MLB Barometer: Only Fools Rush In

MLB Barometer: Only Fools Rush In

This article is part of our MLB Barometer series.

The return of baseball brings great joy to our lives and smiles to our faces. That void in our daily lives is instantly fulfilled. But excitement turns to over-excitement and impatience, specifically for players who are frigid out of the gate. For most of us, this is not our first rodeo. We are not actually worried about slow starts by first round picks Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo. Unless there is a hidden injury, it means relatively little. Irrational thoughts always loom large during the first week of the baseball season. I nearly flipped my lid after our NFBC Main Event team took a beating from Masahiro Tanaka, Mat Latos and then lost Derek Holland for at least a month. One day later, our squad accounted for seven homers in one night and we moved from 14th place to third. Don't even ask me why I'm looking at standing this early other than I'm a self-diagnosed obsessive-compulsive and am excited for the start of the season. Standings don't matter this early.

I've received a handful of questions this week from subscribers and some of my more casual fantasy baseball playing friends, asking things like whether to drop Evan Gattis for Caleb Joseph or to evaluate jumbled and random 4-for-4 trade offers. I get it. In an era of instant updates, instant conveniences and instant gratification, we want our stats and we want them now. Please keep in mind, though, that we have over 95 percent of the season

The return of baseball brings great joy to our lives and smiles to our faces. That void in our daily lives is instantly fulfilled. But excitement turns to over-excitement and impatience, specifically for players who are frigid out of the gate. For most of us, this is not our first rodeo. We are not actually worried about slow starts by first round picks Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo. Unless there is a hidden injury, it means relatively little. Irrational thoughts always loom large during the first week of the baseball season. I nearly flipped my lid after our NFBC Main Event team took a beating from Masahiro Tanaka, Mat Latos and then lost Derek Holland for at least a month. One day later, our squad accounted for seven homers in one night and we moved from 14th place to third. Don't even ask me why I'm looking at standing this early other than I'm a self-diagnosed obsessive-compulsive and am excited for the start of the season. Standings don't matter this early.

I've received a handful of questions this week from subscribers and some of my more casual fantasy baseball playing friends, asking things like whether to drop Evan Gattis for Caleb Joseph or to evaluate jumbled and random 4-for-4 trade offers. I get it. In an era of instant updates, instant conveniences and instant gratification, we want our stats and we want them now. Please keep in mind, though, that we have over 95 percent of the season to go. Miguel Castro and Jeurys Familia are not the only closers who will be available in the free agent pool this season. Let's see how many are available next week (note to my Main Event league mates, we already snagged John Axford a week early - we like to play with fire). Though Adrian Gonzalez is an underrated man among boys, he will not come close to the 104 home runs he is on pace for. There's just so much that changes weekly, whether it be a game of musical chairs of save opportunities, rotation spots up for grabs because of injuries to a top-five starter or a guy deservedly moving his way up their team's lineup (I'm looking at you, Kid Marisnick). All of the fantasy baseball articles you read around the web over the next couple of days will likely say the same thing you'll read here, and rightfully so - it's a long season. Don't panic.

As for the week one trade offers, please, just wait. Remember what Elvis said - only fools rush in. Unless you foresee a major category deficiency (let's say speed) in accordance with an overabundance of another category (power) and can gain a clear and present advantage, just wait. It takes a few weeks for the dust to settle on a league's category distribution and to have an idea of your team's true strengths and weaknesses. Unless you have a preference for two guys close to ADP - say Prince Fielder over Albert Pujols - and want to make that trade, go for it. But you drafted who you drafted for a reason, right? If a trade looks 'close and fair' today, it may turn into your trade partner's advantage in a week's time. People have different strategies and theories when trading, but your league mates are looking to hose you while simultaneously making their teams better. Don't take the first offer proposed, ask for more and go from there, and only trade if you feel you have a clear and present advantage. Anyway, my buddy who I was vehemently opposed to making that 4-for-4 trade did it anyway. He made another deal for Lonnie Chisenhall for his Jose Ramirez, but regretted it when Ramirez stole two bases and hit a homer Thursday while Chisenhall did squat last week. One day of stats does not make a season though. The real regret was giving up a starting middle infielder and having to scramble to the waiver wire for an inferior replacement. They don't say patience is a virtue for nothing.

If you do the research and have confidence in your game, trust yourself. I learned that lesson the hard way in 2011. After touting Michael Morse all spring, drafting him everywhere I could, I grew impatient after a cold April (.224, 1 HR, 9 RBI) and dropped him. Morse went on to hit .409 in May and 14 homers over the next two months on his way to a career year (.303, 31 HR, 95 RBI). That is just one example, and of course I've been wrong plenty of times like everyone else, but I've also learned to trust my research and instincts over the last few years.

This season, I drafted Dodgers' Alex Guerrero almost everywhere, knowing full well that he's an early season stash with many factors stacked against them, most notably no position and the fact that his own team doesn't seem to like him. Though my desire to keep him may have stemmed from an air of irrationality thinking Juan Uribe would get hurt and Guerrero would find his way into playing time, he was nevertheless worth a late-round flier to me. On mine and Jeff Erickson's Gut & El Jefe NFBC RotoWire online championship team, Guerrero was about to get the axe given that we had no outright drops and guys like Travis Snider and my boy Marisnick were available as free agents. Even Uribe got hurt! Perfect storm, right? I told Jeff that we could cut Guerrero if he didn't hit a homer on Sunday, and he agreed. Whether it was fate, coincidence or just the red curry flavor of a perfectly-placed Oliver Perez's meat pitch, Guerrero earned his keep on Gut & El Jefe with a two-run shot in the ninth inning. And with that home run, the Alex Guerrero 2015 campaign of success is underway.

Though the following mantra may be a tired one, it bears repeating when strategizing fantasy baseball in April - it's a marathon, not a sprint. Live and die by this notion. The overreactions you make in April will come full circle towards the end of the season.

Rising

Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN) - Less than five percent of the season in, and Hamilton has more than double the stolen bases (seven) than the next MLB leader - Dee Gordon has three. The 182 steal pace is unreasonable, but 100 isn't. That can help you run away with the SB category, and if you drafted the right power bats around him, your offense might have the perfect formula to fly up the standings. The knock on Hamilton was that he can't hit, but truth be told, he was going to be given every opportunity atop the Reds' lineup, mostly due to the lack of alternatives, and his blazing speed. Though he may still be a drain to your batting average, if he continues to show patience and walk like in Week 1, Hamilton is going to help you win the SB cat and contribute to the always-underrated runs category.

Anthony Gose (OF, DET) - Gose is off to a hot start. After sitting out the opener for veteran Rajai Davis, Gose has scored six runs, driven in five and is 9-for-20 to start the season. Gose was a toolsy Blue Jays' prospect who became an afterthought when the team decided to invest in Dalton Pompey. Gose hit 16 homers and stole 69 in Double-A in 2011 but struggled to hit for average and get on base in the minors and majors over the last few years. With a re-tooled swing in tow, Gose is in a prime position to succeed batting leadoff in front of a monster lineup. He will be hard-pressed to hit for a plus average, but we've all seen stranger things, and this is the right situation for a career year. If he can maintain above .310 this month, it will be all that much harder for him to end 2015 under .250, even with a couple of slumps, as some may expect.

Stephen Vogt (1B, soon-to-be C, OAK) - Vogt impressed in 84 games with the Athletics last year, hitting .279 (.291 against righties) with 9 homers and 35 runs-batted-in. He is hitting .368 through the first week and has always shown patience at the plate as evidenced by a 13.5 percent strikeout-rate over the last two seasons with Oakland and in Triple-A. Vogt was a sneaky late-round draft pick for those punting their second catcher waiting two to three weeks for him to gain eligibility. That's where the value lies. Avoid the batting average drain of guys like Tyler Flowers, Chris Iannetta and Jarrod Saltalamacchia as your second catcher, and take advantage of a well-balanced bat like Vogt's if you still can.

Brandon Morrow (SP, SD), Jimmy Nelson (SP, MLW), Shane Greene (SP, DET) - Here are three live arms who you snagged (or should have) late in drafts who will step up for teams this year. Greene's value rose in March especially after being touted by fantasy pundits nationwide looking for the next Corey Kluber. Greene was never all that impressive in the minors, but a 9.3 K/9 and 3.40 xFIP got our attention. He threw an eight-inning, four-hit gem though it came against the Minnesota Twins - who actually have some live bats in their lineups, but are still in their slumber. Playing on the Tigers helps put him in position for 16-plus wins.

Nelson is a hulking (6-foot-6, 243), touted 25-year-old whose value was depressed due to an unimpressive first trip through the majors (4.93 ERA in 69 IP, but a 3.92 xFIP). He was lights out with nine strikeouts against the Pirates last week and will face them again this week, but this time on their turf. Don't be surprised if he raises his K/9 this year back up to the 9.0-plus levels he exhibited in the minors and ends the year as the Brewers' best starting pitcher.

Morrow was a former first-round pick who used to hit 99 mph with his fastball as a reliever with the Mariners. He has gone through his fair share of injuries and again finds himself in another pitchers' park and absolutely fabulous situation. Morrow pitched seven solid innings against the Giants this past weekend and lines up for the Diamondbacks in another home outing this week before the impending danger that looms at Coors Field on the first day of Week 3. Like Brett Anderson, run Morrow out there for his home starts while he is still healthy. If you added him this week, hopefully he didn't cost you a pretty penny. If he makes 28 starts, that penny was well spent. If you use him right, he will get you some plus strikeouts and treat your ratios well.

Honorable Mentions
Kevin Pillar (OF, TOR), Lorenzo Cain (OF, KC), Kendrys Morales (1B, KC), Trevor Bauer (SP, KC), Miguel Castro (RP, TOR), Joel Peralta (RP, LAD), Ubaldo Jimenez (SP, BAL - yes, I went there)

Not Buying It

Aaron Harang(SP, PHI), Scott Feldman (SP, HOU), Edinson Volquez (SP, KC) - The threesome of 30-somethings have fooled us before. Harang enjoyed a 2.97 ERA (1.98 BA-against) in April of last year before finishing the year at 3.54 (.273). Feldman marveled last April (1.69 ERA, .176 BA-against) and ended more than a full run higher at 3.74 (.266). Both have good looking two-steps on paper in Week 2, but be wary, even if they repeat their gem starts from last week. They may wear down even sooner this year. Volquez steps into a nice situation in Kauffmann Stadium, but is prone to blowups when you least expect it. Volq will see plenty of the Tigers, White Sox and Indians and will eventually wander out East to the land of Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles' bats. You've been warned.

Falling

Fallers are difficult to identify after just one week of action, though a rough spring compounded by injury issues can affect April stats and have repercussions throughout the season. Here are a few to keep an eye on.

Carlos Beltran (OF, NYY) - Beltran is one of the league's oldest hitters, underwent elbow surgery at the end of last season and is off to a rough start. His ISO has maintained below the .200 mark over the last couple of seasons and unfortunately he is in the midst of the twilight of his career. It's wild to think that he started with the Royals back in 1998. Nevertheless, Beltran was rested on Friday and may be rested early and often. He has two hits and six strikeouts through his first 20 at-bats and I think we will all be surprised if Beltran makes it through the season without retiring.

Ryan Braun (OF, MLW) - Count me as one of the hopelessly optimistic folks heading into the season. I moved Braun up to the middle of the second round in my rankings and was beaten to the punch on him in every one of my seven drafts. Braun hurt himself running into an outfield wall on Opening Day and missed the next two games. He claims his thumb is okay and that he's in terrific shape, but no one knows what type of numbers a PED-less Braun is capable of. Double-digit steals may be a distant memory and 30-plus home runs most surely are. He is in a prime position to bounceback in the middle of a talented lineup if he can stay on the field. If 140 games, expect 75 R, 23 HR, 85 RBI, 8 SB and a .280 BA. Unless he exceeds those expectations - plus, the health ones - we aren't looking at a second or even third rounder. He's from my Alma Mater (Granada Hills High), so I forgive and forget too easily. Or maybe I should step up and be big boy fantasy player and evaluate him objectively. (insert Gob Meme from "Arrested Development" - COME ON!!)

Giancarlo Stanton (OF, MIA) - Stanton wears a half-mask thingie covering the left side of his face where he was drilled last year. He now looks like a cross between The Rock and that Batman villain, Bane. Appearances aside, Stanton is one of the league's best sluggers, plain and simple. Stanton hit 37 homers in what was a career season, matching the 37 he hit in an amazingly low 123 games in 2012. One can only imagine the season Stanton could have had, had he not missed most of July that year. And one can only imagine what Stanton would be capable of calling Coors Field or Yankee Stadium his home. Nevertheless, Stanton may need a couple more weeks to regain his confidence at the plate - it may take a while to psychologically distance himself from last season's painful incident. Give The Rock some time. Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich ahead of him and Michael Morse, Marcell Ozuna behind him makes for a very underrated sextet and perhaps, finally, his first 40 homer season.

Masahiro Tanaka (SP, NYY) - The damage over his first two games isn't beyond repair, and perhaps the elbow isn't either. Tanaka looked good early in the season opener last Monday, before the Blue Jays put the hurt on him, a Russell Martin blooper, an Ency bomb, and voila, four earned runs and pulled after the fourth inning. He did manage the win against the Red Sox last night, thanks to a flip of the switch for the Yankees offense, and no thanks to the horrendous defense of Stephen "will you retire already" Drew and Didi Gregorius. After two starts, Tanaka has 10 strikeouts in 9 innings but has walked five and allowed seven earned runs. Not the Tanaka we know. In fact, I avoided drafting him through most of March until a voice in my head starting telling me that where Tanaka was falling to was a value that could not be passed up. Of course, I ended up with him as my SP3 on my most important team and regretted it instantly. In fact, Scott Pianowski confirmed that regret almost immediately when I showed him my team. I truly bought the lip service about Tanaka's revamped approach at the expense of his velocity, and now I am worried. Part of that approach is less of his fastballs and almost no cutters - though the cutter got creamed to the tune of .333 last season. It's all four-seamers and sliders now until TJ-day arrives. Unfortunately, it's looming its ugly head - you can just feel it.

Dishonorable Mentions

Jered Weaver (SP, LAA), Clay Buccholz (SP, BOS), NeftaliFeliz (RP, TEX), Austin Jackson (OF, SEA), Odubel Herrera (OF, PHI), Ryan Howard (1B, PHI)

Not Buying It

Robinson Cano (2B, SEA), YasielPuig (OF, LAD), Starling Marte, (OF, PIT),Anthony Rizzo (1B, CHC), Steve Cishek (RP, MIA), Mat Latos(SP, MIA), Andrew Cashner (SP, SD), Taijuan Walker (SP, SEA)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vlad Sedler
Vlad Sedler covers baseball and football for RotoWire. He is a veteran NFBC player and CDM Hall of Famer, winning the Football Super Challenge in 2013. A native Angeleno, Vlad loves the Dodgers and Kings and is quite possibly the world's only Packers/Raiders fan. You can follow him @RotoGut.
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