Early Season Hot Starts: Buy or Sell?
As Week 2 of the baseball season progresses, let’s take a look at some of the early season success around the league and try to assess who’s for real and who’s simply riding a hot start before crashing down to earth. As with everything that happens in April there is way too small a sample size to draw any real conclusions from statistics compiled after only 6 or 7 games played, but we can build on preseason predictions, past season results, and some intangible factors to take educated guesses on how players will fare over the rest of the season.
Since the purpose of this is to look at these guys from a fantasy baseball perspective, I’m not including players like Justin Upton that have had huge expectations this and prior seasons and that are definitely owned in 100% of leagues and will be nearly impossible to trade for right now. The guys I’ll be looking at may or may not be available as free agents in your league depending on depth, but should still be able to obtain via a trade that won’t cost you too much. Either way, they’re not the staples owners drafted their teams around but rather guys with possible breakout potential that were drafted in late rounds, already picked up off the waiver wire, or still finding themselves there. Without further delay, here are the 5 hot starts I’m riding/buying, and 5 hot starts I’m trying to pawn off on another owner while they’re still sell high candidates.
5 Hot Starts I’m Buying
- Chris Davis (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles): Davis is probably the least likely guys on this list to still be a free agent in your league. And while I realize it’s nigh impossible to keep up the start Chris Davis has been on (I don’t see anyone ever finishing the season with a .417 batting average, 1.542 OPS, 93 home runs, and 393 RBI’s), that doesn’t mean he won’t keep putting up very capable numbers for his multiple positions of eligibility. A career .318 hitter in the minor leagues (.337 over parts of 4 seasons in AAA alone) in his age 27 season, I see Davis maturing into a reliable major league power hitter and maintaining a respectable batting average. I think he builds off this start and the way he finished last year and ends the season somewhere around the .275 – .285 batting average range with 35+ home runs and 90+ RBI’s. If you have him, don’t trade him. And if someone is trying to sell high on him, see if you can’t talk them down to a reasonable deal where you don’t have to give up much. And if he’s somehow still on your waiver wire, GO GET HIM RIGHT NOW.
- Todd Frazier (1B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds): Already a sleeper/break out candidate, his hot start means Frazier is another guy who is probably already on a roster in your league. If you’re lucky enough to have it be yours, I suggest holding on to him (when he doesn’t even need to hold on to his bat to hit home runs). His multiple position eligibility makes him even more valuable than Chris Davis (hooray 3rd base!), and I think his power is for real after a strong 2012 rookie campaign that saw him launch 19 home runs and post an ISO of .225 in only 422 at bats. If his owner in your league thinks this hot start is a fluke, see if you can take Frazier off his hands. Plus, who wouldn’t want a former Little League World Series hero like this on their fantasy squad (Sean Burroughs not included)?
- Vernon Wells (OF, New York Yankees): I try my best to hide my biases as best I can, and the Yankees are struggling mightily, but Wells is one of two veterans on their first tour of duty with the Bronx Bombers that looks poised for a bounce back season, even moreso after posting .381/.500/.761 slash lines with a couple dingers through 6 games. While he will have to give up some at bats here and there (and already has to Brennan Boesch), he’s a lock for almost-regular playing time until Curtis Granderson returns and comes with the added bonus of being excited to don the Pinstripes. It may not be hard statistical analysis, but give me a player happy and excited with his environment over a malcontent any day. A former 3 time All-Star, I think we see a Vernon Wells closer to the Toronto Blue Jays version rather than what Wells showed in his two seasons with the Angels, with 25 home runs and 80 RBI’s well within reach. At age 34 he’s not getting any younger, but he’s also only 2 seasons removed from a 4 WAR campaign with the Jays in 2010 and can hopefully resemble a player capable of such.
- Justin Masterson (SP, Cleveland Indians): Justin Masterson suffered a very disappointing 2012 season, but it’s possible he was an extreme victim of unprecedented bad luck and circumstance. The team’s de facto ace until Trevor Bauer matures into what’s expected of him, Masterson is a very valuable pitcher only one season removed from a 4 WAR campaign that saw him post a 3.21 era in 216 innings of work. The defense behind him and manager in the dugout are markedly improved, as is the offense providing him run support. It could just be that I’m high on the Indians as a whole this year, but I think Masterson resembles his 2011 self moreso than the 2012 version.
- Jeff Samardzija (SP, Chicago Cubs): The former favorite target of Brady Quinn traded in his shoulder pads for a baseball mitt a long time ago, and last season began to show why that was such an intelligent move (and that’s not even including the whole decreased concussion risk issue). After posting 3.81 era and 9.3 K/9 ratios through 174+ innings in his first season as a starter, Samardzija looks poised to wear the crown as the Cubs ace for the next few seasons after starting the season by striking out 22 and only giving up 4 runs through 13.2 innings pitched across two starts. Those numbers themselves scream small sample size, but Samardzija’s poise looks like he will hold up over the course of the whole season. Hell, I even know how to spell his last name without Googling it now, and that’s as good a sign as any.
5 Hot Starts I’m Selling
- John Buck (C, New York Mets): It’s not that I don’t love what John Buck is doing in Queens, it’s just that I can’t imagine it holding up much longer even if he did hit another home run last night. While Buck has showed some power in the past (20 home runs for the Blue Jays in 2010), he’s never played more than 118 games in a season with the exception of his 2011 campaign with the Marlins that saw him post .227/.316/.367 slash lines through 140 games played. Always an intelligent and solid defensive catcher more valuable to an MLB roster than a fantasy one, Buck has a history of very low batting average and on base percentage (career .235 and .303 respectively), with less than stellar strikeout rates to boot. Add in the facts that he plays at the notoriously pitcher-friendly CitiField and the Mets have their prized catcher of the future waiting in AAA, and I don’t see him being a worthwhile addition to your fantasy roster (unless there’s a Mets fan owner in dire need of immediate catching help you can sell him high to).
- Mark Reynolds (1B/3B/DH, Cleveland Indians): Unless you’re desperately in need of power and home runs, stay away. And if you have him, trade him now if/while you can. The early season power numbers aren’t surprising and he does get on base (Reynolds has averaged 34 home runs and 77 walks in 148 games played since 2009) but his average and strike outs will kill your other categories (.226 batting average and 197 K’s per season in that same span). If you have him, try to trade his early inflated .292 batting average for someone more established or any of the names from the list above. If he’s on your waiver wire he may be worth an add as a trade chip, but if you are in a position where you have to play him be ready for plus power with serious downgrades in every other offensive category.
- Jimmy Rollins (SS, Philadelphia Phillies): A former top tier short stop, over the last four seasons Rollins has posted .253/.316/.410 slash lines while appearing in only 135 games per season. At age 34 I see these trends continuing downwards, especially as the Phillies continue to age around him. With Ben Revere and Dom Brown getting regular playing time on the major league roster there is some youth around him, but the former MVP won’t keep up the .300/.344/.500 slash lines he’s maintaining as the season wears and there’s a better than average chance he’ll miss a solid chunk of time at some point. If someone is in need of a shortstop, send them Rollins and hope they haven’t been watching baseball very closely since 2009.
- Barry Zito (SP, San Francisco Giants): I almost feel silly putting him up here as it seems every season he throws a few quality starts before regressing to the nightmare of an overpaid fifth starter he’s become for the Giants. Zito may have thrown a 7 inning shutout gem in his 2012 debut, but this is a 35 year old pitcher 11 years removed from his Cy Young Award Winning peak who hasn’t posted a season with a WAR above 2 since 2009. In his Giants tenure he’s posted a 4.44 era and 1.40 WHIP, while averaging under 10 pitcher wins per year on a team that’s won enough games to win two World Series during that stretch. Zito is not returning to his Oakland A’s early 20’s form ever again, but he will return to the fifth starter performance making top tier starter’s money form he’s shown over the last 6 years.
- Paul Maholm (SP, Atlanta Braves): Another veteran pitcher off to a monster start for a contender, Paul Maholm is doomed to return to earth at some point and that point will most likely be sooner than later. A 31 year old pitcher with a career era of 4.22 and K/9 of 5.7, there’s a zero percent chance he maintains the 0.00 era and 9.2 k/9 he’s posted through 12.2 innings pitched across two starts to begin 2013. If he’s on your roster, try to deal him high. If he’s on your waiver wire, leave him there. I may be buying hot starts from most of the Tomahawk choppers in Atlanta, but that does not include Paul Maholm .
Posted on April 9, 2013, in 2013, Fantasy and tagged Barry Zito, baseball, Chris Davis, Fantasy Baseball, Jeff Samardzija, Jimmy Rollins, John Buck, Justin Masterson, mark reynolds, Paul Maholm, Spell Check, Strategy, Tips, Todd Frazier, Vernon Wells. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.