Tales of early April – Emilio!

The first couple weeks of the baseball
season are often the most critical for fantasy purposes.  Every
season breakout players are quickly scooped up, while slow-starters
are prematurely dropped for awaiting scavengers.

Last year my buddy proclaimed himself
a “guru” as he rushed to drop Yunel Escobar for Emilio Bonifacio
and his unbelievable three-steal, four-hit Opening Day performance. 
Couldn’t really argue as Bonifacio doubled his career average with
a .485 clip through the first seven games – but it was fun to childishly
mock “Boney-face” as he hit .234 the rest of the season, while Escobar
produced commendably for another guy’s team.  The guru
would’ve been better served picking up a more highly-regarded player
like Adam Lind or Wandy Rodriguez, who didn’t shock anyone by parlaying
good first weeks into big time breakout seasons.

 Inversely, nothing will make
someone go Kenny Rogers on their laptop more than cutting a guy who’s
been awful for a prolonged stretch, only to see him instantly go on
a tear.  Ubaldo Jimenez had three consecutive starts last April
where he couldn’t get through the fifth inning and compiled a 12.00
ERA.  Naturally I lost patience and cut him, then witnessed a string
of seven-inning gems and Ubaldo finishing the season with precisely
the stellar numbers I expected when I drafted him.   Similarly
frustrating scenarios played out with Gavin Floyd and Ricky Nolasco
in 2009, but even Ghandi would have dropped Nolasco with his 9.07 ERA
and a demotion to the minors in May. 

It’s not a groundbreaking assertion,
but if a guy has a high upside and successful track record, hang with
him even through a nasty struggle early on.  If a guy has a.240
career average and not much fanfare as a prospect, don’t cut anyone
with potential value for him no matter how much he rakes in the first
week. 

Speaking of players with .240 career
averages, Rickie Weeks was taken in the 21st round of both
my league drafts and dropped within three days.   There are
late bloomers, and then there’s a 29-year-old who years ago brilliantly
began waggling the bat above his head in the box, fooling scouts into
comparing his bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.  He’s managed
to survive more than five sub-mediocre seasons in the majors thanks
to this trickery, so don’t let his hot month-and-a-half in 2009 dupe
you. 

Even with a strong start, I wouldn’t
waste time on Weeks – or fellow bat-waggler and first-round bust Lastings
Milledge.  Yes Milledge hit .291 after a mid-season trade to the
Pirates, but showed very little power or speed – four homers, 20 RBIs
and six steals in 58 games.  The 25-year-old has been around enough
to show he’s too over-matched by Major League off-speed pitches to
become a productive fantasy performer.  

One youngster whose early success I
would buy into is Florida’s Cameron Maybin.  The talented 23-year-old
is currently flying under the radar after he was all the rage in 2009
draft guides, but tripped over the Mendoza line to start the year. 
Maybin hit .319 with a .399 OBP in 298 Triple-A at-bats after being
demoted in May of 09, and slugged .500 with a .293 average and 19 runs
scored in 28 games during a September call-up.   He’s a
quintessential post-hype sleeper who likely went undrafted in most mixed-
leagues, and has the potential to put up Shin-Soo Choo-esque numbers.

However if you do pick up a guy like
Maybin in the first week or two, be careful who you drop. Six months
of banging your head against the wall could potentially do some serious
damage.

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