I was trying to think of a hook for today's column and clicking around in my leagues to see what caught my eye. I'm in first in one of those leagues, and yay me for that. It's just a 10-teamer, but hey, I'm at 85 roto points, and y'all can get in line.
Anyway, I started looking at the bottom of that league's standings, where a guy is sitting at 36 roto points, and only that after a 1.5-point leap between Wednesday and Thursday. This isn't a super-die-hard league, but my 10 transactions thus far have been outpaced only by this guy's 11. There's certainly plenty of time, but 36 roto points in the middle of May is rough, so I clicked on the dude's roster. It was mostly just to marvel at a bad roster, but also, heck, I still had no ideas for a column hook.
His roster was ... well, I don't really know how he's in last. Here, I'll put our rosters next to one another:
I won't leave the suspense for long — his roster is on the left, and mine is on the right. But it's not totally obvious, is it? And with guys like Andrew McCutchen sure to improve and Jonathan Lucroy and Yasiel Puig on their way back to health, he likely won't stay in last.
Ultimately, I guess it makes sense that my roster would best his, but by that much? It took me by surprise.
And lo, I had my hook.
We want the first few weeks of a fantasy season to be particularly meaningful. A hot month feels substantial, especially when it's our entire data field. But Shin-Soo Choo hit .096 in April, and is soaring over .300 in May. The Rockies were 11-8 before their current 12-game losing streak (just assuming they end up losing the game that is rain-delayed as I write this, and you're enough of an adult to adjust if that changes). The Nationals were 7-13 and huge disappointments; now they're barely out of first place in the NL East and I still think they'll win 100.
The same "small sample" conversation applies in fantasy. Like I said, I was looking at the standings in my league, mainly out of curiosity. I like to know where I stand. But you can't draw any conclusions on those standings. I would like to win that league.
And heck, being in first right now is better than being in last. But, and I've said it a bunch already this season, it's so early. You aren't out of it.
Which brings me to The Ticker. It's my stock-market trip through the waiver wire. Ownership percentages are as of Thursday evening; all stats are through Wednesday, because I don't have quite enough work ethic, y'all.
Stocks I'm buying
(low-owned players who are doing well, and I believe it)
Andre Ethier, OF, LAD (27 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
With news of Yasiel Puig's setback, Ethier has a reasonable lock on a regular starting gig — he's started four games in a row and 13 of the last 14. He's making the most of it so far, too, coming into Thursday with an OPS over 1.000. Now, he's never even reached .900 over a full season, so that's obviously not going to continue. Still, for all the grief Ethier has gotten in recent years — he was always overrated, bad defensively, and wildly overpaid — he's been well above-average offensively until last year's limited playing time. He's never going to be that quasi-star he was 2009-2011, but as long as Puig and/or Carl Crawford are on the shelf, Ethier will play and have the chance to contribute.
Jung Ho Kang, 3B/SS, PIT (23 percent)
Jordy Mercer is hitting .188/.245/.218, good for an OPS+ of 28. Josh Harrison's been better than that (woo hoo, I guess), to the tune of .181/.228/.310, a 46 OPS+. Mercer's offense has never really been his calling card, while Harrison was as prime a candidate for serious regression as just about any player in the game coming into the season. Meanwhile, in about half the plate appearances, Kang has debuted in MLB with a .309/.361/.491 line, with as many RBI as Harrison and more runs scored and RBI than Mercer. The team is starting to realize things as well, as Kang has started five of the Pirates' last six games, with Mercer, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker each sitting in one and Harrison sitting twice. Harrison can play all over the field, and Kang has two positions, meaning these guys can all be shuffled around a lot. Kang will be playing a lot.
Delino DeShields Jr., 2B/OF, TEX (8 percent)
Jarrod Dyson last year had the highest rate of steals per plate appearance of any guy with 20-plus steals. With 36 steals in 290 plate appearances, Dyson had .124 steals per time he came to bat. The ratio there isn't perfect, as it ignores guys stealing multiple bases on one trip around, not to mention pinch-running appearances, but it'll do the trick. Dyson was .124, or 12.4 percent. Best in the game. Only guy over 10 percent. Well, so far this year, DeShields is at 19.6 percent. He's hitting .282/.391/.436 in intermittent use in Texas, and while he's not likely to be a full-time player, especially as more Rangers get healthy, DeShields has shown to have a good batting eye, and his speed will keep him in deep-league fantasy value.
Stocks I'm not buying
(low-owned players who are doing well, but I am not a believer)
Jimmy Paredes, 3B, BAL (49 percent)
Paredes has been post-hyping himself all around Baltimore this year, with a fairly firm hold on the No. 2 spot in Baltimore's order, hitting .364/.391/.659 so far with five homers. This after he came into the season with a career .242/.279/.330 career line. He's already doubled his career home-run output. You could say it's a 26-year-old developing, and I can't definitively say you're wrong. His hard-hit rate is certainly at a career high, though not dramatically so. Still, his BABIP is at .422, drastically above any sort of career norm. Meanwhile, Matt Wieters is working his way back from the DL, perhaps as close as two-ish weeks out. And he's not going to catch full-time on his return, meaning he'll need that DH slot that Paredes has been filling. The appearances will be slipping.
Logan Forsythe, 1B/2B, TAM (6 percent)
I think I might have mentioned this before, but I love me some Eric Hosmer, y'all. And he's had a tremendous start to the season. Always trying to guard against personal bias, I started looking through performances of first basemen to see if my thoughts aligned with reality. And then my takeaway was that, so far at least, Logan Forsythe is a top-five first baseman in fWAR. He's hitting .304/.375/.487 in full-time play, and his 15 RBI is already more than halfway toward his previous career high. And while I don't have a great argument for this (other than "BABIP high, no trust"), c'mon, it's Logan Forsythe. It would've happened by now.
Chris Colabello, 1B/OF, TOR (5 percent)
Haven't we done this before? Colabello hit .295/.343/.484 through April last season, then .173/.229/.291 the rest of the season in sporadic, got-sent-to-the-minors play. He's 31 now despite only 114 career games entering 2015. Sure, it's neat that he's hitting the ball like a true masher in his first week-plus back in the bigs. But if you invest, you're a daggone fool.
Stocks I'm selling
(high-owned players who have struggled, and I'm out on them)
Jose Reyes, SS, TOR (95 percent)
Reyes is working his way back from a cracked rib. I've gone on record as saying the elite-but-oft-injured guys are worth grabbing, under the thinking that something like a half season of Hanley Ramirez plus a half season of, I don't know, Alcides Esocbar comes out to a better whole shortstop than someone like a Jimmy Rollins or a Jhonny Peralta. But that is predicated on the idea that Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki or whoever will miss his games in one big chunk, not a bunch of sporadic small absences. Reyes gets hurt every few days it seems like. To employ him, you don't have to find the right replacement shortstop once, you have to do it over and over and over. When Reyes gets healthy, put some feelers out there. If you can find a reasonable trade return, take it just as soon as you can.
Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN (61 percent)
That ownership percentage shows that people are already bailing on Mesoraco, but more and more need to do the same. He isn't healthy enough to play in the field right now; he hasn't played a full game in the field since April 11, with his only two multi-AB games coming in two interleague games at the White Sox. Mesoraco's hip simply isn't letting him catch, and a catcher who can't catch isn't rosterable. The latest news on that hip is slightly positive, but only very slightly. He needs to be dropped.
Stocks I'm not selling
(high-owned players who have struggled, but I still believe)
Stephen Strasburg, SP, WAS (98 percent)
Sure, I'm biased, inasmuch as I predicted Strasburg to win the Cy Young in the preseason. But look past his ERA (which is a truly ugly, tough-to-actually-look-past 6.06) and you see that Strasburg is actually only a little off his traditional pace, not the player who tweets would have you believe is ready for the minors. His FIP is 3.45 (it was 2.94 last year, 3.21 in 2013). He's walking guys at almost the exact same rate as 2012 and 2013. His BABIP of .398 is off the charts compared to his norm. Heck, the balls that are being put on play against him are being hit hard less often than just about any time in his career. Plus, come on, it's Stephen Strasburg. Hold fast.
Brian McCann, C, NYY (89 percent)
ESPN's Player Rater isn't the be-all, end-all of fantasy evaluation, but it's a nice shorthand, and McCann is currently the 194th-ranked player in that list. Former big star McCann is now barely a top-200 player. But that's a positional thing, as McCann, barely above average as an offensive player (.250/.308/.426 so far with a career-worst K:BB ratio) still ranks as the No. 7 catcher. If you drafted McCann, you were hoping for more than you've gotten so far. But that cost has been paid. At this point, you just have to ask if you can get better than you have. And the answer is most likely no.
(low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them or another reason to hold off, but there are things that could change)
Marco Gonzales, SP/RP, STL (4 percent)
Carlos Martinez hasn't been as good as I had hoped he'd be in the rotation, though it's still more than early enough to have faith. In Adam Wainwright's absence, Tyler Lyons has gotten two starts, with 9.1 total innings, seven runs allowed (five earned) and 14 baserunners. Gonzales hasn't been much to speak of since returning from injury at AAA, but he has plenty of pedigree to believe he's rounding into form. This is super-deep-league material, but the Cardinals are likely to need a new starter at some point. Gonzales could see that spot become his.
Matt Harrison, SP, TEX (0 percent)
Speaking of deep-league diving, this is like Charlie Bucket finding that money and using it on a chocolate bar to get Wonka's Golden Ticket. It's pretty significantly wild-cardy. But Harrison is working his way back from spine surgery, and has been doing some actual pitching as he does so. Just speaking as a Texas fan, there was some doubt he'd ever do that again, so it's neat to see. Meanwhile, Ross Detwiler is so dang bad, guys. Harrison — not to mention Derek Holland (14 percent owned) and Martin Perez (1 percent) — will have a chance. Keep an eye on the progress of the Texas pitchers.
(handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Rafael Betancourt, RP, COL (7 percent)
Look, you have to be really hurting for relievers to invest in anyone in the bullpen of the loses-all-their-games Rockies. But there aren't a lot of obvious closer options out there behind shaky guys (other than A.J. Ramos, but I assume that has happened already). If Addison Reed loses his gig, I think the Diamondbacks go to Brad Ziegler. If Neftali Feliz loses his, I think the Rangers go to Keone Kela. But if John Axford loses his job — and come on, he's lost a hundred of them — the Rockies are going to Rafael Betancourt. The real moral of this story is "Man, I miss Adam Ottavino," but still, Betancourt is definitely next up.
Justin Ruggiano, OF, SEA (0 percent)
Having a Nelson Cruz in your lineup is one hell of a cure for what ails you. But the Mariners have gotten very little out of a lot of their other hitters. Mike Zunino is hitting .188/.255/.385. Dustin Ackley is looking up at Zunino with jealousy. Seth Smith, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison have been fine, and Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager should figure it out. But the Mariners need someone to step up in the outfield. It wasn't Austin Jackson before he got hurt, and it hasn't been Ackley or Rickie Weeks or anyone else so far. It also hasn't been Ruggiano, who is hitting only .200/.304/.325, sitting at an 82 OPS+. But this off a year of a 113 OPS+ and a three-year stretch at 111. Ruggiano isn't a star. But he's probably the best-hitting outfielder Seattle has after Cruz and Smith, and they'll have to start using him soon enough.