Welcome to the unwrapping party for Man in a Box. Two times a week, I'll dissect the box scores of the previous few days and report back to you with my findings. If you're like me, you've spent countless mornings checking the boxscores to see how your team did. Man in a Box is not here for that purpose. You don't need me to tell you that Albert Pujols' 4-for-5, 2-HR, 3-RBI Opening Day is not too shabby.
Instead, I'll be digging deeper in the box, helping you spot the hot streaks, slumps and trends before the other owners in your league. You're going to be that "lucky" guy everybody else curses out when you always seem to pick up or trade for players right before they hit peak value. Every league has that guy. The same one who makes peculiar moves that always seem to work out. You can admire/hate that guy from afar or you can jump in the box and be that guy. You make your own call. Right now, I'm gonna open up the box and climb right in.
Senior circuit sluggers
• As if Pujols and Matt Holliday aren't intimidating enough, early indications are that Colby Rasmus intends to make it a threesome. After an impressive spring (.362 BA, five HRs, 13 RBIs), Rasmus has gone 4-for-6 with a home run, a stolen base and three walks in the first two games. He's batting in a primo spot, behind Pujols and Holliday and in front of Ryan Ludwick. Rasmus is ready to replicate his five-tool minor league numbers. He's ready to challenge 30 HRs and 20 SBs.
• Everyone knew the outfield picture in Colorado was a little murky, but owners of Brad Hawpe and Dexter Fowler are really sweating. Fowler took a seat on Opening Day to make way for Seth Smith, and then in Game 3, Hawpe was benched for Ryan Spilborghs. The one player who seems to be a lock is Carlos Gonzalez, who is off to an 8-for-15 start. Jump on Gonzalez now. He and Rasmus are the next two young outfielders ready to make the jump to near-elite levels.
• Those of you expecting a bounce-back season from Geovany Soto have to be concerned. Sure, he's just 1-for-6, but more worrisome is that he's batted eighth in each game so far. If the Cubs view him that way, who are we to disagree? Color me extremely pessimistic on Soto returning to his rookie numbers.
NL quick hitters:
• Chris Dickerson got the Opening Day start in center over Drew Stubbs; Can Dusty Baker do more to put young players in a situation to fail?
• Three HRs through three games? Somebody tell Garrett Jones that he's supposed to be a fluke.
• Matt Kemp has already batted in the fifth and second slots in the L.A. lineup. Thanks, Joe Torre; at least it's not eighth.
• Corey Hart/Jim Edmonds platoon? Ughhh.
American League lumber
• Vernon Wells has been one of the biggest disappointments in fantasy, but through seven at-bats, he's already belted three HRs, which have driven in six runs. Offseason wrist surgery seems to agree with him. If he can continue the power spike and repeat last year's 17 SBs, Wells could return to the upper tier of fantasy outfielders. The .302/32/106/17 line from 2006 is within reach. You may want to wait until the numbers aren't so gaudy, but Wells looks healthy and makes for a sneaky good trade target.
• Offseason thinking had Delmon Young frequently sitting to get Jim Thome's big bat into the lineup. So far, Young has played in every game and started things off with a homer and a stolen base on Opening Day. When Thome did get a start, it was Jason Kubel who went to the bench. Young still has to produce, but it looks like he's going to be given every opportunity.
• Milton Bradley is off to a somewhat slow start, but he is hitting fourth and has Ichiro Suzuki and Desmond Figgins setting the table for him (yeah Chone's real first name is Desmond). I predict he's going to enjoy that nice honeymoon period he forgot to have in Chicago. Bradley makes a solid injury replacement in mixed leagues and could retain value all year.
AL quick hitters:
• Really, Kansas City? Alberto Callaspo and Mike Aviles on the bench and Willie Bloomquist got the Opening Day start at third. Do you want to score runs?
• Mark Kotsay gets the Opening Day start over Andruw Jones? There goes the talk of a 20/20 from Mr. Jones. I still say Jones gets the bulk of PT, but who knows what's going on in the head of Ozzie Guillen.
• Nick Johnson: three games, no hits, no runs, .400 OBP. What does it mean? I'm not sure, but Billy Beane is watching in admiration.
• Carlos Guillen is batting fifth in Detroit. When he's healthy, he can still produce. Got an injury? Stick him in there until he goes down.
• Brandon Wood is 1-for-12 with five strikeouts. The Angels have never been committed to him. Maicer Izturis owners get ready.
National League moundsmen
• In case you had any doubts about Roy Halladay's elevated strikeout rates of the last two years transferring over to the National League, his Opening Day start should take care of that. His innings may go down slightly, but Halladay looks set for a career year.
• Wandy Rodriguez followed up a rough spring with a shaky first start. The damage mostly came in his last inning of work, but the 11 baserunners in six innings was not pretty. He's not as good as he was a year ago and the Astros offense is looking pathetic. Wandy is wooking vewy wisky.
• Just a couple years ago, San Diego's Chris Young was approaching the top tier of starting pitchers. A Pujols liner started a slide, but Young looked renewed in his Opening Day start. He tossed six innings of shutout ball, allowing just one hit and three walks. The wins may be hard to come by in San Diego, but Young is an ideal arm to stabilize the back end of your fantasy rotation.
NL quick pitches:
• Leo Nunez wasn't good this spring and he blew his first opportunity Wednesday night and is on a short leash. Dan Meyer and Renyel Pinto seem to be next in line.
• Who steps in if Heath Bell is dealt? It's only one game, but Luke Gregerson came on in the seventh inning and Mike Adams in the eighth in the Padres' first close game.
• Thirteen baserunners in six innings with just three Ks? Brett Myers can officially be crossed off your sleeper list. Please disperse, there's nothing to see here.
American League hurlers
• Those of you who reached for Felix Hernandez right after Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay may be in for a disappointment. It's not just the ugly Opening Day start (Six walks in 6.2 innings). Though his ERA was a shiny 2.49 last year, his peripheral numbers were the same ones he's been posting for the last four years. The .289 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is out of line with previous years and skewed his final ERA. Otherwise, his numbers are eerily similar to 2006 when he had a 4.52 ERA. He's good, but not Cy Young good.
• A cheaper option than King Felix? Try Matt Garza. While everybody else was turned away by last year's 8-12 record, you should have been noticing the 101 Ks in 98 second half innings. After a dominating spring, Garza hurled an eight inning, four hit, two walk, nine strikeout gem Wednesday night. He isn't ready for the next level ... he's already there.
• An eight strikeout one-hitter sounds nice. The problem is that Rich Harden did this in 3.2 innings and it was attached to five walks. You can't bail on Harden because of his potential, but it looks like it might be awhile before he shakes the issues he had this spring. Between the walks, the home park, and the ever-present injury concerns, Harden is maybe the most frustrating pitcher in fantasy.
AL quick pitches:
• Is it just me or does Josh Beckett resemble a mediocre fantasy pitcher these days? I know it's one start, but I'll go on record and say he never has had that one great season we've all been waiting for.
• Matt Thornton -- 3 IP, 3 Ks, 0.00 WHIP; Bobby Jenks -- It's not just a job, it's an adventure. Jenks is not long for the job.
• I think I've seen Fausto Carmona's six walks in six innings somewhere before. Oh, that's right; he's done that the last two years. Don't believe spring numbers.
• Keep an eye on Luke Hochevar. He showed glimpses last year and his first start of 2010 (7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 ER) looked legit. An early play for him in AL-only leagues could pay off. He has the pedigree.
* All statistics as of April 8, 2010.