Players to watch as we head into the final full week before the All-Star game.
Mike Napoli, Catcher, Rangers — Napoli has been on the shelf with a strained oblique since June 11. He’ll be eased back into the lineup this week beginning on Monday against the Orioles after a rehab assignment at Round Rock. Napoli belted 26 homeruns last year for the Angels, but thus far this season, he’s hitting just .221 with 10 homers. Nevertheless, at a weak catcher position, Napoli is a good choice in nearly all leagues. Napoli also qualifies as a first baseman.
Jorge Posada, Designated Hitter, Yankees — After a terrible start, Hip Hip Jorge hit .391 in June. That brings Posada up to .240 with 9 homers and 27 RBI on the year. Not great numbers for a DH, but remember that Posada still qualifies as a catcher even though the 39-year-old has left his catchers mitt at home this year. Wife Laura Posada is also hoping to remain an active member of the Fantasy Baseball Dugout’s Baseball’s Hottest Wives contest for 2011. Look to see if she makes the Sweet 16 next week.
Carlos Pena, First Base, Cubs — Pena is a streak hitter and he’s on an incredible streak right now with 8 homeruns in his past 12 games. While he may be at the end of the streak, he faces the Pirates and Nationals this week so that streak just might continue.
Jemile Weeks, Second Base, A’s — With the trade of Mark Ellis to the Rockies, the second base job is now all Weeks. In 21 starts, he’s hitting .309, but we also like his 6 stolen bases. As a rookie, he’ll have his ups and downs, but his defensive highlights have been all over ESPN so that should keep him in the lineup during his down times.
Dustin Ackley, Second Base, Mariners — Dustin Ackley is the real deal as he was the second overall pick behind Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft. He’s hitting .300 thus far this year with 2 homers in his first 40 AB’s. We don’t expect Ackley to be a .300 hitter this year, but he is a viable option at a relatively weak position. Ackley missed Friday’s game due to bruised ribs and is said to be 50-50 for Saturday.
David Freese, Third Base, Cardinals — Freese has been on the DL for two months and made his return this week. Freese is a lifetime .316 hitter and is hitting .361 on the year this season. Freese has been a very good performer in his 2+ Major League seasons, but he’s been injury prone. He said the time off to heal his broken hand also gave him time to heal his surgically-repaired ankles. With both hand and ankle working well, it could be a banner second half of the year for Freese.
J.J. Hardy, Shortstop, Orioles — We chose J.J. Hardy as the Fantasy Baseball Sleeper of the Year in the preseason and Hardy is starting to make us look like we knew what we were talking about. In his last 100 AB’s, he’s hitting .370 with 9 homeruns.
Pablo Sandoval, Third Base, Giants — Panda is just back from the DL and has a 10 game hitting streak. He’s a much better hitter at home (.330 career) than on the road and the Giants are at home until the All Star Break. It might be a good time to bring the Panda back up.
Seth Smith, Outfield, Rockies — Manager Jim Tracy said that the left-handed hitting Smith will start all three games this week against lefties instead of Ryan Spillborghs. That’s good news for fantasy baseball managers that own Smith as he’s hitting .305 with 8 HR’s, 35 RBI, and 3 stolen bases on the year.
Nick Markakis, Outfield, Orioles — Markakis has an 18-game hitting streak. During this period, Markakis has hit .415. He can help you with an occasional homerun and stolen base as well.