By Sam McPherson
Not all fantasy baseball seasons are created equal, as some players start fast and finish slow, while other players start slow and finish fast. Staying the course generally equalizes everything out in the end, but smart fantasy team owners can capitalize on fast starts and fast finishes by paying attention to what's going on every day in Major League Baseball play. It's rare a fantasy owner can just draft a team right before Opening Day and make no changes to it all season on the way to a league championship.
This is why it is important to keep up with the first month of the baseball season and see which players are off to hot starts while being ignored by the rest of the owners in your league, for one reason or another. While these fast starts may be flukes, the statistics still count. Why keep a slow-starting veteran in your lineup when there's a hot rookie to be had on the waiver wire? Grabbing the rookie for as long as the hot streak lasts and then putting your slow-starting veteran back in the lineup later gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to stat production.
In the past, we guarantee owners have won leagues this way, riding hot streak after hot streak from random players to superior stat totals. The trick, though, is to monitor constantly what's going on in the majors. You can't just pick up the hot rookie tomorrow and then forget about him later, as his batting average regresses to the mean and his production drops to an unacceptable level. Winning the championship is about always picking up the next player on a hot streak and dropping the players on the decline.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Avisail García, OF, Chicago White Sox: It's hard to believe he is just 25 years old, since it seems like forever ago García came up with the Detroit Tigers looking like the next Miguel Cabrera. He's never really hit like Cabrera until now. His current .379 average won't last all season, but García has the talent to hit .300 over the course of 162 games. Right now, he's hot, so grab him and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts. It wouldn't be surprising if this was his breakout year, though, and he hit well for the rest of the season.
2. Chase Anderson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: One way to determine the staying power of a pitcher off to a hot start is his strikeout pace. Prior to this season, Anderson wasn't able to strikeout a lot of batters, but in the 24 innings he's thrown so far in 2017, he's registered 22 Ks. That's almost 1.5 strikeouts per nine innings more than in 2015-16 combined, so it's a good sign that Anderson will pitch better this season (1.13 ERA) than in the past (4.09 career ERA). Of course, his ERA won't stay low forever, but Anderson should be good for double-digit wins this season with a solid ERA.
3. Eric Thames, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Back in the majors after four years in South Korea, Thames has hit eight home runs already in 2017. Owners may have avoided him in drafts, worried his power numbers wouldn't translate from Asia to America. Don't wait any longer to get him into your lineup. A good sign, too, is that he has 11 walks and only 16 strikeouts so far this year. Right now, he's leading the National League in slugging percentage and total bases, and while that probably won't last, it's clear Thames has the plate discipline and the power to be a fixture in your lineup all season long.
4. Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees: His walk-to-strikeout ratio right now is off the charts, as Severino has allowed just two free passes while whiffing 27 batters in just 20 innings so far this year. At age 23, Severino is on the brink of a special career if he can just learn to limit the home-run balls he tends to give up. If you need strikeouts on your pitching staff, he is a good bet to keep this pace up all season, and the Yankees' young offense will supply Severino with all the run support he needs for wins.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: If you drafted Marte, you are very angry right now that he received an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. It's a tough decision now to decide whether you want him on your roster or not. He will be eligible to come back in late July, but there is a lot of time between now and then. Bench him for as long as you can in hopes he makes a difference down the stretch, but the ideal move would be to trade him to a Pittsburgh fan in your league.
2. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants: This is another big blow to anyone that drafted the workhorse, as he got hurt last week in off-the-field mishap on a dirt motorbike. Bumgarner should have known better, and to make it worse, he was winless on the season still (0-3, 3.00 ERA, 28 Ks in 27 IP). Rumors are flying that MadBum will be out longer than the projected two months, and there's no guarantee he will be any good if and when he returns to the S.F. rotation. You can just drop him, but he's worthless to you now unless you can trade him to a Giants fan in your league.
3. Marcus Semien, SS, Oakland Athletics: Wrist injuries are the worst for hitters, and Semien is on the 60-day disabled list after wrist surgery. Don't expect him to be any kind of decent hitter when he returns, either. Wrist injuries take awhile to heal, and Semien won't be back at full strength until the start of 2018 even if he comes back this year. After hitting 27 HRs last year and stealing 10 bases, Semien was a popular sleeper pick to bust out with a 25-25 season this year. That's not going to happen, so you should just drop him.
4. Blake Treinen, RP, Washington Nationals: After three mostly successful seasons as a set-up man, the Nats made Treinen their closer for 2017, and he failed pretty badly despite three early saves. Washington has too many other options in the bullpen right now to turn back to Treinen any time soon for saves, so unless your league uses holds as category, there's no point in keeping him on your roster as he tries to work out the flaws and the kinks that caused all these problems in the first place.
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