- James Quintong, Fantasy
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I warned you last week about not doing anything rash after the first week of the season based on just a handful of innings or at-bats. And yet, one of the first things I saw on the ESPN fantasy message boards Thursday afternoon was someone asking if they should drop C.C. Sabathia for Johnny Cueto. So much for taking calculated gambles.
But, as usual, it was a very interesting opening week of the season, with some of the usual suspects doing what they're supposed to do, and some others having their one good week when everyone is paying attention.
So let's look at some of biggest surprises and disappointments from Week 1 and see where they'll go from here.
Livan Hernandez, P, Twins: There are four pitchers with two wins after the first week of the season. Three make plenty of sense: Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb and Chien-Ming Wang. Then there's Livan Hernandez. Yes, he's piled up innings (seven in each of his two starts), but no, he's still not striking people out (three total in those starts). He hasn't walked anyone yet, but the hits are piling up already, and when that happens, you can kiss your WHIP goodbye. What will happen when he has to face better offenses? (Hint: nothing good.)
Xavier Nady, OF, Pirates: He hit two homers on Opening Day and leads the majors with nine RBIs after the first week. Not a bad week. Then again, he hit homers in his first two games last season and finished with 20. Sure, Nady could top those 20 homers this season with more playing time, but it might not be by a whole lot. Does he deserve to be owned in more than 20.2 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues? Maybe, but I still don't trust him any more than as my fourth outfielder in mixed leagues.
Jeff Keppinger, SS, Reds: After hitting .332 in limited action, Keppinger has raced off to a fast start by hitting .435 with a pair of homers and a steal after the first week, holding down the fort at short with Alex Gonzalez on the DL. At some point, the league will catch up with this journeyman infielder, but for now it's worth riding his hot streak, especially when there's a good chance Keppinger stays at short even when Gonzalez returns from his knee injury.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox/Jason Kendall, C, Brewers: These two veteran catchers lead their respective leagues in hitting after the first week, but you know that's not going to last. Pierzynski still has some decent offensive potential, so he's definitely worth having around, especially in mixed leagues with two catchers. Meanwhile, Kendall is 7-for-13 in April despite hitting behind the pitcher in Milwaukee's lineup. How long can that last? In two-catcher or NL-only leagues, Kendall would be a marginally useful player, but not so much in ESPN standard leagues, as seen by his 0.5 percent ownership rate. If you're looking for catching help off the free-agent wire, you might be better off with Gerald Laird or Ryan Doumit.
George Sherrill, P, Orioles: He probably came at a relatively cheap price, but he's gotten off to a good start with three saves (tied for the major league lead). It's probably more surprising that he got that many save chances already as opposed to actually converting them. Even closers on bad teams can rack up enough save chances to be pretty valuable, and Sherrill is proving that early. Just remember that there could soon be long stretches where he won't get those chances. But he's fine just now.
Edinson Volquez/Johnny Cueto, P, Reds: Everyone has gone nuts for Cueto after his brilliant major league debut on Thursday. However, Volquez, acquired from the Rangers in the Josh Hamilton trade, had a solid first start for the Reds on Sunday, as well, in Cincinnati no less. Volquez allowed just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight. Cueto has the higher upside, but Volquez also projects to be a solid part of the rotation. If you lost out on the race for Cueto, Volquez would be a fine alternative if you feel you really need pitching help. But two caveats about both pitchers: (1) They're rookies, so expect some inconsistency; and (2) be wary of their workload come midseason, given manager Dusty Baker's history of wearing down young pitchers. Getting leads to Francisco Cordero hasn't been the smoothest ride just yet, so Baker may want to rely on the starters even more.
Kyle Lohse, P, Cardinals: I would say you have to be somewhat realistic about pitchers after just one great start, especially early in the year (see Dana Eveland, Kason Gabbard, Tim Redding, Brian Bannister, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda). But then again, everyone went jumpy for Johnny Cueto. Meanwhile, the veteran Lohse has thrown 12 shutout innings over his first two starts for the Cardinals, but yes, it's fine to be very cautious about him, given that he's struck out five and walked four in those two starts and that he is the owner of a career 1.43 WHIP. He'll get lots of work, for sure, and I might be OK with him in an NL-only league if I need pitching. In other cases, however, I'd be more interested in Bannister and maybe Eveland over Lohse. Just don't be doing anything at the expense of a higher pick who may be struggling early on.
Ben Sheets, P, Brewers: A complete game five-hit shutout on Sunday was impressive, even if it was against the Giants. He's allowed just seven hits over 15 1/3 innings with 15 strikeouts to start the season. Yes, this is the type of performance you expect when Sheets is healthy. Now the question becomes, when does he hit the DL? It's unfortunate to think this way about Sheets, but it's a fact of life and a reason why you might even think about selling high now.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: A 2-for-16 start to the season isn't good news, especially when he's losing playing time to Juan Pierre. While Russell Martin and Andruw Jones can keep on playing despite their early offensive struggles, Kemp doesn't have that same security. But it's worth buying low on Kemp now since Pierre (1-for-11, 1 caught stealing) hasn't done enough to warrant keeping a regular job, either. Meanwhile, Andre Ethier appears to be the winner in the outfield derby; he's started all six games, even though his early stats (6-for-22, 1 home run, 1 stolen base) are somewhat modest.
Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers: He did look pretty good this spring, hitting .453, but that hasn't translated to the regular season as he's started just 2-for-23 and is now battling a back injury. He's just one of many reasons why the Tigers have started 0-6. There's plenty of time for Polanco to get his average back in order, but I'd be concerned if he's your anchor in that category.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Another year, another slow start (2-for-26) for Soriano in Chicago, although at least he got his first homer of the year out of the way Sunday. I guess he really needs the weather to warm up to get his game going. Moving back to the leadoff position probably won't help his RBI totals, but the homers and steals shouldn't be impacted.
Alexei Ramirez, 2B, White Sox: He drew comparisons to Soriano to start his big league career, and now his numbers are mimicking the Cubs' star in the wrong way. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts after earning the Opening Day start in center, and now he's been cast aside to let Carlos Quentin start (at least until Jerry Owens returns). He looked promising early on and still might again down the line, but feel free to cut ties. Since he's owned in just 1.1 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, it's not a big issue, but the sleeper has hit the snooze button for now.
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels: It's hard to believe that he has just one run scored and three RBIs in the first week, and those all came in the second game of the season. The more telling stat early is that he's struck out six times and walked just once. He's pressing a little bit, and you have to wonder if that will bring down his numbers across the board.
C.C. Sabathia, P, Indians: A loss and a 7.59 ERA in two starts is not the way Sabathia wanted to follow up his Cy Young season. It's a bit odder given that in recent years, he's gotten off to pretty strong starts. But this is no time to drop him for Cueto. Instead, I'd probably trade away Cueto in exchange for Sabathia. One big reason for Sabathia's struggles is his seven walks in just 10 2/3 innings. His command is a bit off, but he's also talented enough that the question is when, not if, he'll turn that around.
Josh Beckett, P, Red Sox: While John Smoltz looked pretty good in beating Johan Santana in winning his 2008 debut Sunday, Beckett wasn't so lucky as the Blue Jays got him for five runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first game of the season. He did strike out six but also walked four. Fatigue set in after a great few innings to open the game, and you have to think his injury-abbreviated spring training is a big reason for this. Give him a couple of starts to work out the kinks before getting too concerned about his 2008 fortunes.
Roy Oswalt, P, Astros: Two starts, two losses to open the season. That's not what Oswalt owners expected. They definitely didn't expect a no-strikeout game in a loss to the Cubs on Saturday either, nor 21 hits allowed in 12 innings. He has to be due for a turnaround, however; or at the very least, he'll stop allowing double-digit hits.
Brandon Lyon, P, Diamondbacks: After getting the save on Opening Day, he's now blown his past two save chances (although he got the win on Sunday) and has a 12.00 ERA. Lyon struggled this spring, and some of those issues seem to be coming back now. How much of a leash will they give Lyon with guys like Tony Pena and Chad Qualls itching to take over?
James Quintong is an editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.
James Quintong tells you if he believes the biggest surprises and disappointments are simply aberrations or harbingers of things to come.