Keep Calm and Carry On…For Now — Hot & Cold Fantasy Players
“My fantasy baseball players are horrible! OMG! LOL! What do I do!?! IDK! TTYL! ”
That’s a tweet I might get from a reactionary fantasy baseball owner (who’s also an 11-year-old girl) but as much as we should all heed the advice to “Keep Calm and Carry On” as it relates to fantasy sports, people freak because they don’t want to dig themselves into a huge hole in the first couple weeks of the season.
While that’s understandable to overreact, it’s also unnecessary. Much of this fear comes from fantasy football, where starting the season 0-3 sometimes means the season is a wash. Everyone must remember — the fantasy baseball regular season is close to double (77%) the length of a fantasy football regular season. Keep calm. Carry on.
Here are the hot and cold players for this week.
John Buck, C, N.Y. Mets
Nobody’s raising eyebrows more than the 10-year veteran backstop. He’s lights out right now, with five homers, 15 RBI and a .375 batting average, but let’s remember that he has hit more than 16 homers just once in his career, and he hit .236 over the past three years combined. Buck is also just a placeholder until the Mets call up top hitting prospect Travis D’Arnaud, who is hitting .300 with Triple A Las Vegas.
Chris Davis, 1B/OF, Baltimore
Davis has 19 RBI through Thursday, and no player (since 1920) has knocked in more runs in the first nine games of the season. Dale Murphy (’85) and Manny Ramirez (’99) had 18 each to start their respective seasons. Davis, who reminds me of Ryan Howard a little bit, is already coming off a breakout season (33 homers), so this outburst is impressive but not entirely insane. Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com notes that his miss rate is 15-percent better this year than last.
Jed Lowrie, SS, Oakland
The hottest middle infielder in fantasy baseball right now is Oakland’s Lowrie. Something tells me the Astros wished they didn’t trade him away this winter. The Athletics are riding his hot streak, batting the former Red Sox prospect third in the batting order recently. He has five multi-hit games already this season. His problem is – he can’t stay healthy, as he has never played more than 100 games in a season.
Yu Darvish, SP, Texas
The Whirling Darvish won his first two starts, with 20 strikeouts and four walks over 13 2/3 innings. Darvish was very good last season, but when you consider what a Japanese import has to deal with in his first season in the majors, you’d consider Darvish’s rookie season a major accomplishment. But now, he’s acclimated to his new country, he’s working on the language and he knows what to expect in the majors.
Justin Masterson, SP, Cleveland
The Indians’ ace beat the reigning Cy Young winners in both leagues in his first two starts of the season. He’s just the third pitcher in Major League history to accomplish that feat, along with Bruce Hurst (’89) and Shane Reynolds (’03). While many can point to his award-winning counterparts as having bad games, Masterson’s 0.69 ERA tells a different story. Of course, he’s worth starting right now, but beware of the random 7 ER games he sprinkles in here and there (seven such games in 2012).
Matt Kemp, OF, L.A. Dodgers
The top-five fantasy pick is batting just .182 through Thursday’s games – and that’s during a four-game hitting streak. He’s coming off major shoulder surgery, but he’s already starting to come around again. When healthy and hitting, there are few better Fantasy players. Maybe test the trade waters with his current owner, and offer up your best fantasy pitcher for Kemp.
Josh Hamilton, OF, L.A. Angels
Hambone is more like Ha-Mendoza right now, but let’s chalk some of that up to playing on a new team, in a new city and pressing a little bit as he tries to live up to his insane salary. Understand that very few free agents show instant success in their new uniforms in baseball. And, something else to remember here, there are very few first-round picks that are playing like first-round picks, including Hamilton’s new teammate, Mike Trout (one RBI). Both Hamilton and Trout are swinging at pitches outside the zone that they didn’t swing at in 2012.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami
It’s tough to get base hits when the pitchers are reluctant to show you anything in the strike zone. FanGraphs.com notes that Stanton is seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone (30 percent) than any other hitter. He’ll still reach out and poke some pitches out of the zone, and capitalize on the ones in the zone, but his RBI are definitely going to suffer being on a bad Marlins team.
R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto
“Uh-oh, Happy learned how to putt!” Or in this case, hitters learned how to hit Dickey’s knuckleball. OK, so maybe they haven’t “learned,” but it’s definitely not the pitch that it was last season. Knuckleballers are wildly erratic and very difficult to count on in fantasy. Hall-of-Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro won 318 career games – and lost 274. The change to a new league should help Dickey in the long run though, so don’t jump ship just yet.
Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia
Is there anyone that got older faster than Roy Halladay? We saw signs of it last season, as he had his worst year since his second full season in the majors. He has 12 strikeouts and 12 earned runs no the season. He’ll likely show some flashes here and there, which is exactly when you should start thinking about trading him.