There's nothing like that first week of the fantasy baseball season. I love it so much. You've made it through your draft, you've sat with your buddies and picked apart everyone else's teams, you've assessed your squad's strengths and weaknesses, and now the season is ready to begin. Everyone starts at zero. Everyone's got a clean slate. Now it's time to root your players on; to honor the hot starts and to brave the cold ones. Fantasy Baseball 2009 is here!
If you've been a participant in the game for a few years now, you know what the start of the season is all about. Every year you've got studs that get out of the gate slow and it's very easy to get caught up in the moment. There's the guy with David Wright and Mark Teixeira bitching about how he has no power and you've got the guy who's panicking because Brandon Webb just went on the DL.
I mean, no one like to see their their team at the bottom of the standings to start the year, but you have to keep it all in perspective. For the most part, baseball is about the law of averages and barring some cataclysmic event, your stars will begin to shine in no time. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. And as my grandpappy always used to say at the poker table, "it's better to be down early than down late."
Conversely, you also have those no-named, low profile guys that come out of the gate white hot. Some of these guys come out so strongly that their owners, or the guys with the really fast waiver trigger fingers, think they have the next big thing on their hands. They start offering them up in trades for slow starting studs and constantly spout their stats after every game played. But are these guys worth it? It depends. Worth trading a stud for? Definitely not. But maybe if you can do something smaller. You never want to be the guy who overpays for a player whose best and only numbers come in April.
Remember Chris Shelton in 2005? He won the starting first baseman gig for the Tigers and then pounded like 12 HR in the month of April. Fantasy owners were dangling him in every possible trade they could make and some even found success. I, myself, found a taker in one league that sent me Jason Bay and Todd Helton for a package of middling players but that included Shelton. And how did Chris finish that year? How about 18 HR and a trip to the minors? Yup. He was a disaster after the month of April. His avergae plummetted, his power disappeared, and eventually, so did his starting job.
So how do you discern between the contenders and the pretenders? How do you know who's going to continue to sizzle and who's going to flame out once the calendar flips to May? Sadly, there's no specific formula. You just have to keep watching them play, study what they've done in the past (minors or majors), see if their situation dictates a continuation, and make your assessment then. You can't make snap judgements.
With that, let's take a look at some of the guys who have come out of the gate with guns blazing. You've got some serious talent on your hands, but also some serious pretenders. Be careful that you know who's who and maybe, this will help you make the right decisions.
Emilio Bonifacio, 2B FLA: .500-9 R-1 HR-5 RBI-4 SB -- There always seems to be some fantasy gold with those unknown Marlins. Bonifacio was slated for utility duty, but after a solid spring, the club sent down 1B Gaby Sanchez, moved 3B Jorge Cantu across the diamond and started him over at the hot corner. He has certainly not disappointed. If Sanchez starts to crush in the minors, then they may call him back up pushing Cantu back across the field. But for now, that seems like a ways off. They also had enough confidence in him to get rid of Dallas McPhereson who could have been working at third as well, and that speaks volumes. Bonifacio's speed is a huge asset and as long as he plays solid defense and keeps his OBP up, he could be a major part of your fantasy success. My thoughts: Keep him
Cristian Guzman, SS WAS: .515-8-0-4-1 -- I won't deny that last year was big for the Nationals shortstop when he hit .316 on the year. Howvere, if you look at his history, and that includes the injuries, he could be hard-pressed to keep it going. He's already banged up right now, so you'll have to be cautious. Also, he doesn't really contribute that much elsewhere. With the Nats being a low run producing team, his runs scored sit in the shallow end of the pool. He also doesn't hit for any real power and doesn't steal like a leadoff guy should either. His hot start should be attractive to someone though. My thoughts: Trade him.
Adam Lind, OF TOR: .400-6-3-12-0 -- This could be a tough decision for a lot of you. Thi sis Lind's first year with a full time job and he's started off the season just raking the ball. Aside from his 3 dingers and league leading 12 RBI, Lind also has 4 doubles which usually translates well into future HR power. But can he keep it up? I've looked at his minor league numbers and he looks to be about a 20 HR guy. So there's a good chance that he could be blowing his load early. Hype him up in your league and see where your fellow owners stand. My thoughts: Trade him
Jason Bartlett, SS TB: .444-8-2-3-2 -- Call me crazy, but I like this kid. I mean, if you're in a 12 team league and you only need 1 SS and 1 MI, then maybe not, but if you're in a deeper league that commands a hefty sized roster, then he might be a solid guy. He's never going to hit for power, but he's now topped 20 SB in the past 2 seasons. He's also doing things to improve his average and OBP. The Rays love his defense and overall, they're a hot, young team. Bartlett will continue to get time and be a solid source for cheap steals. My thoughts: Keep him
Nyjer Morgan, OF PIT: .387-5-0-7-3 -- The Pirates went with a young and fairly inexperienced outfield with Morgan and Brandon Moss joining Nate McLouth. But the situation is even more crowded than you think. Aside from guys like Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske vying for time, the Pirates have two hot up and comers waiting it out in the minors -- Andrew McCutchen and Steven Pearce. Both players project to be quality major leaguers, and McCutchen has been tabbed the leadoff guy of the future. But Morgan outproduced them all this spring and judging by his constant .300+ average in the minors, he's a pretty reliable contact hitter. He also has tremendous speed upside -- 53 total SBs last year between the majors and the minors. He's going to need to stay hot to stay in the lineup though, so watch his PT during periodic slumps. I'm a fan today, but talk to me in June. My thoughts: on the fence, but for now, keep him.
Kyle Lohse, SP STL: 2 W-8 K-1.12 ERA- 0.56 WHIP -- A great start, yes, but let's be honest...the wins came against the Pirates and the Astros, two teams that will be fighting for last place in the NL Central all year. Lohse started to make some improvements back in '07 when he went from the AL to the NL, and had a fantastic year last year for the Cards. But let's be honest here. The guy has a career 4.63 ERA and a career 1.40 WHIP. These are no tth enumbers fantasy dreams are built on. Now that he's been in the NL for a couple of years, the hitters will have better scouting reports on him and should catch up to him soon. I just don't see him repeating his 2008 totals. My thoughts: Trade him
Josh Johnson, SP FLA: 2 W- 15 K- 0.57 ERA-.083 WHIP -- Johnson has been tabbed as a future ace for some time now, but plans were derailed with Tommy John surgery in 2007. Well, he came back last season in the second half, posted a 7-1 record with 77 Ks in 87 innings. He looked sharp, despite the fact that he was still not in top form. This year could be quite different. He'll probably have his innings limited to about 180 this year to protect the arm, but those are going to be 180 innings worth of stats every owner will covet. If you're in a non keeper league, then a late trade of him might be beneficial for your stretch run, but for now, ride that wave! My thoughts: Keep him
Zach Duke, SP PIT: 2 W-9 K-0.59 ERA-0.85 WHIP -- I'll admit it...there was once a time when I was pretty high on this kid. But after years of the same disappointng results, I soured on him. His strikeout rate was low and his ratios were just way too high. Has he suddenly turned a corner? I don't think so. To me, Duke is the prime example of a hot start that will fizzle by the end of the month. Just give him 2 starts against some quality ball clubs and watch. Start hyping him around your league now. You won't be able to o it for long. My thoughts: Trade him
Looking for some more waiver pick-ups and other fantasy advice to keep you on the right road towards the championship? Just check out what's going on over at RotoBuzz.com.
Howard Bender is a freelance fantasy sports writer and champion in both rotisserie and head to head leagues. For questions, thoughts, or comments, you can email him at Howard.Rotobuzz@yahoo.com.