The Major League Baseball season is now officially underway as every team has played at least one game, and fantasy baseball owners have already been extremely active.
Despite the fact that the 162-game season is a marathon rather than a sprint, fantasy owners tend to overreact to big performances early in the season. The first couple days of the 2014 campaign led to plenty of unlikely heroes, but that doesn't mean that they should be on your fantasy team.
Here are three players who have gotten off to surprisingly strong starts, but won't keep that pace up for the entirety of the season.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore was once one of the most complete players in baseball. He made three consecutive All-Star appearances for the Cleveland Indians from 2006 through 2008, won two Gold Gloves and topped both 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2008. Unfortunately, injuries have kept Sizemore out of action since 2011.
After sitting out the entire 2012 and 2013 seasons, Sizemore surprised a lot of people by making the Red Sox roster, but he took that one step further by earning the starting job in center field. Sizemore was already a feel-good story before the season even started, and that continued on Opening Day when he clubbed a home run against the Baltimore Orioles.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was Sizemore's first long ball in nearly three years:
Grady Sizemore's HR yesterday was his 1st HR since July 15, 2011— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 1, 2014
For Sizemore, it felt like the culmination of a long road back. Per Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe, Sizemore's goal since 2011 has been to get over the injury hump. He did so in a big way on Opening Day as he got a base hit in his first at-bat prior to going yard later in the game:
I wasn't saying, 'I need to get a hit to have a good day.' You want to come in here looking to get a win. That's really the only goal moving forward. You've been gone for so long. You step in there, your first one, just have a good at-bat. Not necessarily get a hit, but just hit the ball hard, and it felt good.
In many ways, Sizemore is already a winner since so few believed that he could get back to this point. At 31 years of age, he isn't far outside his prime, so there seems to now be a belief among fantasy owners that he could recapture some of his past magic.
Based on how little baseball he has played since 2011, though, that is a very risky proposition. Sizemore is just one injury away from another prolonged absence, and he simply has too many red flags to invest heavily in.
It's difficult to remember a season in which there were so many question marks regarding closer situations. Fantasy owners probably thought that they had things figured out entering the year, but they were thrown for a loop on Opening Day.
Perhaps the biggest shocker came courtesy of the Milwaukee Brewers, who decided to utilize Francisco Rodriguez as the closer rather than Jim Henderson, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Wow. #Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's first interesting decision of year. He is closing with Francisco Rodriguez instead of Jim Henderson.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 31, 2014
Which potential waiver-wire pickup will be the biggest bust this season?
On one hand, K-Rod's ascension to the closer role may seem like a dream come true for fantasy owners who are scrambling for saves. He was once one of the best and most electric closers in baseball, particularly when he closed out a league-record 62 games for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008.
The 32-year-old Rodriguez is a very different pitcher now. His off-speed stuff is still impressive, but his fastball velocity has decreased, so he can no longer rely on blowing away opposing batters.
Also, Rodriguez hasn't been a full-time closer since he did the job with the New York Mets in 2011. Perhaps becoming a closer again will be just like riding a bike for K-Rod, but it will be extremely difficult for Rodriguez to live up to the lofty reputation that he built in the past.
Rodriguez is far from entrenched as the Brew Crew's closer, and that lack of stability doesn't make him an ideal option for fantasy owners.
Few players have teased fantasy owners in recent years more than Emilio Bonifacio. The 28-year-old utility man is on his fourth team since 2012, and despite the fact that he hasn't put together a full, fantasy-worthy season since 2011, people are going crazy over his Opening Day showing for the Chicago Cubs.
Bonifacio, who qualifies at both second base and in the outfield, started his Cubs career by going 4-for-5 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Aside from posting a .296 batting average for the Florida Marlins in 2011, Bonifacio has never hit for an average better than .261 over the course of a season. For a guy with little power to speak of, that simply isn't good enough.
Also, there is usually some element of luck involved when it comes to Bonifacio getting on base. According to AriBall on Twitter, a high percentage of Bonifacio's hits while with the Kansas City Royals last year were of the infield variety:
It can be argued that it was simply a case of Bonifacio using his speed to his advantage, but infield hits are extremely volatile.
Bonifacio could be a solid source of steals this season, but he won't do enough in other categories to warrant a regular fantasy lineup spot. Add in the fact that there is no protection to speak of in the Cubs lineup, and there simply isn't much upside.
Many fantasy owners have been tricked by Bonifacio in the past, so don't make the same mistake again.
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