MLB Young Guns: Pretenders or Performers From image

Fantasy Focus: A History Lesson in Trading

A hot start by a MLB rookie is great trade bait
By Joel Beal,
May 11th, 2010

In April 2006, two American League 1st basemen, both in their second year in the Show, had similar smokin'-hot starts:

The "Big Red" Machine

Chris Shelton
2006 Post All-Star Break
.236 0

Player A had: 10 homers, knocked in 24 runs, a .313 average and a .404 on-base percentage.

Player B also had: 10 dingers and supported a .404 OBP, with 20 RBI and batting .326.

Although both players were highly regarded by their respective organizations, many critics did not believe either would continue their early-season dominance into the summer. By the end of '06, Player A would finish with 35 HRs and 95 RBI. Player B, on the other hand, would conclude the season in the minors. And the identity of the masked men? The former would be Nick Swisher, and the latter Chris "Big Red" Shelton.

The reason I tell this tale? After 30 or so games into 2010, there appear to be a handful of young guns posting statistical anomalies that are making fantasy owners go, "Uh what?" The list includes Austin Jackson (leading the American League with a .371 batting average), Ike Davis (.316 BA, .437 OBP), Jamie Garcia (1.18 ERA in 6 starts), Colby Rasmus (.304 with 20 runs), and Starlin Castro (6 RBI in MLB debut). Oh, and some guy for Atlanta named Jason Heyward is doing alright (.291 BA/8 HR/26 RBI/.410 OBP) as well.

I wish I could channel my inner Miss Cleo and prognosticate which of these players will continue to perform and which will fall by the wayside. However, I can tell you what to do if you're lucky enough to own one of the aforementioned athletes.

Trade them.

For reasons not fully explained, there exists a certain phenomenon in fantasy sports where managers take a little too much pride in owning a breakout star. It's almost as if a sentiment of fantasy hubris exists, and the success of a rookie or gamble draft pick fulfills our self-fulfilling prophecy of sports expertise. ANYONE can draft Pujols; it takes a man with some brass ones to pick Heyward a few rounds earlier than projected. (By the way, that's the sound of me patting myself on the back for pulling the trig on Heyward in the 8th round.) To some extent, it's akin to parents living vicariously through their children.

The case can also be made that following a rookie/young gun is exponentially more exciting than trekking a good-but-not-great player. For instance, along with Heyward, I have Marlon Byrd and Magglio Ordonez in my outfield, both who are off to spectacular starts. But guess whose box score I check first in the morning? Exactly.

Yet, if the ultimate goal of fantasy is to win, you can enhance your chances by dealing these prospects while they're hot in return for a proven commodity. Chances are Jackson won't be heading into August with an average above .335 or Garcia with a sub-3.00 ERA, so it would be behoove you to move them while demand is high.

Sure, you won't be able to bask in the glory of your prospects accomplishments, but you'll be closer in your quest to bring home fantasy gold.

Start 'em: Nick Swisher, Yankees. Speaking of Swisher, in his last eight games, #33 has batted .438 with 5 HRs and 13 RBI. Most fantasy owners had concerns about Swisher's possible lack of playing time coming into the season, but Swisher has appeared in 29 of New York's 30 games.

Sit 'em: Pablo Sandoval, Giants. San Fran sits a half game back of San Diego in the West, which is a minor miracle considering the lack of production from their 3-hole hitter Sandoval. The Kung Fu Panda is hitting .081 in the month of May with just 1 RBI.

Fantasy Flashback: 1894 Hugh Duffy. The original Duff-man had quite the campaign in 1894, winning the Triple Crown with 18 bombs, 145 RBI and a .440 batting average that still remains the single-season BA record. Duffy also posted a .502 OBP to go along with 48 stolen bases. On a side note, Duffy logged his service with the Boston Beaneaters, who rank beside the Houston Colt 45s as possessing the sweetest team name in baseball history. Last on the list: the Cleveland Infants.

Waiver Wire Watch: Jon Garland, Padres. The former White Sox/Diamondback/Dodger has been unhittable in his last four starts, surrendering just two earned runs in 27 innings of work. Garland is owned by only 34% of fantasy users, so pick him up while he's still available.

Mike Leake

Rookie Review: Mike Leake, Reds. Heading into Spring Training, the major buzz surrounding the Reds rotation centered on Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, but it has been Leake who has shined in the 2010 season. The 2009 1st round pick out of Arizona State has validated Cincinnati's selection thus far, compiling a 3-0 record though six games with a 3.10 ERA in 40.2 innings. Related rant: why do pitchers always rock the best facial hair in sports? This marvel has confounded me for years. In theory, you'd think the football world would produce some kickass whiskers, but save for Jared Allen's Fu Manchu, nothing impressive comes to mind. Granted, hockey has the tradition of renouncing the razor come playoff time, but that's only for two months of the year. Yet America's pastime continually gives us the unintentional awesomeness of handlebar mustaches, muttonchops, dyed-goatees, and lumberjack beards. Go figure.

This week in Jonathon Broxton: Up and down week for the Ox. Big 51 blew a save opportunity against Milwaukee on May 6th, yet was still credited with the win thanks to Andre Ethier's grand slam in the 9th. Broxton did bounce back by slamming the door against division foe Colorado on Friday and Sunday, bringing his save total to a whooping 3 on the season.

Trade Talk: Anytime a constant statistical discrepancy (i.e. lack of HRs, Ks) bears its face, owners will always look for a possible trade to enrich their roster. While this approach is practical, owners who have low save totals should remain calm. A common blunder in fantasy is upgrading one's bullpen to improve less than stellar stats. Saves are fairly easy to come by, and the last thing you want to do is trade a valuable contributor for an unproven closer off to a hot start (yes, I'm looking at you Matt Capps). Instead, look to pick up a set-up man for a team whose regular closer is struggling.

Big League Chew Player of the Week goes to: Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers. Guerrero has proved skeptics wrong who claimed the slugger had nothing left in the tank. In a series sweep over Kansas City, Vlad went 5-for-13 with 3 HRs and 7 RBI. On the season, the Vladiator has driven in 26 runs to go along with a .339 average.

Spit Your Tobacco at: Josh Beckett, Red Sox. Beckett's performance as of late hasn't merited the $68 million extension he signed in early April. Through seven games, Beckett is sporting an astronomical 7.46 ERA. His latest train wreck came against the Bronx Bombers, who tagged Beckett for 9 earned runs in 5.1 innings.

That's it for this week. Enjoy the Padres-Giants, Twins-Yanks, and Indians-Orioles. Class dismissed.

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