04/13/10 12:48 PM ET
Trendspotting: Stay on top of the game
Cruz, Wells, Polanco making early impact with big bats
By Chris Stryshak / MLB.com
Expect to see a healthy mix of established stars performing (or not) in some unexpected areas and a few unheralded names making their marks in 5x5 play.
Vernon Wells has followed up a power-starved '09 (15 HR, .711 OPS) with a vintage early-aughts effort thus far, drilling five long balls over his first seven games and playing his way back into a starting role on mixed-league rosters.
Nelson Cruz's love of the long ball is hardly a secret to fantasy managers after his 33 blasts last season, but his five-homer barrage and 1.250 slugging percentage still deserves some recognition here.
The team-wide morass that plagued the Mets offense in 2009 has so far engulfed its newest offensive star as Jason Bay, still searching for his first homer, will have his work cut out trying to approach last year's career-high mark of 36.
Chris Davis, who went homerless with a lone RBI over the first week of the season, is on his way toward burning another set of fantasy managers who gambled on a repeat of his post-callup '09 power surge.
The season is barely a week old and Chris Young already has one four-RBI and one five-ribbie performance under his belt. A move up from his customary spot in the seven-hole of the D-backs lineup could see the 26-year-old make a run at his first 100-RBI campaign.
Could it be that Delmon Young has finally recaptured the mojo that enabled the former phenom to plate 93 runners in his first full big league campaign of 2007? The 24-year-old outfielder has averaged one ribbie per game thus far and is flying off waiver wires in all formats.
With Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero now plying their trade on rival American League West squads, the offensive burden has fallen on 2009 AL MVP candidate Kendry Morales, who has struggled mightily in the Angels' retooled lineup, cashing in just one RBI since Opening Day.
David Ortiz finished the first week of the 2010 season with as many postgame tirades as he did RBIs (one), which does not bode well for the usually affable slugger's return to his vintage run-producing form.
A return to the hot corner in Philadelphia has certainly agreed with Placido Polanco. The truth is, with his .454 average and 10 RBIs, Plinko deserves to be mentioned in mulitple categories here, but his status as the Phillies' No. 2 hitter offers the most promise for future run-scoring opportunities.
Consummate scrapper Mark Ellis has featured prominently in the surprisingly proficient A's offense with eight runs scored to his credit. As long as Oakland continues to put runs on the board in the early going, Ellis should be worth owning.
Alfonso Soriano's wheels clearly aren't what they used to be, despite the scuffling slugger's claims to the contrary about the condition of his surgically repaired knee. Sori has crossed home just three times and now has to deal with the defensively superior Tyler Colvin cutting into his playing time in left field.
Who would have thought that the arrival of Melky Cabrera could pose a serious threat to Nate McLouth's playing time? That's exactly what has happened, as McLouth's rocky Spring Training (.118 AVG) has carried over to the regular season, resulting in just two hits and one run scored in his first 17 at-bats.
A career .300 ripper on the farm, Martin Prado has actually saved his best for the big leagues, roaring out of the gate in 2010 by hitting safely in his first six games, good for a white-hot .519 batting average.
It's been a few years since Edgar Renteria caused more than a minor ripple within the fantasy community, but a dearth of talent at shortstop coupled with a .440 batting average has thrust him back into the spotlight.
Chipper Jones's batting average plummeted exactly 100 points from 2008 to '09 and he's already missed time with two separate injuries this year -- not exactly a recipe for a rebound.
With one hit in his last 18 at-bats and a .130 average, Johnny Damon's performance at the dish has been a far cry from his Yankee Stadium-aided .302 mark from last season.
Scott Podsednik's feel-good 2009 is looking to be anything but a fluke as the rejuvenated speedster is a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts, good for a share of the AL lead in swipes.
Rafael Furcal hasn't been a force on the basepaths since nabbing 25 back in '07, but he's off to a flying start in 2010, racking up three steals in his first six games. Pretty amazing considering that Furcal was stuck on three steals as late as June 7 of last season.
A massive upswing in walks help propel Michael Bourn to an National League-leading 61 steals last season, but Houston's flashy leadoff man is still searching for his first free pass and has just one swipe to his name.
Proof that even the greats eventually slow down, the 36-year-old Ichiro Suzuki has made good on just one of his first three stolen base tries this year, continuing a multi-year trend of decreased efficiency on the bases.
Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan has made 15-game winners out of hurlers with far less raw talent than 23-year-old Jaime Garcia, who looked impressive in his debut win over the Brewers on April 10.
A 16-game winner in 2009, Jorge De La Rosa could actually eclipse that mark if he continues to hurl like he did in his first start of 2010, when he allowed just two baserunners and whiffed nine in seven innings. Having a deep and potent Rockies lineup as support surely can't hurt, either.
The owner of a solid 3.75 ERA over his first two starts, Roy Oswalt has only a pair of losses to show for his efforts thanks to a punchless Astros offense that has generated just 13 runs over its first seven games. Wins will come at a premium for Houston's starting staff in 2010.
Although Josh Johnson has the talent to overcome his rocky start on the hill (2 GS, 6.30 ERA, 2.00 WHIP), a porous Marlins defense that has committed 11 errors through seven contests won't help him in his quest to right the ship.
Neftali Feliz and his 96-mph heater should be given every opportunity to stick in the closer role, and he needs to be owned in all formats.
Even if Brad Lidge was healthy (he isn't), Ryan Madson could be manager Charlie Manuel's choice to serve as the Phillies' everyday closer. He's handled himself well thus far with a 2.70 ERA and two saves in as many opportunities, bringing stability to a role that has lacked it since Lidge's dynamite 2008.
The (seemingly) ageless Trevor Hoffman might finally be nearing the end of his storied career after getting charged with six earned runs and a pair of blown saves over his first four innings of work.
Rangers skipper Ron Washington is calling the demotion of Frank Francisco, he of the 27.00 ERA, a temporary move, but it's hard to see Washington turning him loose again if Feliz is up to the task.
Twenty-six-year-old knuckler Charlie Haeger punched out 12 Marlins in six innings of work on April 11. He's worth a low-risk investment even if the likelihood of a repeat performance is meager.
Veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood is showing the kids in the Orioles rotation how it's done, having punched out 11 batters in 12 2/3 innings for a 7.8 K/9 rate.
Boston's ace surely won't finish the season with the 3.9 K/9 rate he's sporting right now, but with only five strikeouts over his first 11 2/3 innings, it's hard to fault Josh Beckett owners for getting a little antsy about his lack of firepower.
It might be the adjustment to the AL talking, but Max Scherzer has churned out a pair of three-strikeout games in his first two starts for the Tigers. Not a good sign considering he whiffed more than three batters in 27 of his 30 starts last season.
Justin Duchscherer slashed his ERA in half, to 3.46, thanks to a dominating performance vs. the Mariners on Monday. With a rangy A's outfield defense working behind him, the veteran owner of a career 3.15 mark should continue to keep opposing teams off the board.
Despite U.S. Cellular Field's heavy offensive bias, steady lefty Mark Buehrle has defied the odds by posting a sub-4.00 ERA for three years running and has brought the goods with a 2.40 mark thus far.
The Nationals are averaging a defensive miscue per game so far in the young season. That's bad news for de facto ace John Lannan, who sports an 8.31 ERA after two starts, nearly two full runs worse than his expected fielding independent ERA.
Chalk it up to the chilly Midwestern spring if you'd like, but Jake Peavy has gotten shellacked in two straight outings (8.44 ERA), and the transplanted Padres ace may be in for a long adjustment period as he settles into his first full season against stronger AL lineups.
Dallas Braden has always been stingy handing out free passes, but this year he's also got his H/9 rate in line (6.2), which has resulted in an outstanding 0.85 WHIP through two starts.
Shaun Marcum's first two starts (13 IP, 2 BB, 0.92 WHIP) since September 2008 have given a needed jolt to the post-Roy Halladay Blue Jays staff and astute mixed-league owners who have already rescued him from their leagues' waiver wires.
Ben Sheets averaged a fine 1.12 WHIP from 2003-08 but has had some early control troubles in his first two starts since missing the entirety of '09, handing out seven free passes over his first 11 frames.
Derek Lowe's WHIP ballooned from 1.13 to 1.51 in his first year with the Braves in '09, and if his NL-leading 10 walks is any indication, that number could continue creeping upward.
Chris Stryshak is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.