April is a confusing month for fantasy owners. One day you’re in first place, the next day you’re in ninth. Later that evening, you jump up to sixth and the following morning you drop back down to ninth. You really have no idea if your team is any good until the stats begin to normalize and you see some separation within the various categories. Right now, we’re approaching that point, and in a week or two it’ll be time to think about your team’s strengths and weaknesses and begin to formulate a plan as to how you will go about addressing those weaknesses. Is it time to panic? Absolutely not. But is it time to cut ties with a struggling late-round pick? Yeah, probably. Eventually, the “sample size” excuse is no longer acceptable and an ice cold start becomes a lost season. Similarly, the “he’s playing way over his head” rational has a limited shelf life. Could it be that this guy is simply in the midst of a career year? Sure.
With all this in mind, I figured I’d take this opportunity to reflect on the first month-plus of the 2013 campaign and hand out a few awards. The common denominator here is that all of these guys are on at least one of my teams.
Biggest Surprise (Hitter): Chris Johnson
If it wasn’t for Aramis Ramirez’s injury, I never would’ve added Johnson to my Tout Wars roster. Well, his torrid April almost made me forget about Aramis. Like most owners, I dismissed Johnson’s solid 2012 season as fluky, mostly because his .281 average seemed like a huge anomaly when considering his 132-to-31 K/BB ratio and .354 BABIP. So what’s his aveage this year? .352. What’s his K/BB ratio? 21-to-2. What’s his BABIP? .446. Sell, sell, sell! Chances are you won’t get a great return in a trade, but if Johnson can net you a proven, everyday starter-type bat, go for it. For me, Aramis’ return could not have come at a better time.
Biggest Surprise (Pitcher): Derek Holland
I’ve been waiting for Holland to break out for awhile now and was able to grab him towards the end of one of my mixed league auctions this year. Good move. The 26-year-old lefty has tossed at least seven innings while giving up three runs or less in five of his first six starts this season and he’s whiffed 37 over 42 2/3 innings. Even more encouraging is his 1.57 ERA through his first three home starts, this after posting a 5.55 home ERA last season. Holland has also done a much better job of keeping the ball in the yard, as he’s allowed just two homers so far. He served up 32 of them last year. Although I drafted Holland with the idea that I’d only pitch him on the road, I’ve seen enough improvement now to feel comfortable starting him regardless of the matchup.
Biggest Disappointment (Hitter): Miguel Montero
Maybe Miguel somehow found out that I’d be awarding him this dubious honor as he recorded just his third multi-hit game of the season on Friday night, one of those hits being his second home run. Coming off two straight seasons with at least a .282 batting average, 15 homers and 86 RBIs, Montero looked like one of the safest draft day investments at the catcher position. A .208 average with a .292 slugging percentage through 28 games? I didn’t expect this at all. Still, the strong track record combined with a very unlucky .237 BABIP suggest that Montero’s stat line is bound to improve. Buy low while you can.
Biggest Disappointment (Pitcher): Matt Cain
I rarely choose to keep expensive starting pitchers. This year, I made an exception, figuring that 22 bucks was decent value for Cain, who has been a longtime favorite of mine. Durable, consistent, dominant. The list of adjectives goes on and on when talking about the Giants’ ace righty. So of course, the year I opt to break tradition is the year that Cain falls off a cliff. 0-2 with a 6.49 ERA and nine homers allowed through his first six starts? This is crazy. But I’m not worried. Cain’s strikeout and walk rates remain roughly in line with his career averages, although it’s a bit scary that his BABIP allowed, .265, is almost exactly the same as last year’s .264 mark. But if there’s any pitcher who deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Matt Cain.
I’m not worried.