This is the first of many weekly fantasy baseball columns by staff writer/resident fantasy nerd Cody Ulm. Check back every Monday for more unsolicited advice.
Like in real baseball, two weeks into the make-believe baseball season, fans tend to get a little irrational. Just as everyone in Boston is stocking up on tar and feathers for Bobby Valentine, fantasy owners are one more bad start away from sending Tim Lincecum packing while the sad music from The Incredible Hulk TV series plays in the background (NOTE: Lincecum will be left off these lists because it has become almost comically obvious that he's going to bounce back like always).
But if you're a savvy owner, this is the time where seasons can be made.
Taking advantage of someone else's desperation and nabbing a slumping superstar can be the difference between a fantasy season for the ages or finding yourself the odd man out come playoff time. Furthermore, striking the iron while it's hot and selling an average player who happens to on fire out of the gates can be equally as beneficial.
Really, it just comes down to how acute your BS reader is when analyzing a bad start or a fluky first month. And I like to think mine is pretty honed considering I've never uttered the phrase "I can't believe it's not butter" while digesting popular butter-like substitutes.
Oh yeah, and it wouldn't hurt to have some large cojones on you too because odds are, all the evaluations below won't hold true. Trust me, there's nothing worse than being the guy that trades 2011 Jacoby Ellsbury because of his .190 average the first three weeks for another slow-starting outfielder you hope bounces back (please, learn from my failures).
But without further ado, here are my fantasy frauds and smart money investments with one week of April left to play:
- Derek Jeter - SS - NYY - Third in the league in hits through his first 68 at bats, Jeter has seemingly found the fountain of youth while hitting safely in 12 straight games. Don't assume that the Yankee captain has regained his 2002 form though. Jeter set a career low in games played and runs last season and while he's still a useful shortstop in 10 team leagues, you could still certainly do better. See if you can con someone into paying for name value at thin position and pick up someone like Rafael Furcal or Zack Cozart who will both finish with similar numbers batting leadoff for two formidable lineups.
- Jake Peavy - SP - CWS - Here's another guy you might be able to spin for a nice return because of reputation. If you drafted Peavy, you most likely did it with one of your final picks so give yourself a pat on the back because this is a win-win scenario for you. If you decide to keep him, odds are you'll get a great return as long as you don't expect him to make 30 starts (a feat he hasn't accomplished since 2007) and can afford to keep a DL spot open. But if you instead decide to pawn him off on someone else with that health risk in mind, you should be able to get player that was drafted far higher than Peavy thanks to his 21 Ks and 2.75 ERA to start 2012. I would just make sure not to wait any longer if selling is the plan, as that pesky back of his could act up at any second.
- Chase Headley - 3B - SD - While not exactly a household name, Headley has done a fine job in the early going as the main source of run production in a putrid Padres lineup. But don't look for that to hold true for the entire 162 games, as Headley has never been a huge power guy, as evidenced by a career high of 12 home runs. He's basically the No. 3 hitter by default and, while his OBP may finish nicely, he's not going to see as many runners in scoring position as half of the other third basemen in the league. You'd be wise to try to package Headley and a pitcher for perhaps Brett Lawrie, who is set for a breakout year.
- Kyle Lohse - SP - STL - Don't get me wrong, Lohse is a more than capable pitcher who is bound to set new career highs across the board for the Cardinals this season; he's just not truly elite like his 0.89 ERA suggests. Lohse is going to get his fair share of wins playing with the Cards offense on his side but he's never been the type to rack up the Ks and he's already 33. If you could somehow trick an opposing owner into offering up a top-tier starter then jump all over that, but it would still be a steal to settle for someone like Matt Garza just as well.
- Adam Wainwright - SP - STL - I know, a 9.88 ERA through three starts is quite alarming but I'm not ready to give up on one of my preseason sleepers just yet. Wainwright is only one season (and of course one Tommy John surgery) removed from being the NL Cy Young runner up. While he hasn't made it deep into a game yet, it's not like he's lost his stuff (averaging 9.22 Ks per 9 IP). If he can get his 2012 home run rate of 3.12 HR/9 IP closer to his career rate of 0.68, then his dominance should return and make him well worth the mere scraps you could get him for at this point.
- Eric Hosmer - 1B - KC - Everyone thought this was going to be his breakout year so why give up hope so early just because of a .179 average? Manager Ned Yost moved the 22-year-old phenom to cleanup this past Saturday in hopes of providing a spark, and Hosmer responded with a two-run homer. If he sticks in that spot, the opportunities will be there with Alex Gordon and Billy Butler in front of him. It'd be wise to invest now before the rest of your league begins to catch on (especially if you're in a keeper format).
- Jason Kipnis - 2B - CLE - Like always, second base isn't the deepest of positions, so a trade for Kipnis might be difficult to pull off. But if you can take advantage of his owner's early fear of Kipnis' .226 average then bravo. The Arizona State alum will undoubtedly approach a 20-20 season this year and he's already beginning to turn it on with a .250 AVG, eight runs and nine RBI over his last 10 games. He's not in the most potent of lineups but I still wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if he finishes in the top eight at his position.
- Jordan Walden - RP - LAA - I am one of those crabby fantasy outsiders who holds true to the theory that you should never pay for saves, but I'm willing to make a rare exception for Walden. While his 4.91 ERA and lone save through the first couple weeks is surely concerning to Walden's owner, it shouldn't be to you. All of those earned runs have came in non-save appearances and the only reason he doesn't have more saves is because the rest of the Angels bullpen has been pitching like Buttermaker when he's drunk in "Bad News Bears." In fact, Walden converted the only save opportunity he's been handed this past Saturday and you can certainly expect him to do the same 95% of the time once the Angels finally turn it around. Oh yeah, did I also mention he has 67 Ks in 60.2 IP last season?
Arizona Diamondbacks Fantasy Stock: (To put a local spin on this column, I will always being scrutinizing the D-backs roster for those players who are becoming more or less fantasy relevant with the passing weeks).
On the rise:
- Gerardo Parra - OF - With Chris Young (shoulder) sidelined, Parra is officially an everyday starter who brings that rare combination of speed (three stolen bases this year) and power (Sunday's grand slam) to the table. You could definitely do worse if you're looking for an injury fill in.
- Trevor Cahill - SP - The walks are a concern just as his last start (5.2 IP, 4 ER) against the Braves is too. But I found that to be more the case of a quality pitcher running into a molten-hot lineup than a red flag. As long as Cahill is getting the ground ball outs (12 against Braves), he could be useful against teams like Phillies this week, who pitched 7.2 innings of one run ball against in his only career start.
- Josh Collmenter - SP - While I do believe that Collmenter's start against the Braves last week (5.1 IP, 4 ER) was better than his final line suggests, he's still not anywhere near my spot start radar. And with Trevor Bauer being promoted to AAA over the weekend, he could soon be entirely removed from fantasy talks permanently.
- Paul Goldschmidt - 1B - Yes, he had a nice bounce-back series against the Braves collecting four hits in his 14 at bats but it still was nothing special. And with Lyle Overbay owning the third highest average on the team currently, Manager Kirk Gibson could elect to give Overbay some more starts, especially considering Arizona's offense has nearly evaporated with Young gone.