Just like that, the MLB season is already a week underway. We’ve already seen some amazing action, like Giancarlo Stanton’s 484 foot moon shot, Mike Trout’s contract-validating first at bat home run and the fact that Grady Sizemore is still healthy after four long, instant replay-filled games.
While the first week is incredibly entertaining for pure fans of the game, it is a headache for fantasy owners trying to decide whether they should drop their slow starting players for what they hope to be the next waiver wire superstar. Even though ESPN fantasy writers like to say that most owners are panicking over their struggling and warn them against doing so, I advocate the opposite approach. Panic on the fringe guys (save Billy Hamilton) and stay patient with the guys you shelled out a lot of money/high draft pick for.
All those who are in standard leagues or anywhere close to those settings have many, almost too many, good players on the free agent list because people don’t know them yet (looking at Erasmo Ramírez, Drew Hutchison and James Paxton). Therefore, it’s important to clear room on your team for these high upside guys to occupy your precious roster space rather than an overachieving Mark Buehrle. But aside from Ramírez, Hutchison and Paxton, which other quick starters are necessities to add to your soon-to-be championship squad before anyone else in your league gets smart and adds those players themselves and which will fade into obscurity after a couple weeks?
Hitters (Top 3 on ESPN’s Player Rater who are not 100% owned)
Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies OF, (51% confidence level)
Of all the players on this list, Blackmon is by far the biggest enigma. His six for six performance is special – he’s only the 66th player since 1914 to accomplish that feat. With all those sixes, it’s just fate that he’s going to be successful. If you’re less of a believer in that kind of stuff, Blackmon did hit over .300 with Colorado in 250 at bats last year with a .467 slugging percentage. With Blackmon, everything rides on his plate discipline: last year he struck out 49 times to a lowly seven walks, while through one week, it’s still only one-to-one. If he can keep that low, he’ll be the surprise breakout of the year. But if he keeps his ratio like last year, he’ll be another forgotten man.
Emilio Bonifacio, Chicago Cubs, 2B/OF, (0%)
Is he Bona fide or Bonifacio? The people at ESPN started asking just that several years ago because Bonifacio has fooled the fantasy world before, but he shouldn’t again. He went a record setting 11/16 with four stolen bases out of the gate, and was all the rage the first week, but he 0/3 the next day, showing his true colors. While his age wouldn’t be a conversation-ender in terms of rapid improvement, the fact that he’s been in the league seven years (compared to a guy like Blackmon with only three, none of them anywhere close to full length) should kill any hopes of progression and should instead signal a hot streak.
Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox, OF, (20%)
An unlikely home runs leader after the first real day of baseball, who added another one two days later for good measure, Alejandro De Aza seems like that José Bautista/Edwin Encarnacion/Chris Davis type power prospect who was missing something, put it together and then became a star, right? Wrong. This is a guy who typically steals 20-25 bases and would hit for modest power if he played a full season. But he doesn’t, not because he’s injury prone, but because his manager doesn’t view him as a full-time player. And you know what, neither do I. He hits right-handers decently well, but is platooned out for teammate Dayán Viciedo when a lefty is on the mound. While some guys make a decent career off that, de Aza isn’t someone who will be worth the trouble managing your lineup every day, trying to balance when he’ll be in or out and on top of that won’t even be that reliable when he is playing righties. Leave him on the waiver wire and move on.
Ángel Pagán, San Francisco Giants OF (90% confidence) – Won’t be a Chris Davis, but will definitely fill out a roster, great or points leagues
Casey McGehee, Miami Marlins 1B (60%) – I think the guy got his groove back playing in the Korean leagues and playing behind a budding superstar in Giancarlo Stanton can’t hurt.
Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2B/SS (75%) – I have my doubts, but they’re in the back of my mind with all my positive energy in the front. This guy will get on base, and he will steal even more.
Pitchers (Top 3 on ESPN’s Player Rater who are not 100% owned)
Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays SP (0% confidence level)
Buehrle is the guy known for pitching complete games comes within one out of going the distance. No surprise, he seems like he’s 50 now, so who cares how taxed his arm is. But the long-time White Sox pitcher threw an unBuehrle-like 11 ks in the process, prompting a 33.5% increase in owners across ESPN to add him. He’s not getting any younger. There’s zero room for improvement and in an interview he even said he’s not doing anything differently. He will never eclipse the number of strikeouts he threw in the first start of this season, you can quote me on that.
Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants SP (5%)
See Mark Buehrle. It’s the same story, except Hudson just threw 7 strikeouts, which is eye-opening only because Hudson throws around three or four per game. So why 5 percent confidence when Buehrle has zero? Hudson just signed to the Giants, so go ahead and take a flier on the ballpark, new pitching coaches or some random factor revitalizing his career. Just don’t waste any money buying that flier. If a friend gets you a flier for your birthday, don’t make it awkward and return it. But it’s definitely useful if it’s free. Otherwise, let it go.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners SP (33%)
A highly regarded prospect for a couple years now, Paxton was someone I had an eye on this year, but thought he was a year away from being a major impact pitcher on the mixed league scale. However, after his first start, he’s making the case that he matters now. He has all the stuff a pitcher needs to succeed in this league, but I still think it’s one of those cases where he surprises early and then after watching some tape, hitters will figure him out and he will fall out of relevancy. Still, if you would’ve asked me what my confidence in him before the season started, I would’ve said 5 percent, showing just how much this start improved my season outlook for the kid. Despite the relatively low confidence level, he’s a guy you must add to your team if my honorable mentions aren’t already taken.
Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics SP (100% confidence level) – I’m really not sure why this guy isn’t 100 percent owned. He had a very good bounce-back year last year after being out of baseball for a two-year term with a k/9 over 9 and now he plays in the most pitcher friendly ballpark.
Michael Pineda, New York Yankees SP (100%) – Elite rookie two years ago. Gets Tommy John. Gets traded. Becomes forgotten. Has a great spring throwing 90-91 MPH. Hits 95 consistently in his first start. This is a lock until he gets hit with an innings cap.
Erasmo Ramírez, Seattle Mariners SP (80%) – There was some stat that I read two years ago that made Ramirez a really deep sleeper pick in last year’s draft. He made a couple good starts and then was out for the year. Well he’s back, and had a stellar first start. Buy in.
Daniel Scheiner is a sophomore majoring in music industry. His fantasy baseball draft picks run Mondays.