As if the unfair criticism of Kevin Youkilis' cold start to the season wasn't enough from baseball analysts, manager Bobby Valentine felt inclined to jump on the pile: "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason."
When things go downhill, they seem to go down in a hurry.
Well, reports of Youk's demise have been greatly exaggerated, making him the fantasy baseball's Mark Twain.
Sure, Youk is 33 (past the 26-32 baseball prime), a daily injury risk (he sat Monday morning with a sore groin, not a Bobby V benching) and coming off a 2011 second half that saw him limited to 37 games and a measly .199 batting average.
This guy is not done. If anyone is jumping ship and/or selling in fantasy, you should be buying.
It took nearly two weeks for the Moneyball famed "Greek God of Walks" to draw his first base on balls and he has gotten his bat together.
"I go out every day and play as hard as I can -- take every ground ball in the morning, take every at-bat like it's my last," Youkilis said Monday morning. "I don't think my game has changed at all. I still get upset with myself. I still get mad. That's just not how I go about the game of baseball."
Well, he sure has to be mad now. He is overdue and plenty motivated to have a long, good run for fantasy owners this season. Heck, all of the Red Sox have been undervalued on draft day, save for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury, who is now out for two months.
Youk, ostensibly, is in a contract year, playing for a team-held $13 million option for 2013 with just a $1 million buyout. It won't take much for the Red Sox to decide to turn to top third base prospect Will Middlebrooks, who is hitting .364 with three homers and 11 RBI in 11 Triple-A games.
Youk is plenty motivated to hold off Middlebrooks and extend his career. This Bobby V stroke of ignorance -- genius? -- just might be the best thing to happen to Youk's fantasy owners.
The Red Sox got a save out of battered closer Alfredo Aceves and will be giving Daniel Bard more starts, so perhaps they won't need to turn to a starter like Aaron Cook (2-0, 1.50). But they do need someone to step forward in the lineup after Ellsbury's loss.
Journeyman Jason Repko scorched in four Triple-A games (7-for-13, .538) and is a good pick-up in AL-only formats, but it is the prospects that are truly exciting. Middlebrooks is an elite prospect that can really help, but it is 1B Lars Anderson who is getting at-bats in left field in Triple-A. But Anderson is hitting just .235 through 10 games.
If you lost Ellsbury, your best bets to fill the holes are:
1. Bryan LaHair, Cubs2. Nolan Reimold, Orioles3. Cody Ross, Red Sox4. Jon Jay, Cardinals5. Jordan Schafer, Astros
The annual awful start for closers continues with the loss of the Giants' Brian Wilson for the season to elbow reconstruction. The Giants are going with a closer-by-committee approach with Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and perhaps Javier Lopez or Jeremy Affeldt. Here is how it will shake out:
1. Casilla -- He will get the bulk of the initial save chances like he did a year ago when Wilson was down.
2. Romo -- He will wind up the better reliever down the road, assuming his balky elbow doesn't put him in the same boat as Wilson's did. He has made just two appearances thus far. If rest works, he'll wind up being the go-to man.
3. Lopez -- He is a lefty best-suited for the situational roles, so he might only get a few situational saves.
4. Affeldt -- He is more of a longer lefty than Lopez, so he's clearly a fourth-best option on this list for save chances.
Outside of the status of Romo's health, we come to these conclusions by looking at manager Bruce Bochy's usage of them last year. Here are their holds from 2011:
1. Romo 232. Lopez 203. Affeldt 134. Casilla 6
Casilla hasn't been used in as many save/hold situations as the others, yet was the closer of choice when Wilson was out last season. That might be because Bochy didn't want to disrupt multiple roles with Wilson out a short period. With a drastic season-ending injury such as this, Bochy will be more inclined to slide all of their roles up.
That means, once (if?) Romo's elbow is 100 percent, he will be the closer to have in mixed formats, even if Casilla gets the calls now. Respond accordingly in fantasy.
Matt Kemp: He said this spring he wants to be the first 50-50 player. Who doesn't? Kemp actually can. He's well on his way in the homer category with six so far, a pace that would net him 97. It is very clear his 2011 breakthrough wasn't a flash in the pan. This is the best player in fantasy now, not just Week 2's player of the week.
Heath Bell: His week wasn't as rough as Wilson's, but it still rates poorly, particularly if you consider the Marlins paid $27 million for him. They have gotten two blown saves, two losses and an ERA of 12.00. Even when he posted a scoreless inning Friday night, he did it with three walks. His command is bad, and he is hittable as well (four hits allowed Sunday). You are justified sitting him right now. Add him to a lengthening list of imploding closers, which include Wilson, Drew Storen (elbow), Andrew Bailey (thumb), Ryan Madson (elbow), Joakim Soria (elbow), Joe Nathan, Sergio Santos and Kyle Farnsworth (elbow).
1. OF Jordan Schafer, Astros -- If you lost Ellsbury, he is a poor man's version -- at least in the steals category. He is drawing walks and getting on base and stealing, even if he won't provide any power.
2. SP Barry Zito, Giants -- We have seen stretches like this out of the soft-tossing lefty. You might as well try to ride him while he isn't a complete disaster. Keep him on a short leash, though.
3. SP Lance Lynn, Cardinals -- Everyone loves Shelby Miller, but Lynn is a big dude with velocity and movement. He warrants a pick-up in mixed formats.
4. 2B Omar Infante, Marlins -- He is so hot right now, he's even hitting homers in the cavernous new Marlins Park. He will cool off, but he is better than he showed last year.
5. RP Santiago Casilla, Giants -- Sergio Romo has better numbers, but Casilla has more closer experience in the Giants' bullpen-by-committee.
1. CL Brian Wilson, Giants -- Those spring fears wound up being his fantasy owner's worst nightmare. Cut him in all leagues as he heads for Tommy John surgery.
2. SP Scott Baker, Twins -- It wasn't Tommy John elbow surgery, but he is out for the season now nonetheless.
3. OF Lorenzo Cain, Royals -- A great spring training led to an awful start and a DL stay for a groin strain. He is worth holding on to, though, and can return in early May.
4. 1B Brandon Belt, Giants -- He doubled and stole a base Sunday, so it might be time to pick him back up. He is too talented for it to never come for him.
5. RP Joel Peralta, Rays -- Fernando Rodney has held down the closer's role and Peralta is struggling to get outs even in mopup duty. Peralta is worthless in fantasy now.
1. SP Michael Pineda, Yankees -- He is out until at least May and Andy Pettitte should be back and ready by then. This could take awhile, so now should be a cheap time to buy. BUY
2. DH Jesus Montero, Mariners -- His bat has livened up, homering Saturday night, and he has played two games at catcher. Most leagues require five games for eligibility. BUY
3. SP Cole Hamels, Phillies -- He has struck out 19 in his two starts and might fan 250 heading into a huge free-agent bidding next fall. BUY
4. SP Jeremy Hellickson, Rays -- His second outing wasn't good, but he still shouldn't be underrated by last year's BABIP. Use stats to find value, not create it. Hell-boy is good. BUY
5. SP Zack Greinke, Brewers -- He is coming off a terrible start against the Cubs, but you shouldn't be worried. Expect him to be great in a contract year, a la Hamels. BUY
1. 3B David Wright, Mets -- A broken pinkie didn't stop him from having a monster weekend. Clearly, he is fine and can make this a great bounce-back year.
2. RP Brian Wilson, Giants -- Doneski.
3. 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds -- That hammy isn't 100 percent, so don't expect him to be running much. Heck, at his advanced age, we might expect it to become a DL stint eventually.
4. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- A shoulder subluxation sounds painful. For fantasy owners, it will hurt for two months.
5. OF Johnny Damon, Indians -- He is a name but he will need some time to build up to be ready and might not play full time.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).