Davis is literally running himself up the ranks, as the Blue Jays speedy outfielder has climbed his way to the No. 39 outfielder on the ESPN Player Rater ahead of veterans Michael Bourn, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter. Davis is sixth in baseball with 21 steals and he's done it in far fewer games (49) than his fast-footed counterparts. For comparison, Jacoby Ellsbury leads the league with 32 steals in 77 games and Mike Trout has 20 in 81. The preseason favorite to lead the league in steals, Bourn, has 11 thefts in 56 games. Few remember that Davis once ran wild with the Athletics, stealing 50 bases in 2010 and following it up with 46 steals in Toronto last year. It's very conceivable that Davis wears the 2013 steals crown if playing time allows it -- and that looks likely as long as he continues to get on base -- so those in need of speed have to look no further than our neighbors to the north. Over the last 30 days, Davis is hitting .380/.407/.420 with 12 runs and 13 steals, making him the 12th most valuable outfielder in ESPN leagues over that time. Speed kills, but not in fantasy.
When Ibanez signed with the Mariners, many thought the well-traveled veteran would disappear into obscurity along with his butcher-in-the-outfield peer Jason Bay. But not only has he not disappeared, Ibanez has become Seattle's biggest power source, and he's doing it at a historical pace. With 19 home runs already -- matching his 2012 total with the Yankees -- Ibanez is on pace to set an all-time record for home runs by a 41-year old, and it's not even particularly close -- Ted Williams currently holds the record with 29 home runs in 1960, and Barry Bonds smacked 28 taters in 2007. Ibanez has never had this much power. If he qualified, his .298 ISO would be fourth in baseball behind Chris Davis (.396), Miguel Cabrera (.308) and Carlos Gonzalez (.303). His previous homer high was 34 in 2009 with the Phillies, and he's well on his way to surpassing that number. While his average is nothing to write home about -- he's hitting .246/.292/.544 -- the power appears to be legit. Still available in about 20 percent of ESPN leagues, Ibanez is worth taking a flier on for those in need of a power boost.
I did a Fake Teams post on Perkins in the preseason reminding fantasy owners that good closers on bad teams could still make for good closers -- I'm reminded of the year when Joel Hanrahan came out of nowhere and saved 40 games for a Pirates team that lost 105 games the year before. So far, Perkins has been one of the best real-life closers as well as fantasy closers in baseball, posting a 2.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and a 43:7 K:BB ratio in 30 2/3 innings to go along with 20 saves. On the ESPN Player Rater, Perkins is all the way up No. 7 among relievers -- and No. 5 if you discount reliever-eligible starters Hisashi Iwakuma and Shelby Miller -- ahead of Mariano Rivera and right behind Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. Since being turned into a reliever, Perkins has become one of the best-kept secrets in baseball. As a reliever, he has a 2.72 ERA and 224 strikeouts in 215 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .227/.292/.347 slash. If you can get your hands on Perkins via a trade, do it. He's going to be in the top-10 for the long haul.
I own Aoki in a number of leagues and have been very disappointed with the return on investment from the second-year player from Japan. Yes, he's still scoring a nice amount of runs (43) atop Milwaukee's lineup, but everything else has fallen short of my expectations. In 345 plate appearances, the Brewers outfielder is hitting .286/.363/.372 with four home runs, 16 RBI and nine steals. Really, his line doesn't look all too different from 2012 when he hit .288/.355/.433, but there's one thing missing from Aoki's arsenal this year -- steals. Through 77 games, Aoki has nine steals and has been caught eight (!) times. Last year, he had 30 steals and was caught eight times. I'm no manager, but I imagine Aoki's green light to steal is more yellow these days. ZiPS has him projected to finish with eight home runs, 83 runs, 40 RBI and 17 steals, which would leave him as more of a No. 4 outfielder. Last year, he finished No. 27 among outfielders on the ESPN Player Rater; this year, he's struggling to stay inside the top-50 at No. 47.
I recently completed a trade in a home league where I gave up Paul Goldschmidt and Gordon for Albert Pujols and Felix Hernandez. Goldschmidt and Gordon are the only two keepers in the deal, so I was taking a risk by sending away the best player in the deal. While I absolutely hated giving up Goldy, I was fine giving up Gordon, which kind of surprised me (he's one of my favorite players). After hitting .317 in April and .339 in May, the Royals outfielder slumped to a .188 BA in June with one home run and two doubles after hitting three and six, respectively, in both April and May. Since hitting a career-high 23 homers in 2011, Gordon's power has gone down significantly -- his ISO has dropped from .200 to .160 to .125. And over his last 92 at-bats, Gordon is hitting .196/.296/.250 with just one home run and 11 RBI. I still think he'll hit for average and will continue to be a solid source of runs, but I no longer expect a big jump, if any, from his 14 homers and 10 steals from 2012.
Papelbon continues to be a nice source of ERA (2.05) and WHIP (0.88), but the Philadelphia closer has blown four of his last six save attempts and his name has come up in plenty of trade speculation. In the Official Fake Teams Head-to-Head Points League, Papelbon is No. 25 among relievers, and his low strikeout totals are to blame. For the first time in his eight-year career , Papelbon's strikeout rate has dropped below eight K's per nine. In fact, it's only been below 10 K's per nine just once (in 2006 with the Red Sox). His FIP (3.58) and xFIP (3.77) don't line up with his ERA, and his velocity is at an all-time low. For me, Papelbon is one closer to sell aggressively, even if he gets traded into a better situation.
Alex Kantecki is a fantasy baseball writer for Fake Teams. He also writes the "Closer Chronicle" for Vigilante Baseball every Thursday, ranking and tiering all 30 MLB closers. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @rotodealer.