4/8/2014 2:07 P.M. ET
Shifting player values emerge after first week
Encarnacion, Melky, Belt among those worth buying, holding
By Fred Zinkie / MLB.com
After one week of the Major League season, the values of many players are shooting up or down the fantasy ranks. Here are some key numbers to note from recent box scores.
Edwin Encarnacion: 10 -- The Blue Jays slugger owns a subpar 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate after 28 at-bats. Last season, Encarnacion was one of the few power hitters to record more walks (82) than K's (62), which shows that he has excellent command of the strike zone. The 31-year-old's slow start presents fantasy owners with a great chance to buy low on the trade market. Few players can provide the five-category benefits of Encarnacion, and his fantasy value will likely rise quickly in the coming days when this short slump comes to an end. In general, early-season slumps should be ignored by fantasy owners, especially when considering long-term value. Most players have a couple poor weeks during the season, but the significance of those failures is magnified when they take place in April.
Yovani Gallardo: 0.00 -- The Brewers' Opening Day starter is already 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA after besting the Braves and Red Sox last week. While it's fair to give Gallardo credit for his excellent results against quality competition, it is too early to believe that he has turned a corner. The 28-year-old punched out just seven batters in 12 2/3 innings last week, so he was not dominating the opposing lineups. He walked just two batters over the two games, which is an improvement for a starter who has walked a little over two batters per start in his career. But in the big picture, a few more batted balls are likely to fall for hits in the coming weeks, and Gallardo's ERA should shoot up closer to his 3.68 career mark. There is now a window for Gallardo owners to advertise him as a bounceback ace and unload him on the trade market.
Chris Colabello: 11 -- The 30-year-old late-bloomer was the American League leader in RBIs after Week 1, with 11. To many fantasy owners, Colabello's early-season success came out of nowhere, but he quietly took home MVP honors in the Triple-A International League last season after hitting .352 with 24 homers in 338 at-bats. The Twins are in a transition phase at the moment, and they are on the lookout for impact bats. While Colabello is older than most prospects, he could become a fixture in Minnesota's lineup because it has few other power threats. The right-handed slugger is appearing regularly as the team's cleanup hitter, and he is worth a low-cost addition in mixed leagues.
Jim Henderson: 0 -- Henderson was worth a mid-round pick in 2014 fantasy drafts, as owners believed he was a lock to open the season as the team's closer. When manager Ron Roenicke surprisingly turned to Francisco Rodriguez on Opening Day, he quickly defended the move by saying that Henderson would soon be back in the ninth inning. And then, Saturday happened. Pitching in a fairly low-pressure, sixth-inning situation, Henderson recorded zero outs while facing two batters. Roenicke showed a lack of faith in the 31-year-old, as he removed him from the game before giving him a chance to pitch his way out of trouble. After a week of action, Henderson has recorded just one out, which does not seem like the profile of a pitcher who will soon take over the game's final inning. Rodriguez should hold the stopper's role for the coming weeks, and if he does not give Roenicke any cause to worry, it could be much longer.
Jenrry Mejia: 8 -- Mejia punched out eight batters in his first start of the season, and he has the skills to maintain a high strikeout rate throughout the campaign. The right-hander punched out 53 batters in 52 innings between the Minors and Majors last season, and he posted a 2.42 ERA. Now that he is further removed from 2011 Tommy John surgery, Mejia should be set for a full season of starting assignments in 2014, and that means something in the neighborhood of 170 K's. That's not too shabby for a starter who is sitting on the waiver wire in most leagues. If Mejia can keep his ERA in the 3.50-range, he could be a breakout performer this season.
Melky Cabrera: 3 -- The 29-year-old went deep in all three games of a weekend set against the Yankees, which made him one of the most added players in recent days. While he will not keep up this power pace all season, Cabrera can offer fantasy owners good reasons to believe that he will continue to be a mixed-league asset. Leg issues and a spinal tumor hampered the switch-hitter last season to the point that he could barely play left field. However, Cabrera's legs looked so good in Spring Training that the current plan is to give him some starts in center field. Because he is a line-drive machine who hits in front of star sluggers Jose Bautista and Encarnacion, Cabrera should be able to hit for a high average, score plenty of runs and offer some contributions in the other three standard categories.
Brandon Belt: 4 -- Belt finished the first week of the season with four homers, finishing second to D-backs slugger Mark Trumbo. The onetime highly touted prospect flashed plenty of power in the Minors, when he hit 23 homers in 2010 and then followed that up with eight dingers in 178 at-bats in 2011. The 25-year-old hit just 17 homers last season, and his home venue of AT&T Park is a noted pitchers' stadium, which made many fantasy owners skeptical of an upcoming power breakout. But Belt has the pedigree to push his homer total north of 25 this season, and join a higher tier of fantasy first basemen. Smart fantasy owners should hold onto the left-hander hitter, and resist offers to sell high.
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.