How great did it feel to see the Braves and Phillies take the field on Sunday night? For me, it's what I've been waiting five months for. We've all spent the past few months staying up to the wee hours of the morning researching players we didn't even know existed. We talked trash to our buddies about how we took our league's championship last season. Or maybe we had to endure an off-season of obnoxious bragging from the guy in our league that everybody loves to hate. The greatest part is that whether or not you were first or last, Opening Day brings a new year, and another chance to be victorious.
The time has finally come to put our money where our mouths are and begin another six-month journey to the top of the fantasy mountain. Rest assured that I'll be here along the way to give you all the fantasy nutrition you need to reach the summit. Don't worry, this is steroid-free zone, so my advice will be pure, unfiltered goodness. With the season finally underway, here are my T.I.P.S for success in Week One.
Carlos Delgado (1B, NYM) is flying under the proverbial radar
If Delgado's eight-homer, 22-RBI, .340 September wasn't enough to catch your attention, his .485 spring training should have you fully enthralled. Delgado's ADP of 97 makes him the 15th 1B selected in most drafts. Haters point to his declining average the past few seasons, but his .271 campaign in 2008 was his best since '05. There's definitely some mileage on Delgado, but I'll take his '08 line of .271-38-115 over other 1B going ahead of him such as Derrek Lee (1B, CHC), Carlos Pena (1B, TAM) or James Loney (1B, LAD). Hitting in the middle of a prodigious lineup, Delgado is much more 2008 than he was 2007 (.258-34-87).
Chone Figgins (2B/3B, LAA) is running like it's 2005
Figgins numbers have been trending downward for four years now, which is a scary thought for a player who relies so heavily on his speed. But, he's still 2B-eligible in many leagues and that makes him intriguing regardless of his trends. His main attraction is steals and his inconsistent average no longer makes him a lock for .300. The concern with Figgins is the health of his legs. His stolen bases the last four years have been 61, 52, 41, 34. Similarly, his hits have gone from 186 in 2005 to 125 last season. Granted, he has been limited by injuries the past two seasons, but he's 31 now and the wheels have to fall off at some point. The good news is that Figgins has been all over the basepaths this spring training. When finally healthy, he stole seven bases last September and had nine this spring. It's hard to imagine him staying injury-free this season, but 500 at-bats and 40 steals still makes him valuable.
Yovani Gallardo (SP, MIL) struggling with command
Gallardo is one of this year's top candidates to join the upper tier of starting pitchers. While his skills are impressive, some people have forgotten about Gallardo since he spent almost all of last year rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee. Only 23, the former second-round pick has 24 career starts and a 3.35 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Known for his control, Gallardo has uncharacteristically walked 13 batters this Spring to only 19 strikeouts. While I'm not overly concerned, I think you can expect a slight rise in his WHIP as he works on his command. The Brewers expect big things from Gallardo and he should step up to be the team's new ace.
Gavin Floyd (SP, CHW) picking up where he left off
Like many young White Sox pitchers seem to do, Floyd broke out last season and finished with 17 wins, 3.84 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 145 Ks. While his numbers were fantastic, one couldn't help but wonder what his stats could have been if he cut back on those 70 walks. Floyd must have heard our thoughts, because he was slinging darts this spring. Despite finishing with a 4.81 ERA, Floyd struck out 26 batters in 39.1 IP. But most importantly, Floyd gave free passes to only six batters. Still only 26, Floyd seems to be one of those formerly hyped prospects that finally figured it out. But don't tell that to your leaguemates, as the vaunted "One-Year Wonder" label seems to be the universal sentiments regarding Floyd.
Ichiro Suzuki (OF, SEA) takes rare trip to the DL
How rare is it that Ichiro will be missing a few games to start the season? Well, this is his first-ever trip to the DL, and the eight games he will miss will be the most he's ever missed in any of his eight MLB seasons. He played 157 games in 2001 and '02, and since then hasn't missed more than three games in any season. But, a bleeding ulcer will keep him out until at least Apr. 15. Apparently it isn't bleeding anymore, and Ichiro is on track to return immediately after he is eligible to come off the DL. Ken Griffey Jr. (OF, SEA) is an option to replace Ichiro in right and is a solid fill-in for these first two weeks.
Max Scherzer (SP, ARI) being handled with kiddy gloves
Scherzer begins the season on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation, but all signs point to him returning to start on Apr. 14. The Diamondbacks have a plethora of great starting pitchers, so they won't hesitate to handle their prized 24-year-old carefully. Scherzer gets lost in the shuffle with other high-profile young hurlers like David Price (SP, TAM), Joba Chamberlain (SP, NYY) and Clay Buchholz (SP, BOS), but his ceiling is just as high. Although it was only in 8.1 IP, Scherzer's spring stats of 9 Ks and one walk shows exactly what kind of talent he really is. I'm just not sure he will be unleashed this year.
Brad Ziegler (RP, OAK) sees his percentage-owned increase drastically
Ziegler got a lot more popular after Joey Devine (RP, OAK) was transferred to the 60-day DL. Devine was expected to get most of the A's save opportunities, but recurring elbow discomfort has the 25-year-old out until at least June. Ziegler didn't give up a run in five spring innings and is coming off a rookie season where he had a 1.06 ERA. He won't strikeout a ton of hitters, but he will get them out, and that's all that matters.
Emilio Bonifacio (3B/2B, FLA) will man the hot corner
Bonifacio will start at third base for the Marlins since Gaby Sanchez (1B, FLA) was optioned to Triple-A. The move sends Jorge Cantu (1B/3B, FLA) over to first. Bonifacio hit .279 this spring and can be a solid source of steals. He had five stolen bases in spring training and manager Fredi Gonzalez has indicated he can steal 50 bases this year. He is a switch-hitter that will bat leadoff for a talented team that loves to run. Not much to dislike with this situation. The value of Cantu also increases since he will now be eligible to play both corner infield spots.
Getz your hands on him if you need 2B help
Chris Getz (2B, CHW) has shown enough to win the everyday second base job and a No. 2 spot in the Sox lineup. The rookie hit .333 in spring training with four stolen bases. Getz also had six walks to only seven strikeouts in 75 at-bats, something that Ozzie Guillen demands at the top of his lineup. Getz has Gordon Beckham (SS, CHW) breathing down his neck, so he needs to stay consistent to keep his job. If you are looking for runs and some above-average speed, Getz can give you a little bit of both.
Duke of the bench
It seems that Elijah Dukes (OF, WAS) will start the year on the bench while Austin Kearns (OF, WAS) mans right field. Kearns had a far better spring, but this move is surprising considering Dukes was one of this year's biggest sleepers. Kearns isn't exactly the healthiest player, so odds are that Dukes will be starting sooner rather than later. While Kearns is an extremely patient hitter (10 walks, 10 Ks in spring training), Dukes' 22 strikeouts in 52 at-bats must be addressed if he wants to find the field. Strikeouts don't matter in most fantasy formats, so make sure you keep Dukes around.
Believe in Motte
While many believe that Chris Perez (RP, STL) is the closer of the future for the Cardinals, Jason Motte (RP, STL) has been absolutely filthy. Motte will start the year as the Cardinals closer and if his spring was any indication as to how his stuff will translate to the majors, we have a dominant closer on our hands. Motte struck out 18 batters in 12.1 innings with a 1.46 ERA and only one walk. The Cardinals should win a decent amount of games and Motte should be the benefactor with 30-35 saves.
With the regular season finally here, the buildup and excitement can take an emotional toll on you. For instance, after watching Kelly Johnson (2B, ATL) go 0-for-4 on opening night, I was all but ready to drop him and his disgusting .000 average. Alas, I calmed down and opted to give him one more chance. Be confident with the team you drafted and give them a month to get back in game shape. Some players adjust differently to colder weather and consequently pick up the slack once the weather warms.
But take advantage of those who do
Every league has the guy who grabs players immediately after they hit a home run and drops people after a rough game. This person probably has racked up 20 transactions already, and the season has barely begun. This is a sucker, and someone you need to target with multiple trade offers. Notice the guys who have made a ton of moves and see if they have any underachievers on their squad. These type of owners have a genetic makeup where they constantly need to make changes. It's simple buy-low, sell-high and these owners are the ones you can take advantage of.
All Average Draft Positions provided by mockdraftcentral.com.
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