MLB BAROMETER: Patience is a Virtue
To say I'm excited would be an understatement as I welcome the opportunity to fill the talented shoes of Howard Bender here. Listening to the musings of Jeff Erickson, Chris Liss and the rest of the RotoWire crew since the SiriusXM radio show's inception has brought me countless hours of entertainment and exceptional fantasy advice - I'm truly honored for the opportunity to contribute and promise to keep my readers informed and entertained.
After a full winter of feverishly pouring through stats, tweaking player rankings and drafting several NFBC teams, my confidence and dreams of winning the $125,000 Main Event prize came crashing down to reality. My offense compiled a measly eight hits in 164 at bats through five days of action, including a 0-for-38 day. Luckily, the fantasy baseball season is a marathon - not a sprint - and we're all just getting warmed up.
One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced (and experienced) fantasy owners make in April is to panic and attempt to correct what they assume are mistakes at the draft table. If you've been a part of the NFBC for a while, chances are you know what you're doing - and you have to trust yourself and the decisions you've made at the draft table. Though it may be difficult, we've got to do our best to discern and determine which available Free Agents are worth our bidding dollars and which ones are just flavors of the week - especially in 12 team leagues like the RotoWire NFBC Online Championship, where roster-able hitters and pitchers are a dime a dozen. If you truly believe that Casey McGehee, Charlie Blackmon and Chris Colabello are going to lead you to fantasy glory, then by all means, rev up those bids.
On that NFBC Main Event roster of mine, Peter Bourjos has yet to record a hit and Eric Young Jr. looks atrocious at the plate. I'll do my best to stay the course and trust my pre-draft prep with these guys, but will fully acknowledge that I need to keep my hubris in check and cut bait if it turns out I'm wrong. Perhaps you think Mark Buehrle or Aaron Harang's week one gems are a sign of resurgent careers - by all means, bid away - just be sure to look deeply into base skills like k/9, bb/k and Ground ball % before throwing out your coveted bidding dollars on pitchers. Pedigree, increase in velocity (for pitchers), lineup slot (for hitters) and your team's needs are just a few of many factors to consider when looking at options in FAAB. You never know - you may have just stolen the next Jose Fernandez and are on your way to those $125,000 dreams.
Let's take a look at the league's risers and fallers after one full week of action, and I'll stay away from the obvious DL guys like Wilson Ramos and Clayton Kershaw.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF MIA - Stanton is off to the hottest start of his career (2 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB, .357 through Sunday's game) and is making those of us who passed on him in the second round of RotoWire NFBC OLC drafts feel a pit in our stomachs. Stanton has never scored 80 runs nor surpassed 90 RBI in a season, but the blistering 12.1 HR/AB (37 home runs in 449 at bats) in 2010 should have been a sign of a Chris Davis-esque season on the horizon. The Marlins are off to historic start themselves, producing 40 runs through their first six games - it took them 19 games to match that mark last year - but most of us realize we probably won't be watching a Marlins - Mariners World Series this October. Nonetheless, Stanton should have a talented and notoriously hard-worker in Christian Yelich on base in front of him all season and, health-permitting, should finally put up the monster season we've all been expecting.
Brandon Belt, 1B SF - With an expected full season of at bats hitting in the middle of the Giants lineup, Belt was a popular March draft pick for those of us who purposely passed on the big guys (Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion) early expecting Belt to live up to the hype. Belt has four home runs through his first seven games and the consensus is that Belt should put up a fine season, despite playing half of his games in a home park that was bottom five in MLB Park Factors for both Runs (0.768) and Home Runs (0.869). Belt is only 25 years old, ranked ninth among 1B in ISO last year and we certainly can't count out the possibility of an increase in power production over the next couple of years. Perhaps a couple of cold April weeks are all you need to pluck Belt away in a trade from a disappointed and unsuspecting owner. Expect big things.
Mighty Mariners (Abraham Almonte, Dustin Ackley, OF SEA) - I wouldn't quite call this duo Thunder (Ackley) and Lightning (Almonte), but with a cast of solid vets lead by Robinson Cano, the Mariners should not be discounted as a team that can make a run for a division title. Almonte is one of the handful of week one studs who appears to have long term value - primarily in the fact that he sets the table for the M's and has shown signs of both pop and speed (11 HR, 20 SB in 94 Triple-A games last year). It feels a decade of waiting for Ackley-ites, but this may finally be the year he puts it all together. Almonte was undrafted in most RotoWire NFBC OLC leagues and Ackley was a later round pick. I wouldn't break the bank on either of them, but both are off to nice starts and I'd expect both Almonte and Ackley to be 12-team league worthy this season.
New Closers (Jose Valverde, RP NYM, Francisco Rodriguez, RP MLW) - A couple of blasts from the past are two of the hottest commodities on the waiver wire this week as both have looked good in a few innings each. The Mets' Bobby Parnell is officially undergoing Tommy John surgery, paving the way for Valverde to close games this year - barring disaster. The 36 year old Dominican lost his job with the Tigers last June after combining for 84 saves over the previous two seasons. Francisco Rodriguez surprised everyone when he came out for the save on Opening Day. K-Rod is not the same guy he was when he saved 62 games for the Angels in 2008, but is surely capable of holding on to the job all year even if Jim Henderson "figures things out." Henderson is a marginal 9th inning option at best and I wouldn't be surprised if K-Rod leads the Brewers in saves.
James Paxton, SP SEA - With young talent like Taijuan Walker and Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation, it's easy to forget about Paxton, who dominated the Angels last week with 9 Ks in seven scoreless innings, only giving up two hits and two walks. Paxton didn't have the best year in Triple-A last season (8-11, 4.45 ERA) but did manage to strike out 8.1 batters per 9 and earned a spot in the Mariners rotation this year. We'll surely tread lightly with visits to the AL East, but Paxton looks like a mainstay on 12 and 15 team rosters for now, and should be started in his home park.
Billy Hamilton, OF CIN - Owners who used a high draft pick on Billy were likely not overly worried with his Golden Sombrero against the Cardinals on Opening Day given that the dominant Adam Wainwright toed the mound. Hamilton went 0-4 in his next two games and was caught stealing upon pinch running in the following game. Hamilton has now missed the last couple of games due to a minor finger injury and should hopefully be back in the lineup this week. One week and four stolen bases from now, Billy may find himself back in the "Risers" category, but for now those of us who took the gamble on a one (maybe two) category player in early rounds will pray he can get the ball rolling soon.
Mark Teixeira, 1B NYY - Teixeira deserves a mention here even though he's on the DL, because he's coming off wrist surgery last June and was a huge risk/reward player heading into March drafts. Despite continuing to display prodigious power, Teixeira hovered around the .250 mark from 2010 to 2012 and hit .151 in the 15 games he played last year. Big Teix is expected back in a couple of weeks once the hamstring injury subsides, so it's up to his owners whether it's worth dropping him for the likes of Colabello and McGahee.
Stephen Strasburg, SP WAS - Strasburg did manage 10 Ks against the lowly Mets on Opening Day but struggled overall, giving up four earned runs. His weekend start was worse, giving up eight hits and walking three before getting yanked after 4.1 innings. Strasburg was one of the first pitchers off draft boards this Spring and most of us will likely look at Week One as a small hiccup in what may likely be a Cy Young season for the 25 year old. Stras has introduced a filthy slider to the mix, but remains a slight injury concern going forward.
Jim Johnson, RP OAK - What does Orioles management know that the rest of the world doesn't to trade their back-to-back 50 Saves closer for middling journeyman infielder Jemile Weeks? Well, perhaps we caught a glimpse of it last week when Johnson gave up five earned runs and blowing a save in his first two games of the season. Johnson is and never was an overpowering reliever, averaging under 6 Ks per 9 until averaging slightly over 7 Ks per 9 last year. Stud relievers like Sean Doolittle (he's a lefty, though) and newly acquired Luke Gregerson are looming - despite Johnson's hefty salary, perhaps the leash on Johnson isn't quite as long as we think as Athletics management wouldn't be shy to make the change.
Ryan Braun, OF MIL - After a torrid spring training ripping the covers off of baseballs with ease and a quick preseason rise into the NFBC ADP Top 7, the baseball world was ready for the return of Ryan Braun. One week and 2-20 later with no HR or RBI, word is that the thumb he opted not to have surgery on after his suspension last year is bothering him. If you believe in roto karma, you likely decided to pass on Braun in the first round of drafts this year, but for those of us on the bandwagon, we're hoping this is an issue that doesn't persist and that he can play through it similar to what Dustin Pedroia did last year. The injury certainly explains the first week's struggle and owners will hold their breath in the time being, hoping Braun can overcome this.