Clearing The Bases
The season is only 6-7 games old for most MLB teams to this is certainly no time to panic no matter how bad your fantasy team has started off. Standings can change dramatically in the span of a couple of days. Like every season, there are plenty of players that are off to slow starts. Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Justin Upton, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Tim Lincecum, Ike Davis, Josh Johnson, CC Sabathia, and Josh Beckett are just some of the players who should get better. If you liked them at draft time, there is no reason to change your opinion of them now. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, patience is required. Today we are going to look at our top nine fantasy surprises to start the season and whether or not they can continue this hot trend.
- Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay: Pena hit his third home run of the season in Thursday’s loss to the Tigers. Pena has always been a good source of power, it was the low batting average and high amount of strikeouts that made him nothing more than a CI or bench player at draft time. Manager Joe Maddon certainly seems to have faith in Pena, batting him 2nd in the order, ahead of Evan Longoria and behind Desmond Jennings, a pretty happy spot to be in. Question is will he remain their once BJ Upton returns from the disabled list? If he does than Pena is going to see a large amount of fastballs which should only help his offensive numbers. This could be a much better season than first thought for Pena.
- Austin Jackson, Detroit: Jackson admitted during spring training that his high strikeout totals over the past two seasons (181, 170) were on his mind during the off-season, forcing him to change his approach at the plate. So far in the early going that change seems to have helped. Jackson is batting .500 and looks much more confident at the plate, he is even walking more. With the hitters the Tigers have batting behind him, the more Jackson gets on, the more he will score. Jackson scored 103 runs in 2010, he could easily best that this year.
- Javy Guerra, Dodgers: With his save against the Pirates on Wednesday that brings his save total to four, and it’s not like he has struggled in these opportunities. Looks like manager Don Mattingly knew what he was doing early in camp by naming Guerra the closer when there were plenty of people who thought that Kenley Jansen deserved the job. So far Guerra has a 4:1 K to BB ratio, and a WHIP of .500, he’s not losing that job any time soon.
- David Freese, St. Louis: We all know what Freese did in the World Series last season. He was one of the big reasons that St. Louis was able to beat the Rangers. The question has always been, can he stay healthy and remain on the field for 150+ games. Well, so far so good. Freese already has 3 HRs, 10 RBIs, and is batting over .400. The Cards are going to play it smart with Freese, resting him often, perhaps even once a week. That may be annoying to fantasy owners but we all know what an ounce of prevention can do.
- Rafael Furcal, St. Louis: Shortstop came under quite a bit of scrutiny during draft time because of the lack of depth at the position. Furcal was barely talked about, not making anyone’s top 10 list for a couple of reasons. Lack of production, inability to stay healthy, and the rumor that me might bat 8th chief among those reasons’ Well so far he’s proving everyone wrong by getting off to a sizzling start. Of course he’s not going to bat close to .400 all season, but if he can stay on the field, at the very least he’s worth of MI consideration.
- Ian Desmond, Washington: Like Furcal, Desmond was nowhere to be found on most drafters cheat sheets but he is also showing that perhaps SS wasn’t as shallow as first thought. We tend to forget that Desmond did hit 10 HRs and steal 17 SBs last season. Who is to say he can’t better those numbers this season. There is quite a bit of optimism surrounding the Nationals team this season because of their young pitching, but if a couple of young hitters can also step up, watch out.
- Omar Infante, Miami: Well Infante is not going to lead the majors or even the National League in home runs, let’s get that out of the way, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful player. His first season in Miami was a disappointment after coming over from Atlanta in the Dan Uggla deal but perhaps he just needed a year to get adjusted to his new team. As recently as 2010 he did bat .321. Now that average was kind of empty as it didn’t come with much power or speed, but Infante can still be useful in deeper leagues.
- Chad Billingsley, Dodgers: Billingsley has been a tease for a couple of seasons now. At one time he was compared to Clayton Kershaw as the two young guns in the Dodgers rotation that were going to lead them to the promise land. Well Billingsley was an extreme disappointment last season after going 11-11 with a 4.21 ERA and 1.452 WHIP. Well perhaps the light bulb went off as Chad has been exceptional in his first two starts this season. He is 2-0 with a .63 ERA and .628 WHIP. Could this be the magical season we’ve been waiting for? Possibly, but let’s keep in mind that those starts did come against San Diego and Pittsburgh, not exactly offensive powerhouses.
- Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland: It’s always hard to judge someone who we haven’t seen play baseball stateside. We never know how they will adjust. When Cespedes first played winter ball, he looked lost, not much changed during spring training, but once the season started he proved that he can hit the ball a long long way. The question with Cespedes will be, will he make the necessary adjustments that all players have to make once the book gets out on him. The more games he plays, the more video there will be of his swing, and where the holes are. The power will be there, not sure about the average, and with that offense around him, it’s really hard to see anything more than 80-90 RBIs.
Remember, you can ask me any fantasy questions you like on Twitter, @GeorgeKurtz