There are 4,860 games played in every MLB season. At the conclusion of Thursday night we will have seen 58 of them played; a cool 1.2 percent of this season’s action. Let that sink in now. Why you ask? Knee-jerk reactions, that’s why. There are Fantasy owners that make the mistake of cutting a player they shouldn’t every season.
One of the biggest culprits in regards these blunders is chasing saves. Last season a total of 216 relievers blew 565 save chances. So the 14 blown saves we have seen thus far are just the tip of the iceberg. Based on the media response though you would think the sky is falling. Let me be the first to tell you to ignore it.
Saves will be available throughout the season, both on the waiver wire and via trade. Jumping on a guy like Fernando Rodney because he currently leads the league in saves at the expense of a guy suffering through a slow start like Mat Gamel or Jason Kubel will end up burning you nine times out of ten.
My advice is pounce on that mistake. Save your waiver position for a player that has no business finding his name on that list. It will happen I promise. When he does find himself putting up the numbers that were expected of him to start the season you now either have an improvement for your roster or a valuable piece of trade bait that you can use to pick up a closer that you know will keep his job for the season.
The most impressive start of the season currently belongs to Chad Billingsley. He gave up just three hits and a walk while striking out 11 over 8.1 innings against the Padres. He faded badly down the stretch last season and as a result went undrafted in plenty of Fantasy leagues. What you need to remember is this is a guy with a career 3.65 ERA and 8.05 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) over 1,022 big league innings. That type of track record means that Billingsley’s career-worst numbers from last year should be in the rear view mirror. If this guy is available in your league, snatch him up and plug him directly into your lineup.
Mark Trumbo has two starts on the young season, both coming at third base. While this is great news from a Fantasy perspective, he hasn’t exactly rewarded manager Mike Scioscia for the playing time. He made two errors in his first start, and proceeded to admit that they rattled him after the game. He backed that up with another error in his second start and now hast three in just six fielding chances. The return to health and form of Kendrys Morales means the only path to regular time for Trumbo will be at third. I don’t care how potent his bat is, if he keeps scuffling in the field the team will have no choice but to roll with Alberto Callaspo. If you own him, start exploring trade opportunities quickly before it is too late. He carries no value planted on the Angels bench.
Even professional ball players can get nervous. A perfect example would be the first two major league innings thrown by Yu Darvish against the Mariners. Seattle batted around in the first, scoring four runs on four singles and three walks. In the second, they grabbed their fifth run on a pair of doubles. After that, he settled in and gave up just a pair of singles over his next 3.2 innings. When it was all said and done, he threw 110 pitches on the evening and struck out five while nailing down his first win. Do not let this outing discourage you. He may struggle with walks from time to time because he battles for strikeouts, but his stuff has looked borderline dominant in stretches over the spring. His track record in Japan is nothing to scoff at either. This kid will be a Fantasy force this season, and owners brave enough to take the plunge on draft day will be rewarded with Brandon Beachy type numbers from last season.
Sure, it has only been five games, but it sure looks like the Cardinals offense is going to be fine without Albert Pujols anchoring their lineup. The only obstacle this offense faces will be its ability to stay healthy. Rafael Furcal is 34 and hasn’t played in more than 100 games since ’09. Carlos Beltran is also 34 and his knees will be a constant concern. Lance Berkman is 36 and faded down the stretch last year. These guys are three of the first four hitters in this lineup, and when playing will help generate plenty of runs. It’s fair to expect each of them to hit the disabled list at least once, but if they avoid extended stays there is no reason St. Louis won’t lead the NL in offense when you also factor in mashers like Matt Holliday, David Freese and the soon to return Allen Craig.
Josh Collmenterdid exactly what he couldn’t do in his first start of the season. He laid an egg, allowing six runs (five earned) over just three innings against San Francisco. There was a ton of chatter this spring about moving him to the bullpen and running one of their youngsters. Trevor Bauer got the most hype this spring, but Tyler Skaggs is also a stud in the making. Whoever gets off to the better start will likely get the first crack at the opportunity; regardless both will make an impact this season. These guys need to be owned in all NL-only leagues. Upon arrival to the show each would be worthy of a mixed league pickup as well. Their ability to induce the strikeout will make each a viable option right out of the gate. If Collmenter puts together another couple of stinkers before the calendar flips to May, you will see for yourself first hand.
Pitchers get lit up. It happens, and you get over it. But when one of your studs takes one on the chin in his first start it always hurts. Yovanni Gallardo walked five batters and gave up four long balls on Friday against the Cards. For his owners that had to feel like a kick square in the jimmies. His slow spring looks to have carried over into the regular season, and for a guy coming off a career year this isn’t a good omen. Last season he gave up a career high 27 home runs and allowed a career low 59 walks. While he may get the long balls under control, the walks have always plagued him. A step back towards his wilder side seems like a legit possibility. Right now, I have no fear in saying Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will both put up better numbers this season. Wait for Gallardo to right the ship, and if you can get 90 cents on the dollar for him early in the year via trade, do so.
*All statistics include the games of Monday, April 9.