Chances are, in 10- or 12-team mixed leagues, Fowler wasn't drafted. I don't own the Rockies lanky center fielder anywhere because there's usually another owner willing to scoop up a fast start quicker than me. In Fowler's case, I wish I had. So far, the 27-year old is hitting .298/.389/.723 with a major league
best second-best six home runs in 47 at-bats. I hate the word breakout, as any player with a fast start automatically gets labeled as a breakout candidate, but I think that's a fair assessment (albeit an early one) in the case of Fowler. Part of Fowler's attraction is that he plays half of his games in Coors, but his power has also been on display away from home, with four of his six home runs coming on the road. Fowler's ISO has increased each of the last three seasons from .150 to .166 to .174, and that number should continue to go up. He's averaged just over 12 steals per year since 2010, but keep in mind that he did steal 27 bags his rookie year. I've seen some crazy projections of 25/25 for Fowler because of his fast start, but I think 20/20 (and probably 20/15) is more realistic.
If you're looking to fill an early-season void at second base, Murphy is a great place to start. I did exactly that in one league and have enjoyed the hot start from the Mets second baseman, who is hitting .381/.413/.690 with two home runs, five doubles, 10 runs and 11 RBI. In the Official Fake Teams H2H Points League, Murphy is the 12th highest scoring batter using the league's scoring format. Murphy won't hit for much power, but he should reach 10/10 and be a solid run producer week in and week out. In points leagues, his value is higher because of all the doubles he hits (he smacked 40 last year). He has a legit shot at finishing inside the top-10 at second base and he's still available in 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Go get him.
Maholm did not allow an earned run in his last 24 2 innings during Spring Training. He's opened this season w/ 20.1 scoreless innings— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) April 14, 2013
While it's silly to take any spring statistic seriously, I imagine it's very rare for a starting pitcher to go an entire spring without giving up a single run. Maholm has carried over his strong spring into the regular season, as opposing batters are hitting .153 against the lefty. He's striking out an impressive 25.3-percent (career strikeout rate of 14.9-percent) and walking only 6.3-percent (career walk rate of 7.6-percent). His line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates are all in line with last year, when he won a career-high 13 games . I don't think Maholm is going to put together a season that no one saw coming, but I do think he's going to reach 200 innings with a solid strikeout rate and low walk rate, making him a great "buy high" in points leagues.
I avoided putting Stanton on this list last week because I thought he'd turn the corner by now, but injuries have kept the big man down. Through two and a half weeks, Stanton has yet to homer or drive in a run. I keep reminding myself that we're just getting to the midpoint of April, but two extra base hits from the strongest player in baseball is alarming to me. My biggest concern is that he's walked or struck out in nearly 53 percent of his plate appearances, which makes him prone to a lot of slumps. I only own Stanton in one league (a 10-teamer), and I'm not looking to acquire him in other leagues at this point unless I'm clearly winning the deal. I think his early-season struggles are indicative of a long-term problem in Miami.
Kipnis was one of my preseason loves so this is a tough pill to swallow. After hitting .277/.345/.419 with 11 home runs and 20 steals in the first half of last year, Kipnis fell off a cliff and hit .233/.322/.328 with three homers and 11 steals in the second half. He was reportedly playing with neck pain throughout the second half, and he's been sidelined with an elbow injury this year, which could help explain his slow start. Kipnis is hitting just .125/.171/.219 with no home runs and no steals, and his contact rates have been atrocious. On pitches outside of the zone, his contact rate is 36.8-percent. His swinging strike rate is 13.2-percent. I still believe Kipnis will turn the page eventually, but until he does, he should be nowhere near your starting lineup.
Those hoping for a Haren bounce back in the National League have been severely disappointed. I wasn't a Haren believer coming into the season, as his line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates were all headed in the wrong direction last year. His fastball does have some added life, but that's not stopping opposing batters from hitting it hard. Haren has yet to walk a single batter and he's struck out 10 in nine innings, but he's also given up 19 hits, including four home runs. Haren has been a bit unlucky and his 9.00 ERA and 2.11 WHIP have nowhere to go but down, but he's become far too hittable to trust as an every-fifth day option in standard leagues. I wouldn't blame you for considering dropping him at this point, but resist the temptation. He does get the Marlins tonight.
Alex Kantecki is a contributor for Fake Teams, Big Leagues Mag, Dobber Baseball and Vigilante Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotodealer.