It's still so early. Really, it's hard to stress this enough. The season is barely three weeks old, weather hasn't been cooperating, sample sizes remain small and fantasy standings aren't yet a clear indicator of how good (or bad) your team actually is.In fact, the only reason to bother checking the
It's still so early. Really, it's hard to stress this enough. The season is barely three weeks old, weather hasn't been cooperating, sample sizes remain small and fantasy standings aren't yet a clear indicator of how good (or bad) your team actually is.
In fact, the only reason to bother checking the standings is to evaluate whether there's a particular category in which your team could struggle to produce going forward if left unaddressed. Otherwise, don't jump ship on players you were all-in on just a month ago. Don't be that owner -- go after that owner.
You can start by making trade offers for these five.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
In case you haven't noticed, the five-time-reigning-NL-West-champ Dodgers aren't off to a great start at 6-9. A lot of this falls on a lineup that seems stuck in a malaise, with all three slash stats (.237/.307/.365) below league average so far.
Among the primary culprits? Mr. Seager, who is hitting .200 with only two extra-base hits (1 HR) and 4 RBIs through his first 14 games. That's on top of a Spring Training during which concerns persisted over Seager's ailing right elbow.
Bring all of that up when you make your pitch to Seager's owner. If you can acquire him while he's underperforming, you'll be the one enjoying the turnaround that's sure to come once the Dodgers get going and Seager's .224 BABIP normalizes. The best is yet to come -- both in 2018 and in his career -- from the soon-to-be 24-year-old, whose plate discipline is intact (9.1 BB%, 15.2 K%) and who will have Justin Turner back hitting behind him soon.
Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Astros
Unlike the team they topped to win it all last fall, the Astros are off to a solid start early on. That, however, makes Bregman's out-of-the-gate performance (.212 BA, 5 R, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 SB) a bit perplexing -- and perhaps a little worrisome for his fantasy owners.
It might be a now-or-never time to get in on Bregman, though, given the 24-year-old's underlying numbers. For one, his .232 BABIP will correct itself. For another, he's walked (10) more times than he's whiffed (nine) to date, indicating his approach at the dish is in line to improve for a third straight season.
If you're still not sold on buying low on the notoriously slow-starting Bregman, consider that he finished last April hitting just .250 with six runs, six driven in and nary a homer -- only to wind up batting .290 with 82 runs, 65 RBIs, 19 homers and 15 steals. Oh, and his shortstop eligibility adds a little bit of bonus value, too.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
Again with this? Didn't we think we were past bad Buxton beginnings by now? Apparently not, as the Twins center fielder is sporting a .195 average to go with all of two runs scored and as many RBIs.
We've seen this movie before, except the biggest difference this year is that after his breakthrough second half of 2017 (.300/.347/.546, 11 HR, 35 RBIs, 13 SB), Buxton didn't come cheaply on draft day. That means that whoever picked Buxton at his elevated valuation is going to start feeling the heat soon -- if not already.
Here's a little something you might not have noticed: Minnesota has played an MLB-low 11 games because of postponements, suppressing Buxton's counting stats and limiting his opportunities to pick up the pace.
Just recognize that patience is required, as Buxton's baseball growth at times has come in baby steps. For instance, after racking up 21 strikeouts in his first 42 plate appearances (50 percent!) to start out last year, he has 11 in his first 43 plate appearances this season. Also on the plus side, the speedy Buxton has four steals without being caught in 2018, running his streak to 28 straight successful attempts. If everything clicks, there's a 20-homer, 30-steal fantasy force lurking.
Ender Inciarte, OF, Braves
It's odd seeing Inciarte sitting there with a .183 average, isn't it? Even more so when the Braves' offense is humming along at 5.60 runs per game (fourth in MLB), while their leadoff hitter has yet to join the party.
Inciarte's fantasy profile is built on doing things that don't often get appreciated enough, like hitting for average (.300 from 2015-17) and scoring runs (nearly 84 per year across the same span). It's been easy to overlook Inciarte in recent years for any number of reasons -- from Atlanta's lengthy rebuilding process to his lack of power at a time when the sport is setting homer records -- and that could present a buying opportunity now.
Inciarte, 27, isn't a fantasy stud, but he's a consistent, contact-making machine (12.0 career K%) capable of stealing 20-plus bags a year while hitting atop a fun lineup featuring stalwart Freddie Freeman, breakout Baby Braves Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson and, soon enough, elite prospect Ronald Acuna.
Carlos Santana, 1B, Phillies
The Phillies' -- and fantasy owners' -- investment in Santana hasn't yielded much of a return ... yet. The 32-year-old does have 10 runs scored and as many driven in, but he's managed just two long balls and owns a .143 batting average.
A somewhat sluggish start might have been expected, simply because Santana is adjusting to a new league and new pitchers. Not to mention, the nine-year veteran often has taken a couple of months to get rolling; his career OPS by month is lowest in April (.767) and May (.722).
This season, though, Santana has been more than a little unlucky. Nobody has registered more outs (20) on hard-hit contact -- defined by Statcast™ as 95-plus mph exit velocity -- than Santana, whose 26 hard-hit balls trail only five players. Put another way: Santana has recorded an out on a ridiculous 20 of 26 hard-hit balls!
Focus on that, as well as the fact that Santana's walk (13.2 percent) and strikeout rates (14.7 percent) remain right in line with recent seasons. Once Santana's fortunes turn -- including that comically low .128 BABIP that is fourth-worst in MLB -- expect him to start taking advantage of his new hitter-friendly home park.
Jason Catania is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com.