Fantasy baseball is surely a long season, but that has never stopped anyone from overreacting to small sample sizes. Once the stats start rolling in, you can’t help but notice when your star players fall short of your expectations even when it’s a few weeks in. In fantasy baseball, patience truly is a virtue. The vast majority of seasoned fantasy baseballers know you need to give your players some time to see how they gel, but frustrating starts can get the best of us. Especially when it is someone you picked to be an anchor for your team. So this week I decided to look at some studs (top 50 NFBC ADP) that all started off really slow and worried owners, but have been locked in at the plate since.
Paul Goldschmidt (NFBC ADP: 7.58)
HA! YOU WISH!
Jose Ramirez (NFBC ADP: 20.46)
Ramirez is one of several Cleveland Indians that struggled heavily to begin the year. Looking at his season numbers now, you would have never thought he struggled at any point so far this year. However, Ramirez had an extremely rough first two weeks, hitting just .160 in 50 AB through his team’s first 14 games. Already labeled by many as a bust before the season started given his late 2nd/early 3rd price tag, this was not the start owners liked to see. The most encouraging takeaway is that he only recorded 4 strikeouts in those first 60 PA (6.7% clip), as he is known as being one of the best contact hitters in the game. So owners knew (hoped) it would only be a matter of time until he came around. Through April Ramirez was hitting .267 through 27 games, recording 7 HR, 16 RBI, and 14 runs scored which represented a great recovery. However, Ramirez has been on another level this month, hitting .343 with 7 HR, 9 doubles, 18 RBI, 17 runs scored, and nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts (13:7) in 18 games. He has silenced critics and made it quite apparent that he was well worth the ~20th pick in fantasy drafts. Ramirez is currently 6th on Razzball’s Player Rater, as well as 6th on ESPN’s, and should continue to be a top 15 hitter the rest of the way that generously contributes in every category.
Francisco Lindor (NFBC ADP: 20.72)
I had mentioned how several Indians struggled heavily to begin the season, and Lindor was no exception. The Indians had hit just a measly .231 in April, tied with the San Diego Padres for the 25th best average in baseball. Lindor hadn’t done much to help lift that team average, as he hit just .245 while striking out at a 20.6% clip through April. This start was surprising for Lindor, as he typically has hit really well to begin the season (.309 through April in ’17, .293 in ’16) so far in his early career. People weren’t in full blown panic mode, but there were definitely plenty of rightfully worried Lindor owners. May has been an entirely different month for Lindor, as he has only failed to record a hit in 2 of his 19 games played thus far. He is one of the hottest players in baseball, hitting an insane .378 though 93 plate appearances while adding 8 HR, 10 doubles, 16 RBI, and 21 runs scored in 19 games. His strikeout rate is down to 16% this month, and his 9.7% walk rate also represents a significant increase from last month. Lindor and many of his teammates have drastically turned things around offensively. The Indians went from 25th in team batting average in April, to the 2nd best average in May with their .273 clip. Additionally, they are 1st in runs (122), 3rd in hits (187), 3rd in home runs (32), 2nd in OBP (.347), T-1st in slugging (.489), and 1st in OPS (.831). If the lineup continues to produce, Lindor will be one of the league’s elite run producers the rest of the way and help you across the board.
Alex Bregman (NFBC ADP: 32.42)
Bregman is someone who was pegged by many as a fantasy bust for this season, and it definitely appeared that way early on. Through his team’s first 18 games, Bregman mustered a disappointing .214 average across 81 plate appearances while recording just 5 runs scored and 4 runs batted in. Definitely not the start you’d like to see out of someone who was your 3rd/4th pick in such a stacked offense. Bregman picked up some steam to close off the month, finishing with a .259 average, 11 R, 12 RBI, 1 HR, and 3 SB. Bregman has not seen the drastic turnaround that the two previous players have underwent, but there is still plenty of time for that and he has been making substantial improvements. So far in May, Bregman is hitting .286 with 3 HR, 8 doubles, 1 SB, 11 runs scored, and 7 runs batted in over 81 plate appearances. After hitting just 1 home run in his first 129 plate appearances, the 3 he has hit in the past 19 games is certainly encouraging for fantasy owners hoping to get another 15/15 season out of him. With 4 home runs and 4 stolen bases through 48 games, that feat certainly seems much more obtainable than before. Bregman is now walking more (13.8%) than he is striking out (11.4%), which is not an easy thing to do and speaks to his excellent plate discipline. The small window for buying JoRam and Lindor at a discount is long gone, but Bregman is trending upward and represents one of the best trade values going forward.
Andrew Benintendi (NFBC ADP: 40.81)
There was also a lot of traction heading into this year that Benintendi was being immensely overdrafted. As a Benintendi owner, after the first few weeks of the season I was sadly realizing this may have been true. Through the first two weeks of the season, Benintendi was hitting a putrid .209. I started to think that I may have overpaid for a player and drafted him for the player I wanted him to be, rather than drafting him for the player he is. I have never been so happy to be wrong! Since April 13th Benny Ballgame has been on fire, hitting .292 while adding 5 home runs, 10 doubles, 2 triples, 7 SB, 23 runs scored, and 24 runs batted in for the Sox. He is now slashing .278/.360/.466 on the year through 45 games, and continues to bat 2nd for one of the deadliest offenses in the league. With the game’s hottest hitter in Mookie Betts hitting before him and JustDongs Martinez hitting cleanup, Benny has an absurd amount of protection and should continue to see good pitches and create runs. The only detrimental aspect of Benintendi’s game remains his inability to hit lefties, as evidenced by his .179 average and a 31.8% strikeout rate this year against southpaws. Even still, Benny is one of the most balanced contributors from a H2H categories standpoint as his .278 average, 5 HR, 31 R, 29 RBI, and 8 SB shows.