Cabrera, Hughes headline fantasy stars still searching for respect
Though not a .300 hitter, Dee Gordon leads majors with 28 steals this season
Melky Cabrera has few homers and steals but is hitting better than .350
Phil Hughes is quietly on a pace to win 18 games this year for the Yankees
Forget the All-Star snubs. The fans didn't want them, the players didn't pick them and the managers decided they needed someone else. That's three strikes, you're out of the All-Star Game.
Now, the fantasy snubs are something else all together. These are players we need to take note of while they are a bit undervalued by the masses in fantasy.
Here is the first-half All-Snub Fantasy Team. These guys just don't get enough respect:
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox -- Salty just happens to be an All-Star snub and the catcher on this team. Despite leading all catchers with 15 homers to date, the 27-year-old breakout is still available in almost 20 percent of fantasy leagues. He is a legit starter in mixed leagues and has quietly outperformed preseason No. 1 catcher options Mike Napoli, Brian McCann and Carlos Santana, despite fewer at-bats.
1B Ike Davis, Mets -- Sure, he was remarkably worthless most of the first half, but the past month has seen a revival. Only five 1B-eligible players have outscored him in a standard league in the past four weeks, and only one in the past three -- David Ortiz (and he just recently gained eligible outside of DH). Davis is becoming the player he was expected to be and he is available in almost 30 percent of fantasy leagues.
2B Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks -- OK, so the cat has been let out of the bag in the past few weeks, Hill has gained 20 percent ownership and is almost owned in all leagues now. Two cycles in that time span will do that. Hill is barely in the Top 10 at his position in ownership, despite being in the top five in fantasy scoring. He is on pace for his best season since his age-27 breakthrough.
3B Chase Headley, Padres -- Despite being 11th in scoring at his position (272-8-38-37-10, .371-.418), he is just 25th in ownership percentage. There is now trade talk surrounding him, too. It would be hard to see why the Padres would deal him, but if he winds up in a better hitter's park, he could really take off as a must-have fantasy gem.
SS Dee Gordon, Dodgers -- Sure, he is not the .300 hitter he looked like as a rookie, but he leads all hitters with 28 steals and has plenty of room to grow at the plate. No one has had the month Trevor Plouffe has had, but Gordon is available in 30 percent of leagues. Once he gets hot at the plate, that number is going to climb and get him owned in many more head-to-head points leagues, where he is most available.
OF Melky Cabrera, Giants -- The 27-year-old doesn't get a whole lot of love among elite outfielders because he doesn't hit homers and doesn't really rack up steals. But few outfielders hit .350 and he does it will all those plate appearances from the leadoff spot. He has been a single-handed game-changer in the batting-average category.
OF Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays -- Tony LaRussa had a great career as a manager. One of his last, and biggest mistakes, was ostracizing this talent and getting him dealt. Only two outfielders have outscored Rasmus in the past month -- Jose Bautista and Mike Trout. Rasmus has arrived as a must-have fantasy star.
OF Alfonso Soriano, Cubs -- As a result of his contract and suspect defense, Soriano is the hitter no one wants in real baseball. Somehow, he is still available in almost 20 percent of fantasy leagues, too. He has hit 15 homers since mid-May and is on pace for his best season as a Cub. No, he doesn't steal bases anymore and he strikes out too much, but he is a lot better than the public perception suggests.
SP Phil Hughes, Yankees -- Few would know Hughes is actually on pace for 18 victories, particularly if they look at his full-season ERA and WHIP. Hughes was an ace-like 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA and .226 batting-average against in June. His last start in June and first start in July have been arguably his best starts of the season. He is a must-start right now.
CL Carlos Marmol, Cubs -- He is indicative of the volatile closer position. Since regaining the closer's role, Marmol has been outproduced by just three other closers in the past three weeks -- none of which were ranked higher coming into the season: Rafael Soriano, Huston Street and Ryan Cook. Marmol might be the most overlooked player on this list, owned in just 45 percent of leagues. He is viable for mixed leagues again.
SP Matt Latos, Reds -- The Reds thought they were getting a young ace when they dealt for Latos this winter. They finally got one in fantasy Week 13. Latos threw back-to-back complete-game victories -- his first two as a Red and only the third of his career -- racking up 20 strikeouts. The 24-year old lowered his ERA almost a full run last week and once again looks like a must-start in all fantasy leagues. Behind the Reds' contender, he could be set up for a huge second half. It might be too late to buy low now, but it shouldn't stop you from trying.
OF B.J. Upton, Rays -- We were supposed to find out who the real Upton was in his age-27 season as he approaches free agency. We very well might have. He is the same disappointing player we have seen each of the past four seasons, as his breakthrough 2007 (.300-24-82-86-22) has proven impossible to duplicate. Instead of thinking of him as a potential .300-30-100-100-30 beast, he is more of a .255-15-65-80-35 guy, basically a fringe starter in a standard rotisserie league.
1. SP Andrew Cashner, Padres -- He enjoyed a smashing starting debut, but it should be reminded he pitches for the lowly Padres and that it was the lowly Astros he faced. Expect some struggles and bouts with wildness.
2. SP Franklin Morales, Red Sox -- Like Cashner, Morales hasn't faced a quality opponent yet, but the Red Sox and fantasy owners might have found something here. Morales was once a well-regarded starting pitcher prospect and he is still just 26 years old.
3. SP Marco Estrada, Brewers -- Here is the biggest knee-jerk reaction of the week. Estrada came off the DL with a 12-strikeout performance he won't be able to duplicate. Of this most-added trio, he is the most likely to wind up on the most-dropped list first.
4. SP Michael Fiers, Brewers -- This 27-year old has run a scoreless streak of 18 1/3 innings and boasts great numbers in strikeout-to-walk rate and WHIP. This is a quality sleeper to take a flier on.
5. C Yasmani Grandal, Padres -- A surprising two-homer game got him noticed, but this is potentially one of the future offense stars of the career position. He figures to be more Joe Mauer than Carlos Santana, though, particularly in that home park in San Diego.
1. SP Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks -- Yet another young arm heading for Tommy John elbow surgery. He could be a real sleeper in the second half of next year, so don't lose sight of him.
2. SP Andy Pettitte, Yankees -- At his age, you had to figure a DL stint -- even if you didn't fear it would be of the 60-day variety. This gives his aged arm chance to rest for a strong September, though.
3. SP Nate Eovaldi, Dodgers -- The 22-year old has yet to win a game, but he stands a pretty good chance of putting together a streak here in the second half.
4. SP Justin Grimm, Rangers -- One great start and one legendarily bad one. Anyone getting starts for the Rangers has value, but Grimm might not get another chance any time soon.
5. OF Brandon Moss, Athletics -- He has streaked the wrong way of late, but a solid Sunday could get him kick-started on another good run. His poor strikeout-to-walk rate portends a streaky hitter.
Most traded: Buy, sell or hold
1. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies -- You have gotten along without him and his opening-game homer might give him the best trade value yet. It is a good time to shop him, if you're not starting him. SELL
2. SP Andrew Cashner, Padres -- Like we said above, it is more likely Cashner struggles than pitches like that again. Most young starters do. Take a good offer if there is one. SELL
3. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies -- He is headed for a return after the All-Star break. He stands a better chance than Utley to regain his previous value, because his injury is not chronic or career threatening. BUY
4. 1B Albert Pujols, Angels -- As good as his June has been, it still wasn't up to his lofty career standards. That should make us believe there is far more to come. HOLD
5. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Cubs -- His first week gives him plenty of hope to be an impact fantasy call-up this go around. He had the game-winning RBI(s) in three of his first five games as a Cub. BUY
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. You 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).
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