Phew! The first week of the season is finally over and those of us in head-to-head leagues have a record under our belt. You drafted your team, you fell in love and, with the first week finished, the honeymoon period of fantasy baseball has abruptly come to an end. Now it's time to buckle up and march down the aisle with your teams. There will be some bumps along the way, but I'm here to help you make sure your drive to a championship is as smooth as possible. Let's try to avoid the potholes together and put this thing on cruise control. As we all know, fantasy baseball is a cross-country trip, and there will be many stops along the way. Consider me your GPS ... except without the sexy British woman accent. On to this week's T.I.P.S.
(All stats and records are through Monday.)
Chris Davis (1B/3B, TEX) taking "free swinger" to a new level
Davis was called up last season and undoubtedly helped many fantasy teams with his 17 homers, 51 runs and 55 RBIs in 80 games. No longer a secret, Davis' ADP of 71 made him a top 10 one-bagger on draft day. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Davis was expected to belt 40 homers and knock in 100 runs. After the first week of the season, Davis owners are wondering whether Davis truly has the patience to perform at the big league level. His 10 Ks in 22 at-bats, give him a brutal K/BB ratio of 45 percent. Even worse, the Rangers prolific offense forces Davis into the seven-hole, where his RBI opportunities won't be as prevalent. He's obviously not going to bat .045 the whole season, but his .285 average in limited action last season is likely inflated. The power will be there, but you can expect a serious amount of golden sombreros from everybody's favorite sleeper.
Troy Tulowitzki (SS, COL) is taking his daily power walk
After a phenomenal freshman season, Tulowitzki sucker-punched his fantasy faithful by playing only 101 games last year due to a torn quad. Consequently he lacked the power that he had seen the year before. One flaw in an otherwise dominant rookie season: Tulowitzki struck out 130 times with a BB/K rate of 0.44. Although last season was marred by injury and disappointment, Tulo did hit .327 in the second half. He also improved his BB/K to 0.68, lowering his K% from 21.3 to 14.9. Owners were skeptical of Tulowitzki this off-season, leaving him to be quite the bargain on draft day. Through the first week, he's showing an increased patience at the plate, with six walks to only three K's, Tulo is adjusting to the game by waiting for a pitch to his liking. The result is less K's and more power as the former Rookie of the Year runner-up had three bombs in the first week. You are looking at a top five fantasy shortstop once all is said and done.
Aaron Harang (SP, CIN) righting the ship
Harang was one of last season's biggest busts (Pamela Anderson excluded), after posting a career-worst 17 losses and his highest ERA since 2004. The results were mainly due to poor command as his strikeouts were down while his BB/9 ratio was at 2.44 (down from 2.02 in 2007). The Harangutan also gave up the long ball at a prodigious rate of 1.71 HR/9, the highest of his seven-year career. He was a bit wild in his first start of 2009, walking three while striking out two, but his second start brought back memories of the Harang that dominated the past few seasons. The 30-year-old righty struck out nine with no walks in a complete game, shut-out of the Pirates on Sunday. While his numbers took a dip last season, Harang should return to the 2006-07 form that made him a top starting option the past few years.
Jonathan Broxton (RP, LAD) keeping the ball up in the zone
Broxton is finally getting the chance to close for the Dodgers and hasn't failed in his first three save attempts. Coming into the season, the concern was that Broxton's ERA had risen each of his three seasons. Broxton did make strides last year, holding opponents to a career-best .217 batting average and 0.26 HR/9 rate. One downfall was Broxton's BB/9 rate which increased to 3.52 in 2008. So far, in four innings pitched, Broxton hasn't walked a batter while striking out five. One stat that is worth watching is his fly ball rate, which is currently at 42.9 percent. With a career FB% of 34.8, Broxton isn't getting the ground balls he is accustomed to. He's still only 24 years-old, so Broxton should grow into the role and become one of the game's best closers, even as early as this season.
Raise your hand if you didn't see this coming
It only took six games for Milton Bradley (OF, CHC) to find himself being pulled from the game due to injury. After coming up lame running the bases, Bradley was diagnosed with a strained groin. Just how injury-prone is Bradley? In nine MLB seasons, he's never played more than 141 games, and has only played 100 games in a season three times. He's listed as day-to-day, but Lou Piniella isn't likely to chance further injury to his fragile three-year, 30-million dollar experiment. When he's playing, he will bat .300 with an even better OBP, but be prepared for moments exactly like this throughout the season.
Setback for Kelvim Escobar (SP, LAA)
Those hoping for a quick return from Escobar can stop drinking the Kool-Aid as the oft-injured starter felt discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder and will take a step back in his attempted comeback. He claims it's not a big deal, but I find it hard to believe that he will be pitching for the Angels anytime soon. His breakout year came in 2007 when he went 18-7 and struck out 160 batters. He obviously won't approach those numbers so I advocate letting someone else garner false hope.
Ankle affecting Felix Hernandez (SP, SEA)
Hernandez claimed that his injured ankle played a part in his five-run, five-IP outing last Saturday against Oakland. King Felix initially twisted his ankle in his first start of the season against the Twins on April 6. It doesn't look like a DL stint is necessary, but Hernandez was visibly uncomfortable on the mound against the A's. Ankle issues can become a nagging injury, so it may be a few weeks before Hernandez pitches the way many expected him to this season.
Victor Martinez (1B/C, CLE) only sure thing in Indians trifecta
Martinez was expected to jockey between first base and catcher during the season, while Kelly Shopach (C, CLE) and Ryan Garko (1B, CLE) split duty. After the first week, it seems that's exactly what is happening. Garko started three of the six games (including the last two), while Shoppach started the other three. Neither has made a statement for more playing time, although Garko's .300 average is better than Shoppach's .182. Shoppach has five Ks in his 11 at-bats, while Garko has only one to go with six walks. Travis Hafner's (DH, CLE) reemergence is also playing a role in Garko's limited action. Expect Shoppach and Garko to continue alternating starts, making both players sketchy owns in mixed-leagues.
Aaron Miles (2B/SS, CHC) finds permanent place on bench
When the Cubs signed Miles in the off-season, he was the favorite to be the starting second baseman. That was until Mike Fontenot (2B, CHC) didn't get out in spring training and won the starting gig. Even then, Piniella was expected to platoon the two based on matchups. Well, six games and six starts later, Fontenot has taken the job and ran with it. Fontenot hit .333 in the first week with four RBIs, one HR, five runs and five walks. Miles, on the other hand, has had three at-bat's. Consider Fontenot mixed-league worthy as his patience and power are rare at the 2B position.
Gary Sheffield (OF, NYM) was signed ... why?
With Ryan Church (OF, NYM) unable to stay healthy during the second-half of 2008, the Mets signed Sheffield to provide some insurance and possibly start against left-handers. Apparently Church doesn't think Sheffield is much of a threat, as he's started hot out of the gate, batting .478 with six doubles. Church hit 43 doubles in 2007 and is a top option in league's that have additional stats, such as doubles. Sheffield has gotten only two at-bats in six games. Church is an ideal number four outfielder in mixed leagues, as Sheffield doesn't look like anything more than a late-inning pinch hitter.
Don't pick up Brandon Inge (3B/C, DET)
Inge sure has opened up some eyes with his four dingers during opening week, but please don't get caught up in the hype. Inge's only value comes in his catcher-eligibility, but his past numbers support this first week as being a fluke, nothing else. Inge's OBP has fallen for four consecutive seasons, while his K% has been consistently creeping upward. Inge found a way to put the bat on the ball the first week, striking out only 8.7 percent of his at-bats. This will undoubtedly change as he approaches his career norm of 24.6 percent. The numbers don't support Inge sustaining this performance, regardless of how attractive it is.
Take a stroll up this Hill
Aaron Hill (2B, TOR) missed most of 2008 due to a post-concussion syndrome, so many fantasy owners simply forgot about him come draft day. Hill broke out in 2007, smashing 17 homers, knocking in 78 runs and hitting .291. He also scored 87 runs and had 177 hits. Finally healthy, Hill has started off '09 just like he ended '07. He is batting .300 with two homers, eight RBIs and five runs. The Blue Jays are committed to giving the 27-year-old a chance to continue his emergence, so make sure you benefit from this as well.
Take a deep breath
The excitement and passion from the first week of the season is finally over, and now it's time to harness some of those emotions. Not all your players are going to start strong. It's a bit premature to name Tim Lincecum (SP, SFO) a bust, or assume Ryan Braun's (OF, MIL) ribs are going to bother him all season. I've said it before, but I'll reinforce that my main philosophy is to give all my player's a month to prove themselves. After that I can tinker with my lineup and entertain trade offers. This first month also proves a good time to watch your fellow owners panic and drop their slow starters. If someone was dropped that you had pegged for a good season, don't hesitate to pick them up. Unlike most sports, baseball players tend to approach their average numbers on a year-to-year basis. In the end, the stats will be there.
All Average Draft Positions provided by mockdraftcentral.com.
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