Just a week and a half into the season and already many of the things we thought were secure have changed. Vernon Wells is the early leader for the AL Most Valuable Player. That's a surprise. Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum look like the NL Cy Young favorites; not so surprising. Just one time through the rotation for many pitchers and already sleepers seem to be falling by the wayside, only to have others take their place.
I can't stress it enough though, it's way early. If you liked a player heading into Opening Day, there's no reason to turn your back after one week. Well, unless you thought Brett Myers was a sneaky sleeper pick. Feel free to turn your back on him, he's fantasy toast.
We'll use this time to check in on some of those players that everyone labeled as sleepers just a few weeks ago. Yeah, I know; they can't be sleepers if everyone is in on it. Such is the nature of present day fantasy baseball.
Senior circuit sluggers
• Jason Heyward has only played a handful of games in the majors and fantasy owners have been on and off the bandwagon three times over. After starting the season with a big boom, the young outfielder proceeded to go one for his next 12 with seven strikeouts, including four in one game. He immediately bounced back to hit HRs in each of the next two games. His overall numbers (.269 BA, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs) are probably what we should have expected. Look for his average to move toward the .290 range and the RBIs to keep coming. Just don't be surprised when the HRs start to dwindle. Heyward is still a 20-year old who hit just 17 HRs in the minors last year. The elite power will come ... just not this year. Expect 20 long balls and be happy with anything more.
• Kelly Johnson seems to like the air in Arizona. After going hitless in his first two games, he went seven for his next 12, with three homers. Johnson is a streaky player, but you need to look no further back than 2008, when he hit .287 with double digit HRs and SBs. Johnson has been hitting eighth for the most part, but as his numbers start adding up, he'll move into a top of the order slot. Johnson is definitely a player on the rise.
• It looks like the noise we heard this spring about Rafael Furcal being healthy was the truth. The 32-year-old shortstop looks renewed at the plate. If he continues running, he jumps to the second tier of shortstops just behind Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes.
NL quick hitters
• Think Chris Snyder is concerned about the injury to Miguel Montero? Maybe, but he went 2-for-4 with a HR and five RBIs the day it was announced Montero would be out for a while. He seems to be coping OK.
• Jeff Francoeur has continued to hit for the Mets. He's not getting a lot of fanfare because his solid BA comes attached to a low on-base percentage. The thing to remember is if your league uses BA, a player like Francouer can be even more valuable because he doesn't "waste" his time with walks. Ask Ichiro owners about that.
• Kyle Blanks' five RBI game against the Braves just took away any buy-low opportunity that was left.
• Will Venable may be the 20/20 candidate that no one knows about. He's got "easy" power and proved that he could run this spring. If the Padres cut him loose on the bases, he may be the fantasy bargain of the year.
American League lumber
• It's not often fantasy players head to Kansas City for value, but Jose Guillen and Scott Podsednik are paying quiet dividends for brave owners. Guillen has five HRs in four games and has moved into the cleanup slot. Many experts will scoff at Guillen's four-game homer streak and call it a fluke. To some degree it's because Guillen is not 40-HR threat. He is, however, healthy for the first time in awhile and in a surprisingly productive lineup. Pods is hitting .451 and leading MLB in stolen bases. He'll obviously slow down, but the Royals seem committed to him as a full-time player. Speed is his game, so he'll run no matter how much he gets caught. Let other owners ignore these two while you reap the quiet rewards. It'll make your leaguemates furious that you beat them with Guillen and Podsednik.
• Julio Borbon finally made his presence known with a 2-for-4, two RBI game Wednesday night. He also stole his first base. You know you've been struggling when a nice game like that brings your average UP to .103. He's obviously been terrible thus far, but smart fantasy owners are sticking with him. The Rangers have no real long-term replacement, and Borbon has too much ability (and speed) to struggle for long. Look for the BA to start climbing and the SBs to begin piling up. He's the same player he was on Opening Day.
• Don't look now, but Andruw Jones may be playing himself into full-time at-bats. After facing almost exclusively left-handers, Jones got the start against righty Brandon Morrow Wednesday night, and went 3-for-5 with his third HR. With only Mark Kotsay standing in his way, the at-bats are there for Jones to steal.
AL quick hitters
• Adrian Beltre's batting average -- .345; Beltre's on-base percentage --.333 The guy must be a sacrifice fly machine.
• Delmon Young continues to hit and get full-time at-bats. He's not a superstar by any means, but it may be time for fantasy owners to put him in their mixed league lineups.
• Chris Davis needs a few more 2-for-4 nights like he had Wednesday or else the Justin Smoak chatter is going to become a roar. Smoak is off to a nice start in Triple-A, and Davis just got above the .200 mark.
National League moundsmen
• Looking for a fifth or sixth fantasy starter? Snag St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia before people realize how good he is. Garcia shut down a tough Brewers lineup in his first start. He has a minor league K/9 rate over 8.0 and is definitely going to get run support. Durability is a question mark as he's just coming back from Tommy John surgery. He draws the Mets and Johan Santana on Saturday. Another strong start and it's time to add him in all formats.
• After a dominant second half last year, Jonathan Sanchez has stepped his game up even higher to start the season. Following his 11-strikeout performance Wednesday night, Sanchez now has 17 punchouts in 12.1 innings. He's limited the base on balls, keeping his WHIP down at 1.22, which is right in line with the second half of '09. There will still be a few bumps in the road, but Sanchez looks like a lock for 200 Ks.
• I had visions of John Maine returning to fantasy relevance a year removed from arm woes. Tuesday's eight earned run performance pretty much shattered those visions. He can be immediately dropped in mixed leagues. Maine attributes his horrid start to mechanics and has vowed to go back to what made him successful a few years back. NL-only owners can hang on to that tenuous thread, but it certainly looks bleak.
NL quick pitches
• Charlie Haeger's 12-strikeout performance was a nice story. At least he's got a leg up on Archie "Moonlight" Graham. Now feel free to disregard him completely.
• Homer Bailey's current 6.97 ERA and 2.03 WHIP sure look familiar. It's time to dump him in mixed leagues and reserve him in NL leagues.
• Jair Jurrjens was battered to the tune of eight earned runs in 3.1 innings by the Padres. A fantasy benching may be in order. He faces the Phillies on Sunday, and with his performance against a mediocre offense like the Padres, you have to start wondering if his spring shoulder inflammation is still an issue.
American League hurlers
• Don't let the 4.38 ERA deceive you, Baltimore lefty Brian Matusz has been dominant thus far. He shut out the Rays for seven innings Tuesday before tiring in the eighth and giving up four runs. Matusz is saddled with pitching in the AL East, so the wins may be hard to come by, but his 15 Ks in 12 innings says that he is a serious fantasy commodity.
• Another young pitcher flying under the radar is Justin Masterson. He's yet to get a win but his 14:2 strikeout to walk ratio is a huge sign that he's putting it together. Expect inconsistency, but Masterson is a pitcher to target in AL-only leagues.
• The preseason chatter was there, but it was hard to give Colby Lewis much of a chance to succeed in Texas. His stuff is unspectacular, but Lewis used impeccable control for great success in Japan. So far, it looks like his Japanese is translating well back in the states. Don't expect any more 10 K games, but Lewis is a sneaky play in mixed leagues when spotted in the right matchups.
AL quick pitches
• Ricky Romero has been fantasy gold so far, just remember that this is the same pitcher that posted a 1.50 WHIP just last year. Selling high could net you a huge profit.
• Matt Thornton watch -- 5.7 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K. Bobby Jenks has settled in some, but the leash has to be pretty short.
• Dallas Braden followed up his 10-strikeout performance with another solid six-inning effort against the Angels. It's time to acknowledge him as a solid option, even in mixed leagues.
* All statistics current as of April 14, 2010.