First Half Surprises

By Steve Nitz

With baseball at the unofficial halfway point of the season, there are a number of players who weren’t expected to do a whole lot rewarding fantasy owners with their performances.

Players such as Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, and Ricky Romero have come out of nowhere to have great seasons, rewarding players who either drafted them or picked them up off the scrap heap. Here are ten of fantasy baseball’s first half surprises.

Russell Branyan (Mariners)-“Russell the Muscle” has always been known for his power, but he has a .236 career batting average. However, this season he has hit 21 homers and is still keeping a good average at .280 to go along with 49 RBIs.

Ricky Romero (Blue Jays)-After starting the season in the starting rotation and missing some time due to injury, Romero has been great since coming off the DL. He’s put up seven victories, a great ERA (3.00), solid WHIP (1.26) and 69 strikeouts in 76 innings this season.

David Aardsma (Mariners)-A first round pick by the Giants out of Rice in 2003, Aardsma has always had great stuff, but has been with five different teams in his five years in the majors. This year, Aardsma has finally put it all together in Seattle. After taking over Brandon Morrow’s closer spot earlier this year, Aardsma has 20 saves and 51 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings. His numbers would be even better if not for an outing on July 8 against Baltimore when he gave up three earned runs without recording an out.

Jason Bartlett (Rays)-Coming into the season, Bartlett had never hit more than five home runs in a season. He already has eight this year, even while missing almost two months with an ankle injury. He has a great average at .347 to go with his 19 stolen bases and 39 RBIs.

Ben Zobrist (Rays)-If I would have told you that Zobrist would be second in the AL in OPS heading into the All-Star break, you would think I was crazy. But believe it or not, that’s the case. Zobrist currently has 17 homers and 52 RBIs to go along with a .297 average and 11 stolen bases.

Ryan Franklin (Cardinals)-Franklin has been nearly unhittable since replacing Jason Motte as the Cardinals closer in early April. As of July 10, Franklin has the exact same ERA and WHIP at 0.79 to go along with 21 saves.

Aaron Hill (Blue Jays)-The American League’s starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, Hill currently has career-highs in average (.292) and homers (20) and is on pace to surpass his career-high 78 RBIs.

Andrew Bailey (A’s)-1.92 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 60 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings, and an All-Star as Oakland’s closer. Not bad for someone who made his major league debut this season.

Edwin Jackson (Tigers)-Jackson always had the talent, this year he’s finally put it together in his first season in Detroit. Seven wins, a 2.52 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 97 strikeouts have made him one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Kevin Millwood (Rangers)-Millwood has been complete trash ever since he signed with Texas following the 2005 season, when he led the American League in ERA with Cleveland. But this year has been different. Millwood is currently 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA and 79 strikeouts.