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At Fantasy Baseball Season's Quarter Pole, It's Time To Accept Patterns And Trends

By Sam McPherson

If a Major League Baseball team buries itself in the standings during the first 40 games of the season, it's usually very difficult to make a comeback and become playoff-relevant down the stretch in August and September. It happens sometimes, as the 2005 Houston Astros showed the world. After a 15-30 start, the 'Stros fought back to claim the National League Wild Card with an 89-73 record before advancing to the club's first World Series ever.

Those kinds of turnarounds happen once a generation in real baseball, and in fantasy baseball, they happen even less. That's because both real MLB action and your fantasy baseball league relies on the same players, really. If the guys on the real field are playing poorly this deeply into the season, chances are they're not going to be turning it around any time soon: They will just keep hurting your fantasy team.

That means it will be tough to make roster decisions with your favorite players that just aren't panning out this season. But you have to remember that fantasy baseball is about disconnecting from the emotion the sport itself. Maybe New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is your favorite player, but as we noted last week, you still can't have a guy hitting .198 in your lineup this late in the season.

If you want to win, it means making tough decisions that may hurt the heart—but that still make sense to the head. Besides, if the players you love and have to waive now suddenly pick it up later in the season, you always can get them back on your roster in time for their hot stretch if you keep an eye on their day-to-day performance. Like we said last week, constant vigilance wins you the fantasy baseball title come October.

Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now

1. Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox: Hopefully, he's still available in your league, and you get on his bandwagon to ride it out as long as it lasts. Bradley posted solid numbers in half a season last year, but if he keeps up this level of production—.336 average, six home runs, 30 RBI—for the rest of 2016, he's going to be a fantasy superstar. He may not finish the season hitting .300, but Bradley still is going to post good numbers as long as he keeps seeing the playing time. He still needs better plate discipline; maybe that will come along this year, too.

2. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians: If you need strikeouts, Bauer has moved into the starting rotation for the Tribe, and that's what he does. He has 370 Ks in 390-plus career innings, and although his ERA is sometimes unsightly, this is Bauer's 25-year-old season—and that often means distinct improvements. Some good signs are the lowest hits-allowed rate of his career combined with the highest strikeout rate of his career. Those are good trends to hold on to when you grab him off waivers.

3. Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles: He's only made four starts this year, but Gausman pitches for the Orioles, and that's going to be mean wins (eventually). He was solid in 37 combined starts in 2014-15, but Gausman looks like a different pitcher this year at age 25 (sense a trend here?). He's only given up 15 hits in 25 innings this year, and that's artificially low, but his strikeout rate is consistent while his HR-allowed rate is way down. Those are good signs that Gausman can sustain his success throughout the rest of the season. 

4. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami Marlins: He may have busted your team in 2015, when Ozuna's production cut in half from the prior season. Looks like he's back now, though: His average is up (.313), and his power is back (six HRs). Ozuna has a lot of talent, and he's only 25 years old this season. Maybe it has something to do with being a fixture in center field now, instead of moving around the different OF positions. Either way, if you can't snag Bradley, this is a pretty good consolation prize at this point in the season.

Players to Sit/Drop This Week

1. A.J. Griffin, SP, Texas Rangers: If you got a few quality starts/wins from Griffin already, consider yourself lucky. He's coming off two straight missed seasons (2014-15) thanks to Tommy John surgery, and now he's on the disabled list with shoulder problems. Those two things are connected, even if the official team press releases insist they are not. It's all about stress on the throwing arm. Griffin is a good guy that helped Oakland win two straight division titles in 2012-13, but he will always be an injury risk.

2. Tyler White, 1B, Houston Astros: Jumping on his hot streak in April may not have paid off for you since White hasn't hit a HR since April 20. He's had just three RBI in 18 games since then, as well, it's clear the 25-year-old rookie has been figured out now by MLB pitchers and scouts. Sometimes, these guys pan out long term, but more often than not, they can't keep the pace up. Drop him and find the next hot first baseman on the wire.

3. Carlos Gomez, OF, Houston Astros: There are many reasons Houston is struggling this season, and Gomez is one of them. His decline really began last year, but after seven weeks now, it's clear he may never approach his All-Star numbers from 2013-14 again. He hasn't hit a home run yet this season, and the batting average (.186) is just ugly thanks to 45 strikeouts in just 33 games. Kiss him goodbye.

4. Mat Latos, SP, Chicago White Sox: If your league counts strikeouts, Latos is only going to hurt you taking up a roster spot. This year, he has a mere 19 Ks in almost 40 innings, with 15 walks, too. Yes, we know he's 5-0 with a 3.40 ERA, but those are glass stilts Latos is winning on right now. He's very hittable (38 hits allowed), and that walk rate is bad. Combine those two things together, and you see a formula for disaster looming. Make sure he's not on your roster when the inevitable cold stretch comes where he goes 0-4 with an 8.50 ERA. Remember, he's 27 and coming off the worst season of his career. That's called "trending downward!"

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.

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