Fantasy Baseball Knowledge: What We Learned from Week 1

by Howard Bender on April 8, 2013

davisWith the first week of fantasy baseball in the books, it’s time to take a quick look back and see what we’ve learned and how we can apply that knowledge to future weeks. I will normally try to make this a regular piece and have it out before weekly lineups lock, but the season is young and I’m still trying to both juggle and balance my new schedule. Hopefully you were able to catch my latest MLB Barometer on RotoWire and my daily recap, Rounding the Bases piece on Fantasy Alarm, as both of them should have given you enough info for any waiver claims you may have needed to make. If not, well….go check ‘em out after this.

Overall, the week was filled with plenty of excitement. The real baseball fan in me sat in front of the TV most of the time, staring like a little kid would if he were looking into a storefront window of a candy factory. The fantasy baseball nerd in me  had my laptop on-hand at all moments flipping channels and browser windows to catch the latest shred of baseball update. I did manage to lose technology for a few hours as I attended the SF Giants home opener, although I did check out the out-of-town scoreboard quite a bit and wondered what may have been. But all in all, again, a fantastic week.

Now it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the excitement of the start of the season and anxious, over-eager fantasy owners have a tendency to lose their minds during the first week. Every hot start is magnified, particularly if a player can be found on the waiver wire, while every cold start turns to panic. I always try to preach patience at this time of year, but in truth, most need a Xanax as opposed to just a simple email from me saying to relax. While I do not condone a major overhaul of rosters after just one week, I do recommend staying on top of the latest waiver wire news. We’re all dealing with injuries and some are trying to tweak the back end of their rosters, especially if they drafted early and have some dead weight that needs moving. But don’t go masking moves for the sake of making moves. Rarely is it a productive tactic and often  it is an early waste of waiver priority/FAAB budget. You also run the risk of dropping someone you shouldn’t be dropping.

So just be careful with the moves this early in the game. Pick up players with a specific purpose. Don’t just haphazardly grab guys because they had a hot day. That will be today’s first fantasy baseball lesson which hopefully you have learned throughout your time involved in fantasy leagues. This isn’t like fantasy football where one flukey pick-up can win you the league. You have to be much more informed and calculated when making these early decisions.

Now…..what else did we learn from the first week?

1.  Closers are already a huge headache

We’re all aware of the volatility that comes with this position, but damn is it hitting us hard right from the start. The Detroit situation has been up in the air with Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit in the mix, but with so many questions, the Tigers went back and signed Jose Valverde to a minor league deal. He could be up and closing before you know it so he’s a good stash if you have bench room.

We’ve seen our first closer job change hands as Kyuji Fujikawa replaces Carlos Marmol as the Cubs’ ninth inning specialist and we could be on the verge of two more. Royals closer Greg Holland blew a save Saturday and was then removed in the middle of his last outing after ineffectively putting runners on base. His diminished velocity is still a concern and his command is way off. Though manager Ned Yost continued to endorse him, the smart fantasy owner is grabbing Kelvin Herrera right now. And now in Milwaukee, after a pair of mound implosions, John Axford is about to be replaced with set-up man Jim Henderson. If you’re in need of saves help, these are opportunities which should have been visited already. Hopefully you didn’t get left out in the cold.

2.  Chris Davis just might be for real

You never like to put too much emphasis on a player’s hot start, but Davis is making a very strong case for himself right now. He is very much locked in at the plate putting forth improved walk and strikeout rates, but the real thing to notice is his ability to spray the ball to all fields these days. If you look at the breakdown from 2012, you’ll see that he is much more of a pull-hitter and, while the season is young, he’s obviously made some positive adjustments. Of his four home runs, one was pulled to left, one went to dead center, and the other two were opposite field shots. None of them were considered luck or “just enough’s” and he has an average HR distance of 409.8 feet. Pure strength here. It’s hard to believe that he won’t regress in the strikeout department once pitchers start making their necessary adjustments, but there’s little reason to believe that he can;t top the 30-homer plateau once again.

3. Paying for pitching doesn’t always work

Again, if you read my piece today on Fantasy Alarm, you’ll already have this fresh in your mind. But if you didn’t, allow me to point out the huge failures by aces on Sunday as David Price, R.A. Dickey, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels combined to allow 38 earned runs over just 24.1 innings. Even uglier was the combined 17:15 K:BB. All of them should obviously rebound, but they’re not exactly giving you any sort of bang for your buck right now. If you’re diligent with your research and are a savvy waiver wire player, then you can definitely find plenty of starters out there to use who will provide you with better-than-average ratios which is really all you’re looking for at this point. Strikeouts, wins and saves will all come. You just want to make sure that the ratios stay sensible. Meanwhile, you’ve spent boatloads on offense and that should start to bear some delicious fruit as the season continues.

4.  No one is immune to injuries — don’t panic

On one team, I have Jason Kipnis, Brett Lawrie, Yoenis Cespedes, Andrelton Simmons, Jean Segura and Ryan Ludwick which accounts for two DL stints and four day-to-day guys likely to spend a few games out of the lineup. It’s far too easy to get frustrated as I see my team stuck near the bottom of the standings, but really….we’re just one twenty-sixth of the way through the season. There is so much more to go and these guys are all top players at their respective positions. Maybe your competition is sitting in the catbird seat with a roster full of health, but that’s just not going to last.

5. There are plenty of starting jobs still up for grabs

You’ll have to keep a close watch on your waiver wire this week and next as there are several position battles that remain somewhat up in the air. While Jackie Bradley, Jr. was a hot waiver commodity last week, he is off to an ice-cold start after drawing three walks on Opening Day. He’s batting just .143 right now and has Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp all pushing for added playing time. With Aramis Ramirez DL-bound and Jean Segura day to day, the Brewers infield is in for a major shake up. Alex Gonzalez was manning first but now needs to move over to short which leaves Yuniesky Betancourt (gross, I know) as an option at third or first. Then you’ve got back-up catcher Martin Maldonado and Josh Price as potential options at first as well. It’s all in flux and it’s all kinda ugly. The Nationals have Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki splitting time behind the dish right now but the team is hoping Ramos runs away with the job. The Rangers aren’t totally sold on Leonys Martin over Craig Gentry and the Cardinals have David Freese returning from the DL which renews the rivalry between Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter. There’s also the Dodgers shortstop situation, the Cubs third base woes, the Mariners’ left field and the A’s second base questions. None of these will be settled overnight, but if someone heats up at the right time, you know that most managers are going to roll with the hot bat in their respective lineups.

So make sure you’re staying on top of all the latest news, not just with your team, but around the league as well.  Again, making moves is one thing; making the right moves is the key. This is shaping up to be quite a first month already, so be sure you’re keeping all your bases covered.

Good luck and I’ll see you in the money this year!

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