Early in the season, the fantasy owner's mind knows there's a long way to go and his studs will probably be just fine, but that doesn't mean others are as smart. This is the time to take advantage of those owners.
Everyone loves to say they the first one on board the latest breakout player, and everyone can get jumpy and bail on a high pick before his value completely evaporates, but the season is barely 10 games in and owners are unloading stars in exchange for mediocre players off to hot starts.
These are some examples of deals I found when scouring various websites for trades being made in real fantasy leagues across the Internet.
Eric Hosmer is batting .167 with just two home runs through 12 games. His OPS is under .600 and his owners are jumping ship on the 22-year-old. Meanwhile, Carlos Pena is batting .356 through 12 games, with an OPS of 1.107.
Of course, looking at the big picture, Pena is a career .240 hitter with four straight seasons of 150-plus strikeouts. Meanwhile, Hosmer batted .293 as a rookie, with 19 HR, 78 RBI and 66 runs scored in 128 games.
As a Pena owner, be dealing before Pena settles back into his 25 HR/150 strikeout/.240 pace. He will, and you'll miss Hosmer when he's batting .290 with comparable power at the end of the year.
Hold everything here, people. Omar Infante has four home runs in his first 10 games. He hit seven in 148 games last season, and eight in 134 games in 2010. Infante has a 1.145 OPS and a career mark of .716.
Meanwhile, Dan Uggla has at least 27 home runs, 82 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 146 games played every single season he's been a big leaguer. Infante has topped 140 games once in his career. In four of the last six seasons, he has failed to reach 100 games.
Dan Uggla is among the best, and most reliable second baggers in the game. He's a career .258 hitter, which doesn't kill you, and he'll play his 150 games. Infante will not.
Chase Headley has four HR, 12 RBI and 11 runs scored in 12 games so far this season. He also leads baseball with 11 walks. The 27-year-old is showing a mature approach at the plate, and hit .289 last year, giving some hope his current .283 number is sustainable. Headley also hit four total home runs in 113 games last season.
Considering people who have torn down Zimmerman for his "disastrous 2011," he batted .289 with a .798 OPS in 101 games, before injuries sidelined him. He's a career .288 hitter with an .831 OPS and produced a line at 24 years old of .292, 33 HR, 106 RBI, and 110 runs scored.
Odds are Headley will finish around 15 home runs, with a respectable average, and Zimmerman will bat .285 with 25 home runs, around 85 RBI and 80 runs scored. Take your pick.
Zack Cozart has 23 career major league games. He was a career .270 hitter in five minor league seasons, with a .762 OPS at Triple-A. In 2010 he hit 17 home runs and stole 30 bases. In no other year did he hit more than 14 or steal more than 10.
Meanwhile, in three major league seasons, Andrus has stolen 33, 32, and 37 bases, and scored 72, 88 and 96 runs, while playing at least 145 games. He won't hit for any power (though he did have six home runs in 2009) but in that Rangers lineup, the runs will continue to come, and he hit .279 to boot in 2011, giving hope of a solid average for years to come.
This trade seems to be more "pro AJ Pierzynksi" than it is "anti Joe Mauer" because Mauer is doing exactly what his owners should have hoped for, hitting for a good average and driving in some runs.
As of this writing, Pierzynski leads all players with 13 RBI and an 224 OPS+. This is his home runs per year since 2005, when he was 28 years old: 18, 16, 14, 13, 13, 9, 8... Do you see the trend? He's a career .285 so that is helpful from a catcher, but he hasn't had over 65 RBI since 2004, and has never scored 70 runs in a season.
Joe Mauer is a career .323 hitter who, before 2011, had 75 or more RBI and 85 or more runs scored in four of the last five seasons. In 2010, he batted .327 with 88 runs and 75 RBI.
Just think this through a bit.
When was the last time the fantasy world hated a guy with a 10.5 K/9 this much? In three of the last four years, Lincecum has an ERA under 2.80. He has 881.2 innings and 977 strikeouts in the last four years. He's also coming off a 2.74 ERA, 220 strikeout campaign in 2011. And, again, he's striking out 10.5 per nine innings. Relax.
Meanwhile, Santana has 496 strikeouts and 600 innings in the last four years, and, oh ya, didn't pitch at all in 2010. Lincecum is also six years younger. The lowered velocity is a concern, but he has shown stretches of diminished velocity before. There's no need to panic. There is no sign of injury. And The Freak will be just fine.
If Santana pitches 160 innings and wins 10 games, count yourself blessed.
Relax, people. It has been about 1/16 of the season. The hot streaks will cool, the slumps will right themselves, and fantasy baseball life will go on just as it has the past decade.
There is one or two Adam Dunn 2011 type seasons just getting started, but it is far too early to tell who they are, and you'd rather be the owner taking on a proven star off to a slow start, than the owner who dumped him, trying to avoid that season, and he corrects himself a week later.
It is a long season. Players will have their ups and downs and just because the down comes at the beginning, that doesn't meant the up won't soon follow.