Things are starting to get interesting around the league and baseball is ready to welcome the sweltering summer months that are right around the corner. Players begin to settle into a groove and managers finally have themselves a lineup they don't need to tinker with daily. For rookies, this of course means that they have either established themselves as contributors, fallen into a bench role or worse...been sent to the minors. Many of the phenoms we've seen included in this list previously have maintained their value, while others have lost it entirely. This weeks installment has that new car smell as some of my preseason picks have worked their way back into the discussion. The top of the list is still dominated by great young hurlers, but the guys found near the bottom have been impressive in their own right. Don't lose track of these guys when determining rosters in your fantasy baseball leagues.
1) Michael Pineda – Tor (LW:1)
Pineda has shown me absolutely no reason to drop him in the rankings and I've got a sneaking suspicion he will be found in this spot for weeks to come. Fresh of yet another impressive outing where he limited the Tigers to just four hits and two runs in six innings of work, Pineda looks like he is here to stay. He was able to mow down nine more batters by way of the strikeout in his last outing as well and his K/BB ratio presently stands at about 3/1. Those types of numbers will bring success no matter what level you are competing at. Pineda is quickly drawing comparisons to his rotation mate Felix Hernandez and quite honestly, I'm inclined to buy them at this point. He's going to be a star.
2) Alexi Ogando – Tex (LW:4)
Alexi Ogando turned in another eye-catching start last time out and has really suppressed some doubters in the early going. He just about matched Pineda in twirling six innings of two run ball and was able to register seven of his outs by way of the strikeout. With news coming out this week that the Rangers have no immediate plans to plug him back into the bullpen or limit his innings, Ogando looks primed to have a monster season pitching in Arlington with that offense supporting him.
3) Zach Britton – Bal (LW:2)
While it hasn't been particularly flashy or jaw-dropping, Zach Britton just continues to get the job done. You could do much worse than to have him on your fantasy baseball team. Coming off yet another solid outing, Britton has proven himself to manager Buck Showalter and has made the Orioles look real sharp in the process. Britton stymied the Red Sox for six innings on Tuesday en route to his staggering fourth major league win in his young career. He threw six innings of one run ball and scattered five hits. His strikeout numbers will never be elite, but his control is. He can be counted on in all formats right now.
4) Kyle Drabek – Tor (LW:3)
Kyle Drabek is another youngster who has received extensive praise in this space since the onset of the season and has done nothing to prove me wrong thus far. He has already begun to prove his mettle in an impossibly tough division and has shown that he can keep his squad in the game on nights when he doesn't exactly have his best stuff. Drabek made his first trip to the Ballpark in Arlington this past week and came out of it with a great sense of accomplishment. Beating the Rangers in their own yard is challenging enough, but holding them to just three runs on five hits over six innings is worthy of praise in its own right. Drabek will look to continue his hot start at Yankee Stadium against the bombers this weekend.
5) Brandon Beachy – Atl (LW:5)
Brandon Beachy has been equally as impressive as the youngsters ahead of him on this list, albeit with a bit less fanfare. He came out of the gates hot in his first career start and then stumbled badly in his next two which lead many believers to hop off the bandwagon before it ever left the driveway. He has proven his detractors wrong in his last two outings and has many in the Braves organization pumped for his future. He has given up just two earned runs in his last couple starts (spanning 12 innings) and has set down 14 batters via the strikeout during that time. His record sits at an underwhelming 1-1 on the season, but you can be sure those wins will come soon enough if he keeps pitching this well.
6) Desmond Jennings – TB (LW:8)
Finally the pitchers that have dominated the rankings thus far give way to some everyday players. Desmond Jennings continues to find his groove down in AAA with Durham and is making it harder and harder for the Rays to hold him off. After getting hot to a scorching hot start down on the farm, Jennings has run into a bit of a rough patch that he will surely break out of in short order. He is still flashing that excellent defense that had talent evaluators comparing him to Carl Crawford and once he cuts down on his strikeouts at the plate, a promotion to the show will be upon us.
7) Eric Hosmer – KC (LW:9)
Eric Hosmer is still biding his time down in the minor leagues, but I feel quite confident that a call-up is a foregone conclusion in the very near future. Hosmer is presently sporting an incredibly impressive 1.030 OPS down in Omaha and continues to absolutely rake. He is batting .408 in his first 76 plate appearances to go along with a couple home runs and 12 RBI. This kid can stroke the ball to all fields and looks poised to contribute at the big league level right now. Kila Ka'aihue should be out of a job before the end of May.
8) Domonic Brown – Phi (LW:NR)
Here is another name that fantasy baseball owners may have forgotten, but I highly suggest you reacclimate yourself in a hurry because he's stating his case in a big way. Since suffering a crippling hamate bone injury near the end of spring training, Domonic Brown has been on a mission to get healthy and get back to ballin. Brown homered Wednesday in the first game of his rehab assignment which is a good indicator that he might be able avoid the struggle to hit for power that often accompanies the early stages of a return from a hamate injury. Manager Charlie Manual has already stated that if Brown returns to form he will find a place for him on the roster so you can count on seeing this youngster in the not too distant future.
9) Jeremy Hellickson – TB (LW:6)
Jeremy Hellickson is starting to really lose some of that shine that he came into the 2011 season with. While he hasn't pitched terribly and has certainly held his own, he has yet to flash the dominance that I for one thought he would. He is starting to get deeper into games by limiting his pitch counts (thanks in large part to cutting down on walks), but he still needs to show more consistency in order to be counted on. It seems as though he might be coming into his own, but only time will tell.
10) Brett Lawrie – Tor (LW:NR)
Another highly regarded prospect who is presently stuck in the minors waiting for his chance to shine is Brett Lawrie. A key component in the Shawn Marcum deal last off season, Lawrie has undergone two position changes already in his young career. That type of activity can certainly stunt a players development, but Lawrie doesn't seem to mind. He has been shifted over to third base where his path wont be blocked in Toronto and his defense is certainly still a work in progress. The other aspect of his game however, appears to be quite advanced already. He is off to a red-hot start at AAA where he is hitting .398 in 90 at-bats. He has also mixed in four long balls and 12 RBI in that time span while swiping five bases as well. The question with him is not if but rather when.
Dropped Out: Craig Kimbrel (Atl), Mike Moustakas (KC)