This is the third part of a four-part series. In this article, I will name my Did You Hear about Him team. All of these guys received absolutely no press for very good fantasy seasons. The first two articles listed my Big Busts team and Big Surprise team. For the final part, I'll name my Best Fantasy Season team.
C Johnny Estrada, Arizona Diamondbacks - Last season, Johnny Estrada played at not quite 100% for the Braves after a cheap hit from Darin Erstad. The Bravos traded him to the Diamondbacks, and it seemed to be just what they needed. The backstop put up a .302 batting average with double-digit power and 72 RBI's. He wasn't as good as his replacement in Atlanta, but Estrada put up some very good numbers for a catcher.
1B Nick Swisher, Oakland Athletics - It may be a stretch to consider him a not-talked-about player, but Swisher was amazing this season. Oakland's first baseman hit only .254, but blasted 35 taters and nearly drove in 100. When you're drafting next season, think of Paul Konerko without the batting average. (Swisher figures to improve in that category, however.)
2B Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins - You just gotta love that multi-position ability from some players. Cuddyer qualified at second base this year for the Twins, and he produced like very few middle infielders: .284/24/109/102/6. The bad news is that Cuddyer may lose second base in your leagues.
SS Carlos Guillen, Detroit Tigers - This guy is a definite MVP candidate, but no one knows who he is. His power numbers may be a little weak -- 19 and 85 -- but he scored 100 times and stole 20, all with a gaudy batting average of .320. That's a shortstop who contributes very well in all five categories and can pick it in the field.
3B Joe Crede, Chicago White Sox - Quick, non-White Sox fans: How many home runs did Joe Crede hit this year? If you guessed anything but 30, you were wrong. Crede also drove in 94 runs, scored 73 times, and hit .284. With Scott Boras as his agent and a big contract coming soon, Crede will definitely pick up the production this season. He may not be like another Boras third baseman (Adrian Beltre, 47 homers), but he'll be very good next season.
OF Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates - It's amazing that pitchers were actually stupid enough to give Bay something to hit this season. Ted Williams must have been right. The Pirates' outfielder went deep 35 times, drove in 109, and scored 101 times. While his batting average (.286 this year vs. .306 last year) and stolen bases (11 this year vs. 21 last year) dropped, he still produced like a late first rounder. How many words were written about him?
OF Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers - Mags is another player who put together an excellent year, but received very little ink (or in the case of At Home Plate, cyberspace). The middle-of-the-order hitter went deep 24 times, drove in 104, and scored 82 times. All this and a near .300 batting average in a pitcher's park? That's pretty impressive.
OF Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins - When you think about the Twins' offense, the three M's come to mind: Mauer, Michael, and Morneau. Torii Hunter, however, put up an amazing season that ranks him right up there -- .278/31/98/86/12. Sadly, most people discuss that play in the ALDS for Hunter's 2006, not his good play for the entire regular season.
SP John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves - John Smoltz sure got old in a hurry. He also got young in a hurry. Towards the three-quarter mark, a lot of people were discussing just how Smoltzie was dominating hitters and looking like he was young again. Then he ran into some trouble in a few starts, and "experts" labeled him an old man getting ready to head out. However, this right hander eliminated the Houston Astros in the final game of the season and finished with some very good overall stats: 3.49 E.R.A., 1.19 W.H.I.P., 211 K's, and more than 232 innings. Those numbers sound like a true ace to me.
CL Bob Wickman, Atlanta Braves - I don't know how Bobby Wickman does it. He loves to walk batters, and he loves to give up hits. This Cardiac Closer, though, somehow manages to finish out games. At season's end, the hefty right hander had a 2.67 E.R.A. and 33 saves. The 1.22 W.H.I.P. was a little high, but he gets the job done (knock on wood).
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