Success in fantasy baseball is all about staying ahead of your competitors. As those owners who drafted Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp or Justin Verlander a year ago will tell you, having a player on your roster who puts up a monster season can be the difference between winning and losing your fantasy league. Sometimes it is not enough to know who will be the top fantasy baseball players at any one position. Having the inside track on who is primed for a breakthrough campaign can be even more valuable. These players may be ready to explode with huge statistical seasons in 2012:
Mike Stanton (MIA)
This is a slugger with a lot of power and his approach at the plate is improving all around. In his second season in 2011, Stanton (pictured above) increased his walks, decreased his strikeout rate and also showed better success against LHP. A nagging late- season injury was probably all that stood between him and 40 HR last year. Don’t be surprised if Stanton leads the NL in HR and garners some serious MVP consideration in 2012.
Jason Heyward (ATL)
Scouts were touting Heyward as one of the best hitters of his generation as recently as a year ago. However, a disappointing 2011 sophomore slump has seen his stock fall precipitously in the world of fantasy baseball. Keep in mind that the Braves right fielder was hampered by a shoulder issue last season and is still only 22 years old. He is a very hard worker and has legitimate 5-tool skills. If he is healthy heading into spring training, he may end up as a top 5 fantasy outfielder by season’s end.
Madison Bumgarner (SF)
After a brutal start to the 2011 season (6.17 ERA by the end of April) and an outing on June 21st which saw him surrender 8 ER in .1 IP, Bumgarner settled down to put up one of the best second halves in baseball. He has excellent control and the Giants seem willing to let him pile up the innings. He had as many quality starts as Tim Lincecum (26) last season and he may just ride his devastating slider to surpass “The Freak” as the ace in San Francisco in 2012.
Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
How can we possibly be talking about Ichiro amongst players who will have monster seasons in 2012? He saw his batting average, one of his biggest fantasy values, tumble to a career-low .272 in 2011. However, his second fantasy value comes in the form of stolen bases and he maintained his rate in that category. The reason he may contribute a massive season in 2012 lies with his power. Although his single season career high in home runs is only 15 (which he hit in 2005), Seattle insiders have been saying for years that Ichiro could easily lead the league in home runs if he chose to. As the Mariner’s lead-off hitter his whole career, power has not been his game. However, there is talk of moving Ichiro to the 3rd slot in the line up. It’s time to see if the power prognosticators are correct. This fiercely proud athlete will be out to prove that his poor 2011 season will not be repeated. Expect the unexpected.
If you are able to draft a good fantasy baseball player that turns out to be a monster fantasy player, you will have the foundation to start winning your league in 2012.
Chris McBrien is a baseball writer for numerous websites and may be found at Dear Mr. Fantasy. He may also be followed on Twitter @cmcbrien.