I’m old enough to remember when you would have no idea where your team stood in the standings until at least a week or two into the season. In a way, we were almost better off. Nowadays, you can see live standings from the first day of the season on. When I woke up on Friday and saw I was in last place in my Fantrax Roto league, I had to laugh. The truth is that one day is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it would be nice to get off to a quick start, but the important thing is to have the correct pieces in place.
There is no need to panic after a few bad games. If the injury bug bites or if there are roster moves that are obvious, that is a different story. But over the course of 162 games, every player is going to go through some lulls and some hot streaks. You know the old saying – April Claims bring May Lames. OK, I made that up, but I stand by the sentiment.
Success is salary cap challenge games is largely predicated on finding a couple of low-percentage gems and making sure you aren’t hurt by high-percentage players who are outperforming their salary. In this column, I am going to point out the most highly-owned players at each position among the nearly 750 teams competing in the Bronze Points Salary Cap Challenge. I will also discuss some potential targets for the upcoming week. Again, please keep in mind that you only get 18 new player claims throughout the entire season. There is no need to go crazy and use more than a couple of claims this early in the year, no matter where you currently reside in your league’s standings. No player in the targets sections is an “add at all costs” must have. Use discretion and exercise patience.
These numbers are hardly surprising. Sanchez and Contreras figure to be the highest point-scorers at the position this season, and Gattis has a lot of potential, particularly if he can come close to 500 at-bats this season as Houston’s primary designated hitter. 19 owners picked up Gattis this weekend, making him the most added catcher in the season’s first week.
C TARGETS – NONE
I know, way to come out swinging, Mick. But seriously… if you drop either Sanchez or Contreras because of a bad week, you are going to regret it. Shout out to the 17 teams who dropped Salvador Perez this week after failing to do so prior to Opening Day. That’s a rough way to start the year, but there is still plenty of time to make up for that kind of mistake.
I’m a little surprised by Freeman’s percentage considering his tag, but there is certainly nothing wrong with him. He’s gotten off to a scorching start and heads to Coors this weekend to pad those early numbers. Several owners have already dropped Bellinger, Gallo, and Olson. For me, it’s too soon, but I can understand the mindset given the number of cheap options at the position.
While I would not advocate making a claim just for the sake of it, there are some intriguing names on this list. Smoak is the reigning AL Player of the Week and picking up where he left off in 2017. He hits in the middle of a good lineup and hits in a great park for power. Martinez was seemingly without a position heading into the season, but his bat has forced manager Mike Matheny to insert him into the lineup. He has gotten off to a rough start in the field, but the Cardinals will have to take the good with the bad. Jedd Gyorko’s injury erases any doubt that Martinez will play nearly every day for the foreseeable future. Martinez was the most-added infielder over the weekend with 28 new owners.
I’ve been on the Hanley bandwagon all preseason, and so far so good. It’s hard to claim a fragile player like Ramirez, but he’s easily replaceable if and when he breaks. Duda is strictly a power bat but at least he’s cheap. Kansas City has a seven-game home week coming up in which they face five right-handed pitchers, which suits Duda nicely.
The players on this list are fairly obvious due to their potential production, especially when compared to their prices. Only Merrifield has failed to produce thus far due to Kansas City’s sparse schedule so far.
Here’s the thing… If you are going to add Brian Dozier, it should not be because he has gotten off to a fast start. It should be because he is an absolute beast in Points and always has been. If you are looking for a cheaper option, I would hold off for now. Scott Kingery has a lot of upside but there are so many cheap second basemen, that it’s difficult to buy in quite yet. I’d much rather own Albies and Moncada at this point. Joe Panik and D.J. LeMahieu have gotten off to hot starts, but neither is likely to sustain their early power.
These are all fine selections, though I personally don’t love Arenado at that price until the schedule becomes a little easier to exploit.
I’ve been a big fan of Shaw, and he should remain productive all season long. If Ryan Braun keeps hitting game-winning home runs in front of him, teams will choose to attack Shaw, which would be a plus. Sano’s stock went up once his looming suspension went away. He’s averaged five points per game early on despite striking out in over half his at-bats. Chapman and Davidson have plus power, as evidenced primarily by the latter’s three-homer game on Opening Day. Brian Anderson (1100, 0 percent owned) is also interesting in the absence of Martin Prado, but I’ll make him beat me until further notice.
No surprises here. Correa and Turner are elite and should be well worth their salaries as long as they remain on the field.
I made the argument for Gregorius in Roto last week, but he’s arguably an even better Points play, as he showed with Tuesday’s monster 23-point effort. DeJong has continued exhibiting his plus power early on in 2018. Bogaerts has gotten off to a fast start, with six extra base hits in six games. He makes for an ideal pivot if Correa or Turner get injured. Thirteen owners jumped onboard over the weekend. However, none of these three should be considered must-own, as none can be had at enough of a discount compared to Correa and Turner.
Happ, Benintendi, and Buxton have gotten off to slow starts, but it’s hard to quibble too much with selecting any of them and I would not cut bait quite yet. However, if you lost Nelson Cruz or Delino DeShields, I can understand having a bit of a happy trigger finger, especially if you rostered Ronald Acuna. Happ finds himself in a precarious position on many a roster, though he does have a trip to Coors Field in Period 4 that might get him going. On the other hand…
It’s hard to look at the players on this list and say you’d rather have Ian Happ right now. All have started hot and are in good situations. Eaton will not end the season with 250 hits, but he can remain productive for as long as he is healthy. Eaton’s 41 new claims are the most of any player. Haniger has been Seattle’s cleanup hitter following the injury to Nelson Cruz. Hitting behind three potential .300 hitters, he should see plenty of RBI opportunities. Cain had 24 points in his first series, and yet one owner out there decided to drop him. Sometimes a fantasy owner’s worst enemy is having too many options. I don’t like Cain’s Period 3 schedule, but he should be a solid player all year long. Polanco has always shown flashes of his great potential. His fast start has owners hopeful that this is the year he puts it all together.
No surprises here. Of the seven pitchers I expected to be most heavily owned, only Stephen Strasburg did not make this list. Barring injury, I would try to hold onto pitchers for a month or so before deciding who is for real and who isn’t. Starters only pitch 5-6 times per month, so a good (or bad) start or two is likely to seem magnified.
Other pitchers such as Jose Berrios have been more impressive, but my general rule of thumb is to only buy a pitcher who will start twice in the upcoming week. This is especially true in Points leagues. Having said that, you do not want to just blindly add pitchers week after week. Of the players on this list, I prefer Martinez’ Period 3 schedule, but he also costs far and away the most of the group. Most of the aces that are highly owned will also start twice this upcoming week, so perhaps it is best to just stand pat for another week to see how things shake out.
It has not been pretty for the players on this list. Closer is the one position where managers seem to have the quickest hook and it is the most damaging for fantasy purposes. If a slumping hitter is dropped in the lineup, he can still accumulate counting stats and hit for a high average. If a closer gets demoted to mop-up duty, his value goes completely out the window. None of the players above are in any trouble, but keep an eye out to make sure their struggles don’t linger.
Boxberger was given the nod to be Arizona’s closer, and he is cheap enough to be viable. However, I would much rather own Doolittle or Morrow until anything changes. Diaz has started the year on fire. He has not allowed a hit or walk in three innings and has already recorded eight strikeouts. Strickland is interesting because I don’t think it’s a given that Marc Melancon returns to closing duties when he gets healthy. There also is no certainty as to when that return may take place. Strickland has started strong and may not relinquish the role.