Fantasy Baseball Fallout from Opening Day

by Howard Bender on April 2, 2013

bradleyBy now you’ve probably read my recap of Opening Day on Fantasy Alarm where I highlight (and lowlight) stand-out performances that are likely to have significant repercussions in the fantasy baseball world. If not, then I suggest you click the link above and check it out. Now while I’ve given some fantasy baseball thoughts on those players brought out into the spotlight, there is still much more of a fantasy impact still to come from other Opening Day performances and happenings, so we’re going to dig a little deeper here and look beyond just the stats.

While most will focus on the struggles of CC Sabathia and the prolific starts for Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino, the real story may be the debut of Jackie Bradley, Jr. for the Red Sox. Deep mixed league and AL-only players will know more about the soon-to-be 23-year old lefty outfielder, but for those who don’t, he’s the guy who came into camp and, with David Ortiz hurt and opening the DH spot, played his way onto the 25-man roster and into a starting job in left field, pushing Jonny Gomes to DH. He’s got 10-12 home run power, 20-steals potential and is likely to hit somewhere around .265 with a full season’s worth of at-bats. He’s definitely a popular pick and garnered some AL ROY votes in the FanGraphs’ Staff Predictions, including a nod from me. Would things have been different had Ortiz been healthy? Would Gomes have earned full-time work in left as originally planned? Possibly. But that’s a moot point right now. The real question is: will he play well enough to keep Gomes on the bench once Ortiz returns? I think he’s got a real shot, considering Gomes’ ineffectiveness against right-handed pitching, but he’ll need to prove he can regularly handle major league pitching. He did a real nice job during Monday’s game, showing some strong plate discipline, going 0-for-2 with three walks and a run scored, so if he can keep getting on-base and find his way into some hits early on, he could have a strong impact this season.

If they’re taking the reins off of Stephen Strasburg this year, then why was he pulled after just 80 pitches on Monday? I know it’s just the first game, but it’s not like the game was well in-hand (just 2-0) and it wasn’t like the Marlins were putting men on base at all either. He’s going to have a lot more games like this throughout the season and if they really are just letting him throw, then let him start racking up some complete games. It’s time to take the kid gloves off here.

It looks like everyone is rushing out to grab their first “new” closer from the waiver wire as Carlos Marmol was yanked from a save opportunity after giving up one run on one hit and a walk over just one-third of an inning. As I’ve said before, we expected the eventual switch to Kyuji Fujikawa, who got the final out for the save on Opening Day, but I don’t think we expected it this early. If Fujikawa is on your waiver wire AND you are in need of a closer, then you should probably grab him while you can. If you don;t need a closer, stand pat as he hasn’t quite been named just yet. I know it’s good to be proactive, but if there’s no need, then why drop a perfectly helpful player for someone you don’t technically need?

Nice to see Troy Tulowitzki showing us all why, despite the injury history, he’s the number one fantasy shortstop out there still. So many people bypassed him early in their fantasy baseball drafts for fear of another debilitating injury which, if he does stay healthy, could make him one of the biggest fantasy draft bargains around. There’s definitely a certain amount of risk involved, but if you’re playing in a league of 12 teams or fewer, if/when he does get hurt, it’s probably not as crippling given the depth of the player pool. I’ll be watching him extra close this year as I grabbed him in the second round of the KFFL K-BAD Experts League this year, banking on a return to the 30-HR form we all knew and loved.

While I don’t recommend doing a bunch of trades before giving your team a legit opportunity to show you their strengths and weaknesses, I will say that if you’re exchanging outfielders at all, I recommend picking up Norichika Aoki. He put together a fantastic stat line last season after platooning for almost the first two months of the year, and now with a full-time job to open 2013, I can definitely see a 15-35 season coming with an average sitting north of .270, for sure. Let everyone else overpay for Carlos Gomez. Aoki will do just fine.

Keeping an eye on Tyler Flowers might be interesting. His batting average has been and probably should still be a disaster, but his ISO numbers throughout his time in the minors and during his two cups of coffee in the bigs these last two years have been beyond rock solid. I haven’t been a big fan of his, but if you’re playing in a two-catcher league and can withstand some batting average woes, he might be worth investigating. Of course, he’ll still need to show the same power, but there’s no harm in putting him on your watch-list, whether he’s on waivers or not.

So while Phil Coke got the save for the Tigers on Opening Day, I still don’t think that the closer’s job is necessarily his just yet. I do think that Jim Leyland will keep Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning, but I could still see him playing the match-ups and using guys like Al Albuquerque and even Octavio Dotel in the mix. Personally, I would like them to bring back Bruce Rondon, but patience is the key here. Well, that and Rondon not getting hit around so much.

Lost among all the hoopla of Clayton Kershaw’s complete-game shutout was a solid effort by Matt Cain who tossed six innings of four-hit ball with one walk and eight strikeouts. His pitch count was a little high (92 thrown), but he still managed to keep the Dodgers lineup in check.

Huge bummer for Ryan Ludwick who came out of Monday’s game with a dislocated shoulder. He was definitely on my list of underrated players you need to draft, but now surgery knocks him out for three months. If you have the DL spot, then go ahead if you want, but I’m dropping him as you just never how much of the power will return after such a procedure. In the meantime, all you Billy Hamilton fluffers will need to wait as it’s far too early to bring him up at all. The Reds will likely use Chris Heisey as the primary replacement, but are expected to actually bring up Derrick Robinson to act as the fourth outfielder. Patience BillyHam lovers. He’s probably not coming until they trade Shin-Soo Choo anyway and that might not even come until much later in the year.

And finally, much to my chagrin, a very quiet and inauspicious first game for Mike Trout. Not that I’m worried in any way……just expressing my state of discontent.

Plenty more to come, folks, so remember….it’s all about patience right now. Don’t go doing anything stupid with your roster here. Everyone gets so antsy here in the beginning of the season and more mistakes are made now than almost any other part of the season. Do yourself a HUGE favor and don’t be a jumper.

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