Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We already know Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Two World Series rings, three MVP awards and 453 career homers will do that for a guy.
Maybe that's why one of the owners in my keeper league dished out $44 for Pujols on draft day.
That fake money probably would have been better spent on Paul Konerko. I snagged the Chicago White Sox first baseman for $14.
"Konerko for $14 could be a steal," one of the owners in my league remarked about the pick.
You're darn right it was.
Konerko's production has been off the charts this season.
His .361 batting average is tops in the American League. Konerko also leads the AL in on-base percentage (.445), is second in OPS (1.042) and he's slugging .602 (third-best in the AL).
ESPN's Steve Berthiaume tweeted this a little over a week ago: "As Prince [Fielder] & Pujols join AL: Konerko is NO BRAINER choice for All-Star 1B start."
It seems like we are all a little surprised by what Konerko has been able to accomplish in 2012.
But should we be?
This isn't the first time we've seen Konerko rise to the top of the fantasy baseball rankings.
He's been at it for years.
If you look at Konerko's career stats, you'll see that he's been one of the most consistent fantasy producers of the last decade.
Konerko has belted at least 20 homers in each of his last eight seasons and in 12 of his 13 seasons as a White Sox. Seven of those campaigns produced 30-or- more homers including a career-high 41 HRs in 2004.
With 11 round-trippers to date, he's on pace to easily extend that streak to nine seasons in a row of 20-plus homers.
Many hitters collect giant home run numbers but can't hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to hitting for a high average. That's never been an issue for Konerko.
His career average is .284 and if the season ended today, it would be the fifth time in Konerko's career that he has been able to finish the year with an average of .300 or higher.
He's also one of the sport's steadier run producers. Since 2002, Konerko has surpassed 100 RBIs on six different occasions.
During Konerko's tenure with the White Sox (not including this season) which began in 1999, he has averaged 29.9 HRs and 94.8 RBIs per season. If you stretch those stats out over a full season (Konerko has averaged just under 148 games per season), Konerko's numbers are even more staggering: 32.8 HRs and 103.8 RBIs per 162 games.
In 2,050 career games, the 36-year-old has tallied 407 homers (47th all-time) and 1,294 runs batted in.
The only thing the five-time All-Star can't do is steal bases: he's only recorded nine steals in 16 major-league campaigns.
Whether Konerko has been on your radar or not, this guy has been a gift from the fantasy gods over the last 10 years.
Konerko's resume suggests that he should get at least some consideration for a spot in the Hall of Fame whenever his career comes to an end.
Konerko's career home run totals put him in roughly the same category as Vladimir Guerrero (449 HRs), Andruw Jones (425), Jason Giambi (429), Carlos Delgado (473), Jose Canseco (462), Jeff Bagwell (449), Mike Piazza (427), Gary Sheffield (509) and David Ortiz (391). All are either future Hall of Famers or borderline Hall of Famers.
By comparing Konerko side by side with each of the members of this group, we can get a better feel for how realistic Konerko's Hall of Fame candidacy really is.
In terms of batting average, Konerko falls in the middle of the pack. He's behind Guerrero (.318), Piazza (.308), Bagwell (.297) and Sheffield (.292) and tied with Ortiz at .284. Giambi and Delgado are right behind him at .281 and .280 respectively while Konerko holds a sizable advantage over both Canseco (.266) and Jones (.256).
Since the number of games played amongst these players ranges all the way from 2,576 (Sheffield) to 1,797 (Ortiz), the best way to really measure home runs and RBIs is by dividing the number each player has by the amount of games each player has appeared in.
After doing a little math, I figured out that Konerko has homered once every 5.04 games throughout his career while contributing 0.63 RBIs per game. Of the 10 players measured, Konerko's home run rate is the second-lowest in the group: on average, only Sheffield (5.06) has logged more games in between homers than Konerko has. Konerko is almost on equal footing with Jones (5.02) in this category, but way behind Canseco's impressive rate of one homer every 4.08 games.
Konerko is also near the bottom of the group in RBI production. Jones is the only player averaging fewer RBIs per contest (0.59) than the White Sox captain. Canseco again leads the way with a career average of .75 RBIs per game, though Delgado (.75) and Ortiz (.73) aren't far behind him.
The way things stand now, Konerko still has a bit of work to do if he wants to cement his place in Cooperstown. The good thing for Konerko is that he doesn't appear to be slowing down at all and if he can reach 500 homers, he'll likely be a lock for enshrinement.
Of the 17 players who have hit 500 homers and are eligible for HOF induction, only Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro haven't been inducted yet (and that's likely because their numbers have been clouded by links to steroid use).
If Konerko keeps up his current 29.9 HR/season pace, he should be able to join the 500 club some time during the 2015 campaign.
The fact that Konerko has won a World Series (2005) can't hurt his chances either.
Regardless of Konerko's Hall of Fame prospects, he's a heck of a fantasy player and for $14, he's also quite a bargain. Some owners might cite Konerko's age as a reason not to draft him next season but I can assure you I won't be one of them.
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