The first couple weeks of the season, in any fantasy sport, are the most important of times for scouring the waiver wire. It's our first and most immediate chance to see which players are poised for a breakout—whether or not a guy's preseason successes have carried over, or struggles have evanesced, before the numbers start to count.
But in baseball, more than any other fantasy sport, this is exceedingly and especially true. There's so much anomaly between spring numbers and real numbers, and thus no way to previously tell who's success is legit.
When a player carries over a good spring into a good first week, however, it's hard not to salivate. And though the competition to acquire them is sure to be aplenty, doing so might go a long way in winning your respective league.
Here are three guys who have impressed with hot starts this season. Happy bidding!
SS Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers
Segura was forced out of Sunday's game after a takeout slide in the third inning and was forced to miss Monday's game with the resulting bruise on his quad. That's the bad news.
The good news? So far this season, that's about the only thing that's managed to slow Segura down.
In 20 healthy at-bats this year, the young shortstop is hitting .450/.500/.650. And while that torrid pace, obviously, isn't going to subsist, his regression to the mean might not be all that drastic.
The crown jewel of Milwaukee's contentious Zach Greinke deal, Segura has blue-chip pedigree and an impressive resume to date. He registered a .367 batting average with eight extra-base hits during spring training, which was encouraging to see after batting .258 in 45 major league games last season.
But Segura's minor league track record lays credence to his breakout too. He was a career .313 hitter who once tallied up over 50 steals in a season before getting to the majors.
He hasn't recorded a steal yet this season, and thanks, in part to Milwaukee's pronounced struggles, he's only been able to muster one run scored. But neither of those trends should last much longer. He'll continue to be given the green light on the bases, and more importantly than that, he'll continue to bat between Norichika Aoki and Ryan Braun.
That spot, for fantasy purposes, is about as good as you'll ever find.
2B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Need a replacement at middle infield, but weren't able to scoop up Jean Segura? No problemo. You can find a legitimate sleeper to fill that role without even leaving the division.
Carpenter has settled nicely in the heart St. Louis' order, and while, no, that's no longer known as "the spot before Albert Pujols," it's still among the league's most auspicious. John Jay, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina are still some of the league's best lineup protection—especially when you're getting on base at a 40 percent-plus clip.
Which all serves to explain why Carpenter has crossed home seven times this year—tied for sixth in the league entering Monday—as well as why he's likely to remain among the leaders all year.
He hit .294 in 296 at-bats last season, and if his improvement is as genuine as it looks, there's no reason he can't flirt with .300 in 2013. That kind of production in two categories, along with the potential for modest pop (he's slugged over .470 in the minors before) makes him a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.
C John Buck, New York Mets
What do we make of John Buck's hot start? It's honestly hard to say. He entered Monday's action hitting .400, slugging .750 and having knocked in nine runs. And he just crushed a three-run homer, his third of the season, off Roy Halladay in his first at-bat of the Mets' Monday game.
Will Buck be able to keep it up? I wouldn't bet on it, but stranger things have certainly happened. Carlos Ruiz went from middling backstop to fantasy MVP in the blink of an eye last season. Why can't another veteran NL East catcher follow suit?
Of all the stats most likely poised for regression, Buck's average sticks out the most. He hit .192 in over 300 at-bats last year, and .227 in 446 the year before that.
But even if/when the average comes down to earth, the power might be legit. Or at least relatively so. He's always been able to get some pop on the ball, and though the timing is anomalous (he's 32 years old), it's not inconceivable to have a career year.
At a position as thin as catcher, there's no reason Buck should be available in any leagues come next week.
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