Young Hart starts pumping out hits for Brewers

While J.J. Hardy was attracting plenty of attention for his much-improved play early in the season and Prince Fielder has continued his emergence as one of the National League’s premier power hitters, the Milwaukee Brewers most likely would not be sitting in first place in the NL Central if not for the efforts of versatile right fielder Corey Hart.

Through Wednesday, Hart is batting .315 (tops among Milwaukee regulars), with 10 home runs, 31 RBIs, 35 runs and 16 stolen bases (tying him for sixth in the NL), to help lead the Brewers to a 46-32 mark.

The 25-year-old Hart entered the Brewers’ organization in 2000 with plenty of acclaim, due in large part to an unusual combination of size (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) and speed (as evidenced by his 31 stolen bases in 113 games in Triple-A in 2005).

However, he struggled defensively in the infield, shifting from third to first base without any significant improvement, thus holding him back from a full-time promotion to the Brewers.

After some experimenting (both in the minors and majors), Hart has found a home in right field for Milwaukee, with his production playing a pivotal role in the Brewers’ unexpected success and also making him a fashionable prospect for fantasy baseball owners.

Despite showing marked improvement heading into 2007, Hart had difficulty finding playing time to start the season (he didn’t register an at-bat in 14 of the team’s first 34 games), but he showed patience and consistent improvement.

Currently riding a 14-game hitting streak, Hart has hit .333 in June and has smashed nine of his 10 home runs (with five coming over the Brewers’ last 10 games). His torrid month, coinciding with his move to the leadoff spot while Rickie Weeks was injured, has helped the Brewers bounce back from a stretch of poor play.

Like any coveted fantasy baseball player, Hart thrives because he can put up numbers across the board (he is on pace for 25 homers, 74 RBIs and 35 stolen bases).

WHO’S HOT?

» David Ross, C, Reds

» Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals

» Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs

» Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Orioles

» Yovanni Gallardo, SP, Brewers

WHO’S NOT?

» Dan Johnson, 1B, A’s

» Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks

» Richie Sexson, 1B, Mariners

» Felix Pie, OF, Cubs

» Gil Meche, SP, Royals


Should Hart remain in the leadoff spot?

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