One of the biggest mistakes made by novice fantasy owners is to over-react when players start out a year either really hot or really cold. To ensure that you don't fall into this trap (and make bad trades or free agent moves), it's cricital to know whose streaky starts are a FLUKE (and are not indicative of future performance) and whose starts are REAL (and a sign of things to come). Here's my take:
Carlos Gomez: Four steals already, with many more to come. I say he could lead the AL in steals. He will struggle with his AVG (see last night's 0-4, 3Ks), but if the Twins let him play every day, I say 50 steals is his floor. His speed is REAL. If he's still a free agent in your league, go get him.
Marco Scutaro: Has 3 steals already, so is he the newest 30-steal guy? Can he stay on pace with Gomez? No and No. He hasn't had more than 5 steals in a season since 2003. His hot start on the bases is a FLUKE.
Chris Young (ARI): The power and speed are legit, but what intrigues me is that he already has 6 walks, compared to 43 all of last year. He may not hit .300 any time soon, but keep an eye on his walk rates - if he keeps that up, and I think he can, he will help him jump into the "elite" category. He's REAL.
Xavier Nady: His 2 HR, 7 RBI, and SB are a hot start, nothing more. He's beyond the age where he could be "breaking out" and his trade value may never be higher. He's a FLUKE.
Roy Oswalt: ERA of 6, WHIP of nearly 2 - he's been ugly. But he is a proven commodity and it has been just two starts, so I'm inclined to say his poor start is a FLUKE. But when a pitcher like him has zero Ks in an outing, there could be an injury lingering. Proceed cautiously, and watch his next start closely.
CC Sabathia: See Roy Oswalt. Any time a pitcher throws as many innings as Sabathia did last year, an injury often follows. It doesn't always work that way, of course, but I'd be cautious here.
Justin Upton: Already has 3 HR and looks like a future Hall of Famer. But he's still so young and certainly can't keep up his .400 AVG this year, especially with his 7:1 K:BB ratio. As good as he will be, his hot start is a FLUKE, and he's an ideal sell-high candidate in non-keeper leagues. (If you can get a top-30 OF for him, do so.) That said, for keeper leagues, he's REAL.
Johnny Cueto: Could he be Fernando Valenzeula circa 1980? I suppose it's possible. But I say his hot start is a FLUKE and that he's a sell-high candidate in non-keeper leagues. (If you can get a guy like Halladay, Rich Hill, James Shields, etc. for him, I say you have to do it.) In keeper leagues, though, he's REAL.
Corey Patterson: Sure the Reds picked him up off of the scrap heap. So? His stats last year were good and there's no reason to think this year will be any different. And his start (2HR, 1SB) bears that out. As long as you don't expect a good AVG, 20/50 is realistic. He's REAL. As for Jay Bruce, I don't think Patterson owners have to worry about him any time soon. If Patterson is somehow available in your league, go get him.
Robinson Cano: Currently hitting just .105; I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that he finishes the year better than that. In other words, his slow start is a FLUKE. If the Cano owner in your league is impatient (and many novice owners are), Cano is an ideal "buy-low" candidate. Remember, it's only been a week!!
Placido Polanco, Russell Martin, Matt Holliday, Alfonso Soriano: See Robinson Cano.
Dontrell Willis: 7 BB and Zero Ks? Now that is ugly. It's early, but it's clear that Willis will kill your WHIP and that he just isn't very good. Plus the change to the American League clearly doesn't help him. His bad start is REAL.
Jason Kendall: Usually when a guy his age gets off to a good start, I'm inclined to call it a fluke. But if you dig deeper you will see that Kendall had offseason Lasik surgery. Call me crazy, but I suspect that being able to see the ball helps you hit the ball. Hence, I say Kendall's hot start is REAL. Don't go overboard with your expectations, but with all of the catchers out there who will hit .250, you can do worse.
So what should you make of this? Remember, the season just started. Don't overreact to a bad start from a good player because of one week. And don't overpay for a rookie like Cueto based on one good start.
Also, try to figure out who in your league is over-reacting to the early-season flukes so you can take advantage. For instance, if I see a fellow owner dropping a good player so he can pick up Xavier Nady or Marco Scutaro, I will immediately scan his roster and see if he has any players who are off to a slow start. If he's the type of owner who over-reacts to the FLUKY fast starts of Nady and Scutaro, then he may be willing to trade you Cano or Holliday or another slow starter for a discount.