This last four week period is my favorite time of the year for sports. It starts with the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament and goes through Masters Sunday. Of course, most importantly, this period of time also includes Opening Day (or in this year's case, Opening Days) for baseball. So I wasn't going to let a little jarring tooth pain get in the way of flipping back and forth between the back nine at Augusta and the Jordan Zimmermann/Jeff Samardzija battle at Wrigley. But with my emergency root canal out of the way, it's time for 100% baseball. The season is still so young that the Mets and Orioles are still undefeated (at least as I'm typing this) -- and it's going to be a fun one.
It's impossible to assess trends this early in the season, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that Starlin Castro already has more multiple stolen base games in 2012 than he did in all of 2011. We're still figuring out who Starlin Castro is both in scouting terms and fantasy terms, but if Castro decides he wants to steal 40+ bases, then we're dealing with a very different player than we were anticipating. The funny thing about this development which we're clearly jumping to conclusions on, is that Castro is not a plus runner -- he's only slightly above-average at best.
The natural development path for Starlin Castro is generally the same across different scouting prognosticators. For the most part, they believe he will continue to hit for a high average, grow into 20-25 HR power at his peak and eventually have to move off SS (how soon that is, however, is up for debate). When his speed is discussed, it's in the context that he'll eventually fill out a little more and settle in as a slightly below-average runner, a la Alfonso Soriano. But we forget that Soriano did have two 40+ steal seasons in 2001 and 2002. Could we see this from Castro this year? It's certainly too early to peg the number on him, but it now seems more likely than last week.
Other DPD Notes
* For the rest of the notes here, let's have some fun with early season category leaders. Through Sunday, your leading middle infielder in HR is Aaron Hill, who hit two bombs off Madison Bumgarner on Saturday -- an impressive feat. The problem with Hill? Those are his only two hits of the season. I know Hill's been statistically unlucky the past two years, but a .000 BABIP? GIve the guy a break.
* You probably wouldn't be too shocked that Kelly Johnson is tied for the MI lead in runs with 5, but he's tied with Mark Ellis. Yes, the Mark Ellis who's been on base a total of 5 times this season - another fun pace that won't continue. Realistically, if Ellis can just keep his average above .250 and hit enough in the 2 spot for the Dodgers, he could be fantasy relevant in deeper mixed leagues.
* The man who stands alone among middle infielders with a whopping 4 RBI is the tat man himself, Ryan Roberts. I've made no secret of the fact that I don't believe Roberts will come close to repeating his 2011 value -- in fact, I'm going to put something on the bandwagon about this right now. He was 8th among 2B in 2011 and I don't think he sniffs the top-15 in 2012.
These are the five best and five worst performers from the past week (Monday to Sunday) in standard 5x5 categories.
1) Rafael Furcal (.526, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB in 19 AB)
2) Starlin Castro (.385, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 4 SB in 13 AB)
3) Emilio Bonfacio (.333, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 3 SB in 15 AB)
4) Dee Gordon (.222, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 3 SB in 18 AB)
5) Zack Cozart (.545, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB in 11 AB)
1) Jamey Carroll (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 11 AB)
2) Cliff Pennington (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 8 AB)
3) Chris Nelson (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 7 AB)
4) Clint Barmes (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 7 AB)
5) Neil Walker (.100, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 10 AB)
Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.
Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)
J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (driving!)
*Ryan Roberts will finish outside the top 15 2B in 2012 (firmly on)*
The Ugly (Evacuated):
None yet. Whew.
Look Out Below!
Notes from future DPD occupants currently residing in the minor leagues:
* We talked about him here in spring training, but while Jordany Valdespin failed to make the Mets opening day roster, he is now playing CF for AAA Buffalo -- which could be important in the wake of Andres Torres' injury. Captain Kirk is getting the first shot, but don't be surprised if Valdespin is up sooner rather than later.
* The Orioles surprised a few by beginning Manny Machado at AA this season, but he's at least hinted that he won't be over-matched. Hitting .333 with 1 HR and 1 SB through 4 games, he could really make a statement that he intends to move quicker than anticipated. Keith Law even went as far as to say that he could see the majors as early as this September.
* Another player making the jump to AA is Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong and he's making himself a case to be a part of St Louis' infield. Hitting .500 through his first 4 games in Springfield with 4 walks and 3 K's, he's hitting like he knows there's only a weak combination of Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene in front of him.
What to Watch For
At this point in the season, there's really not going to be much that is going to change my mind about a player except for a change in his role. So when it comes to middle infielders I'm watching in the short-term, it's guys who could solidify their fantasy values by making their cases for prominent lineup spots. Gordon Beckham is one -- he hit in the #2 spot against lefty Matt Harrison on Sunday night and got on base twice. He was back in the nine hole on Monday, but couldn't he prove to be a better option than Brent Morel or A.J. Pierzynski? Same with Alcides Escobar, who hit in the 2-hole Sunday for the Royals while Lorenzo Cain slid down to the 7th spot. It's more important for these guys, who are potentially on the cusp of a lineup bump, to perform well in the short-term.