As fantasy baseball owners, we all want our teams to start the season strong. After all, success in April provides instant gratification, instant positive feedback with respect to our draft day performance. But to tell you the truth, I've rarely been in a league where the team that occupied first place at the end of April went on to win the whole thing. Coming off a Tout Wars season in which I resided in first place every day from late-April until late-July before finishing in fourth place, I'm at the point where I'd actually rather not get off to a fast start. The pressure of holding onto a lead for such a long period of time is something that I'd rather not experience again. Middle of the pack after one month would suit me just fine.
Out of curiosity, I figured I'd look at last season's April hitting leaders in the five standard rotisserie categories. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm using Hits instead of AVG. Fantasy teams that included all or most of these guys must have been doing quite well in the early going, but this doesn't mean that they finished the year near the top of the standings, even the hitting standings.
Dee Gordon (38) - Even after his breakout 2014 campaign with the Dodgers, Gordon had his doubters. Would he be able to maintain his across-the-board improvement or would he return to being strictly a stolen base specialist? Gordon answered his critics by batting a career-high .333 with a .359 OBP and coming very close to matching his runs and stolen base totals from 2014. Now, he's widely viewed as at worst the #2 fantasy second baseman, behind only Jose Altuve.
Nelson Cruz/Hanley Ramirez (10) - I wasn't the only owner who avoided Cruz in drafts last season, fully convinced that he would fall well short of matching his 2014 stat line. As it turned out, he was even more productive in 2015, launching a career-best 44 homers while posting his highest batting average (.302) since 2010. In hindsight, of course, owners who chose to "sell high" on Cruz early in the season did not choose wisely.
Nelson Cruz/Hanley Ramirez (22) - Same duo as above, so we will focus on Hanley here. I wanted no part of Ramirez at this time last year. Injuries had limited the former fantasy first-rounder to a combined 214 games from 2013-2014 and I anticipated that his name value would inflate his draft day price to an unreasonable level. Through April, I clearly wasn't looking too good, but in the end, staying away from Hanley proved to be the right move. Ramirez would hit a combined nine homers to go along with 31 RBI from the beginning of May through the end of the season, along the way missing a significant amount of time due to injury.
Matt Carpenter/Wil Myers (21) - Although it is highly unlikely that Carpenter will approach last season's home run total of 28, he's now averaged 109 runs per season from 2013-2015, and his knack for getting on base at a high rate (career .375 OBP) should enable him to once again rank among the league leaders in the category in 2016. As for Myers, his impressive April represented the highlight of his 2015 season. The former AL Rookie of the Year has been a popular middle to late round pick in drafts this spring, and owners who take a chance on him could very well be rewarded if only he can stay healthy. Myers has yet to play more than 88 games in a season.
Billy Hamilton (13) - You know what you're getting with Hamilton, speed and little else. If you're into that sort of thing, by all means go ahead and spend an early-round pick on him (NFBC ADP: 85). I'd rather fill my speed need by drafting several 20-plus SB players who can also contribute in some of the other categories.
So in total, four out of these six players managed to parlay their hot starts last year into highly productive seasons. And yes, we'll include Hamilton in this group because he did what he was supposed to do, trailing only Dee Gordon in swipes.
Four out of six. Better than I thought.
Actually, I wouldn't mind getting off to a fast start.