First half MLB fantasy stars

Dan Uggla has added a solid batting average to his repertoire in 2008.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Everyone knew and expected Chase Utley to have a good year, so his major league-leading 23 home runs is not a surprise to fantasy owners. There have been, however, some very good performances from lesser-known players that have you smiling inside because you drafted them or cursing yourself for passing on them.

I have highlighted 12 of these surprises to evaluate their first halves to determine if you should try to acquire them or whether they will return to their forecasted level.

We have used the average of a number of well-known sites for our comparison between preseason expectations and actual performance.

CATCHERS

Geovany Soto was added to the Chicago Cubs' 40-man roster in November 2004, but until this season had never had more than 54 at bats in a season. So it's not unexpected that despite being named the starting catcher, he was expected to have his ups and downs. That hasn't been the case so far this year. He has played 76 games already he might be getting tired since his June batting average was just .250.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 56 114 16 61 0 .273 .794
Actual 30 77 13 47 0 .284 .888

From 2005-2007 Ryan Doumit split time between catcher, first base and outfield. However in 2008 his has only been used as a catcher and it has obviously helped his game. The only question with Doumit is his ability to stay healthy. He has already reached many of his projections and if you can trade for him, he should continue to produce as an above average hitting catcher.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 39 81 11 42 1 .265 .776
Actual 35 55 10 25 0 .344 1.010

FIRST BASEMEN

Derrek Lee came back from a 2006 injury-filled season and put up solid, though unspectacular, numbers in 2007. No longer was anyone predicting a 46-HR season or .335 batting average as in 2005. But Lee has put up better than average numbers after a very hot April. Though Lee's stats are better than expected it appears he is returning to normal. After batting .371 with eight homers in April, Lee batted just .234 in May and .284 in June. It might be time to trade him to another unsuspecting owner.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 90 152 25 89 7 .301 .905
Actual 56 97 15 51 4 .291 .856

Adrian Gonzalez really came into his own in 2006 and continued to produce in 2007. His 2008 expectations were high, but Gonzalez is actually slightly ahead of them. Still one wonders why other teams even throw him a strike with the dearth of quality bats around him. With his team struggling, one wonders whether he will continued to hit at this "big time" pace.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 90 172 27 99 0 .287 .849
Actual 51 95 21 68 0 .288 .888

SECOND BASEMEN

Ian Kinsler has always had the potential to put up big fantasy numbers, but until this season, we have just seen short glimpses. In 2008 he has played the game the way that we have known he could. With the short supply of quality second basemen, he would be a great addition, but you won't get a discount because he has been very good all season. Still, in a keeper league he should be the object of your desire even if you have to pay full price.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 85 138 20 67 19 .275 .810
Actual 72 111 13 50 20 .321 .907

Dan Uggla's power was evident last season, but in 2008 he has added a solid batting average to his repertoire and even stolen a few bases. I have no doubt he will come back from his ankle injury and continue to hit home runs, but I question whether the free swinger can keep his batting average over .270.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 96 152 26 78 5 .260 .796
Actual 57 83 23 58 4 .289 .995

THIRD BASEMEN

Evan Longoria was highly touted but was still sent to the minors to begin the 2008 campaign. He was brought up on April 12th only after an injury opened up a spot on the big club. June has been a spectacular month for the youngster as he put up eight homers, 19 RBIs and hit a solid .300. He would be a good one to acquire, especially in keeper leagues.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 60 116 18 65 3 .268 .780
Actual 41 70 15 47 4 .267 .864

OUTFIELDERS

When it come to outfielder performing above their expectations, no one comes before Josh Hamilton. With his history, some even had him a part-time role. But Hamilton got off to a blazing April (.333 with eight homers and 32 RBIs) and has yet to significantly slow down. He has, however, hit just two homers in the last two weeks. If you were thinking of trading him, now might be the right time.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 59 103 20 62 5 .284 .870
Actual 52 102 19 80 3 .312 .926

Carlos Quentin had never done anything spectacular, until this season. His season high in home runs was nine and RBIs was just 32. He was acquired in 2007 for little-known Chris Carter. But in 2008 he has become the heart of the Chicago White Sox offense. You must question however, if this is an aberration for the career .253 hitting or hit true talent coming out. Don't make a decision on him yet, until you can answer that question.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 51 93 12 50 3 .258 .759
Actual 54 81 19 61 5 .284 .928

The oft-injured J.D. Drew has come to the Boston Red Sox aid just when they needed it. When David Ortiz went down with a hand injury, Drew stepped up and become the heart of the Red Sox offense. He has always been a good hitter, but in June he was one of the best hitters in baseball hitting .337 with 12 homers and 27 RBIs. With Drew it is always a question of health, not ability. Don't trade for him unless you are willing to take that gamble.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 78 128 16 75 3 .278 .853
Actual 58 73 16 49 2 .303 .991

Milton Bradley has always had the ability to hit, but has always either had injuries or off-the-field issues keeping him from being a fantasy star. The start of 2008 looked like he had avoided both problems and was ready to have a big year. But the injury bug seemed to have come back and he has missed games because of a shoulder injury and is currently struggling with a strained quadriceps. It seems as if injuries are still hampering him. Now would be a great time to trade him while his numbers still look great.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 59 104 17 56 7 .287 .850
Actual 50 76 16 49 4 .318 1.040

Nate McLouth started the season off like an All-Star, but as we get closer to the "Mid-Season Classic" his numbers are dropping quickly. If you can still get something for him, do it now, as he seems to have lost his hitting stroke. In June he hit just .214 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 26 games.

R H HR RBI SB BA OPS
Preseason 62 101 12 45 20 .263 .768
Actual 59 89 15 52 9 .280 .881

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

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