If there is one thing that never ceases to amaze, it is the sheer number of fantasy baseball owners that panic as early as the second week of the baseball season. With such a small sample size, it is easy to over-react when players have a poor start to the season. However, there are often warning signs that begin to take shape early in a season and the key to success often lies in recognizing the difference between alarm and plain old ‘slow starters’. Here are several players and a diagnosis after less than two weeks of baseball games:
Michael Bourn (ATL) -
The Braves leadoff man has managed to reach base only 5 times in his first 6 games so he hasn’t really had the chance to show off his wheels so far in 2012. With only 1 stolen base in 2 attempts, Bourne will no doubt pick things up once he starts swinging the bat a little better. Dee Gordon may be around to challenge Bourn’s National League stolen base crown but expect a bounce back for the Braves and the man at the top of their batting order.
Kevin Youkilis (BOS) –
With only 2 hits in his first 20 at bats, Youkilis is off to a slow start along with the rest of his Red Sox teammates. Groin, hip and back injuries plagued him last season when he hit a career low .258. There were warning signs throughout spring training in regard to his health and he is a risky play to say the least. Although it is early, the Boston third basemen may be in for a long season.
Albert Pujols (LAA) –
The new Angel has struggled out of the gate with only 5 hits in his first six games (with 0 home runs). Is his slow start due to switching teams? Switching leagues? Has his bat slowed down? None of the above. Pujols got off to a slow start in 2011 and ended the season with his usual home run rate and impressive counting stats. The greatest hitter of his generation will still be the king of the hill. Be patient.
Mike Napoli (TEX) –
Prior to 2011, Napoli struggled to get regular at bats even when splitting time between catching and acting as the DH. Last season while batting in a potent line up in a hitter’s paradise of a home park, Napoli had a career season on the strength of an impressive showing after the All Star break. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued Napoli throughout his time in the big leagues and a slow start in 2012 should not come as much of a surprise. If you can get decent value in a trade, I say pull the trigger.
Jose Bautista (TOR) –
The naysayers have been predicting his decline for the last 2 seasons. Hitting only .174 (4 hits in 6 games) to open the year, Bautista has said that his timing is a little off. Don’t let the poor second half of 2011 fool you. The Jays slugger has admitted to an injury which slowed him after the All Star break last season. The Jays’ clubhouse and on-field leader will soon be terrorizing AL East pitchers again very soon.
Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) –
Stanton has been slowed by a knee issue all throughout spring training and into the regular season. It doesn’t seem to be a major issue but that doesn’t make it any less alarming. In fact, a lingering problem can be much worse than one that lands a player on the disabled list since playing through a nagging injury often leads to an unproductive season at the plate. There are some warning signs here to be heeded.
Although it is never a good idea to ‘panic’ in fantasy baseball (this leads to far too many rash decisions which could cost you the season), when players get off to a slow start, it is often nothing more than a mini-slump. However, there are always cases where it could warrant concern.
..* Michael Bourne photo by Mlstros at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Albert Pujols photo by worldofbeauty (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons