Did you forget about these one-time fantasy studs?

Patrick Newell

Did you forget about Sammy Sosa? What about Jose Guillen or even Derek Lee? Some players look like they’re ready for the scrap heap, and Sosa was out of baseball for a full year before a solid spring training landed him a one-year contract with the Rangers. At this point of his career, Sosa is no longer a high average threat. He has hovered in the .250 average range much of the season, but his power production is plentiful and worth a second look. If you need RBIs and home runs, he could be a nifty pickup. He leads Texas with 64 runs batted in and is tied for the team lead with 14 homers. At his current pace he’ll hit over 25 homers and drive in over 100 runs. Is that something to sneer at?

The there is Jose Guillen. For two seasons now, Guillen has languished with declining stats. In fact, a year ago in Washington, he was a low .200 hitter with minimal production. Much of that was due to a long-term stay on the disabled list. But what about 2007? He is a big reason for Seattle’s surge over the last month, and is on pace for 20 homers and 100 RBI. Not a bad turnaround for a guy seemingly on the downside of his career.

And in Tampa Bay, I’m still flabbergasted by Carlos Pena’s continued streak of steady hitting. He was never a high average hitter, but is currently at .297. He is also among the league’s best with 22 homers and 60 RBI. Pena still strikes out too much, but a .403 on base percentage cancels out those whiffs.

Derek Lee of the Cubs is a couple of years moved from a triple crown threat season. His 2006 season was so poor, though, based on a lofty standard, I personally forgot about him and valued him way too low. He is far off his 40-plus homer potential, yet a .337 average and 90-plus ribbie potential keeps a fantasy owner happy.

Hard to believe Ken Griffey is someone we would consider writing off, but his injury-prone nature in recent years has left many a skeptical fantasy owner. “Kid,” who is now 37, is having his finest season with the Reds since his initial trade from Seattle, and is on pace for over 40 homers and 110 RBI. We like those numbers; we like them a lot.

Among the pitchers who seem rejuvenated or at least vastly improved in 2007, there are Oliver Perez of New York, who won just three games a year ago and had an ERA well over 6.00. This year he is 8-6 with an ERA at 3.13 and a career-low 1.19 WHIP.

Ted Lilly of Chicago has chopped nearly a point off his ERA and a substantial chunk off his WHIP. Oh, and he strikes out about eight batters per nine innings and will likely win around 15 games.

Mark Buerhle’s no-hitter for the White Sox should have been the good sign fantasy owners were looking for. His 2.98 ERA is two full points below last year, and his staff-killing 1.46 WHIP of last year is down to a stellar 1.08. If not for the White Sox’s anemic first-half offense, he’d be an ace on most staffs.

And lastly, AL all-star game starter Dan Haren is perhaps the first-half Cy Young. Barely a .500 pitcher a year ago with an ERA over 4.00, he has dropped that nearly two full points, and his WHIP was below 1.00 until recently. Haren has needed to be good on the mound with the A’s sporting perhaps the worst offense in the big leagues.