Patience, patience, patience

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - All is right in the fantasy world...Albert Pujols is dominating pitching staffs again.

Remember way back in mid-April, when "King Albert" was batting .150 and had grounded into a league-leading seven double plays in the Cardinals' first 11 games?

There was still some concern for the No.1 overall selection into mid-May as Pujols went from April 24th through May 22nd without hitting a home run.

But as things usually do over a long seven-month marathon baseball season, players eventually return to their level of production.

And for Pujols, that means a career .329 batting average and OPS of 1.041.

After a scalding weekend in which he hit four home runs in three days, Pujols has 13 for the season. His average is up to .278 and his OPS is at 0.826.

For the fantasy owner, it's why you need to show patience throughout the season, particularly in the first couple of weeks. Sure the numbers can look ugly at the start of the year when the sample size is small, but you have to show faith in your Draft Day analysis.

The situation was the same for owners of Carl Crawford, who batted .155 in April. He's turned it around, hitting .304 in May and .412 for the first week in June.

Crawford (ADP 11) was moved all over the Boston Red Sox lineup while he was struggling, batting first, second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth at different points during the first two months, but it looks like the team has settled for making him a sixth or seventh-place hitter for the remainder of the season. While normally I don't like my fantasy guys batting that low and missing out on at-bats, in the productive Red Sox lineup that shouldn't cost you too many chances.

Another slow starter who has come on in the last few weeks is Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Kelly Johnson (ADP 95). Johnson's average had been looking up at the "Mendoza Line" for much of the season, but jumped from .185 in mid-May to .223 as of Sunday. His OPS has made a corresponding rise, from 0.564 to a more respectable 0.745. He's been a solid power producer from the second base position despite the low average, but this makes starting him much more palatable. Again, your patience has been rewarded.

The only top fantasy players which you should be concerned about is those guys who are dealing with injuries.

Hanley Ramirez, the consensus No.2 pick behind Pujols on Draft Day, has not been able to produce top numbers and it turns out he's been dealing with a lower back problem all season. But the news only just came to light over the past few weeks.

At this point, you can't get anywhere near his true value in a trade, so you'll just have to stick him on your bench until he's ready to play like Hanley Ramirez again.

Evan Longoria (ADP 4) missed about a month due to an oblique strain and it appears that he re-aggravated the same area a couple of days ago. His statistics are nowhere near what fantasy owners (and the Rays) expect from him. The good news is that he is expected to play on Monday. I would be wary, sometimes an oblique strain can last a long time and re-occur so moving Longoria, at least in non-keeper leagues, is a viable option. Let it be someone else's problem.

Second round fantasy selection, Ryan Zimmerman (ADP 18), has been a complete disaster this season (tore a muscle in his abdomen while sliding into second base on April 9th) and the nightmare is still a few weeks from ending. He began a rehab assignment this weekend, but is still about two weeks from returning. You have waited this long for him, you might just as well wait two more weeks. Then you can either put him back in your lineup or trade him, but at least you will get a decent return after he has been activated.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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