This is when things start to get fun for opportunistic fantasy owners. At this early stage in the season, everyone is in check-your-lineup-every-day mode, constantly refreshing the scoring page on your league site and generally hanging on every game, if not every pitch.That leads to impulsive decisions by impatient owners,
This is when things start to get fun for opportunistic fantasy owners. At this early stage in the season, everyone is in check-your-lineup-every-day mode, constantly refreshing the scoring page on your league site and generally hanging on every game, if not every pitch.
That leads to impulsive decisions by impatient owners, which can turn into huge rewards for those forward-looking owners ready to strike. Be the latter, not the former.
Which is to say, go make a pitch for these slow-starting players, who may be frustrating their what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-minded owners so far but are bound to get going sooner rather than later.
Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, Indians
OK, what gives, right? Ramirez was a fantasy darling in 2017, posting career highs in average (.318), runs (107), doubles (an MLB-high 56), homers (29) and RBIs (83), while swiping 17 bags on his way to finishing third in AL MVP voting.
Right at this very moment, though, Ramirez is 3-for-35. That's a .086 batting average -- fifth-lowest among qualified hitters in MLB. That's enough to make any owner freak out a little.
Here's the kicker: Ramirez may be the unluckiest player in the sport so far. Check that .063 BABIP (third-lowest). Note his stellar walk-to-strikeout ratio (8 BB, 2 Ks), including at least one free pass in six of his past seven games. And recognize the averages of the players with at least 30 plate appearances who have struck out as infrequently as Ramirez: Andrelton Simmons (.362), Elvis Andrus (.362) and Adam Eaton (.345). Hmmm.
This remains a 25-year-old, switch-hitting, contact-making, multi-position-eligible star who hits near the top of a strong supporting cast. Go. Get. Him.
Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox
No team has been hotter than the Red Sox, who have won eight in a row and looked mighty impressive in rising to the top of the AL East out of the shoot. Unfortunately, that hasn't rubbed off on Andrew Benintendi; the player affectionately called "Benny Biceps" is hitting just .161 with nary a homer and but 2 RBIs. Think Benintendi's owner's mood toward the 23-year-old has dampened at all yet?
If so, you should remember all of the positives that made Benintendi fly up draft boards a month ago. To wit: MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect a year ago, he had a streaky but overall strong rookie season in 2017, including 20 homers and 20 steals, and owns a prime spot in the improved Red Sox lineup.
It's merely been a couple of unlucky weeks for Benintendi, attributable primarily to his .185 BABIP. Pay more attention to the pedigree, five-category skill set and that elite 9-to-4 walk-to-strikeout ratio so far. The breakout? It's coming.
Chris Archer, SP, Rays
As hot as the Red Sox are, their AL East-companion Rays have been the exact opposite. Relying on players from a slumping team often causes concern for fantasy owners, especially if it's a starting pitcher. Add in the fact that Archer currently sports a 6.55 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, and, well, it's a good time to ask about his availability.
At this point of his career, is the 29-year-old Archer likely to develop into the fantasy SP1 many expected him to become a few years ago? Probably not. In fact, pointing out that the right-hander's ERA was north of 4.00 each of the past two seasons should help your trade case with his owner..
So why do you want Archer? In spite of those elevated ERAs, he posted xFIPs of 3.41 and 3.35, indicating some poor luck on batted balls and home runs. If nothing else, Archer has averaged 201 innings and a whopping 241 strikeouts across 2016-17, making him one of the few true innings and strikeout horses. At a time when starters are throwing fewer frames than ever, there's value in that as a strong SP3 or even a capable SP2.
Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers
If you're hoping to swoop in and "buy low" on a player on a roll, like Yelich (.385/.407/.577 so far), an early season injury, like the one to his right oblique, can be your avenue. Hey, injury can equal opportunity.
Yelich's current owner may be struggling while his high draft pick sits on the disabled list, but the good news for you, savvy owner, is this: The initial prognosis on Yelich was day to day, and his MRI came back clean. Given the Brewers' outfield depth, the club felt it was best to give their newcomer some extra time to recover. In other words, the injury doesn't appear likely to keep Yelich out for an extended period.
If you act quickly and use the too-many-outfielders hook, there's a chance for a small (but rewarding) discount on a steady, five-category contributor whose peak we may not have seen yet. After all, Yelich still is somehow in his age-26 season and gets to call a hitter-friendly park his home for the first time in his career.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers
What to do with Puig? That's probably what a number of fantasy owners are wondering right about now. The six-year vet is slashing .205/.256/.256 with merely two extra-base hits (zero homers) through the first week-and-a-half. Was last season's turnaround campaign for real … or what?
Thing is, Puig has registered 16 hard-hit balls -- that's 95-plus mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™ -- more than all but nine players, many of whom are off to big beginnings (see: Upton, Justin; Cain, Lorenzo; Chapman, Matt). Unfortunately for him (and perhaps fortunately for an owner seeking to buy low), Puig has made 10 outs on such balls -- more than all but five other unlucky players.
It's tough to make all that hard contact and have so little to show for it. As long as Puig continues to do the former, the latter is almost guaranteed to change. Think you can hit up his owner before it does?
Jason Catania is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com.