We’ve made it through Week 1 of the fantasy baseball season. Some of you are feeling great about your championship 2017 season already, while oOthers are analyzing 2018 mock drafts and hating themselves for drafting Gary Sanchez. All kidding aside, you’re likely somewhere in between, because you know it’s too early to panic, but not too early to try to fix some deficiencies in your fantasy roster composition. Take some time to look at who’s available, research the type of player they are and what they’ll likely become, and lastly; look at the player(s) you’re giving up to add that free agent. The last thing you want to do is drop a proven commodity that started off slow (yes, there are Yahoo leagues where Todd Frazier was dropped, and no, dropping players of that caliber will not be discussed here). Conversely, if you’re going to cut ties with a player you liked enough to draft fairly recently, you’ll likely want to get more than flavor-of-the-week output from the free agent. All this being said, let’s look at some interesting players that found themselves on the Yahoo Fantasy Baseball “Most Added/Most Dropped” list after Week 1. Bear in mind these ownership numbers are at press time, and may fluctuate by the time you read this.
Sandy Leon, C, Boston Red Sox
Ownership: 45%, +17%
Look, I get it. Hurricane Sandy came out of nowhere last year, posting a slash line (batting average/on base %/slugging %) of .310/.369/.476, and finishing with a career high (7) in home runs. While not particularly inspiring, consider that he was an unknown commodity to virtually all of us, and despite an awful September at the plate (.213/.286/.253), it was a nice story and a great value grab off the waiver wire.
So what’s not to like after starting hot again this year? I’ll summarize briefly; the numbers indicate September Sandy is the real Leon. Adept at getting on base in the minors, he never seemed to figure out how to translate this skill to major league pitching. Consistently walking less than 10% of the time while striking out over 20% of the time is, suffice to say, less than ideal for a low power hitter. At 530+ career at bats and still single digit home runs, that’s what he is. If you’re adding Leon, it’s likely because you see another high average, moderate RBI production among the heavy hitting Red Sox lineup. For my money, lightning doesn’t strike twice. Catcher is such a streamable position that I can see adding him with tempered week-to-week expectations, but if you’re banking on a full season of productivity, I do not think Sandy is your man. It’s not even outlandish to speculate he won’t be the full time catcher by the All Star break, with two touted catching prospects in the Sox farm system returning to the Major League fold at some point.
Steven Souza, Jr. , OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Ownership: 12%, +8%
While we’re on the topic of things “striking,” let’s effortlessly (not to brag) segue to Souza, Jr. There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t been said already. The power potential dangled in front of us like a carrot on a string, filling our heads with visions of the next breakout fantasy outfielder. Souza swung for the fences to earn that title, but like so many baseballs, he consistently swung and missed. Badly. The guy’s a strikeout machine, finishing second only to Miguel Sano in strikeout percentage (batters with 450 or more plate appearances), K-ing an ugly 34% of the time.
The difference between him and other Kings of Swing-and-Miss like Crush Davis and Chris Carter? Minimal power output that would help offset the damaging strikeouts, poor average, and sub-par on-base percentages those types of players inherently saddle your fantasy squad with. The isolated power (SLG%-AVG) has been above average (although just a single point above average last year, with his .163 ISO comparable to league average .162), so the power is genuine. It just doesn’t materialize often enough to negate the boat anchor he is in season long leagues and the liability he typically can be by playing him in Head-To-Head. You can find other 15-20 home run hitters that won’t hurt you in as many other categories out there.
Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees
Ownership: 65%, -7%
The Yankees roster could be the most polarizing in the league. They’ve week 1 duds who were highly touted this past draft season, like the aforementioned Bird and Sanchez. They’ve got an outfielder in Aaron Judge who has paid early dividends to those brave enough to draft an unproven, high-power/low-contact prospect we weren’t even certain would make the Opening Day roster this year. Looking at the names, I ask you, Bird owners: what were you expecting, and how can you cut cord after just 18 plate appearances? He’s always been a strikeout guy; throughout the minors, he was consistently between 20-30%, and he finished his call-up 2015 season striking out 29.8% of the time. As high a number as it is, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise he’s struck out 7 times in 18 plate appearances so far. He’s missed 3 games as of this time with an injury, but the Yankees are saying it’s more due to his flu virus (side note: Influenza has to be the leading candidate for 2017 Comeback Player of the Year right now), and that he’ll return sooner than later.
Bird’s shown he can crush the ball without absolutely killing you in average and OBP. And unlike the previously discussed Sandy Leon, Bird’s top prospect competition can’t get off the 60-Day DL (Tyler Austin). Yes, the Yankees have Carter, but they’re going to give Bird plenty of opportunities to work his way out of this rough start, especially considering the illness-related setback. If you drafted Bird mid-rounds, it’s too early to toss him back. If you got him late, remember that it takes more than 4 games to provide late round value. If you reached early, well…that’s partially on you, but a simple glance at the first base free agent list (outside of shallow leagues) would be enough to convince me to hold steady on Bird for now.
Matt Shoemaker, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Ownership: 69%, -6%
I’ll start by saying Shoemaker was going earlier on draft day than I think he should have anyway. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad pitcher, and I don’t particularly think he’ll hurt you more than help you. As a Shoemaker owner, you likely targeted him at a certain point in your draft. You have now also endured a tough start. As Shoemaker owners in years past can tell you, however, that’s not uncommon, and you probably should’ve seen a rough start to his season coming.
In 2016, Shoemaker got knocked around early and often, ineffectively pitching his way to a 2-5 record in early May that was strewn with short outings and higher-than-ideal run totals. On May 11th, he had just finished a 4 inning outing against the Cardinals which saw him allow 4 earned runs, just one strikeout, and owning a stout 9.12 ERA. Throughout the rest of the season, he pitched his way back to a 3.88 ERA, routinely going late into games and even notching a complete game shutout against the White Sox on July 16th. To be clear, I’m not necessarily a huge Shoemaker protagonist, but the argument can be made that the man simply starts slow. You drafted him, you knew to be patient. If I was a Shoemaker owner, I’d analyze the rest of my pitching staff and make improvements elsewhere before completely giving up on him just yet.
Week One is finished, folks. There’s no way to be certain how a players fantasy season will play out after so few games and such small sample sizes. Analyze who you want to cut and why, while also applying the same diligence to who you want to add. We’ve got a long season ahead of us, and it’s not time to go all in or fold your cards yet.