By Sam McPherson
It’s only one week of a six-month season, but fantasy baseball owners often overreact to the first few days in April. If their team is at the bottom of the standings after a few days, it’s time to panic and turnover the roster. If the squad leads the league early, it sets unrealistic expectations for the season.
For example, this week one of the best third basemen in the game—Adrián Beltré of the Texas Rangers—went hitless in his first 11 plate appearances against the Oakland Athletics. He also didn’t draw any walks or reach base at all. That 0-for-11 really puts a dent in your team’s stat line, especially when you know Arizona’s Jake Lamb drove in seven runs in just two games against the San Francisco Giants.
You can’t just drop Beltré for Lamb, though, because you know how those numbers will end up at the end of the year: Lamb will probably lose his third-base job to Yasmany Tomás by midseason, whereas the Rangers power hitter is a perennial All-Star player. Fantasy owners have to be patient in the opening days, although they should keep their eyes on who is getting playing time—and who is not.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup:
1. Jason Grilli, RP, Atlanta Braves: He probably went undrafted in your league, since Craig Kimbrel was supposed to be closing games for the Braves. But with Kimbrel traded to San Diego earlier this week, Grilli becomes the man—for now—in Atlanta. The Braves won’t win 100 games, but you can get some cheap saves here.
2. Ángel Pagán, OF, San Francisco Giants: The often-injured Pagán is healthy and hitting third in the Giants’ relatively weak lineup right now, meaning he’s going to get a lot of opportunities to drive in runs until S.F. gets Hunter Pence back from injury. Pagán is a good hitter as long as he’s able to stay in the lineup, which has been a challenge for him in recent seasons.
3. Drew Hutchison, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: With so much attention focused on the Blue Jays’ hitters—and rightfully so—it’s easier to overlook their pitching staff. Hutchison started on Opening Day against the New York Yankees and acquitted himself nicely. He’s only 24 years old, and he will get your team a lot of strikeouts.
4. Nick Markakis, OF, Atlanta Braves: After spending nine seasons in Baltimore, Markakis is now in Atlanta’s suddenly depleted lineup. He’s worth grabbing, however, because he’s a career .290 hitter in a prime spot (third) in the Braves lineup. He’s got good protection behind him (Freddie Freeman), and Markakis should get to drive in a lot of runs.
Players to Sit This Week:
1. Joaquín Benoit, RP, San Diego Padres: He lost his job on Sunday when the Padres traded for Kimbrel. Benoit is a fine pitcher, but his value is much lower now without the save opportunities. If your league counts holds as a category, keep him around, but if not, you might as well waive him.
2. Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics: Crisp is a popular player, but even when he’s healthy, he’s risky and streaky. Plus, he’s not stealing bases like he used to earlier in his career. Crisp is on the disabled list right now (already), and he could be there for awhile as he recovers from elbow surgery. Dropping him isn’t a bad idea; it’s the right thing to do.
3. Jenrry Mejía, RP, New York Mets: Once slated to be the closer for the team, Mejía is on the disabled list with elbow problems—always a red flag. Let someone else take a chance on hoping he returns to the closer position for the Mets. You can find better (and healthier) options on the waiver wire.
4. Kendall Graveman, SP, Oakland Athletics: The talk of Spring Training and a favorite pick by experts to be American League Rookie of the Year, Graveman was terrible in his first start this week. In fact, he hit more batters than he struck out. This is Exhibit A for being careful in taking spring statistics too seriously for younger players. Graveman has talent, but he’s not ready for the big time just yet.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.