/.375/.488 with a double, triple, home run and two stolen bases.

Having hit 30 home runs last season, hopes were high for a repeat from Rays’ Brad Miller but he is struggling with a .190/.351/.305 slash line and just one home run. All is not lost for fantasy owners as the 27-year-old is tied with Bryce Harper for the most walks, a stunning turnaround for a player not known for his patience at the plate. As well as career-high walk rate and OBP, Miller is also enjoying a career-high hard-hit ball rate. Sounds like a buy-low opportunity to me.

There were 15 second basemen drafted in the first 120 picks, yet the Yankees’ Starlin Castro was not one of them. He is not a base stealer, but he is helping in every other category with six home runs, 21 runs, 21 RBI and .355/.395/.545 slash line. In points leagues, he is a top-3 second baseman, just behind Daniel Murphy and Robinson Cano.

Francisco Lindor leads all shortstops with 23 runs, eight home runs, 68 total bases and 18 extra-base hits. Despite these power numbers, he doesn’t lead in RBI, that accolade goes to the Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings. Not only does Owings lead shortstops with 21 RBI, but no other shortstop has swiped more bags. The 25-year-old has eight stolen bases and is batting .300 with .833 OPS.

If you play on ESPN, there is a strong likelihood that the Padres’ Ryan Schimpf will be on your waiver wire. He is owned in just 7% of leagues compared to 22% in Yahoo/CBS. And why should you think about adding a player with .156 AVG? The 29-year-old has hit five home runs over his last 10 games with .258/.361/.774 slash.

If your league values innings pitched, ERA and WHIP more than just strikeouts, then you need to consider Pirates’ starting pitcher Ivan Nova. He has thrown at least six innings in each of his six starts, and despite an uninspiring 5.79 SO/9 rate, Nova leads the league with 27.00 K/BB. The next best is Michael Pineda with 8.60 K/BB and Clayton Kershaw with 7.57 K/BB. Nova’s extraordinary ratio is courtesy of allowing just one walk this season.

The top four home run hitters according to preseason projections were Nolan Arenado, Chris Davis, Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz. Fantasy Baseball would be very boring if we didn’t have surprises like Zimmerman and Thames. But, can they continue this success for the next five months? That’s why we play the game.