Joe Mauer, Twins, C
My Rank: 159. Average Rank: 83.5
Mauer didn't hit his third homer of the season until June 24, and he's all the way up to a whopping four for the season. Is the quad injury that's caused him to play in just 56 of the Twins' 88 games to blame? Maybe. Will getting the All-Star break off help? Maybe. But "Mauer" doesn't stand for "power"; even in his .347 year in '06, he only hit 13 out, and he drove in 84. The kid will have to hit .340 the rest of the way and the Twins will have to score a whole lot of runs to give him the kind of value we expected when the season started. Think five homers and 35 RBIs. Good, but not special.
Frank Thomas, Blue Jays, DH
My Rank: 200. Average Rank: 140.7
I own Dirty Frank in an important (to me) mixed league, and he's been as advertised in 2005. His OPS is down to .817, quite a long way from his lofty .926 season. He's on pace for about 25 homers, which would've sounded good, and about right, to all of us experts had he not had that crazy out-of-late-career-character stretch for Oakland last season. He's 39 now and it's showing. Imagine what he's going to look like next year for the Blue Jays, at $9 million per. Or the year after, when his option kicks in. Tristan and I see eye to eye on Thomas, while the other four guys believe he's due for a major bounce-back in the second half. Frankly, I hope they're right.
Ted Lilly, Cubs, SP
My Rank: 86. Average Rank: 144.2
I'll be the first one to admit that Lilly smells just like one of those pitchers due for a regression to the mean. His WHIPs in Toronto the last three years were 1.32, 1.53 and 1.43, and he's sitting at just 1.09 right now for the Cubs. I've got a couple reasons for believing that expected regression won't come. The first is Lilly's K/BB rate: it's 98/27 right now, or 3.63 strikeouts for every walk. Compare that to his Toronto years, when his K/BB rates were 1.89, 1.66 and 1.97. Simply put, his control is far better than it's been in previous years, and over 18 starts, I'm not prepared to say it's a fluke any longer. My second reason is I expect the Cubs to make a pretty big move in the NL Central, which would mean adding to Lilly's eight wins. I know I'm out of step here; I'm taking a chance.