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April 11, 2012 posted by Albert Lang

The Hot ‘N’ Cold Fantasy Baseball All-stars

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Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals OF

Players get hot and cold over a seven-day period, it’s as sure as the samples are small. In head-to-head and roto fantasy baseball leagues you have to make quick decisions on players who are surging and those that are performing at a lackluster level. That’s where the Hot ‘N’ Cold All-stars come in; to sort through the trends and see which ones are worth buying or ignoring.

‘Cause you’re hot…you’re yes…you’re in…you’re up 

Omar Infante – Infante has hit double digit HRs just once: in 2004. Of course, he’s basically a third of the way to double digits already this season, blasting three bombs and going 6/18 in the early parts of the season. Infante was a decent bounce back candidate before the season started and has done nothing to change that. That said, if you’re adding him now, don’t expect more than five or so HRs the rest of the way. He will bring a solid average, but his runs scored might be limited if he can’t crack the top of the Marlins order. At the moment, he’s a middle infielder in deeper leagues.

Adam LaRoche – Even though the National League was devoid of first base talent, LaRoche entered the year completely under the radar. While, he was battling a couple of injuries and the Nationals were continually linked to Prince Fielder, LaRoche investors have already turned a profit: 7/15 with two homers. From 2006-2010, LaRoche averaged 26 HRs a season with a .273 batting average. With the health and playing time concerns alleviated, LaRoche has entered the Gaby Sanchez and Freddy Freeman tier of first basemen: acquire with confidence.

Rafael Furcal – It’s amazing what losing the best hitter in recent baseball history will do to an offense. The Cardinals are off to a scorching start and Furcal looks like a 28-year-old again, as he’s gone 10/23 with two steals. Unfortunately for Cardinals fans and Furcal owners, he’s managed to play just 92 games on average since 2008. He’ll be a decent batting average guy, who can chip in some runs and steals, but counting on him will be foolish.

Kyle Seager – The injury to Mike Carp opened the door for regular playing time for Seager at third base, as Chone Figgins moved to the outfield. Many thought Seager deserved a shot at the starting gig over Figgins anyway. So far, Seager has proved he belongs, going 7/16 with a steal and building off his late season success in 2011 (playing full time beginning August 2, he hit .275/.322/.413). That said, playing time when Carp comes off the DL could be tenuous at best. Surprisingly, Figgins is off to a good start and the organization seems to want to get something out of that monstrous monstrosity of an investment they made. It’s nice to ride Seager now, but it’s doubtful he’ll have deep mixed league value throughout the year. In AL-only, he’s worth keeping around for his SS eligibility.

Shane Robinson – Robinson, filling in for the Cardinals when a lefty is on the mound, has impressed so far this season (4/6 with a dinger). Of course, he’s old (27) and hasn’t had a ton of minor league success. He wasn’t good at AAA until he repeated the level for the third time and still has a .253/.313/.368 line in 834 plate appearances there. The minute Allen Craig or Skip Schumacher are back, Robinson is a MLB bench bat at best and free agent guy in fantasy baseball.

J.D. Martinez – Julio Daniel Martinez, after dominating AA last season, surprisingly held his own in the majors over 226 plate appearances (.274/.319/.423 line with six homers). While he had a spectacular August, it seems pitchers caught up to him in September as he batted just .250 with one round tripper. Still, he’s off to a hot 5/13 start to begin 2012. It’s worth jumping on his hot streak here, but don’t expect anything other than a .270 hitter with 12 HRs when the season is all said and done.

A.J. Ellis – Folks have long hoped Ellis would get a chance at the major league level based on his solid batting eye in the minors. It appears, at 31, Ellis is getting that opportunity and has started hot: 3/9 with a homer. Ellis can provide a solid batting average/on base percentage from the catching position, but likely won’t offer much else. He’s a fine second catcher in two catcher leagues and could be a solid guy for NL-only. In addition, it would be good to pair him with a low-average, high-power catcher, as they’d make a good buddy catcher movie.

Michael Saunders – While he routinely dominated the minors (albeit in the Pacific Coast League, which is a notorious hitters haven), Saunders never put it together in the majors. However, with clear playing time thanks to the Carp and Franklin Gutierrez injuries, Saunders has hit a homer and swiped a bag. Saunders could provide decent power and speed, but won’t help in the batting average department. Think of him as a poor man’s Drew Stubbs, with a bit of upside to produce the same line as Stubbs. The team and ballpark depress some of Saunders value, but he’s a good grab in deeper formats.

Jeff Samardzija – Samardzija came out of nowhere to grab a rotation spot for the Cubs and didn’t disappoint in his debut: 8.2 IPs, eight K’s, a 1.04 ERA and 0.46 WHIP. Samardzija, who has always struggled with walks, exited Spring Training with a 16:1 K:BB rate and he walked none in his first start of the year. Intriguing last name, intriguing arm, a good add for 12-teamers and deeper.

Barry Zito – Given his contract and struggles last season, Zito was an absolute afterthought heading into 2012. That said, he was pretty solid from 2009-2010: 4.09 ERA, 1.35 WHIP with 152 K’s a year. Then, of course, to start 2012, he threw a complete game shutout at Coors Field, something almost never done by a southpaw in that ballpark’s history. This start demonstrates that Zito has some streamability this year, especially at home or against San Diego. You’ll probably be able to coax 10 or so starts from the funky lefty.

Lance Lynn – Lynn was the 39th overall pick of the 2008 draft, but he hadn’t, seemingly, done much in the minors. He has a 4.43 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 2.38 K:BB rate across three seasons and 245.2 IPs in AAA. Of course, those were all in the Pacific Coast League, meaning the numbers could have been far better in a reasonably tame ballpark, like Busch Stadium III, the Cardinals home ballpark. Lynn, debuting at Milwaukee, looked solid, piling on eight K’s across 6.2 innings. Pay attention to his next start as Lynn could be, at least, a streaming option this season.

Then you’re cold…then you’re no…then you’re out…then you’re down

Yovani Gallardo – Gallardo was wretched in his first start of the year, allowing six earned runs in 3.2 innings. Last year, Gallardo had a 5.70 ERA after six starts. He finished with a 3.52 ERA. It seems it takes Gallardo a little while to get going as he has a 3.98 ERA, 2.13 K:BB rate and 1.31 WHIP in March/April. All of which goes to say: don’t worry, it’s early. For the most part, early season outings mean nothing other than a few runs.

Tim Lincecum – While you shouldn’t worry about most starts, Lincecum did nothing to inspire confidence with his 8.44 ERA in his debut (that said, he did K seven). In addition to declining velocity, Lincecum didn’t throw one slider, a pitch he featured 15.6% of the time last year (although much less in 2010 and 2009). “The issue with Lincecum’s velocity is that he’s already given us a red flag by saying he’s dropping the slider to protect his elbow,” said Keith Law in a tweet. So there are mounting concerns and if you can move him for draft day value that makes sense. However, selling him for any sort of discount based on one outing (that wasn’t that god awful) would be an overreaction.

Alex Gordon – Gordon, off to a 0/14 start with seven K’s, got Monday night off when the Royals were facing a lefty. In reality, the only odd thing about this is Ned Yost’s willingness to mess with Gordon against a not-so-overpowering lefty in Tommy Milone. Gordon is still to be trusted, but if Yost is going to get cute and bench him against every lefty, he loses some value. Last year, Gordon hit .278/.358/.471 off lefties.

Drew Stubbs – Stubbs is off to a slow start (2/12), but that’s not so disconcerting. What’s shocking is that Dusty Baker seems to trust Zack Cozart enough to bat him second, thereby displacing Stubbs to the tail end of the order (he’s batted seventh mostly). The move might end up in a trade of runs for RBIs, but the 90 run certainty Stubbs was is no longer there. There is a lot of the season left and the odds are long that Cozart stays productive enough to warrant the two-spot. However, if someone loves Stubbs and you can get draft day value for him, it might be worth unloading the minimal risk.

For the most part, please, don’t overreact to a few bumps in the road. If Kevin Youkilis went 0/14 in July, would you care?

Albert has been playing and arguing about baseball and fantasy sports since 2002. Since 1982, he has also been largely miserable (here’s looking at you Armando Benitez) because of the Orioles and Eagles. Albert has won leagues and lost leagues, but he has the most fun debating player values. Albert typically plays in several baseball and football leagues a year. He also is an avid baseball card collector and writes about older players and their historical value relative to the Hall of Fame and their peers/current players. When not harassing league mates with trades and analyzing what categories his team performs poorly in, Albert is a communications professional in Washington, D.C. Follow Albert on Twitter @h2h_corner. He has an awesome puppy named Charlotte. You can find all of Albert's work at http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/.
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