One day, you're king of the world. The next day, you're the goat. And I'm not referring to your stock portfolio choices. One bad performance this early in the season can wreak havoc in a category. And one great day can lift your team to the glory spot, even if it's just for a single moment. That's the way of April. So remember that when your team appears on the verge of an implosion -- that implosion being that yanking, tearing feeling you're getting in that head of yours to trade away your best player to get three mediocre ones in return. Don't do it. Hold steady. That's the way of April. It's a mantra worth repeating. That's the way of April.
THE BATTER'S BOX -- BIDING THEIR TIME
How long? This pointed question has been posed in Kansas' song, "Point of No Return" (whoa, age hint) and repeated numerous times in the Coldplay song, "Speed of Sound" (there, now I'm hip). And for managers like Joe Maddon, he'll be facing that one in regards to one David Price (SP, TB) sooner than later. Price was rushed through three levels of A-ball last year, culminating with an 18-inning, 17-K performance at Triple-A, before he was brought up to post a 1.93 ERA in 14 regular-season innings with the Rays. While the trade of Jason Hammel (SP, COL) clears some of the logjam in the starting rotation, something will have to give if Price is going to make an appearance prior to the All-Star break. While a lot of fantasy owners are just waiting for Scott Kazmir (SP, TB) to find his ticket to the DL, Jeff Niemann's (SP, TB) first-start line of 5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 4 BB and 3 K certainly isn't going to keep him in the way for long. However, since Niemann is a former first-round pick from 2004, the Rays will hand him a few chances before he gets baseball's deportation pass. Until then, David Price's ticket to the bigs is still on hold.
For Tommy Hanson, his career 10.4 K/9 has scouts and fantasy owners alike foaming at the chance to grab him off the waiver wire. In his debut for Triple-A Gwinnett, Hanson pitched 4.1 innings, and mowed down his competition, striking out 10 of the 13 he faced. Unlike the Rays, the Braves rotation is less certain, with new arrival Kenshin Kawakami (SP, ATL) and reliever-turned-fifth starter Jorge Campillo (SP, ATL). Any hiccup in the rotation that becomes a full on cold, and Hanson's call-up is certain.
FIRST BASE -- WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES, SON
On the mound, Jason Motte had his apple pureed into applesauce in his first two appearances. However, Tony La Russa has always been a loyalist, as his attempts to keep Jason Isringhausen (RP, TAM) in his pen attest. So while Motte was used for middle relief duty this weekend, there's still a darn good chance he'll get his fair share of opportunities for saves again once he gets acclimated. Don't forget this kid's career minor-league K/9 mark of nearly 12. And while he's always given up his share of hits, remember that he also struck out 110 batters in just under 67 innings last year. Kyle McClellan (RP, STL) may find himself filling in, with Dennys Reyes (RP, STL) getting opportunities against left-handed hitters, and Chris Perez (RP, STL) may be recalled. But don't lose track of Motte, even if he's sent down. His orchard will provide produce in the near future.
If you're going to get caught using steroids, no doubt it's better to be a minor leaguer. Two hits on Opening Day, one of which went yard, a second dinger during the week, a .333 average and three RBI have eased any talk of the past for rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer (OF, ATL). Or, at least, it has made the folks in Atlanta certainly more apt to forgive. Most importantly, it has made the spring trade of Josh Anderson (OF, DET) an afterthought. Schafer's early pop isn't totally unforeseen. In 2007, his combined totals between Single-A and Double-A were a .312 average, 15 home runs, 63 RBIs, 86 runs scored and 23 stolen bases. Most of '08 was spent on the bench rehabbing his hand after having it caught in the steroid cookie jar, but ego aside, expect a learning curve at the major-league level. The power will subside somewhat, but the Braves, who are perennially at the bottom ranks in stolen bases, now have some speed atop their lineup. He stole five bags in five tries during spring training, and his defense will keep him a full-timer. 15-20 SBs are not out of the question, even on a Bobby Cox team.
While we're in Atlanta....
SECOND BASE -- HOT SMARTS
Dear Atlanta Braves Bullpen:
Um, what happened here? Was it first week jitters? They say the cold makes it harder for pitchers to grab the ball -- were we in Antarctica?
Javier Vazquez (SP, ATL) gave you some love: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K and most importantly, the lead. In fact, when Vazquez left the game up 9-3 in the sixth inning, he probably thought about hitting the showers. By the eighth, he was probably lobbying the Rules Committee to allow every manager a mulligan when he hands the ball to an inept bullpen, thus allowing the starter a chance to return. Perhaps we should insert an "I" into the RP position title because the quadruplets of Eric O'Flaherty (RP, ATL), Peter Moylan (RP, ATL), Blaine Boyer (RP, ATL) and Jorge Campillo (RP, ATL), sure meant RIP Wednesday evening. I mean, six walks between the four of you in one lousy inning?
Not to be outdone, Mike Gonzalez blew his first save opportunity Friday night, earning him the nickname "Gonzo." (illustrated in the hypothetical conversation below between Cox and pitching coach Roger McDowell).
BC: Hey, where did that save opportunity go?RM: It's Gonzo.
I hear the number of visits to gastroenterologists in Atlanta has increased this week because of all the ulcers you guys have caused. And not just because you lost two games -- it's the way you lost those games. Atlanta's foursome posted a control ratio (K/BB) of zero. Gonzo the closer has enjoyed three innings of giving up five hits and two earned runs.
Let's just say the question mark for your team was thrust into the spotlight. While the aforementioned Tommy Hanson's career 10.4 K/9 is biding its time in Triple-A, perhaps it's not so far-fetched you all could use him in the bullpen.
Maybe then that Relief Moment sponsored by Rolaids at baseball games will actually spell S-A-V-E.
THIRD BASE -- SBs, SAVES
Emilio Bonifacio, mentioned in my column just two weeks ago, has exploded onto the scene this year, after two false starts with Arizona and Washington. Many fantasy insiders think this will disappear as quickly as Michael Cimino's directing career. Yet, in extrapolating the numbers, the fantasy darling expected to take over the top of the lineup, Cameron Maybin (OF, FLA) is even more unlikely to do it this year. While Bonifacio may not be the optimum fantasy option at this position, he may fit the Marlins perfectly. The Marlins will make up for Bonifacio's lack of pop by getting it out of their non-traditional second baseman Dan Uggla (2B, FLA), as long as Bon-Bon continues to generate runs. Well, color him a nine-run, nuclear run-producing plant thus far, including a game winning run Friday night where he beat out a ground ball and scored in a 5-4 win. His batting average will falter, no doubt. But if Bonifacio can keep his defense at a serviceable level, he makes this team even more dangerous. The speed of Bonifacio, Maybin and Hanley Ramirez (SS, FLA) conjoined with Han-Ram's power, as well as that of Uggla, Jorge Cantu (1B, FLA), Jeremy Hermida (OF, FLA) and Cody Ross (OF, FLA), makes their lineup formidable to say the least. Add a contact hitting catcher in John Baker (C, FLA), and I don't expect to see Gaby Sanchez any time soon. Unless injury strikes or Bonifacio fields worse than Cantu's 20 errors at third base last year, he will remain a part of this Marlins attack.
HOME -- HOT STARTS
It's not such a shock when you watch Miguel Cabrera slam a home run anymore. However, it is a shock that the guy is just 26, and hit his first-ever grand salami this week. Needless to say, fantasy owners can appreciate a 3-HR, 10-RBI start after last year's tepid first two weeks of April where he hit .213 with only two knocks and five RBI. It would appear you can expect another four-category year from Miggy.
Even more appreciated is the value you've gotten from Adam Lind (OF, TOR). He's already hit one-third of his home run total from last year, and a quarter of his RBI total. He has yet to prove he can do it against left-handed pitching consistently (.227 average over the 2007-08 seasons), so keep an eye on Lindo's response against southpaws.
Worries about whether or not to reach for Nelson Cruz (OF, TEX) earlier than the sixth or seventh round seem to have been allayed for now, as Cruz has come out smoking: 6-for-19, with three home runs and five RBIs. Those of us that believed are feeling pretty special ... for now. All kidding aside, it appears the numbers from his summer 2008 call-up aren't just smoke and mirrors.
Lastly, Ryan Church (OF, NYM) took any anger out of the Gary Sheffield (OF, NYM) acquisition and laced it into his bat. As of Sunday, he's 10-for-19 with three doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base. Church has always battled for playing time in his journeyman career, and has tallied over 400 ABs in just one season. It appears no different this time, as even after the addition of Sheffield, the Mets have more depth in Jeremy Reed (OF, NYM) and Fernando Tatis (OF, NYM). 400 at-bats would be a dream season at this point for Church, so it wouldn't hurt to deal him while he's hot to fill some other holes, if you can.