Everyone has had the phrase “patience is a virtue” lobbed their way at various times, almost always by someone who has our best interest at heart, and only hopes to instill in us the ability to wait. The problem is that usually when someone pulls this old gem out and dusts it off, it means that they are telling you in the most polite way possible to stop pestering them with incessant questioning. Anyone who now has kids of their own comes to understand the simple utility of those words, and will no doubt recognize the inevitable rolled eyes that are the most common response of anyone who has been told they have to wait for something good to come their way. So, go ahead, roll your eyes and get it over with.
Nothing amuses me more in the early stages of the fantasy season than the predictable impatience of people with regards to their fantasy teams. Just a quick look at Twitter during the initial week of action gives all the evidence needed to illustrate the point. You see countless questions such as “Should I cut Albert Pujols for Chris Colabello?” or “C.J. Wilson got rocked in his first start, should I cut bait?” Anyone who fields fantasy questions as part of their routine could fill up the comments section with countless more examples of the impatience of fantasy owners. We all want results, and what’s more we want them now.
The key to being successful at fantasy baseball is to not only understand, but embrace the fact that this game of ours unfolds over the course of six months. That means you have to accept that while it is always preferable to get off to a fast start, and you always want to look for ways to improve your squads, you don’t want to let impatience be the driving force behind any moves you make. And nowhere is this more important than during the season’s opening weeks. You just spent months and months forming opinions on players and implementing complex draft plans. Do you really want to chuck everything because your team is languishing in last place after Week 1?
I mentioned last week that one of my favorite exercises each and every season is to track the transactions sections of my leagues daily for bargains. Just because we are going to practice patience with our slow starters doesn’t mean that others won’t fall prey to the trap. Everything in fantasy comes within the context of the league in question, but it bears repeating that often the best early-season pickups are the guys your competitors kick to the curb. The more shallow the format, the better the chances are that someone will drop a player you like more than someone currently on your roster. For instance, in one of my 12-team leagues, I scooped up C.J. Wilson for nothing off waivers after his owner dumped him after he got shelled for six runs in his first start. I promptly inserted him into my lineup for his two-start week, which began with a victory against the Astros on Monday, where he went eight innings, struck out seven and gave up one run, cutting his ERA from 9.53 to 4.61 to start the year.
I have heard others advocate not even looking at the standings for the first month of the season as a way to combat the need to tinker with our squads. I personally have not figured out how to do this, but I do understand the concept, so I instead have just tried to train myself to let the dust settle as much as possible before hitting the panic button on any of my players. You just don’t want to make determinations based on one week of statistics, good or bad. We go through this every year, and while I can’t fault anyone for grabbing a guy off to a blistering start like the aforementioned Colabello, I am pretty confident when I say that the odds of him leading the AL in RBIs at season’s end aren’t that much different than they were when we all were avoiding him at the draft table.
Now that I have convinced you all to at least take a step back and let your fantasy teams breathe a little in the season’s opening weeks, let me try to point you in a smarter direction. Being patient doesn’t mean to be complacent. You still need to manage your lineups and build depth whenever you see the opportunity. If injuries ravaged the team you came out of the draft with, by all means take action, but make sure you analyze your needs so you can try to address any perceived weaknesses. If your league allows trades, you may want to track players who are off to slow starts and target those you think are ripe to be plucked at discounted rates. If your team has for the most part avoided injuries to start the year, don’t be afraid to use that to your advantage by stashing an injured player at the back of your bench.
For example, I drafted Nate Jones in a ton of places this off-season. Generally, he was drafted as a third closer, so while it stinks that not only did he not get the gig to start the year but landed on the DL to boot, I haven’t cut Jones yet in any of the leagues in which I drafted him. In fact, I was able to pick him up off waivers in a couple spots and stick him on the DL. For now, I will stick by the analysis that made me draft him in the first place, and then I will weigh the cost of hanging onto him. He’s going to pitch again at some point, so how long I wait has yet to be determined. For now, all I can do is be patient and remind myself it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. With that in mind, let’s take a quick stroll around the league and look at some of the storylines that are creating playing time ripples in the early going:
David Robertson, NYY - The Yankees closer suffered a groin strain and will be sidelined for at least two weeks. Setup man Shawn Kelley will take over for as long as needed with Matt Thornton a possibility for a save chance or two depending on matchups. Grab Kelley as a short-term add, but don’t go crazy. It’s Robertson’s job as soon as he is healthy again.
Omar Infante, KC - Infante took a 2-2 pitch from Heath Bell off the jaw on Monday, and while he seems to have avoided serious injury, a DL stint hasn’t been ruled out. Danny Valencia will pick up the slack for now, but Johnny Giavotella will likely get the call if Infante suffered a concussion.
Mark Teixeira, NYY - Teixeira suffered a calf strain and will be sidelined for two weeks. The Yankees will use a combination of Kelly Johnson, Yangervis Solarte and Francisco Cervelli at 1B/3B while he is out. Both Solarte and Johnson will get value boosts thanks to added positional versatility. Tex owners can at least be grateful this injury isn’t related to his wrist injury from a year ago.
Oswaldo Arcia, MIN - Arcia has been battling an ailing wrist, but an examination showed no major damage. He will give swinging a bat another go today and the team hopes he can avoid a trip to the disabled list. The nagging injuries to Arcia and Josh Willingham have allowed the Twins to avoid the playing time battle at DH between Colabello and Jason Kubel, but eventually something will have to give. The smart money points to the 30-year-old journeyman coming back to earth and sliding back into the bad side of a platoon with the lefty-swinging Kubel. Feel free to ride Colabello while he is swinging a hot bat, but be ready for the ride to come to an end.
Will Middlebrooks, BOS - Middlebrooks’ supporters were relieved when the Red Sox finally put the Stephen Drew rumors to rest, paving the way for the young slugger to stake his claim to the everyday third base job. A calf strain will cost him two weeks, and put any breakouts on hold for at least a few weeks. The Red Sox signed Ryan Roberts off the scrap heap to help Jonathan Herrera fill the void after the team declined to promote top prospect Garin Cecchini.
Dayan Viciedo, CHW - The Cuban slugger got caught up in a numbers crunch in the outfield and lost his starting job once the team acquired Adam Eaton in the off-season. Eaton, Avisail Garcia and Alejandro De Aza have collectively struggled out of the gate, which has opened the door for Viciedo to see some action, a trend that could continue as the White Sox search for offense. Seeing as De Aza is still an option to be dealt at some point, Viciedo is a decent stash candidate for those in deeper formats.
Eduardo Nunez, MIN - The Twins worked out a deal with the Yankees for the utilityman, and it’s not a bad landing spot. AL-only owners (like me) are happy he stayed in the AL at the very least. The Twins have weak-hitting Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar as their best options at shortstop, and could use someone to give Trevor Plouffe some relief at third base as well. Nunez will see some action at some point, so AL-only owners can hold him for now.
Josh Fields, HOU - Houston’s closer carousel will likely keep us guessing for the time being, but if I had to pick one guy to own for now, then I think Fields is the guy you want to own. Chad Qualls will get some looks as well, but Fields has a better arsenal and more upside. My own darkhorse candidate is still Jesse Crain, but he has yet to throw a pitch in his extended spring training and won’t be ready to get into the conversation until likely May at the earliest.
Matt Moore, TB - Moore was lifted from his last start with elbow soreness, which are two words nobody wants to hear about a key starter this early in the year. Hopefully, rest will take care of the issue, but with the team likely to exercise caution here, he could get shut down for a couple weeks. With Jeremy Hellickson already sidelined, the Rays could promote Cesar Ramos from the bullpen or turn to Erik Bedard in the short term.
Michael Bourn, CLE and Shane Victorino, BOS - Both players are recovering from hamstring injuries, with Bourn looking a little closer to getting back on the field. Bourn will push Nyjer Morgan back onto the bench. For the Red Sox, Victorino’s return will more than likely force Jackie Bradley Jr. back to the Minors, where he can play every day and wait for the next injury to strike.