Humidity is wreaking havoc on fantasy teams everywhere.
As a last-place owner, I am choosing soggy baseballs as my excuse. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Not every stadium has a humidor, but during the winter the commissioner's office mandated that teams store balls at a uniform temperature. Rawlings recommended 70 degrees, with 50 percent humidity.
Suddenly, the ball isn't flying out quite as often as in the recent past.
There might be other perfectly good theories about why offensive numbers are down. Regardless, the trend is significant.
On May 17 last year, 16 players had 12 or more home runs. This year, only Alex Rodriguez, J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder do. Where have you gone, Jonny Gomes and Morgan Ensberg? We barely knew you.
The following starting outfielders each had one home run at the quarter point of the season. Note how many they had on May 17 last year:
-Jacque Jones, Cubs: Six.
-Raul Ibanez, Mariners: Five.
-Jim Edmonds, Cardinals: Five.
Moises Alou has two compared to seven last year; J.D. Drew also is down from seven to two; and don't forget Ensberg, who has two when last year he had 12.
I'm sure I was not alone in my strategy. If one could nab a 30-home run guy such as Ibanez late in the draft, why not load up on arms?
It looks like, for the time being, bombs away is a thing of the past in baseball. That means power hitters are more valuable than ever, and if you didn't draft one of the few that are succeeding with the humidified baseballs, you have a problem on your hands.
If you're hurting for homers, here are some players to keep an eye on:
Jack Cust, OF, Athletics
No, he's not likely to hit six homers every week. But Cust is a proven power bat, at least at the minor league level. In 11 seasons, he's hit 199 homers, including 30 last year and four straight 20-plus seasons from 1999-02. He's no spring chicken, having played parts of four seasons in the majors for Arizona, Colorado and Baltimore. Crazier things have happened than a breakthrough at 28, but the red flag is the Texas-sized hole in his swing, resulting in 74 strikeouts in 179 major league at-bats. You think it'll get easier for him if he sticks around long enough for pitchers to see him a second time? Careful with your expectations here, but if you're desperate, he could be a temporary add.
Geoff Jenkins, OF, Brewers
He's a perennial slow starter and was supposed to platoon this year, so the numbers next to Jenkins' name are among the most surprising in baseball. In 99 at-bats, Jenkins (.311-8-19) has given the Brewers every reason to keep playing him. With outfielder Cory Hart ailing and Kevin Mench better against lefties, Jenkins is almost sure to stay in the lineup. He's capable of flirting with 30 home runs, and in many leagues he's still available. Give him a ride.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Devil Rays
Doesn't it seem like every year, one Tampa Bay player outperforms all reasonable expectations? Last year it was Ty Wigginton. This year, Pena was added to the roster when Greg Norton got hurt just before the season, and he's been highly impressive, hitting seven homers and driving in 21 runs in his first 90 at-bats. This is a guy who hit 27 home runs three years ago in Detroit, and was once a highly touted power prospect. He's available in most mixed leagues and could be a nice pickup as a corner infielder. Expect 20-25 homers.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins
nconsistency at the plate has been a real disappointment. On May 13, the team called up outfielder-first baseman Garrett Jones, who will eat into Kubel's playing time if he hits at all. For now, Kubel looks like a longer-term project in Minnesota.
Mike Cameron, OF, Padres
Cameron always seems to find a way to hit 20 home runs, but at this point, the strikeout rate has to begin to be a concern. No other player who has hit one home run or fewer (Cameron has one) has more than 30 strikeouts; Cameron has 42. The 34-year-old has flirted with 30-30 seasons a few times and has gone 20-20 five times. Unless he starts making much better contact, he's not very useful for a fantasy team.
QUICK HITS: Astros OF Luke Scott is quietly among the RBI leaders for the month of May with 12. His teammate, rookie Hunter Pence, has 14. Brewers SS J.J. Hardy leads with 20. ... Rockies 1B Todd Helton (.363-4-25) had loads of doubters before the season. They seem pretty quiet now. Helton has 30 walks and just 13 strikeouts in 135 at-bats. ... Last season, Red Sox 3B Mike Lowell was leading the league with 20 doubles on May 16. He had four home runs. This year, more of those balls are flying out; he has nine doubles and seven home runs. He is now a very solid choice at third base. ... Sean Bergmann of the Nationals is the best pitcher no one knows about. In his eight starts this season, Bergmann has pitched six innings or more and allowed two hits or fewer four times.

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