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This is the first part of a three-part series about managing expectations and what to look for early in the Fantasy baseball season.
It's three innings into the first games of Opening Day as I type this, and you know what that means: It's time for some overreactions!
"Luke Voit is a STUD!"
"Pete Alonso is a BUST!"
"The Orioles are definitely not making the playoffs!"
OK, that last one isn't an overreaction.
At this point, you probably don't actually need a Fantasy analyst to tell you not to overreact to Opening Day. Everyone knows it's just one game, and everyone knows one game can't tell you anything.
But the games are going to stack up. One game becomes one week. One week turns into two. Soon enough it's a month.
Now it's time to start reacting, right?
Sure. I mean, you can't just sit there doing nothing for the first month. You'll want to snag some hot starters, or some pitchers displaying new pitches or better stuff. But you'll still need to manage expectations. One bad month doesn't mean a young player is doomed to failure, or that a good player is going to disappoint all season. And a great, out-of-nowhere month doesn't mean you should sell the farm for a relative nobody.
The examples to back these up are endless, but they all point to the same thing: It's important to manage expectations. On both sides. For the first month of the season, your prior opinion on a player should still carry more weight than what he's done so far.
Which is to say, if you thought someone was worth drafting in the first 10 rounds of a draft, let's say, there's almost no circumstances short of a demotion or injury that should cause you to drop them. And you probably should avoid making putting them on the trade block.
For instance: Yasiel Puig was one of the absolute worst hitters in baseball in March/April last season. He hit .193 with a .500 OPS, and it wasn't hard to see the Dodgers eventually cutting his playing time. However, this was a player with a ton of skill and a track record of success, so it would obviously have been foolish to get rid of him. Sure enough, he had three hits in his first game in May and hit .287/.348/.562 from then on, with a 37-homer, 18-steal pace over his final 101 games.
This season, we've got some big-time prospects making their debuts to open the season, with No. 1 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero likely to make his debut sometime in April. And guess what? They might struggle, too. In fact, they probably will. Making the jump to the majors is really, really hard.
Let's not forget, before Ronald Acuna was a superstar and a first-round Fantasy pick, he hit just .265 with five homers and two steals in his first 29 games with a near-30-percent strikeout rate. Franmil Reyes looked hopeless in his first taste of the majors last year, sporting a .717 OPS with a near-40-percent strikeout rate. Now he's batting cleanup for the Padres and is one of our favorite sleepers.
This works both ways, too. Sometimes, an out-of-nowhere great start really is the start of something great: Javier Baez hit .280/.333/.630 in April, and never really let up last season. David Peralta's five-homer April looked like a fluke when it happened, but with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that it was the beginning of a breakout.
And then there's the opposite side — the Matt Davidsons and Daniel Robertsons of the world. Remember how great they were last April? Probably not. Even a hot start for a much-hyped young player like Ozzie Albies ended up being a mirage, as it looked like he might have picked up some bad habits during his early-season homer binge.
The point is, don't overreact. More often than not, you'll be better off relying on projections (which will take in-season performance into account!) early in the season than swinging wildly with every change in daily leaderboards. Don't ignore early-season results, of course, especially when there seems to be some kind of underlying skill change — and we'll discuss how to spot those in Part Two.