Sometimes when I'm at a restaurant, I'll change my order if I hear that someone else at my table is ordering the same thing. Even though I know I'm not going to get more than a bite of the dish I originally wanted off someone else's plate, I always zag when others are zigging. In some ways, I think ordering a variety of dishes will result in an on-table buffet where everyone gets a bite of the different meals. Problem is, no one else ever makes that same internal calculation (well, except for that friend of my aunt who shoved her fork in my food before I had chance to say no), and I'm left staring longingly at the person across the table eating the dish I originally wanted. Anyway, what does this have to do with fantasy baseball?
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Go with your gut, especially early in the season. Is a proven home run hitter struggling? Wait it out, because his power numbers will come. Is a career sub-.250 hitter struggling to hit? Don't expect him to change after several seasons of proof to the contrary.
The stats don't lie, but neither does your gut. Now to the trade tips.
? Ike Davis, New York Mets: Would you take a chance on Pedro Alvarez? If so, then aim a little higher and target Davis. Their power and streakiness is similar, but Davis generally heats up with the weather. Plus, with the Mets already playing for 2014, Davis isn't likely to find anyone pushing him out of his job at first. This may be an acquisition owners will have to stash for a few weeks, but it could be well worth the wait if he spins another nine-homer July.
? Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds: To echo the sentiments of SI.com colleague Eric Mack from earlier this week, what is everyone doing? Bruce has been one of the most traded players in fantasy baseball this season, and to those who have picked him up, congratulations. Sure, one homer in 33 games isn't much to have faith in, but when has Bruce finished with fewer than 20 homers? Never, not even when he clocked just 108 games as a rookie. Last year's 34 dingers may be a stretch at this point, but Bruce's power isn't withering away at age 26. Get him while he's priced to move.
? Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals: Espinosa consistently shows flashes of potential; he's averaged 19 homers and 19 steals in each of his first two full seasons, numbers that don't come standard with most second baseman. But he's struggling mightily at the plate so far this season. A career .236 hitter, the 26-year old isn't even at the Mendoza line, and he currently has an OBP of .238. Espinosa's drag on fantasy batting averages and the like negate his positives for all but the strongest of lineups.
? Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays: Was I the only fantasy owner intrigued by the Cabrera's return from his PED suspension? Entering the year, I thought there was a chance his last two seasons were evidence of a player coming into his own. Yes, they happened to be the only two in his career in which Cabrera hit better than .280. And OK, they were also the only two seasons in which he posted an OPS better than .752. I also understand that they happened to be two of his three best home run-per-at-bat seasons. But, still ... does all that mean Cabrera has returned to his middling career norms while apparently playing clean? Yes, yes it does. Owners should shop him as soon as he hits a hot streak.
? Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians: The Tribe "ace" has stunk in his last two starts -- believe me, Clevelanders know stink when they smell it. But he also posted a 4-1 record with a sub-2.00 ERA in his first five starts. So what is his true value? My guess is somewhere in the middle. I know that's a wishy-washy take, but think of it this way: Getting 15 or so wins with an ERA a little under 4.00 can keep a fantasy pitching staff humming along much more smoothly than hoping for Roy Halladay to rediscover his Cy Young form.
? Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs: An owner in a league I'm in recently shopped the Cubs hurler around in one of those general "these guys are available" e-mails. So why haven't I jumped on it? Partly because I'm about as bright as I look, and partly because the owner wants saves in return and all I have to offer is John Axford. (I told you I was as smart as I looked.) Don't get hung up on the wins, because Samardzija won't get many this season with the Cubs. But look at the peripheral stats: 52 strikeouts in 43.2 innings, a 3.09 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. All are solid numbers in categories that count just as much in fantasy as wins. Get on board with Theo Epstein and deal for Samardzija if you can.