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With the first week of games in the books, it is officially safe to declare Fantasy Fool’s Gold Week. That’s right folks. Fantasy owners overreact to some hot starts every year in hopes of getting their hands on the waiver wire gem of the season. This year is no different, so let me highlight a few players you guys should stay away from.
For starters, let’s look at Angel Pagan. He has seen a 55.4 percent rise in ownership on ESPN leagues, the largest increase of any batter. Through seven games, he is batting .292 with five extra base hits (none of which are homers) and two RBIs. At 33 years old, we know all we need to here. Pagan will hit for average when healthy but offers little in terms of power or speed. With 3,100 major league at-bats to his name, you know what you are getting here; and it’s ordinary.
Nick Markakis has seen a 35.5 percent ownership spike while hitting .250 with four RBIs and a stolen base. He is a better investment than Pagan in my book, but there really isn’t a ton to get excited about here either. Markakis hasn’t eclipsed 15 homers or 59 RBIs since 2011 and has only reached double-digit steals in a season once since 2008. The only allure here would be if you are completely risk averse or play in a league that uses OBP instead of batting average.
If you are filling your roster up because you have some openings courtesy of DL slots, then these guys work as a stopgap option. If you are cutting someone you obviously liked better for either of these two – after all, you drafted him and not these guys – you need to learn some patience. Every year these mistakes happen, and every year I harp on this to start the season.
Heading into this season, Xander Bogaerts had a combined total of 20 stolen bases in his 541 games as a professional. Through six games this year, he has already swiped a pair of bags, which was obviously enough to get my attention. There is a ton of talent here. Many are quick to forget this kid was almost the consensus top prospect in the land a few years back. While his numbers were pedestrian last year, Fantasy owners need consider he was just 21 years old and playing mostly third base. Bogaerts was on the record last year stating he wanted to play short. A year wiser and back playing the position, he is comfortable and it has him looking like a potential post-hype breakout candidate. If he continues stealing bases, he could end up being an absolute monster.
Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins blew his second save of the season on Sunday, giving up a pair of runs on a two-run shot by Dexter Fowler. In three appearances this year, spanning over just 2.2 innings, he has given up five earned runs on eight hits and a walk with four strikeouts. At 42 years old and coming off a spring where opposing batters hit .406 against him, we have enough of a sample here to project that he has officially hit the wall. Those of you out there that work waiver wire magic for saves need to get your hands on Adam Ottavino, who appears, based on performance, to get the first crack at the gig. The Brooklyn native has been their most stable option out of the bullpen for the last few years and has been fantastic in early work this season, striking out seven batters in his 4.1 innings pitched. Don’t be surprised to see Ottavino on the mound for the Rockies’ next save opportunity.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto had a season to forget last year. Playing in just 62 games, he hit a career worst .255 with only six homers and 23 RBIs. A strained quadriceps ended his season on July 5 and left many Fantasy owners scratching their heads as to how to approach him heading into this season. The result had him coming of draft boards as the 11th first baseman in NFBC drafts this year. Over recent years, Votto was more inclined to take a walk than swing the bat in key situations. This year, albeit in early work, he seems to be working on swinging the bat a bit more, walking just 14.3 percent of the time (low for his standards). The Reds also moved him into the second slot in the batting order behind Billy Hamilton and protected by Todd Frazier. Everything is clicking here, and from what I have seen, Votto looks locked in at the plate, meaning we are going to see a return of his premium numbers. If you own him, hold tight and enjoy the ride.
To say I knew what to expect from Alex Rodriguez this season would be a lie. A soon-to-be 40-year-old coming off a yearlong suspension for PEDs with a pair of bum hips isn’t exactly an easy read. Because of this, he was a relative afterthought on draft day. This spring he was solid,batting .267 with three homers in 45 at-bats. Rodriguez looked comfortable at the plate and took a surprising eight walks as well, which upped his OBP to .377. He carried that success over into the regular season for the Yanks, as he is hitting .300 with a homer and six RBIs through his first 20 at-bats. Being from New Jersey, I get all the Yankees games and have seen most of A-Rod’s at-bats live. He looks like he is relaxed and is having fun. He is talking to opposing players and smiling. This isn’t something we have seen from him much in recent years. To me, Rodriguez looks like a guy playing with nothing to lose, and it seems to be suiting him well. Playing most of his games as the primary designated hitter should help keep him healthy. From the looks of things, he is going to be Fantasy relevant in mixed leagues this year.
Indians catcher Yan Gomes hit the DL with a moderate MCL sprain to his right knee and is currently expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. While it’s a tough blow for his owners, something interesting definitely transpired in Cleveland. As of right now, they haven’t called up another catcher, meaning that Carlos Santana is going to fill the role behind Roberto Perez until Gomes returns. Some leagues require as few as five in-season games played at a position to be eligible there, while most require 10. Two appearances a week from Santana while Gomes is out gets him that eligibility. This also opens the door for him possibly seeing 20 appearances and gaining eligibility at the position for next season. This would be a huge boost to his value, and makes him a sneaky trade target over the next few days before he dons that catcher’s mask for the first time this year.
In terms of awful, there probably hasn’t been anyone worse to start the season than Evan Gattis. In 20 at-bats, he has struck out 12 times and failed to log a hit. Definitely not the start he was looking for with his new ball club. Batters switching leagues typically take some time to adjust. They are dealing with a bunch of unfamiliar hurlers. Cold starts should be expected. Owners aren’t cutting bait on him just yet, but you can rest assured knowing there are plenty out there with buckling knees. Let me be the first to say that you should jump at the chance to pick this guy up. We are talking about a catcher-eligible player that is going to play in 150-plus games this year. With those extra games, he is a 30-homer threat, albeit with a mediocre .240-.250 batting average. He is the same player he was a week ago, don’t forget that.