Fantasy Baseball: Week 2 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown
Opening Day giddiness is now replaced by early-season panicking across the fantasy baseball community.
It's easy to script a plot to winning the championship before draft day. Then the season starts, and gamers quickly remember how little control they hold over certain outcomes. Injuries ruin everything, and that guy who won your heart during draft prep just surrendered eight runs.
To make matters worse, there's only one week of data, fueling fantasy players to read too much into that singular week. Curtis Granderson hitting .167 during a random week in July wouldn't raise a peep, but impatient New York Mets fans quickly booed their new center fielder after a sluggish start.
Filling out a roster is difficult while using a small sample size as intel. It's incredibly easy to get manipulated by numbers when Aaron Harang boasts a lower ERA than Cliff Lee.
Which Week 1 results were flukes? Which ones should cause owners to reconsider prior perceptions held before Opening Day? Let's take a look at some of this week's perplexing lineup decisions.
Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
Scheduled Starts: Monday (4/7) vs. San Diego Padres; Saturday (4/12) at Chicago White Sox
I'm just going to pretend Corey Kluber’s first start never happened.
The righty’s 3.30 FIP and 4.12 K/BB ratio made him a mouth-watering breakout pick and my top sleeper of 2014. That’s before he left the fourth inning of his opening start with 11 baserunners and five runs allowed on the day.
A terrible start indeed against the Oakland A’s, but one bad enough to abandon my Kluber fandom? It would have sparked some hesitation if a menacing matchup lurked around the corner, but his week looks too good to hold a grudge.
He begins the week by facing the San Diego Padres on Monday. Although he won’t get to visit Petco Park, the Padres aren’t sluggers regardless of the locale. Given Kluber’s 2.76 home ERA in 2013, facing San Diego in Cleveland works just fine.
He will have to travel to Chicago for his next start to face a White Sox squad that scored fewer runs than every team besides the Miami Marlins last year. Jose Abreu had a successful rookie week, but they’re still not an offense to fret.
Don’t risk missing two great starts after laboring through one ugly one. Kluber is still the same hurler capable of becoming a sturdy fantasy option this season.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday (4/8) vs. Los Angeles Angels; Sunday (4/13) vs. Oakland Athletics
Is one sterling start enough to label James Paxton an ace? No, but it justifies a speculative add, especially leading up to a two-start week.
With all the attention devoted to blue-chip prospect Taijuan Walker, James Paxton slipped between the cracks on draft day despite posting a 1.50 ERA in four starts last year. He quickly showed everyone the mistake they made by hurling seven scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels, tallying nine strikeouts in the process.
Paxton gets the Angels again, this time in the comfort of his home. Then he faces the Oakland A’s, a deceptively tough opponent that hit .258/.332/.428 against lefties last season. Playing both matchups in Safeco, however, eases the burn of two tricky opponents.
If the 25-year-old is still floating around the waiver wire, pick him up in hopes of claiming this year’s breakout pitcher. Given his two-start status, Paxton deserves a space in the starting lineup as a trial run for his long-term value.
Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays
Scheduled Start: Wednesday (4/9) vs. Houston Astros
Now that Brandon Morrow is back on the mound, has he earned a place back on the fantasy radar?
Morrow’s first start doesn’t quite warrant any superlatives. He took the hill for five frames against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing four runs, seven hits and a walk while collecting four strikeouts.
The real news is that he is healthy and throwing at around the same velocity as in previous years. Nobody knows how long he’ll remain intact, so Wednesday’s start against the swing-happy Houston Astros could represent the best opportunity to sap some utility out of the former strikeout artist.
But “former” is a telling word there. Through 10 starts last year, he posted a career-low 6.96 K/9 ratio with an ugly 23.5 percent line-drive rate. It’s no longer a clean-cut matter of “if healthy” for the 29-year-old.
Although the Astros led the league in strikeouts last year, they’re capable of sending a souvenir or two into the Rogers Centre’s stands. Morrow is worth a play in an AL-only format, but leave him on the watch list before welcoming him back into your trust zone.
Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
Scheduled Start: Wednesday (4/9) vs. Oakland Athletics
Finally free from Yankee Stadium, Phil Hughes still can't overcome his long-ball issues.
The 27-year-old has allowed 84 combined homers over the past three years, but escaping a brutal hitter's park offers hope for change. However, he experienced the same results in his first start not wearing pinstripes.
During his first start with the Minnesota Twins, Hughes served up two home runs to the Chicago White Sox, offsetting an otherwise promising outing that included seven strikeouts and one walk. Solid strikeout rates have kept him interesting, but it doesn't show in his 4.56 career ERA.
While he has teed up 76 deep flies at home, he's allowed half as many (38) on the road in 25.1 less total innings. Two miscalculated pitches aren't enough to toss Hughes aside, but he's fighting for his fantasy life in standard mixed leagues.
With Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes leading the way, the Oakland A's can hit the ball far. Getting his first home start at Target Field places him in the streamer discussion, but let's wait until Hughes proves he can revitalize his career in a better environment.
Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics
Scheduled Start: Thursday (4/10) vs. Minnesota Twins
Dan Straily’s minor league stats suggested an ace in waiting, but those brilliant numbers never translated to the majors. If his first start is any indicator, the 25-year-old will tease us more this season.
In 2012, Straily recorded a 2.78 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 190 strikeouts through 152 minor league innings. That dominance sent him on the fast track to the big leagues, where he has registered a 3.94 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 191.2 frames.
On his way to a sensational first start last week, he coughed up two homers during the fifth inning. Loaded with promise, he still can’t quite leap over that final obstacle blocking him from fantasy greatness.
Until he can overcome his deep-ball woes, Straily is limited to matchup play consideration. This week presents fantasy owners with a matchup to consider.
He faces the Minnesota Twins, who aren’t a major power threat in a pitcher’s park. They scored 37 runs during a fruitful first week, but that’s only one week. They rated 25th with 3.8 runs per game and 23rd with a .692 OPS last season.
Minnesota has some intriguing offensive pieces, but one week should not drastically alter perception of a meager offense. Give Straily a spot start and hope he keeps the ball in the park.
R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
Scheduled Start: Friday (4/11) at Baltimore Orioles
R.A. Dickey continues to make life as difficult as humanly possible for fantasy owners.
His unpredictable knuckleball leads to wildly disperse results, as evidenced by his first two fluctuating starts. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, he couldn’t find the strike zone, walking six batters and thus surrendering as many runs.
On Saturday, he perfectly harnessed his specialty pitch, amassing six strikeouts and one walk through 6.2 scoreless innings. That’s Dickey in a microcosm since getting traded to Toronto.
The Dickey who dominated his way to the 2012 NL Cy Young award shows up on occasion, but not without cameos from a guy who can’t maintain a handle of his knuckler. When it comes to trusting him through thick and thin, I’d take Walter White’s advice and tread lightly.
Last year, Dickey allowed 32 baserunners, 16 runs and five homers through 18.2 innings against the Baltimore Orioles. A small sample size, but a believable one, considering Baltimore’s powerful lineup.
He struggled to deliver a quality start against Baltimore in three chances during 2013, so don’t bank on Dickey overcoming his demons this week.