Dunn, Kipnis headline best hidden fantasy gems of 2012 season
After struggling last season, Adam Dunn leads the majors in homers this year
Edwin Encarnacion has as many homers in 238 at-bats as he had in 482 in 2011
R.A. Dickey isn't likely to maintain his 90-19 strikeout-to-walk rate this season
It is the time of the season for All-Star selections, so we might as well follow suit in fantasy. For us, it isn't always about the stars coming through as much as it is about the surprises that carry teams to lofty fantasy status.
With that in mind, we present the 2012 midseason All-Gems team, giving prominence to players who have risen from the depths of our March drafts to emerge as fantasy MVPs. We also give you some forward-looking thoughts on whether we can expect these players to sustain these lofty levels.
These are not necessarily the best at each position as much as the most valuable for their production relative to draft position:
C Yadier Molina, Cardinals
While Carlos Santana has gone bust, the steady Molina has emerged the best fantasy backstop to date, hitting .326 with nine homers, 37 RBI, 29 runs and six steals (.380 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage).
Going forward: We have seen plenty of Molina to know he is closer to a solid fantasy starter, than an elite one. Also, catchers always seem to slow down in the second half. SELL
1B Adam Dunn, White Sox
It took a year in Chicago, but Dunn is back to being the major leagues' home run leader with 23. Sure, he strikes out too much, but .227-23-52-42-0 (.372-.572) is plenty good enough for a player who was drafted late, or not at all, in your league.
Going forward: If you ignore 2011, you wouldn't think anything of this renaissance for Dunn. This is him. HOLD
2B Jason Kipnis, Indians
Among overlooked sophomores, Kipnis has soared higher than all. He has risen all the way up to the No. 1 spot among fantasy second basemen to date. Unlike many 25-year olds, Kipnis has been remarkably steady month to month.
Going forward: This could be the emergence of one of the elite second baseman. Potential five-category stars are rare in the middle infield. BUY
3B Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
Fantasy owners have waited years for him to emerge as a must-have in fantasy, and strangely it comes at age 29. He has any many homers in 238 at-bats as he had in 482 last year. That's quite a jump into the elite.
Going forward: He is still in the prime years, so it is possible this continues. You probably won't get an offer intriguing enough to give him up anyway. HOLD
SS Jed Lowrie, Astros
The Red Sox got robbed blind for Mark Melancon. Lowrie, 28, might not have had the glove to play shortstop in Boston, but the Sox sure miss his bat.
Going forward: Lowrie will be streaky, but there are no real elite options at this thin position this year. BUY
OF Adam Jones, Orioles
We have seen stretches, even halves of seasons, similar to this from Jones. The question is whether he can keep up with (not the Joneses) but the Josh Hamiltons, Carlos Gonzalezes and Ryan Brauns.
Going forward: He turns 27 this August, so this should be seen as a coming of age. He will slow down from his .311-44-97-117-22 (.360-.583) pace, but that doesn't mean he won't remain a must-start in all leagues here on out. HOLD
SP R.A. Dickey, Mets
Here is the MVP of the All-Gem team. He might also be the one most certain to slow down. You likely want some empirical data to show why, but you don't need it, because ...
Going forward: Pitchers don't break out at age 37, they retire. Also, knuckleball pitchers just don't sustain their command, or a 90-to-19 strikeout-to-walk rate. Hold if you're a believer, but you would be better off turning him into a younger power arm with an equally strong track record the past three years. SELL
RP Fernando Rodney, Rays, and Jim Johnson, O's
It is tough to choose between this pair of leaders at the closer spot. Only Chris Perez has more saves to date, but he at least was a surefire option to close coming into spring, or even draft day. But Rodney and Johnson are not going to lose their roles now.
Going forward: If the first half has taught us anything, it is don't trust a closer. These have been the two fault-less options -- maybe even the only two -- but that just means their market correction is to come. SELL
As for our review of the weekly trends ...
SP Matt Cain, Giants -- There were a number of strong candidates last week, but Cain stands perfectly above them all with his perfect game. It seems there is a no-hitter every week now, but perfect games are still one of the rarities in sports. Cain, 27, is effectively making his case to be considered the No. 1 pitcher in all of fantasy now. If you look at just this year, and dismiss R.A. Dickey for his inevitable inconsistency of his knuckleball, Cain is absolutely the No. 1 pitcher to have.
OF Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins -- After a huge May, Stanton has come down a bit in June. He sunk to a season low in fantasy Week 12, going 2-for-25 (.080) with no RBI. You should never sit Stanton, because of his potential for a five-plus homer week at any time, but his strikeout rate will make him a streaky slugger that is sometimes frustrating in weekly head-to-head formats.
1. OF/SS/3B Trevor Plouffe, Twins -- The 26-year old has taken hold as the Twins' everyday third baseman and might not look back. This power surge has been a long time in waiting for the former first-round pick. He could be legit.
2. OF Brandon Moss, Athletics -- The 28-year-old was rolling in the minors and carried it over to the majors. He won't last going this well, but he might have arrived as a big-leaguer.
3. SP Aaron Harang, Dodgers -- The streaky right-hander has conveniently posted three consecutive quality starts heading into a two-start week. He will be a decent stopgap in stretches like this one. He will end up back on waivers in mixed leagues eventually, though.
4. 2B Brian Roberts, Orioles -- The 34-year old is off to a good start in his return from post-concussion syndrome. He is a viable option in all rotisserie leagues for his average and steals.
5. RP Ryan Cook, Athletics -- The A's might have found their long-term closer in this 24-year old. Add him in all leagues where you need saves.
1. SP Alexi Ogando, Rangers - He was finally back in the Rangers' rotation, but then he wound up on the DL and won't return as a starting pitcher. Cut him in all leagues that don't use true middle men.
2. OF Luke Scott, Rays -- The 33-year old has a bad back and wasn't doing much more than the occasional homer anyway. He doesn't warrant starting for the Rays once he returns, much less fantasy owners.
3. SP Drew Smyly, Tigers -- The rookie hasn't been the same for a month and now he's on the DL with a blister issue. He figures to be a marginal option in mixed leagues once he returns.
4. SP Bartolo Colon, A's -- The out-of-shape 39-year old is showing his age and is an injury risk now, as we all should have expected.
5. SP Bud Norris, Astros -- The 27-year old has a great strikeout rate, but his past four starts signaled an issue, or two. He should be a viable mixed-league option again, if not a star, after this DL rest he gets.
Most viewed: Buy, sell or hold
1. OF/SS/3B Trevor Plouffe, Twins -- You might have picked him up for his versatility, but this power surge has been a season-saver. It won't last like this, but he just might have arrived as a must-have, mixed-league weapon. HOLD
2. 1B Albert Pujols, Angels -- After a hot stretch, he cooled off a bit, perhaps putting his owners in the worry stage again. Consider that a good time to pounce. BUY
3. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies -- He is ramping up ever so slowly and still not even playing as many as five innings in intrasquad games. This is a bit discouraging, but his bat is still intriguing once he is ready. Someone will be interested. SELL
4. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies -- His timetable continues to get moved back, and now he is no better than a post-break returnee. You still should expect him to hit once he's ready, though. HOLD
5. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies -- He might have a sports hernia, which could knock him out for most of the rest of the season. There isn't any reason to buy or sell right now on this huge question mark. HOLD
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).