Fantasy Baseball Week 1 has finally arrived, and with it, the first edition of “3 Up, 3 Down.” In this weekly article, I will be focusing on six players, teams, or things that happened both positive and negative for the entire season.
I hope it is both a useful read throughout the Fantasy Baseball season, as well as entertaining.
If it raises awareness to surprising players, players on a downward trend or perhaps a glimpse into the future, the article will be doing its job.
All statistics provided by fangraphs.com
These three items are trending upward and we should react accordingly.
3. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs
If you were to ask me to name a player that was terrible last season, but was off to a tremendously hot start in 2014, I would have never guessed it would be Emilio Bonifacio. Yet, here we are, with Week 1 nearly complete, and Bonifacio is slashing a line of .688/.706/.813. He is also combining some terrible base-running with his sneaky speed, and he has swiped four bases as well.
He is currently owned in 65 percent of Yahoo Leagues, a percentage which I can assure you is skyrocketing after largely going undrafted. Scoop him up if you still can from your waiver wire, but proceed with caution! We all know he can put up very solid Fantasy numbers, but he could also quickly fall back to his 2013 season. Ride the hot hand for now, but definitely don’t get attached.
2. Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle
If you read any of my offseason draft rankings or strategy articles, you likely got the vibe that First Base was a deep position this season.
As always, I liked a few sleepers who were poised for a breakout in 2014. Last season, I targeted Chris Davis, and felt brilliant at the end of 2013. This season, I targeted Brandon Belt, but my breakout prediction was for Justin Smoak.
It is a long season, but Smoak is off to a (Pardon the pun) Smaokin’ start! With a slash line of .353/.421/.824, his numbers aren’t as dazzling as Bonifacio’s, but they are unrealistic numbers as well. He will drop off a tad, but it is reasonable to see a .250 average and 20-plus homerun season in 2014. Keep an eye on him over the next few weeks, and if you are in a deep league, or have roster space scoop him up.
1. Atlanta Braves Rotation
The Braves were one of the hardest hit teams with injuries this spring, losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for the season, while losing Mike Minor for most, if not all of April.
Concern hit Braves fans, and Fantasy Baseball owners alike. They scrambled and signed big free agent Ervin Santana and veteran Aaron Harang. Alex Wood, who was destined to be in Triple-A or the bullpen, is now locked in as the team’s second starter.
Sounds like a rotation in tatters right? Well, surprisingly, they lead the league in team ERA through Friday, with an ERA of 1.38, and although they are only averaging just under 6 Ks per 9 IP, they are holding their own and winning games.
If Minor can come back healthy and return to his normal form, the Braves should remain contenders.
Now for the bad news — these three items are officially struggling.
3. CC Sabathia, SP, N.Y. Yankees
I wasn’t a big believer in CC this season and what transpired last season was a part of that. The significant weight loss, being a Yankee, and being a great pitcher who should be able to adjust to losing velocity were all arguments for drafting him in 2014. I shied away from him this year, and while he wasn’t terrible in his first start against the Astros, the 2013 league leaders in strikeouts, I saw enough to doubt his ability to maintain his career dominance.
He did average a strikeout per inning, but remember this was against the Astros. He also lasted six innings but gave up nine runs, three home runs and he is sitting at 1.50 walks per nine innings, which are career highs.
True it is only one game, but if you drafted CC as your No. 2 or 3 starter, I would be very concerned.
2. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee
One of the most divisive players in the majors right now, aside from Alex Rodriguez, this spring. Braun was helping Fantasy owners forget about his PED use and suspension last season and looking forward to a clean slate in 2014. He came out swinging, running and doing everything he used to do while also helping him climb his way up draft boards.
Then the regular season started.
Suddenly, Braun wasn’t hitting or getting on base and something seemed amiss. Friday, the news broke that Braun is again experiencing pain in his thumb and he may need to miss time again. This is disconcerting for owners who took him in the first or second rounds this season. As long as it is not serious, he should be fine, but if not, it could spell bad news for the Brewers and Braun owners in Fantasy.
1. B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta
There isn’t too much to say here. He looks like the same Upton as last year, and he has yet to record a hit in 2014. His strikeout rate is sitting at 50 percent and paired with a slash line of .083/.083/.083, he may start losing play time, or even be demoted to work things out. His K-rate has always been high, but it’s absurd currently, and shouldn’t continue on a contending team for long.
Be sure to stay tuned to davidgonos.com for more from myself and others throughout the season, and for those Daily Fantasy Sports addicts like myself, be sure to check out DailyFantasyDaily.com for links, advice, and recommendations every day! Thanks for reading about Fantasy Baseball Week 1, and good luck the rest of the week.