Reality Check: Reacting or overreacting?

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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You gave Justin Maxwell a look Monday morning, didn't you? Yeah, he won't be the only waiver fodder to get your attention this week.

Jhoulys Chacin with his strong 6 2/3 innings. Jackie Bradley with his three walks. Yonder Alonso with his home run. Collin Cowgill with his grand slam. They all had memorable Mondays.

And that only covers half a day's worth of action.

So many players, so few roster spots. In mixed leagues, that's the frustrating part about this time of year, and it's so frustrating that some people choose not to bother with the early-season headliners at all.

"A couple games can't replace months of research and evaluation," they say.

And it's true. They can't.

But what that line of thinking fails to account for is perception. Most longtime Fantasy owners think they have a good grasp of each player's potential. They think it's why they constructed their rosters the way they did.

But it's not. You know it's not. You may not have thought it through all the way, but you know perception drives the entire drafting process.

Let's say you really like Domonic Brown this year, as I do. Let's say you think he's going to outperform Jay Bruce this year. It's not the craziest prediction. If Brown meets the full extent of his potential, it's perfectly feasible, even. But you knew better than to draft him ahead of Bruce. Even knowing how you feel about Brown, you either opted to draft Bruce in the fourth or fifth round, like everybody else, or passed on him completely, hoping to get Brown 10 rounds later. In both scenarios, you drafted according to perceived value rather than potential value.

Most Viewed Players (as of 4/2)
Player Name Own %
1. Jose Fernandez, SP, Marlins 51
2. Collin Cowgill, OF, Mets 17
3. Brandon Maurer, SP, Mariners 35
4. Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox 58
5. Phil Coke, RP, Tigers 22
6. Kyuji Fujikawa, RP, Cubs 42
7. Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies 18
8. Gerardo Parra, OF, D-Backs 11
9. Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds 50
10. Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers 82

Maybe you don't like Brown this year. Maybe Anthony Rizzo is your guy. The illustration still works. Even believing Rizzo is going to hit .290 with 35 homers, you didn't take him over Billy Butler.

You know what kept you from doing that? Perception. At those critical moments in the draft, you ignored your personal assessment of a player for the sake of having it all.

What's more, you probably would have derided anyone who didn't. The practice of drafting according to the majority opinion rather than your own in an effort to maximize the talent on your roster is a strategy that normally goes unspoken because everybody knows to do it.

So why after the draft is there a complete surrender to potential value, ignoring the perceived value that halfway constructed your roster? Based on your own drafting habits, you could argue the latter is at least as important as the former. How you feel about a player matters only as much as how others feel about that player.

And to the nameless, faceless masses, nothing says more about a player than what he just did.

Don't believe me? Well, just look at the "most viewed" list on the CBSSports.com roster trends. The players at the top are the ones who -- like Maxwell, Chacin, Bradley, Alonso and Cowgill -- just did something. People are looking at them. They're looking and thinking.

And some of them are striking, whether because they're just the impatient sort or because they already know what I'm about to advise:

Don't be shy on the waiver wire this time of year.

I didn't say go crazy. You don't want to be afraid to make a move, but if you turn over half your roster before we reach the end of the first week, you might as well quit playing now. Most players were drafted where they were for a reason, and you can rest assured I'm sticking with Brown even if he starts 0 for 18.

But if you allow yourself some flexibility with the back of your bench -- those players who nearly went undrafted in your league, who everyone else passed on 20 times over -- what do you stand to lose?

Maybe you really like Lucas Duda or Carlos Quentin, and that's fine. But if they don't deliver right out of the gate, what do you owe them? And what do you suspect others will do with them if you make them available? They already passed on them the first 20 times.

If the purpose of a roster spot is to protect the players you don't want going to someone else, shouldn't you protect the ones attracting the most attention?

Now, I'm not saying every Casey Kotchman or Philip Humber who has a good day deserves a roster spot. Those players have already proven their mediocrity. But among the players with genuine upside, isn't it possible you targeted the wrong ones on Draft Day?

You don't always see it coming, you know. If you did, you would have beaten everyone to R.A. Dickey, Chris Sale, Edwin Encarnacion and Allen Craig last year, which would have won you your league and given you so much self-assurance that you wouldn't trouble yourself with the inane ramblings of a peasant like me.

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Winning changes a man, man.

If you have the spot to play with, take the chance. It's like getting a lottery ticket with one of the numbers already filled in. Sure, it probably won't do anything for you, but with that little bit of a head start, how can you turn it down?

And here's the glue that holds it all together: It might be your only chance at it. So many other people are watching and thinking that any of those early-season headliners could be just one good at-bat away from going to someone else. And if that player turns out to be the one that rises from obscurity to claim someone else the championship, you'll be upset, to say the least.

So of those players mentioned -- Maxwell, Chacin, Bradley, Alonso and Cowgill -- which would I be willing to pick up solely because of that one game? None, probably. I might pick up Alonso, but because I liked him as a sleeper even before that game. I might pick up Bradley, but because I recognize his upside as a top prospect. In other words, one game shouldn't be the reason you pick up a player, but it could be the impetus to do so. When the spotlight is on him, it's now or never.

Now, if Maxwell, Chacin and Cowgill keep it going for a week or two, I'll obviously have to take notice, particularly if Duda and Quentin are off to slow starts, but for now, I'm content letting them go to someone else. I'm just not convinced the upside is there.

Kind of pulled back the reins there, didn't I? Again, the point wasn't to have you rip apart your roster on opening day, but to remind you that tuning out anything and everything going on this week is potentially as destructive. Even if I'm not acting yet, rest assured I'm watching. And I'm thinking. And when that right guy does that one thing that I know the masses won't be able to overlook, I'm pouncing.

Because in one of my leagues last year, I did get Dickey, Sale, Encarnacion and Craig, and safe to say the rest of the league paid the price.

I owe that championship not to brains, mathematical formulas or even my so-called drafting prowess, which stuck me with players like Daniel Hudson and Ricky Romero. No, what won me the league was a willingness to gamble on what no one else would.

Call it luck, if you will, but the only thing more reckless than relying on luck is not giving it a chance. If you knew now how little you know about the season ahead, you wouldn't turn down that lottery ticket so quickly.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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