Trades happen year-long in fantasy baseball, but things will really heat up in a month or two. By that point, players will have established their play for between 25 and 50 games, and we'll start to get good ideas of who is breaking out and who is crashing down to earth.
However, even a month or two in to the season, one hot week surrounded by otherwise normal performance can still give the illusion of a year-long breakout. When making trades late in the year, you don't want to pay for stats already in the bank. Let's take a look at some players who are dominating early and what their lines will look like 25 games from now if they just play to their projections from here on out:
David Freese, 3B, STL
So far: 12-27 (.444), 3 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB
Projected: .295, 17 HR, 88 RBI, 68 R, 3 SB
With 25 games of projected performance: 37-112 (.330), 6 HR, 25 RBI, 16 R, 1 SB
Freese has opened with a crazy RBI pace, with 10 in his first six games. Even if he cools down, there's a good chance he'll be around one per game in the middle of May, and even if he reverts to being “just” a .300 hitter he'll roll in hitting well over .325 at this point as well. I still like him as a hitter, but he's had a few favorable bounces this season that should be kept in mind when dealing for him.
Austin Jackson, OF, DET
So far: 9-16 (.562) 1 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
Projected: .272, 9 HR, 49 RBI, 95 R, 25 SB
With 25 games: 36-114 (.316) 3 HR, 11 RBI, 22 R, 4 SB
Despite only taking 16 at-bats this season, Jackson's opening hot streak will impact his batting average for a good while. Let this be an illustrative situation: by hitting over .500 in just four games worth of at-bats, Jackson's batting average will stay a whopping 44 points above projections even if he hits exactly to those projections for another 25 games. This same situation goes for any hitter riding a hot (or cold) batting average stretch to start the year.
With pitchers, we'll use five starts instead of 25 games, but the idea remains the same:
Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD
So far: 8.1 IP, 1 W, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.48 WHIP
Projected: 13 W, 162 K, 3.94 ERA, 1.351 WHIP
With 5 starts: 37.2 IP, 3 W, 36 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.183 WHIP
Billingsley was awesome in his first start, working over the Padres at PETCO Park. But it was PETCO Park, and it was the Padres. He could very easily revert to the relative mediocrity we project here and still flash some very pretty numbers in all respects come May or June. Particularly if he can't keep the walks down in his next few starts, don't be fooled by one great start.
Kyle Lohse, SP, STL
So far: 13.1 IP, 2 W, 5 K, 1.35 ERA, 0.53 WHIP
Projected: 9 W, 86 K, 4.25 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
With 5 starts: 42.1 IP, 4 W, 22 K, 3.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Lohse has two solid starts under his belt already, so the impact of five starts with his mediocre projected stats is even less. Still, Lohse already doesn't get strikeouts, so he'll be very difficult to justify owning in shallow leagues if one or both of his rates regress to his normal points. His WHIP will probably look shiny through June even thanks to these two solid starts – he allowed just six hits and one walk – but that's not exactly a career trend for him: he owns a 1.396 career mark in the statistic.
Of course this concept stretches beyond more than just these four players – it applies to everyone. Just remember this idea down the line when an opposing owner who rode these hot streaks to an early hot stretch of their own tries to pawn these players off on you.