Fantasy baseball is well underway, as we are in Week 7 of the season. Many fantasy owners are still searching for short-term replacements for slumping stars, while others are looking for the newest wave of hot players and potential sleepers.
If you find yourself in this ownership dilemma, look no further. The following four players have tremendous potential to be valuable for your fantasy squad for the long haul.
Remember Alex Gordon back in 2011? He had a breakout year and changed the direction of many fantasy squads, including my own. Much like Gordon, these four athletes are figuring out their game and beginning to make a tremendous impact several weeks into the season.
Late-bloomers they may be, but these four players can contribute to any fantasy team that needs their services.
1. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers 1B (36 percent owned)
2013 Stats: .290/.344/.565, 9 HR, 18 RBI
Anyone who has played fantasy baseball the last two seasons knows to be weary of Mitch Moreland. However, this season is different; he is demonstrating his power early and often.
Since the 2010 season, Moreland has demonstrated tremendous, but short-lived, pop in his bat. Baseball-Reference.com shows us that his season-high total for home runs is a modest 16, which was achieved in 2011.
Moreland's bat has been heating up tremendously; he has hit six of those home runs in the last 10 games.
Moreland has always had this type of game-changing power, but he has often remained dormant for most of the season. He has found his stroke at this point in the season and will be a great pickup for any fantasy team needing hitting stats.
2. Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs SP (53 percent owned)
Despite Garza's abbreviated 2012 campaign due to an elbow injury, he still has the ability to be a premier starter for fantasy owners.
Garza has not pitched this season due to a lat strain, but CSNChicago.com states that Garza is poised for a return after his next rehab start.
Most fantasy owners tend to overlook the currently injured pitchers. However, Garza has been a dominant force in the league before and has the talent and ability to do it again. Sports.yahoo.com demonstrates Garza's pitching prowess with his 2011 stats, which included a 3.32 ERA and 197 K's in 198 innings pitched for the Cubs.
A healthy Matt Garza—even on the Cubs—can be a game-changer in a fantasy rotation by providing wins, strikeouts and a more-than-serviceable ERA. Matt Garza is a top player to watch in the coming weeks of fantasy baseball.
3. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals OF (58 percent owned)
2013 Stats: .323/.383/.444, 1 HR, 22 RBI
Lorenzo Cain finds himself as one of the key young, stud athletes involved in the rebuilding process in Kansas City.
Cain's 2013 stats have been achieved in just 34 games played this season, which bodes well for fantasy baseball owners. At this pace, Cain will shatter his season highs from last season and be valuable through the summer.
This Kansas City Royal has demonstrated his prowess on the basepaths as well as at the plate. In 2012 Cain had 10 stolen bases. In a little more than half the games in 2013, he has stolen six. Cain will remain at this pace with the potential to steal 30 bases and drive in 75 RBI. He can be an asset on any fantasy team that snags him off the waiver wire.
4. Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates SP (29 percent owned)
2013 Stats: 1 GS, 1 W, 5.1 IP, 1.69 ERA, 9 K
Francisco Liriano's fantasy value has increased since leaving the American League to join the Pittsburgh Pirates. Liriano's biggest problem the last few seasons has been maintaining a low ERA and lasting long enough in games in order to get wins.
This move to the National League will allow Liriano to achieve both.
No longer having to face a designated hitter every ninth batter—and instead facing a lowly hitting pitcher—will allow Liriano to go deeper into games, while maintaining his stellar strikeout numbers.
Even in 2012—arguably Liriano's worst year—he managed to average 9.2 strikeouts per start, as Baseball-Reference.com illustrates. Liriano already proved in his first start that his strikeout ability is still potent by fanning nine New York Mets batters.
This change of league for Liriano will result in him throwing more innings in more games and keeping the strikeouts coming. His play is something to keep an eye on this week, as he possesses game-changing potential.
All ownership percentages come from Yahoo! fantasy baseball.