Fantasy's early returns: Who to target, avoid
Skip picking up Gibson, Feldman; consider what can be acquired for CarGo
While two weeks is enough time for fantasy owners to start to panic, it is important to remember that we have experienced just a small fraction of the regular season. Heading into Week 3, most clubs had played roughly 12 games, or just 7.4 percent of their regular-season schedule.
Here is some insight into surprising and disappointing players, and what can be expected going forward.
Kyle Gibson: 6:8 -- Gibson has been a popular mixed-league roster addition because of his 2-0 start and 1.59 ERA. But a closer look at his numbers reveals a six-to-eight strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 1/3 innings, which should give fantasy owners good reason to keep him on the bench. In general, starters should show at the very least a two-to-one ratio in order to be counted on for sustained success. If Gibson continues to issue free passes at the same rate he racks up K's, his ERA will spike in a hurry. Fantasy owners should not be afraid to leave the 26-year-old on waivers and allow someone else to take a chance on him, because there are many players sitting on waivers with a higher ERA and WHIP, but better secondary numbers. For the same reason, the Astros' Scott Feldman is another player to avoid. His 2-0 start and 0.44 ERA are hard to ignore, but his seven-to-eight strikeout-to-walk ratio shows that he is more likely experiencing good fortune on balls in play, rather than dominating batters.
Charlie Blackmon: 2 -- The number two has great significance for Blackmon, as he has recorded just two strikeouts and two walks in 49 plate appearances. The 27-year-old has been added in virtually all mixed leagues because of his .478 batting average, nine RBIs and nine runs scored, but his full-season usefulness is still in doubt. Blackmon has become a fixture at the top of the Rockies' lineup, but he will need to start drawing walks at a greater rate, in order to maintain a high on-base percentage when his bat inevitably cools off. The extremely low strikeout rate is not consistent with his previous work in the Majors or Minors, so it's safe to assume that Blackmon is simply locked in at the moment, and his batting average will tumble quickly when he cools off and begins to swing and miss more often. Blackmon should be in the active lineup in all leagues, but smart fantasy owners should be working the trade market to deal this asset for a consistent, proven veteran.
Allen Craig: 0 -- After 13 games, Craig has yet to record an extra-base hit. Fantasy owners have been quick to notice his batting average (.133) and homer total (zero), but the lack of extra-base hits is a bigger concern. Craig owns a .300 career batting average, so it is quite likely that his 2014 average will rise quickly at some point in April. But without extra-base power, the 29-year-old cannot be in the top two tiers at his position. After hitting 22 homers in 2012, he dropped to 13 last season. And in the brief sample size of 2014, he has had a lot of trouble getting the ball into the air. Craig does not have the speed to be an effective ground-ball hitter, and fantasy owners are not looking for that quality from their first baseman anyway. It would be hard to sell low on Craig right now, but if he strings together a couple 3-for-4 games, it might be a good time to trade him away and let someone else worry about the lack of long balls.
Carlos Santana: 14 -- Fantasy owners are no doubt disappointed with Santana, who is hitting .186 with no homers and one RBI in 13 games. But most would be surprised to know that Santana's 14 walks have boosted his on-base percentage to .386, which is nearly 20 points higher than his career mark. Santana's walk and strikeout totals are usually similar, but so far he has twice as many free passes as whiffs, which shows that he is still controlling the strike zone despite his overall slow start. His BABIP (.222) is unusually low, and this is a good indicator that he could turn his season around in the near future. Santana has also hit more ground balls than usual and, like the previously mentioned Craig, the 28-year-old does not have the wheels to capitalize on balls on the ground. Fantasy owners who are looking to pick up an elite catcher-eligible player at a discounted price should consider sending an opening offer for Santana, and see what his fantasy owner sends back.
Carlos Gonzalez: 9 -- When healthy, Gonzalez is among the top five fantasy assets. True to form, his .288 batting average, four homers, 13 RBIs, 10 runs and two steals to date have put him near the top of 2014 early-season player ratings. But fantasy owners have to take the good with the bad when it comes to CarGo, and his injury history is well-noted. The 28-year-old tends to fade late in the season, when injuries either push him to the disabled list or compromise his ample skill set. Across the past three years, Gonzalez has mustered just three homers and nine RBIs during games played after Sept. 1. Those numbers would be poor for CarGo in one month, but over a three-month stretch, they are especially bleak. It takes a lot of guts to trade an elite player who is having plenty of success, but fantasy owners may be wise to ride this hot streak and then deal Gonzalez for a king's ransom in May or June.
Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.