BY ROB SHAW
We are very early into the 2012 season and while there is still no proof that the Mets will lose a game this season, fantasy managers have to be realistic about the early returns of teams and players.
Even just a handful of games into the season, there are some lessons that can be learned. It looks like the Twins offense will be the worst in baseball, which means pick up the spot-starters off the waiver wire when they are going against the Twins. On the other hand, the Tigers offense will be dangerous this season. That is an offense to avoid whenever possible.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the top performers this season and whether you can expect to ride a hot streak or whether you should jump off ship when reality hits:
Barry Zito was sensational with a complete game shutout against the Rockies. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that the stellar start came in Colorado, at the hitter-friendly Coors Field. It also marked Zito’s first shutout in nine years. What’s interesting about Zito is that he is not as hittable as you’d think. The opposition has hit just .260 or better once in his time with the Giants. Of course, he also came away with a losing record in all five seasons.
The key to Zito’s success is simply control. He has to throw strikes. Zito did not walk a single batter in his season debut. It is unlikely he will be able to sustain that type of control all season. On the other hand, he has had some fantasy success recently. During the first half of the 2010 season, Zito was 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA. However, this is not a ride that fantasy managers should want to jump on.
Another player off to a hot start is Chicago White Sox closer Hector Santiago. He already has nabbed two saves this season while surrendering just two hits with two strikeouts. A starter last year at Double-A, Santiago throws hard, but can get wild. The southpaw drafted out of the 30th round is from Newark, New Jersey and is on the verge of becoming a household name in fantasy leagues.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese has yet to awake from his dream. After starring in the World Series last season, Freese is now slugging in the regular season with two home runs, 8 RBI, and a .417 average. To get a better idea of Freese let’s combine his last two regular seasons. Freese has offered 14 home runs, 91 RBI, and a .297 average in 167 games. On that note, it is reasonable to believe that he can develop into a 20-homer talent with a high average and solid run production.
A favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year has to be Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. He is batting .500 through 14 at bats this season. Not your typical rookie, Cozart is 26-years old and proven in the minor leagues. In 2010, he offered power and speed at Triple-A with 17 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He also showed some value this spring with a .345 average in Arizona. Cozart is a solid shortstop to nab off the waiver wire if he is still available.
Finally, Nationals veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche is batting .467 with 6 RBI. The reason that he was not on your fantasy radar is that he hit just 3 HR with a .172 average in 43 games last year. The problem last season was his torn labrum in his left shoulder that eventually landed him on the DL. If you go back a year before there’s a different story as he belted 25 home runs with 100 RBI. LaRoche is a very inexpensive source for power. Invest accordingly.
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