"The Jesus" isn't exactly a sexy name, but the Cubs (mostly) everyday center fielder should be rostered on more teams than his current 11% ownership rate on Yahoo!, especially in points leagues. The Cubs leadoff man is hitting .294/.364/.507 with five home runs, 24 runs, 16 RBI and three steals, and with 105 points on the year, he is one point away from cracking the top-25 outfielders. For comparison, the group that is one point ahead of DeJesus includes Carlos Beltran, Starling Marte, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gomez, Angel Pagan and Nelson Cruz. DeJesus has done it with a solid 21:14 K:BB ratio in 136 at-bats and an improvement in his contact rates across the board. Most significantly, his contact rate on pitches thrown outside the strike zone has improved from 74.6% to 79.0%, which represents a career-best in his age-33 season. After hitting nine long balls in 2012, DeJesus is on pace to smash 19 home runs this year. That's a true long shot, but could he best his career-high mark of 13 home runs set in 2009 with the Royals? It's possible. At the least, it's hard to imagine DeJesus not hitting double digits. The trouble for DeJesus owners might come at the trade deadline, as the Cubs are sure to shop their veteran outfielder for pieces for the future. Until that time comes, ride the consistent production of DeJesus.
I ended up drafting Scutaro in ninth round of the Official Fake Teams H2H Points League and after a slow start from the Giants' postseason hero, I thought I made a big mistake. Now in the midst of an 18-game hit streak, I'm confident I made the right move to reach for the underrated middle infielder. After racking up 412 points last year, he's up to 108 points and is on pace for 389 points. He trails only eight middle infielders in points and his multi-eligibility at second, short and third gives him an added advantage. Outside of a .333-batting average, Scutaro's 24 runs, 11 RBI and zero steals doesn't look like much. In fact, he's still available in 33% of Yahoo! leagues. But in points leagues, Scutaro is king, thanks to a 12:12: K:BB ratio that doesn't dock him any unnecessary points via the strikeout. ZiPS projects Scutaro to finish with four home runs, 66 runs, 43 RBI and four steals. While that may look like nothing, it's a whole lot of something in points leagues when you factor in the K/BB rate. I think he can do a little better in the runs department and score 70 plus.
Out of all the starting pitchers on the waiver wire to start the year, I'm kicking myself the most for not jumping all over Corbin when I had the chance. That kick was at its hardest on Monday night, as the Diamondbacks young left-hander tossed his first complete game of his career (at Coors, no less), allowing one run and three hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk. The 23-year old is now 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA and trails only Clayton Kershaw's slightly-better 1.35 ERA. He's not a strikeout machine, but still punches out a healthy 7.36 per nine and walks 2.60. As you can probably imagine, Corbin's xFIP and SIERA aren't quite as peachy as his ERA, at 3.59 and 3.67, respectively, but I think he has a real shot at finishing the year as high No. 2 on fantasy staffs. The key for Corbin has been a dramatic improvement in his home run to fly ball ratio, which has dropped from 13.5% in 2012 to 3.9% in 2013. His increase in velocity on all of his pitches has been a big reason for the drop. While I think there's some regression on the horizon, I do think Corbin can skate around the 3.00 ERA mark and finish with anywhere from 15-18 wins.
I've never fully understood the love for Jennings. As a guy touted as the next Carl Crawford (I'm not so sure that's a good thing now), the Rays speedy outfielder has been a complete disappointment since being handed a starting spot in Tampa. He doesn't hit for average. He doesn't hit for power. He doesn't reach base. And I'm not even sure if he's an elite base runner anymore. After swiping 31 bags in 2012, Jennings has been caught three times in nine chances this season. His six steals in 44 games puts him on pace for 22 steals, which is good but certainly not great. Even if I give Jennings 25 steals, that's not enough to overcome a career-.247 batting average, which is starting to look more and more like the real Desmond Jennings. While his walk rate is on par with last year's 8.2%, his strikeout rate has gone up from 21.3% to 22.8% in addition to an increased swinging strike rate. I do think Jennings can be a useful player in fantasy leagues, but I have yet to see an owner utilize him effectively. That's probably because his draft value is way overhyped. Jennings was a top-25 outfielder in the preseason, according to FantasyPros.com, but he didn't even crack the top-50 outfielders on the ESPN Player Rater in 2012. Maybe next year I can get on the Jennings bandwagon.
I stayed far away from Desmond in the preseason and urged other owners to do the same in a piece here on Fake Teams. The Nationals shortstop broke out in a big way last season, hitting .292/.335/.511 with 25 home runs and 21 steals. But based on his plate discipline and track record, I just didn't see how Desmond could match those numbers again. While his power is still on display (he's on pace for 22 home runs), Desmond continues to baffle at the plate with poor discipline. His 24.3% strikeout rate is a step down from last year's 20.7%, and his walk rate is also trending in the wrong direction, from 5.5% in 2012 to 4.5% in 2013. With such great discrepancy, Desmond is losing a lot of points even with acceptable counting stats. It's simply a combination that won't work in points leagues. We're also seeing a significant drop in his batting average of nearly 30 points, which makes the strikeouts even more unbearable. He's a career .270 hitter, so last year's .292 isn't likely to happen again.
While I can pat myself on the back for being fairly accurate on the two players above, the opposite must be said about Samardzija, who I was all over as a potential top-25 starter in the preseason. The problem here, however, isn't a lack of elite stuff (he's struck out 10.16 batters per nine), it's the lack of wins and innings pitched that has buried the Cubs ace beneath guys like Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke in points leagues. Still, there may be an opportunity to buy low if Samardzija's owner isn't paying close enough attention. The Cubs offense has picked it up of late and hopefully the wins will follow for Samardzija. The chance for 200 Ks is very likely, in my opinion, as he's already punched out 64 batters in 56 2/3 innings. Fair warning: I did recommend buying low on David Price last week and then he went out and got hurt. I hope there's not a curse brewing here.
Alex Kantecki is a contributor for Fake Teams and Vigilante Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotodealer.