The first week of Fantasy baseball is in the books in many leagues and a full series of games for all of Major League baseball’s 32 teams has been scored. That means we have early season small sample sizes of dominance, mediocrity and even some of the dismal variety. The fact that we have data at all means we have something NoteWorthy to examine. Sample sizes of anywhere from three to six games mean it’s too early to rationally call anything a Trend, but it does mean we can speculate, and that’s what “Trends and NoteWorthy’s” is all about.
The regular season is upon us! Don’t worry, there’s still time to add that “one more league!” Leagues are still forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and jump in one today.
Early season sample sizes can be misleading snapshots that serve the player well when his retirement party comes around or it can be foreshadowing of better things to come in 2019. That’s why certain players need to be snatched up with FAAB investments while others need to be faded in favor of late-round draft picks that aren’t ready to be released yet. Our draft picks were selected for a reason. We did the analysis, we made our decisions and then we executed a plan. 25-30 early season sample size at-bats, in most cases, shouldn’t trump a month’s worth of effort making projections and doing statistical analysis.
And yet, mistakes are made. Players are overlooked every year. I targeted players like John Hicks and Blake Swihart at catcher, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jesus Luzardo as rookies that could make an impact, and Kyle Schwarber and Ian Desmond as outfielders that were too good a value to pass up as back-end and bench players in my leagues.
Here are the early season sample sizes for players that could become relevant and need to be owned as well as examples of players I recommend owners “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled.”
NoteWorthy Early Season Sample Sizes
Joc Pederson, OF Los Angeles Dodgers
16 At-Bats – Three HRs – Eight Runs Scored – .438 BA
Pederson started against three right-handed pitchers and was benched against left-hander Robbie Ray in the Dodgers opening series. The Dodgers like to play right/left matchups and Pederson’s .853 OPS against right-handed pitching and .581 OPS against lefties is a split that will be a Trend going forward.
Pederson is a platoon player with a .230 career batting average. He has the power against right-handed pitching to be an intriguing Daily Fantasy player and a streaming option when the matchups fall in his favor. He shouldn’t be a regular starter that owners invest their FAAB funds based on this weekend’s early season sample size. The Dodgers and Mariners are on fire. Owners need to be cautious to avoid being burned. “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled.”
Kolten Wong, 2B St. Louis Cardinals
18 ABs – Three HRs – Two SBs – .500 BA
Wong has the dual-category, power/speed skill set to be a viable Fantasy middle infielder in all leagues and formats, but he has been unable to deliver on that potential.
In 2014, he hit 14 home runs and stole 20 bases and his early sample size suggests that kind of year could be repeatable in 2019. Wong’s career .257 batting average minimizes his ceiling in mixed leagues, but 15-20 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases potential makes him worth a FAAB investment or waiver wire claim. Adding to his viability is the fact that it doesn’t look like he has much of a challenge for playing time if he struggles. Wong is one of the safer early season waiver wire claims even if he does lack the ceiling that many owners get lathered up over.
Domingo Santana, OF Seattle Mariners
30 ABs – Three HRs – Two SBs – 11 RBIs – .313 BA
The Mariners are on fire, but Fantasy owners need to throttle down their excitement about the ones on the current waiver wire, of which there are a few. There are sensible arguments to be made for claiming many of them and Santana is the one to be most bullish on.
While it’s still early in the 2019 season, as recently as 2017 Santana hit 30 home runs and stole 15 bases while batting .278 with the Milwaukee Brewers. That season has been a career aberration, but he has the tools to be that guy and aberration or not, it isn’t an excuse to let him languish on the waiver wire. He needs to be owned in all leagues and is worth a healthy investment in formats with FAAB budgets. Santana doesn’t have a clear replacement if he struggles, the at-bats should be there and the ceiling is higher than most of his waiver wire alternatives.
Tim Beckham, SS Seattle Mariners
26 ABs – Three HRs – .423 BA
Beckham is the talk of the Fantasy baseball world and the hottest waiver wire claim in Fantasy after Week 1. He has gone from 5% ownership after draft season to 61% after seven games and 26 at-bats. I am here to be your contrarian. I have to be when a player is this hot, this early. Beckham does need to be owned in most formats, but owners shouldn’t spend exorbitant FAAB dollars to be that owner. If they want to invest big dollars there are better options with higher ceilings.
Beckham was a borderline full-time player for the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 when he played 137 games and received 533 at-bats, but he hadn’t received a full-time opportunity before or since. That should change in 2019 and could mean a career high in home runs, RBIs and runs scored this season. All good reasons Beckham needs to be owned. But, he has never stolen more than six bases and even if he has a career year on the bases, expecting more than 10 would be too aggressive for the reasonable Fantasy projectionist. If Beckham has a breakout 2019 campaign with 25-30 home runs and even a .280 batting average, when .260 to .270 is more reasonable, he still won’t be a top-five shortstop. In 2018, 14 shortstops hit at least 20 home runs, seven hit 24 or more and six of them stole at least 10 bases while three stole 21 or more. Beckham doesn’t have that kind of upside in his profile.
Owners need to keep Beckham’s hot start in perspective. He is on his way to being a top 15 shortstop and he could be one of the 10 best if he can continue hitting the ball like he has. But, he lacks stolen base potential, he bats in a difficult home ballpark and his hot start is nothing more than an early season sample size without any career data to suggest he can be a 30-HR player. His ceiling is limited and the likelihood is that he, and his Mariner teammates, come down to earth. It’s better to be cautious with your FAAB dollars when a players ceiling is limited and his track record is lacking. That’s why his helium can be intoxicating, but possibly debilitating. “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled.”
Maikel Franco, 3B Philadelphia Phillies
15 ABs- Four HRs – 13 RBIs – Six BBs – .400 BA
I am wishy-washy on Franco’s profile, but bullish on his potential. His early season sample size is encouraging and yet potentially deceptive. He has always had an above-average hit tool and plus raw power, but his inability to manage the strike zone has resulted in inconsistency and disappointing home run and batting average totals.
In a rejuvenated Phillies offense Franco could have a 30 home run, 85 RBI season with a career high in walks and a low-end total in runs scored if he continues to bat in front of the pitcher. He could easily finish 2019 as a top 10 third baseman and while I am not bullish enough to predict he out-produces Kris Bryant, he could be close enough to make him a better bang for the discounted draft-day buck. He is currently owned in only 48% of ESPN and 49% of Yahoo leagues.
Kyle Schwarber, OF Chicago Cubs
13 ABs – Two HRs – .385 BA
Schwarber had an ADP of 187.19 as the 43rd drafted outfielder on Fantrax.com even though he could hit as many or more home runs than earlier, one-dimensional outfield alternatives like Nomar Mazara (#147.96) and Brandon Nimmo (#166).
His early season sample size is encouraging and if he is available in trade or on the wire, he should be a target. He isn’t going to steal bases and his batting average will be less than optimal without being atrocious – I am looking at you Chris Davis and winking your way as well Khris Davis – but he has 40-HR potential. I fully expect a floor of 30 home runs with a safe, conservative projection of 35 this season. Trades are rare this early in the year, but Schwarber and his 78% ownership percentage in Yahoo leagues is worth an email or two.
The Brown Lining
Saturday Night Live has Debbie Downer and FantraxHQ has me – Chris Mitchell. With every bad thing that happens there is someone that sees a Silver Lining. Well, I am the Devil’s Advocate. I am the Contrarian that reminds you about the downers rather than the positive linings. For me, with every good occurrence there is a Brown lining – a negative consequence. You’re Welcome.
The Positive Occurrence:
Philly Fans are Back To being Fanatical about Baseball
Bryce Harper hits two homers in his debut series as a Philadelphia Philly while they sweep their Division rival Atlanta Braves. Fans are ecstatic. The atmosphere in Citizens Bank Park is electric. The Phillies are relevant again and the fans are flocking.
The Brown Lining:
The Clauses are back on the Hot Seat.
The crosshairs are dead-eye focused on Santa Claus again. Sorry Santa, but Philadelphian’s have to take out their unrelenting anger, frustration and self-loathing about not being Boston, New York or Los Angeles on somebody, and with Harper’s recent success, that’s YOU. Misses Claus, you may want to wear protective gear, as a precaution. Every Silver Lining has a Brown one and that lining is for the Clauses this week. PLAY BALL EVERYONE!!!!
You can follow me on Twitter @CJMitch73 or on Facebook in the Fantasy Sports group “A Podcast To Be Named Later” and we will have a Podcast coming in the not-too-distant future, so keep an eye-out.
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