Watch Now: Highlights: Athletics at Angels (2:05)

Before we dig in here, I should make you aware of my overarching position as it relates to the start of the 2020 MLB season: Virtually nothing has happened yet in 2020 that would change my impression of a hitter's value for Fantasy baseball. I say virtually nothing because, well, I'm not talking about factors that supersede performance, like health and role. But my contention is that nothing a player has done to this point, absent all other variables, is particularly meaningful.

It would be the default position among those in the know during a normal season, but of course, this 2020 season is anything but normal. And back before it started, when I had no experience with such a season, I joined the choir in wondering if we should consider pulling the plug sooner on slow-starting superstars.

Now that I'm in the thick of it, though, I can confirm that my answer is emphatically no. In fact, I'm embarrassed to have even considered otherwise.

It's always tricky, knowing the appropriate time to drop a player. In fact, I'd consider it more of an instinctual thing than one I can bottle up and serve to the masses. Whenever I hear that question, I think of how the Disney princesses from a bygone era would ask, "How do I know when I'm in love?" You know when you know, which is to say it'll be so abundantly clear that you won't need to ask. But that's easy for me to say, right?

My standard line, at least for players who required a significant investment on Draft Day, is six weeks. Of course, this entire season is only 9 1/2 weeks, which means we're a quarter of the way through it already. I recognize the tension there, and I do think there may come a point, as you slide down the standings, when more desperate actions will be warranted. But I'd venture to say that few who are actively consuming Fantasy Baseball advice at this stage of the game are already there.

The process doesn't change no matter how long the season is. The numbers need the time they need to normalize, and in truth, the full 60 games might not even be enough. It's why I've said all along that some individual stat lines could look pretty bonkers by the end of the year and that the eventual playoff pool might not accurately represent the best teams.

But acknowledging that not everything will correct in time isn't the same as deciding now, a mere three weeks in, that these specific players won't. If you believe in a player's skill set, then there is no timeline for him getting back on track. It's always tomorrow, potentially, and there are still too many tomorrows left for you to forfeit that kind of upside for some hot hand off the waiver wire.

The fallacy in attacking a short season with short-sightedness is that you have no way of knowing, at any point in the season, what comes next — which is a laughably elementary concept, I know, so I'll give an example. If weird things are liable to happen in a 60-game season, maybe we'll look back in October and say, "Wow, those 60 games went really poorly for Cody Bellinger." But it's not something we can know heading into the 16th game or even the 31st game because that's not how production works. Rarely do a player's numbers hold steady from week to week. They comes in spurts, and those spurts come on their own time. It's why using the past week to predict the next week is always bad process. 

No matter what point of the season we're in, the sample will be so small that a player's fortunes can change almost immediately. Look at Matt Chapman. Five days ago, he was batting .196 with a .627 OPS. Four home runs later, it's like, "what slump?" Shoot, as I was writing this column, four of the players featured in it — J.D. Martinez, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Eddie Rosario — all homered, making me question whether I should even leave them in. I will just for thoroughness' sake, but it could look pretty silly three days from now. That's the whole point.

So while you're looking at that slumping hitter and thinking, "Man, I'd be in first place if he wasn't holding me back," I'm looking at him and thinking, "I'm in fourth place, and he hasn't even done anything for me yet." That's the healthier outlook and the one that leads to a better process.

My plan here was to pick out a dozen or so slumping hitters and explain why things aren't really so bad for them, but there were like four dozen to choose from. Recognizing the sheer volume of players in that position (and knowing they can't all be on the verge of collapse) should be comforting in its own way. I've subdivided them into different categories of concern, because some should inspire more confidence than others, but the broader takeaway is that it's too early to worry about any. I would classify all as buy-low candidates right now.

We talked about some of these players on Tuesday's episode of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, so you can check out our thoughts there and subscribe to keep up with everything going on around the league

Presumed foolproof

Nolan Arenado COL 3B
Gleyber Torres NYY SS

These are the slumpers who had the fewest questions surrounding them at the start of the season and have long enough track records that you can trust they'll come around. Yeah, it's a little weird Trea Turner hasn't stolen a base yet, but nobody bats an eye if he swipes two tomorrow. True, Gary Sanchez's strikeout rate is exorbitant, but even that's the sort of thing that can be skewed over a small sample of at-bats.

One-hit wonders?

Mitch Garver MIN C

These players don't have the track record of the first group, which raises a little more suspicion but still not enough for you to back down from your initial stance. There are different degrees of concern therein, too. Pete Alonso and Rafael Devers both made good on their prospect pedigree right away, more or less, making their 2019 breakthroughs less out-of-nowhere than, say, Marcus Semien's. Meanwhile, the only gripe concerning Ketel Marte so far would be the lack of power, but since that was the most surprising part of his breakthrough last year, he's worth including here. 

Extenuating circumstances

Rhys Hoskins PHI 1B

Mostly, it's injuries that you might attribute to these players' struggles, but in the case of Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins and Wilson Ramos, it's mechanical tweaks. The overall level of concern for Bellinger is still low, of course, coming off an MVP season, but you can't completely discount the change he made. Ozzie Albies' bruised wrist was so clearly impacting his performance that it put him on the IL, but the evidence for the others isn't so concrete. Max Muncy recently revealed that his finger injury back in summer camp was a fracture, but it was weeks ago at this point. Much has been written about Willie Calhoun getting hit in the face in March and perhaps having some lingering fear there, but he has had a couple multi-hit games recently.

Astros! LOL!


Honestly, these might be your best buy-low bets because so many get a sick satisfaction from their struggles and would be happy to rid themselves of the stench. I promise their poor production so far in 2020 isn't because of a sign-stealing operation they had a couple years ago. If it was, it would show up in the strikeout rate as well. Maybe they feel the need to validate themselves in the early going and are pressing as a result, but the talent will shine through in the end. That's more difficult to say for George Springer given that he's also dealing with a minor wrist issue, but you still wouldn't want to sell him short.

Preexisting concerns

Andrew Benintendi BOS LF
David Dahl COL CF

These slumpers are the ones that offered no guarantees coming into the year — with Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Escobar, Vladimir Guerrero, Adalberto Mondesi and Tommy Pham even appearing among my preseason busts — so I acknowledge some confirmation bias in including them here. Nonetheless, this is the only group of players depicted in this column that might be some degree of droppable already. It would be a step too far, probably, to drop David Dahl, Escobar, Guerrero, Mondesi or Pham already, and I would certainly hesitate to drop Bryan Reynolds in a league where I need batting average, Victor Robles in a league where I need steals or Kyle Schwarber in a league where I need homers. But even for them, the leash is shortening.