Every fantasy baseball season there are players who get off to hot starts. Some of them maintain a high level of production for the entire season (think Matt Kemp in 2011) and others seem to hit a wall after performing well early on.
The importance of determining which players will continue to do well and who will fall off is crucial in managing your team. A player who is off to a hot start for your team but who you think can’t continue to rake should be traded while their value is at a maximum level.
A player on another team who does the same thing should be recognized and avoided in any potential trade offers.
Let’s take a look at some players by position and see who is for real this year and who has had fictitious performances thus far. (All stats are as of Monday afternoon)
For Real – Johnathan Lucroy MIL – He may not be flashy but he has some pop and should be able to get you 15-20 HRs to go with a .270-ish AVG. Not too shabby for a guy who is still out there on a lot of Waiver Wires.
Fictitious – Yadier Molina STL – A career .274 hitter who has never hit more than 14 HRs in a season, he currently has a .353 AVG and is averaging a HR per 3.33 games started. His career average is a HR per 16.44 games started.
For Real – Adrian Gonzales BOS – He has a HR and 7 RBIs and looks to be finally healthy from a nagging shoulder injury that plagued him through 2011 when he hit 27 HRs and 118 RBIs.
Fictitious – Carlos Pena TB – He has only hit better than .250 in a full MLB season once in his career and is currently sitting at .353 with 3 knocks and 11 RBIs. His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) sits at .429 on the season. His career BABIP is just .279.
For Real – Ian Kinsler TEX – He’s got legitimate 30 HR/30 Steal potential and, although he had a .255 AVG last year, he does have multiple .280-plus and even a .319 season under his belt.
Fictitious – Omar Infante MIA – Omar is hitting .343 in 2012 or .067 higher than his career norm. He also as 4 HRs on the young season but has only hit more than 9 HRs in a season once in his professional career.
For Real – Adrian Beltre TEX – A career .276 hitter, Beltre seems to be doing well in the hitter’s park known as Arlington Stadium hitting .296 there in 2011 and .289 currently with a HR and 6 RBIs. The Rangers offense is loaded and so is Beltre’s boomstick.
Fictitious – David Freese STL – Currently nursing a finger injury, the World Series hero is off to a torrid start with a .400-plus average, with 3 HRs and 11 RBIs. Maybe he’s figured it out, but 1.) He’s not going to hit .400 for the entire season and 2.) why not trade him if you own him while his value is the highest it will be all season?
For Real – Hanley Ramirez MIA – Yes he still qualifies at SS in most every league I’ve seen. And it looks like he got a bit unlucky with a low BABIP last year that contributed to his meager .243 AVG. He’s hitting .287 right now with 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, and 2 SBs. This could be his first 30/30 season since 2008 and should at least get you 25/25 with decent AVG, Runs, and RBIs.
Fictitious – Derek Jeter NYY – “The Captain” has a .366 AVG with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs, but only hit 6 HRs in 2011 as his Isolated Power is on a gradual decline. If you own him you should be able to trade him to a newbie based on his name recognition and early 2012 performance. If not, try the “he’s on a rebound year” thing.
For Real – Andre Ethier LAD – A .280/30/90 season in 2012 is not out of the question for Ethier. His low 2011 numbers were likely a result of a nagging hand injury through which he still managed to hit for average. He hit 31 HRs in 2009 in 685 ABs and 23 in 2010 despite 100 fewer ABs.
Fictitious – Shelley Duncan CLE – Maybe the epitome of a AAAA player, Duncan has never hit higher than .260 in any MLB season although he did show some flashes of power in 2010 and 2011. He’s hitting .320 thus far in 2012 with 2 HRs in his last 4 games but with a bloated .353 BABIP and .280 ISO which he won’t be able to maintain. Plus, if the rumors are true, his spot may be going to Johnny Damon anyway.
One of the great things about fantasy baseball is that owners are free to manage their team(s) as they see fit. If you think a player can maintain a high level of performance although never previously showing it then, by all means, do the research and make up your own mind about him.
But buying low and selling high requires that owners not get attached to players or wrapped up in name recognition. Even I have a couple players that a will draft and keep every year no matter what their performance because I enjoy watching them play for my fantasy team.
In the long run though, the better fantasy owners are the ones who rely on the stats and their research to evaluate players.
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