Weekly Planner: Is it too early to sell high on red-hot players?
Scott Kazmir began his first season with the A's in impressive fashion, throwing 7.1 shutout innings and striking out five batters while allowing three hits and zero walks in a win over the Indians. Meanwhile, two days earlier in the same series, Justin Masterson twirled seven scoreless innings, fanning four batters, walking one, and giving up three hits while besting the A's. Both pitchers are looking to build on surprising 2013 campaigns this year. Kazmir is out to prove that the injury woes that derailed his career are a thing of the past. Masterson is seeking to solidify his status as a top-tier strikeout pitcher after whiffing more than a batter per inning in 193 frames last year. Both pitchers took steps toward their respective ends in their first starts. So is it too early to consider selling high on either of them, or anyone else, for that matter?
Put simply, it's never too early to try to sell a guy if you believe you can get a return that is greater in value. In fact, you might be able to sell even higher than you expect by dealing an established player this early in the season. Most fantasy owners can smell a sell-high deal a mile away, but there'd be nothing fishy in offering someone like Kazmir or Masterson right now. Masterson, especially, could be very desirable for someone looking for a starting pitcher. He had a great season last year, a dominant spring, and, as we've already seen, a great first week of the 2014 season. Still, unless you believe he's a strikeout-per-inning pitcher, he could easily be more valuable to someone else than he is to you.
Everyone preaches patience this time of year, myself included. However, there's never a bad time to pursue deals that can strengthen your roster. Both Masterson and Kazmir were attractive pitchers that only became more attractive after what they did to open the season. If you're pitching rich, hitting thin, or simply looking for a way to upgrade your roster right now, a trade of someone like that, someone very good but not quite great, or great but not quite elite, can be the easiest way at this point of the season.
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• Casey McGehee, Marlins -- McGehee has gotten off to a hot start hitting .281/.368/.421 with a pair of homers and 11 RBI. It's not going to last, but he's worth a look in deeper mixed leagues.
• Dee Gordon, Dodgers -- Gordon has looked great as the Dodgers' starting second baseman in the first week of the season, slashing .412/.476/.529 with three steals. So long as he hits enough to stay in the lineup, he'll be a real asset for fantasy owners, especially given that he's eligible at both short and second.
• Charlie Blackmon, Rockies -- Blackmon became the first player since 1914 to have a game with six hits total, four extra-base hits, and five RBI, last Friday. He surprisingly earned the Opening Day start after the three-way race in spring to be Colorado's center fielder and leadoff man. He could stick in mixed leagues given a spot in the lineup in front of Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but there's still a lot of uncertainty here.
• James Paxton, Mariners -- Paxton dominated the Angels in his first start of the season, tossing seven shutout innings and striking out nine in an 8-2 win. Paxton looked great in 24 innings with the Mariners last year, compiling a 1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 21 stirkeouts against seven walks. With Hisashi Iwakua and Taijuan Walker still injured, his spot in the rotation is safe for now. He could lock down that spot if he continues to pitch like he did last week.
• Emilio Bonifacio, Cubs -- We've seen hot starts from Bonifacio before, and he's a known commodity at this point. However, he has started and led off in every game this season, and has the sort of positional flexibility many teams prize. He started games at second base and center field last week, and that versatility will have him atop the Cubs' lineup more often than not. He's worth a shot in deep mixed leagues.
• Mark Teixiera, Yankees -- Teixeira left Friday's game with a hamstring that the veteran admitted might be a serious problem. There's no reason to own him at this point.
• Nate Jones, White Sox -- It was a surprise when Robin Ventura announced that Matt Lindstrom, and not Jones, would serve as the White Sox closer. Injury was added to insult late in the week when the team placed him on the DL with a strained glute. Even before that, he failed to record an out in two appearances. Unless you're in a very deep league, you can cut bait.
• Mike Moustakas, Royals -- Moustakas is a cool 0-for-12 with a walk this season. It was awfully hard to believe in him coming into the season, and he hasn't done anything to reverse that. If you already own him, you're almost certainly in a deep league. That might mean that you don't really have any other options at this point. Still, it's probably worth kicking the tires on someone else.
• B.J. Upton, Braves -- Last year's nightmare has continued apace for Upton. He's 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts and has a 26.2-percent swinging-strike rate. With all the depth at the outfield position in fantasy, you'd have to be in dire straits or a very deep league to consider owning Upton right now.
• Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays -- Rasmus is 1-for-18 with eight strikeouts to start the season, but I wouldn't advise getting rid of him just yet. You knew exactly what you were getting into by drafting Rasmus. Cold spells like this were always part of the deal. He still has the same 20-25-homer pop that was attractive just a few weeks ago. Time to be patient.
• Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins -- Is this the year Stanton reaches the 40-homer plateau? I thought so before the season, and he has certainly held up his end of the bargain during the first week of the season. Stanton has two homers, including this mammoth blast, and he's slashing .360/.429/.720 through Saturday.
• Carloz Gonzalez, Rockies -- Gonzalez is hitting .364/.462/.818 with two homers, eight RBI and a steal. There's a reason he was likely a top-five pick in your league. If Gonzalez could stay healthy for 162 games, he could push up to Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera territory.
• Mike Trout, Angels -- What else is new? In his first at-bat of the season, Trout blasted a Felix Hernandez slider deep into the Los Angeles night for a home run. He's hitting .368/.455/.842 with two bombs and five RBI. He's the best baseball player on the planet. Anyone who says otherwise has an agenda.
• Ryan Braun, Brewers -- Braun has scuffled in his return from suspension, hitting .063/.118/.063 thus far. He has exactly one hit -- a single -- in 17 plate appearances. Don't believe any hubbub about the scrutiny getting to him. This is just a garden variety slump.
• Bryce Harper, Nationals -- It would be nice if Matt Williams stopped messing around with Harper and just slotted him into the three-hole in the lineup for the rest of the season. Harper has hit fifth, sixth and second this year, and has sputtered to a .143/.182/.143 slash line. It's a joke to suggest that the Nats are better off with him hitting sixth so he can "use his legs," as Williams has said, than third. More Harper plate appearances is a good thing.
• Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays -- Encarnacion has yet to leave the yard this season, and is hitting just .125/.160/.208. What's worse, he has struck out nine times in 25 plate appearances. Encarnacion hasn't been a huge swing-and-miss guy since landing in Toronto, putting up strikeout rates below 15 percent and swinging-strike rates under 7.5 percent each of the last three seasons.
1. Max Scherzer
2. Gio Gonzalez
3. Tony Cingrani
4. Michael Wacha
5. Hiroki Kuroda
6. Corey Kluber
7. Matt Moore
8. John Lackey
9. C.J. Wilson
10. Tim Hudson
11. Jose Quintana
12. Mark Buehrle
13. Edwin Jackson
14. Tyson Ross
15. Kyle Lohse
16. Ivan Nova
17. Trevor Cahill
18. Jason Vargas
19. James Paxton
20. Jarred Cosart
21. Dan Haren
22. Zach McAllister
23. Felix Doubront
24. Ubaldo Jimenez
25. Robbie Erlin
26. Tanner Scheppers
27. Bartolo Colon
28. Kevin Correia
29. Henderson Alvarez
30. Aaron Harang
31. Kyle Kendrick
32. Felipe Paulino
33. Brett Oberholtzer
Teams playing seven games
Teams playing five games