Fantasy Baseball: 7 Red-Hot MLB Starts That Are Nothing but a Mirage
Seasoned fantasy baseball owners know that things aren't always as they appear, especially early on in any given season. Player performances can be skewed by one or two games over a small sample size.
This can lead to owners' eyes tricking them into seeing what appears to be an oasis in the dry desert that is the waiver wire or in the hallucinatory heat that is a tempting trade offer.
With your senses still adjusting to the new season, it's important to avoid falling for a mirage. In this case, that would be any player whose red-hot start isn't for real.
With the 2014 campaign two weeks in, here are a batch of players who might look enticing enough to chase after based on their stats, but who may leave you with little but a fistful of sand if you drop or trade a better player to pick them up.
Whether it be age, past performances or out-of-no-where early success, these seven players won't maintain their hot starts.
Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/OF, Cubs
Emilio Bonifacio has done this before. Back in 2009, the speedster went 17-for-39 (.436) with a homer and four steals over his first eight games, getting owners everywhere all excited about a potential breakout.
Alas, it wasn't long before Bonifacio turned back into a pumpkin: After that first week, he hit just .235. Overall, he finished at .252—and with just that solitary homer.
With the soon-to-be 29-year-old having started his Cubs career with 20 hits in 46 at-bats (.435), to go along with an MLB-high seven steals, he's once again back on fantasy rosters all over the place.
Remember, though, that this is a case of been-there-done-that for a guy who signed with the Cubs in mid-February only after he was released by the Kansas City Royals.
Is Bonifacio worth keeping around as a reserve and fill-in option at both second base and outfield, mainly for the potential 30 bases he could swipe? Sure. Is he anything more than that? Uh, no.
Aaron Harang, SP, Braves
Owners probably took obligatory, if cursory, notice when Aaron Harang took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his first outing as an Atlanta Brave last week. When he followed up with a six-inning, one-run, nine-strikeout performance Tuesday, here's betting more than a few added him to their rotation.
Problem is, the 35-year-old really was last relevant for mixed-leagues purposes in—wait for it—2007, when he actually finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting.
While Harang has had a few halfway-decent seasons in between, his ERA and WHIP since then are an icky 4.41 and a yucky 1.41, respectively. Also? He was released by the Cleveland Indians, a team that isn't exactly rich in starting pitching options these days.
If you're in an NL-only league, then you could do worse than Harang. But mixed-leaguers need not trouble themselves.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies
Chances are, the first time many owners ever even heard of Charlie Blackmon was this past weekend when he went bonkers.
The 27-year-old went 10-for-14 with five runs, five RBI, a homer and a steal, including a somebody-stop-him 6-for-6 on Friday. That showing pushed Blackmon's average to .471, and he currently sits at .486 (best in the majors).
Look, any player who gets regular playing time at Coors Field can't be ignored, and Blackmon isn't altogether untalented; he's a career .305 hitter in the bigs over about a season's worth of plate appearances.
But the Rockies are swimming in outfield options even after sending Corey Dickerson, who was more of a hyped sleeper than Blackmon in the preseason, back to Triple-A.
Consider using Blackmon while he's hot, and especially when he's at home, but the lefty swinger is a better option in leagues with daily lineup changes, since he's likely to platoon with righty-hitting Drew Stubbs.
Once he cools off, he'll be little more than outfield depth in most formats.
Chris Colabello, 1B, Twins
Chris Colabello has 14 RBI in 10 games, tied for the No. 1 spot in the majors. Hey, that's what happens when someone lucks into a six-RBI effort, which this no-name did last Thursday. Performances like that make everything stand out early on.
Perhaps calling Colabello a no-name is a bit harsh, but it's true, and sometimes that's what it takes to get owners to wake up and recognize that this just isn't going to last. Sure, he actually had a fantastic 2013 season at Triple-A, hitting .352 with 24 homers and 76 RBI—in only 89 games!
Colabello is also a 30-year-old who spent several seasons in the Canadian-American Association before finally getting a chance with an MLB affiliate and who was a possibility to join South Korea's pro league this winter. So let's not go overboard here, mmmkay?
Is this a good story? You bet. Is Colabello about to become a full-fledged fantasy slugger? Sorry, no. Going forward, if he maintains a spot on the Twins' 25-man roster for the entire season as a righty-hitting platoon option at first base and DH, that would be considered a resounding success.
Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox
Chances are, if you're an owner seeking help at the ever-volatile catcher position, you've probably added—or at least considered adding—Tyler Flowers recently. Well, don't.
Once upon a time, the 28-year-old was a halfway-decent prospect who was the key get by the White Sox when they traded Javier Vazquez to the Atlanta Braves back in 2008. (Vazquez, you might remember, went on to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting the ensuing season.)
Despite Flowers' .419 average (13-for-31) through nine games, these days he's merely a poor man's version of J.P. Arencibia. (Yes, a poor man's version of the guy whose .227 OBP in 2013 was the lowest ever by a catcher with at least 400 plate appearances.)
Even with his hot start, Flowers' career average in the bigs is .213, and he's struck out in an astounding 33.8 percent of his plate appearances over parts of six seasons. Like we said: Don't.
Jesse Chavez, SP, Athletics
Following a big spring training (2.22 ERA in 28.1 IP) and a solid outing in his first time around as a surprise member of the Athletics' rotation, Jesse Chavez was stellar Wednesday night in hurling seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball with nine strikeouts. No doubt, his 1.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 will get some attention in fantasy circles.
And yet, this is a 30-year-old right-hander who's been not only a journeyman but also a reliever for most of his career. To wit, his two starts with the A's so far have doubled his career total in that category in the majors, and while he has made 54 starts in the minors, he's also made nearly five times as many relief appearances (251).
For Chavez, who's only in the five-man because of injuries to both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, his first two outings—which came against noted powerhouse offense in the Mariners and Twins—likely will be as good as it gets.
Don't go counting on more of the same, no matter how good he looked this spring.
Yangervis Solarte, 3B, Yankees
Are you buying into the legend of Yangervis Solarte yet? Is his Yankeeography in the works by now?
As a non-roster invitee to camp, Solarte came out of nowhere to make the Yankees on the strength of an impressive spring, during which he hit .429 with a pair of homers and nine RBI. He even beat out longtime underwhelming backup infielder Eduardo Nunez to do so.
Now that the real games have begun, the 26-year-old switch-hitter has carried over that success, going 12-for-35 (.343) with a league-leading six doubles.
With the defection of Robinson Cano to Seattle, the suspension of Alex Rodriguez, the age of Derek Jeter and the recent injury to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees needed some sort of surprise performer in the infield, and Solarte has stepped up to fill that void.
But let's face it: Solarte's bound to come down off the high of what is almost certainly the best week he'll ever have in baseball, and likely sooner rather than later.
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