There are constantly Cinderella stories in fantasy that really don’t make any sense, but still turn into fantasy gold. Jose Bautista was the biggest Cinderella story of 2010 and is a huge addition to everyone’s team who believed in him. Not all stories are as big as Bautista’s but there are many smaller ones every year. Other stories from this year have been, Lance Berkman regaining his allstar form to save the Cardinals without Pujols, Alex Gordon finally breaking out 6 years after he was drafted #2 overall, Michael Morse going from a utility guy to a legitimate #4 hitter, and Matt Joyce becoming an allstar caliber player after 3 years of platooning. Finding these Cinderella stories before they happen can either put your team on a nice little hot streak or give you surprise guys that will produce for you for the rest of the season. Here are a few potential Cinderella stories that you should start thinking about right now.
Wily Mo Pena’s comeback – He was once a prized prospect who many said had league leading HR power. In 1999 both the Marlins and the Mets tried to sign him, but major league baseball decided that they attempted to sign him illegally. So the Yankees got him. Cincinnati traded 2 prospects to acquire him in 2001. In 2004 he tapped into that power potential blasting 26 HR’s and 66 RBI for the Reds. In 2006 the Red Sox wanted Pena bad enough to deal Bronson Arroyo away for him. After only hitting 16 HR in 2 season’s with Boston they shipped him off to Washington. After only 10 HR in 2 seasons with the Nationals he was released. Pena has not been seen in the majors ever since…until this past Tuesday night when he made his return and blasted a HR in the 5th inning. Just 3 days later he hit a 454 foot game winning HR for the Diamondbacks. Curious as to where Pena has been all year I looked it up and saw that he already had 21 HR this year at AAA for Arizona. This has cinderella story written all over it. At only 29 years old Pena should be in the prime of his career and apparently still posses the power that a half dozen teams took a chance on over the last decade. I can already see the headlines later this month. “Wily Mo Pena hits his 10th HR in his first 2 months back to the majors!” Of course this guy has been a bust so many times that its hard to put any stock in him. Furthermore, he shouldn’t hit for average either. But the power could be there. It looks like he’s playing everyday, so if your willing to roll the dice shock your league and pick him up. The worst that can happen is he falls off again and is released. But with 23 HR combined between AAA and the majors this year, I don’t see that happening. Take a risk and go for a ride.
Vance Worley saves the Phillies’ rotation – Oswalt is expected to be out for a long time. Joe Blanton is already out. Kyle Kendrick is no good. The Phillies are down to only Halladay, Lee, and Hamels. Their powerful rotation is no longer complete. The Braves are a good second half team. The Nationals are on fire and beating at the door that their time is now. The Marlins are destined to improve with the amount of talent that they have. All of these things are bad signs for the Phillies. So who saves them? Vance Worley. Worley wasn’t a super prospect, and didn’t have exciting or very good minor league numbers. But everytime he is inserted into the Phillies rotation he throws a gem. Just Friday night he took a no hitter into the 6th inning. Whether he’s had to pitch out of the bullpen or start he has been a savior and unsung hero for the Phillies. With all that run support I can see him stepping up, being a cinderella story, and putting up Roy Oswalt numbers himself. I do not think he is an ace or even has a good career ahead of him. But I do think he will perform now and people will be talking about him saving the Phillies in just a few weeks.
Andrew Miller finally breaks out – The former #6 pick overall in the 2006 draft was picked over Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer. He was also the centerpiece of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade to Florida. With all of these accolades you would think that this guy would have been a superstar by now. Instead he was traded to the Red Sox, then not tendered a contract by the Red Sox, then signed by the Red Sox once again. Now he’s actually in the Red Sox rotation and is getting one more chance to produce. With that powerful offense and his massive potential I can see a cinderella story here. Unfortunately it has to be for Boston. With Miller nearly throwing a quality start in his first start of the season I can see him improving and eventually being worthy of a fantasy spot. Once the rest of the Red Sox staff is healthy the clock could strike midnight. (See what I did there?)
Chris Heisey puts the Reds into the playoffs – The guy has really never gotten the chance to start despite thousands of Reds fans hollering for him to. He seems to be a poor man’s Drew Stubbs who hits for a semi-low average, has decent power, and mediocre speed. But it seems like every time he gets the chance to start he produces. Most recently he hit 3 HR’s in a single game this past Wednesday to beat the New York Yankees. With Bruce being streaky, and Votto hurting for power, Heisey could be the bat they need to put them over the top in the NL Central. I can see the cinderella headlines now as Heisey is their unsung hero and gives them a huge complementary bat down the stretch that eventually gets them into the playoffs.
Mark Cuban buys the Dodgers – Team makes strong comeback in 2011- Yup I said it first. At the end of next week the Dodgers will be for sale after Major League Baseball takes control. I am officially predicting that Mark Cuban is allowed to buy the team. With already having the NL MVP Matt Kemp, a strong power bat Andre Ethier, and impact rookie leadoff hitter Dee Gordon, the veteran presence in the return of Rafeal Furcal, a strong 1-2-3 of the future with Kershaw, Billingsley, De La Rosa, and 2 solid veteran arms at the back end of the rotation with LIlly and Kuroda, the Dodgers can make a strong second half run. All they need is a spark plug owner who immediately changes the attitude and the momentum of the team and puts them into winning mode. Their only real weakness is their bullpen and there is a trade deadline to help with that. Once they have the financial support of a new owner they will be able to make changes.
Barry Zito actually earns some money – After signing for $126 million, being a bust, and being off the 2010 World Series roster, Zito has a nice 2011 second half and helps the Giants contend for the division championship. This year on rehab in the minors he is 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA at just threw a complete game shutout 2 hitter in his last outing. He comes up to make a spot start on Tuesday because the Giants have a double header. If he dominates he may force the Giants to think about a 6 man rotation, sending Bumgarner to the minors for a few starts, or taking Vogelsong out of the rotation. None of those options seem too likely so its going to take a great performance or an injury for Zito to get his chance. Once he does get his chance though I think he will perform well and be a surprising cinderella story for the second half of the season much like James Shields was for the 1st half. No I do not think he will put up numbers anywhere near Shields’, I compare them because they are both veterans who seemingly came to the end of their career last season and will both resurrect themselves this year.
The Marlins play themselves back into contention – You can never ever count out the Marlins. Both years that they won the World Series they were not projected to and didn’t look like they would even make the playoffs at certain points during the season. Every year the Marlins are a second half team and make a push for the playoffs. Nothing will change this year. After starting extremely hot the Marlins showed just how good they really are. Now after one really bad slump everyone is counting them out, saying Hanley’s career is over, and that they need to rebuild. That is absolutely wrong. The fact that Hanley Ramirez is having the worst slump of his career and that the Marlins ace Josh Johnson is out is enough reason to believe that things will turn around for Florida. Hanley will return to form. He is way too good not to. Plus he’s starting to heat up this week. With having the second best player in baseball, Hanley, the best young power hitter in baseball Mike Stanton, an allstar caliber first basemen Gaby Sanchez, and the loud mouth, second year, high average, good power, king of twitter, Logan Morrison the Marlins have a nice offense. Not to mention a very underrated bench filled with Jose Lopez, Dewayne Wise, and Wes Helms. They also have John Buck who has decent power, a high energy guy in Emilio Bonifacio, and another solid young outfielder who is currently on the DL Scott Cousins. Their rotation is very good when Josh Johnson is healthy, when Ricky Nolasco is on, and when Anibal Sanchez takes the mound. That is a very strong 1-3. Javier Vazquez has been better lately and needs to be better to help fill out their staff. Chris Volstad needs to go back to the minors so what they really need is 1 more good arm. With several good arms coming in the minor leagues, but not quite being ready yet as evident by Brad Hand’s unsuccessful major league stint, the Marlins need to trade for a veteran end of the rotation guy. I’m sure they will at the deadline. Once this happens and they are fully healthy watch out because they will skyrocket in the standings to at least 3rd.