Eric Mack
Monday April 4th, 2011

Just when you think you know everything ... OK, so maybe you're not naïve, but you are pretty sure about things like death, taxes and slow starts for Mark Teixeira.

Big Tex, whose nickname makes far less sense in the Big Apple, is fantasy's leading hitter out of the gate. Who'da thunk it?

It is the first weekend's reminder that what will be isn't always what was.

Albert Pujols is hitting .154 and set a record for three GIDPs on Opening Day. Then he lost his lineup protector Matt Holliday for at least a couple of weeks.

Don't trade Pujols for Teixeira. Only rookies would do that. Pujols had the most consistent decade of dominance in baseball history for a reason.

But there are some things we can take out of the first weekend:

1. Ian Kinsler has come to play

Kinsler, like Teixeira, is capable of much more than he showed a season ago and is an even better bet to outperform his draft position. Both players tend to be streaky, but they can be .300 hitters and fantasy MVPs.

Kinsler has shown the kind of power out of the gate that could make him a 30-plus, maybe even a 35-plus, homer hitter -- especially when you consider all those added plate appearances leading off for a great offense that turns the lineup over more often than anyone.

The story for Kinsler tends to be health, but all is well in that regard for now.

2. You still hatin' Howard Kendrick?

All of the writer feedback sent here gets read and most of it from our fantasy baseball preview package was hate mail centered on the bold prediction "Your Yankees will disappoint you" and the picks for breakouts and busts. One of the breakouts was Kendrick, like it has been every year for the past five.

Kendrick is a poor man's Kinsler in that he hasn't been able to reach that high, high ceiling yet. Well, the first weekend not only showcased his potential to be a high-average hitter but it also delivered the bombs. Just a little confidence out of the gate can make him this year's Rickie Weeks-like breakout at age 27.

Kendrick has the bat to hit .320 and his three-homer weekend could point to a 20-homer season. The best part is he is available in about one-fifth of leagues and is active in only 57 percent.

3. Hard-hittin' is back!

Carlos Quentin was one of the game's burgeoning superstars after his breakthrough in 2008, but like those above here, health and a hot start could remove his stigma of disappointment. Quentin is tied with Big Tex for the RBI lead through three games and is going to be a great RBI man in Chicago's ballpark and lineup.

He, too, is at least healthier out of the gate than he has been in years. It certainly helps that the likes of OBP machine Adam Dunn and fellow Paul Bunyan of power hitters Paul Konerko are batting in front of him. Just wait for the hot months in the Windy City to come. This could be an epic year for Quentin.

4. Maybe catchers don't hit like pitchers

If you've followed baseball over the years, you tend to know catchers wear down in the second half and generally don't offer the offensive bang for the buck as any other position. Even shortstops produce more on average.

But it was some start for catchers. The Reds' Ramon Hernandez opened it up with a walkoff three-run homer to abuse the Brewers and John Axford, and time-share backstop Ryan Hanigan made them the best combo in the league with a .714 average (5-for-7) and a pair of homers.

J.P. Arencibia posted a pair of bombs, as did Jorge Posada, too. John Buck had a slam on opening day for the Marlins, while Russell Martin and Carlos Santana have made a significant dent in fantasy scoring.

It should be important to remember this quick start for catchers is not sustainable for the 162, but at least if you waited on the position as was advised, you are feeling pretty good about things.

5. Closers schmosers

Axford's punking on Opening Day is a reminder of the annual rite of spring: Your closers tend to disappoint you early. Not only are there numerous injuries to worry about, but spring training doesn't tend to simulate the late-inning pressure situations like games that actually count.

The point to take out of this: Trust the relievers with longer track records of success. Jonathan Broxton (three saves) counts, despite his bad second half that saw him fall from the elite status at the position.

Broxton, and the Dodgers, look like they are going to be fine, if not real good.

Jaime Garcia stormed out of the gate with a complete-game shutout of the Padres, proving his outstanding rookie year coming off Tommy John surgery is no fluke. This is a good pitcher who was a great value after the top 25 fantasy aces were off the board. He is an obvious must-start now and not a pitch-or-ditch candidate.

Pujols is the easy target, being the No. 1 pick in leagues and setting a mark of futility in the opener. But Fausto Carmona's egg against the White Sox was an unmitigated disaster. It is a far cry from the quick start he got off to last April. Carmona is not worth trusting, or owning, in any mixed league right now. It could take a month for a Rotisserie team's ERA to truly wash that out of significance.

It is hard to imagine a year with more significant early injuries than this one, particularly with regard to position players. Chase Utley (knee) and Kendrys Morales (ankle) have been joined by Matt Holliday (appendectomy) and Evan Longoria (oblique) on the sidelines.

And to think the prevailing thought in fantasy is pitchers carry far more injury risk over position players.

Allen Craig and Jon Jay will get the added at-bats for Holliday. They are intriguing sleepers in NL-only formats in the short term.

Sean Rodriguez, since the Rays are going with Ben Zobrist at second base mostly, is going to play third base for Longoria. Rodriquez was one of the stars of spring 2010 before being a mild letdown during the season. Rodriguez turns 26 at the end of this month and could be a nice breakout candidate for mixed leagues.

1. RP Jose Contreras, PHI 2. 1B Brandon Belt, SF 3. SP Kyle Drabek, TOR 4. C J.P. Arencibia, TOR 5. SP Zach Britton, BAL

A new closer in Philly and four rookies top the most-added list this week. The rookies will prove to be far less consistent, but they do have considerable upside, particularly that Blue Jays pair for fantasy owners. Arencibia has 20-homer pop at a thin position and Drabek has 15-win talent for a team that apparently doesn't miss hitting guru Cito Gaston thus far.

1. 2B Eric Young, COL 2. SP Brett Cecil, TOR 3. RP Kevin Slowey, MIN 4. SP Brian Matusz, BAL 5. RP Brad Lidge, PHI

Lidge's shoulder woes look significant right now, which is also why everyone is jumping on Contreras. Ryan Madson is going to remain the setup man for now, for as long as Contreras can hold down the saves. Contreras might not give Madson a sniff.

1. SP Matt Harrison, TEX 2. SP Zach Britton, BAL 3. C Ryan Hanigan, CIN 4. OF Brennan Boesch, DET 5. 2B Howard Kendrick, LAA

Britton had the outstanding debut, but Harrison and Boesch represent a bit of the forgotten. They are two pretty good overlooked sophomore types that people probably shouldn't have slept on. They are going to be popular pickups in mixed leagues for good reasons.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.

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