Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Actually, the headline is a bit inaccurate. For fantasy owners it should read "Who are these guys and will they continue to produce at their current levels for the remainder of the season?"
At this point in the season, most of the hitters and pitchers are known quantities. We know what Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright are going to give us.
But winning your fantasy league usually comes down to evaluating young talent to determine if their fast start or current hot streak will develop into a season of quality statistics.
Each of the 10 players listed below are playing at an extremely high level and are still available in a significant portion of all leagues.
Fantasy owners need to know whether to claim them off waivers and keep them, claim them and trade them, or if they are already owned by another owner whether to deal for them and how much value to offer.
Kole Calhoun, LA Angels - After a couple of seasons pulling part-time duty, Calhoun has blown up into a full-time fantasy star in June and July. He's batting .361 with seven homers, 19 RBI, 32 runs and a 1.047 OPS over his last 33 games. Hitting leadoff in front of Trout certainly has paid off handsomely. He was always a .300 hitter in the minors, so his production shouldn't be that big of a surprise. As long as he bats at or near the top of the Angels lineup I think he'll continue to perform at a high level over the remainder of the season.
Steve Pearce, Baltimore - Pearce is the very definition of a journeyman. He's a career .254 hitter over eight seasons though he has never been offered a full-time job. His 182 at-bats over the first half of this season is the most he's every been given in any season. His totals are completely out of line with what we know of him and he's a "sell high" candidate.
Chris Carter, Houston - All he does is hit home runs. Ok, he also strikes out a ton and can't hit his weight. For fantasy owners his value is the long ball as he hit 29 last season and 19 through 79 games in the current campaign. If your lineup can absorb the poor batting average then he has some low end value.
J.D. Martinez, Detroit - The 26-year-old has never hit like this before. Even in the minors, the best he could manage was 18 homers in a season. Yet in just 53 games for the Tigers he's batting .328 with 12 homers, 41 RBI and a .999 OPS. The numbers scream fluke, but for some reason I think he will continue to produce in the strong Detroit lineup. Keep him and start him.
Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox - The career .270 hitter put together a solid first three months of 2014, batting .317 over his first 58 games. He still wasn't fantasy worthy, however, because of his low power totals and lack of speed. Over 10 July games he has blasted four home runs, his first four long balls of the season, and owns a 1.406 OPS in July. At best I'd pick him up to ride this wave until it's done and then jump off the bandwagon. This is not a permanent change in production level.
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs - The Orioles gave Arrieta plenty of shots over three and a half seasons to win a starting spot in their rotation, but he could never put it all together. However, the change in scenery to the north side of Chicago has been great for Arrita's game. He was good last season in nine starts, but he's been superb this season going 5-1 with a stunning 1.95 ERA and 1.009 WHIP. He's mixing his pitches, including a new slider and keeping all of them down. Thus his ground ball percentage is the highest it's every been (50.5 percent). I believe in Arrieta and will keep him on my roster the remainder of the season.
Garrett Richards, LA Angels - Richards has single-handedly kept the Angels in the division race with an 11-2 record, 2.55 ERA and 1.062 WHIP. Averaging over a strikeout per inning, Richards has been a fantasy stud all season. He does lead the league with 17 wild pitches, but it's that wildness along with his 96 mph fastball that keeps batters from digging in. The former first-round pick is the real deal and fantasy owners should be on him in every start from here on out.
Jesse Hahn, San Diego - The 24-year-old rookie's first season in the majors has been an extremely successful one to date. He's made seven starts and is 5-2 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.057 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings. Fantasy owners have always loved starting hurlers in Petco Park, but the best part of Hahn's early numbers are that they are actually better on the road than in pitcher-friendly San Diego. In three road games he's 3-0 with an even better 1.50 ERA and 0.889 WHIP. As with all rookies, he's a gamble, but a gamble worth taking.
Alfredo Simon, Cincinnati - Before this season, Simon hadn't started a game in two years. Now he's 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.046 WHIP. Here's the bad news. He's already made more starts and pitched more innings than in any full season in the majors. Throw in a mediocre 5.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings and I think Simon is another "sell high" candidate.
Chris Young, Seattle - It's been seven years and a couple of teams since Young was relevant to fantasy owners, but here he is with an 8-5 record, 3.08 ERA and 1.101 WHIP. Although he's been very good for three and a half months, he's simply too injury prove to believe he'll continue at this pace for the next three months. Sell as soon as possible.