I was watching a Red Sox game yesterday evening in which I heard Jerry Remy, in all seriousness, utter the words "small sample size," which gives you a sense of just how deeply the vocabulary of sabermetrics has infected the Fenway faithful. Rem-dog is right, it's still too early in the season to start making assumptions, especially, I would argue, about players with lengthy track records which dispute their current statlines. However, from a fantasy baseball perspective, if you wait until the end of April to start making roster moves, you may miss out on this season's versions of Ben Zobrist, Joel Pineiro, and Nelson Cruz.
So, who are the flukes and who are the first-time All-Stars? Here's what I'm buying:
Jeremy Hermida - OF - Boston Red Sox
The Marlins waited five years for their former #1 pick to break out, but his best season was '07 when he hit 18 HR with a solid 870 OPS. He backtracked over the next two seasons, struggled with injuries, and was lapped by Cody Ross, Chris Coghlan, and Cameron Maybin. Last November, the Marlins traded him the Red Sox for a pair of minor-league relievers. Hermida looked destined to become a utility-man, but with Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron on the D.L., he has chanced into regular at-bats and, at the magic age of 27, in a much friendlier ballpark, with a friendlier lineup around him, there's no reason the long-awaited breakout won't happen in Boston. Hermida already has 3 HR and 9 RBI in just eleven games. His average may not be particularly pretty, but the power is legit and everything seems to be working in his favor.
Colby Lewis - SP - Texas Rangers
Lewis didn't even reach my radar until late in the spring, when his place in the Rangers rotation was confirmed. Sure, his record in Japan was very impressive, but who really know how to convert those numbers. For every Ichiro there is a Kaz Matsui, for every Dice-K an Irabu. I took Lewis as a flier in a couple deep leagues merely because Ron Washington and Mike Maddux trusted him enough to sent Derek Holland and Brandon McCarthy to AAA. So far, so good. In three starts, Lewis has a 2.60 ERA and is striking out more than a batter an inning. Granted, his competition thusfar has been Seattle (10th in the AL in runs), Cleveland (13th), and a struggling Boston lineup (11th), but I'm ready to recommend him in all formats, especially since his next five starts come against Detroit, Seattle, Oakland, Kansas City, and Toronto.
Martin Prado - 2B - Atlanta Braves
Prado's breakout actually began last season when he hit .310 after being handed a full-time starting gig around the beginning of June. Any fears that he may have been playing above his head have been soothed by a .440 average in the opening weeks of 2010. The main worry, from a fantasy perspective, is that Prado's average could be a little "hollow," as he didn't show much power or speed in the minors. His eleven homers last year were his most ever at any level, by a long shot. However, by showing good plate discipline and now hitting atop the Braves lineup, Prado is a good bet for 100+ runs and an average well above .300.