One of the things baseball fans (and especially fantasy baseball players) love to do during the first week of the season is freak out over various performances. Whether it’s someone struggling or hitting for more power than ever before, the first week is ripe with overreactions to extremely small sample sizes; and 2015 is no different. Below are a couple players that will eventually level out and put their first week behind them and a couple pitches that are likely headed for very different destinations.
Don’t give up on Evan Gattis just yet.
At the moment of writing this, Gattis has yet to record a hit in 15 plate appearances and is striking out at an incredible rate. While he’s always been strikeout prone throughout his brief MLB career, his first four games have been out of this world. His triple slash line currently reads .000/.000/.000, and he is striking out at a clip of 60%. Fantasy owners everywhere are undoubtedly upset with this performance (myself being one of them), but there’s no reason to overreact and send Gattis packing just yet.
In 2014, while still injury prone, Gattis managed to knock out 22 home runs and drive in 52 RBI. While the RBI total is nothing to write home about, if he can stay healthy, there’s a decent chance he could see that total rise to somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80 at the end of the season. ZiPS is projecting a moderate total of 58, while Steamer is more optimistic. Both, however, are in agreement that he won’t eclipse 500 PA, which, based off of his history (albeit only two seasons), makes sense. In 2013 Gattis missed 24 games with an abdomen strain, and in 2014 he missed 27 games split between a cartilage issue in his back and strep throat. If he can stay on the field, and get over these first week jitters, El Oso Blanco should remain a serious power threat and continue to do things like this.
Slow down on the Adrian Gonzalez for MVP hype train.
It’s safe to say that nobody is having a better first week to the season than Gonzalez. Through his first four games, Gonzalez has five home runs, an ISO of 1.063, a BABIP of .667, and a batting average of .688. He’s the first player in Major League history to hit five big flies through his team’s first three games, and while that is unundoubtedly impressive, his three-homer day was largely the result of Andrew Cashner spoon feeding Gonzalez fastballs in his wheelhouse.
Regardless of the homeruns, Gonzalez has been and will continue to be a solid fantasy player as long as you’re not expecting him to break the single season home run record while becoming the first player to hit above .400 since Ted Williams in 1941.
ZiPS and Steamer see eye to eye on everything (with some slight variations) except when it comes to Gonzalez’s RBI total. Through his first four games, Gonzalez is tied for second in RBI across MLB with seven, an impressively low total considering he already has five home runs. Regardless, it’s likely that Gonzalez will finish closer to the ZiPS projected RBI total, as he’s driven in at least 100 RBI every season since 2009 and only missed the mark by a single RBI in that season. His BABIP will come back down to earth, his ISO will return to normal levels rather than stay on pace for the greatest season in the history of this sport, and by the end of 2015, we will have forgotten about his totals through five games.
The Dark Knight has risen; Matt Harvey is the hero we deserve.
One of the best story-lines of spring training was the fact that Harvey was dominating hitters and had impeccable control. His elbow explosion in 2013 produced one of the saddest ends to a season in recent memory, while also providing us with one of the saddest gifs of all time.
Zips and Steamer are both light on Harvey in terms of innings pitched, but in February, Sandy Alderson said that while the Mets wouldn’t let him pitch more than 215 innings, that 200 was entirely possible. If Harvey can stay healthy, and there’s no reason to think he can’t, we might finally see what he can do over the course of close to 30 starts. His strikeout rate will obviously fall back towards earth as he puts more starts under his belt, and his ERA/FIP/SIERA will rise back to normal levels, but Harvey should be treated as the ace he was when the 2013 season ended.
Keep a close eye on Masahiro Tanaka.
If you watched Tanaka’s first start of 2015, there’s no way you could come away from it feeling good about his future. Before taking the mound, we learned that he was going to change his pitching style, which would cause his velocity to drop from what we were used to last season. Hearing any pitcher talk like that is cause for concern, and that is especially true for one that is in the second year of a $175 million dollar investment. Tanaka is trying to pitch through a slight tear of his UCL, and if history tells us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t expect that game plan to work. The consensus around the sport is that Tanaka’s elbow will require Tommy John at some point this year, the only question is how long can he continue?
Through his four innings against the Blue Jays, Tanaka flashed a fantastic splitter, and one that still had significant movement. According to Brooks Baseball, he had his best day in terms of horizontal movement since a start against Oakland last June in which his splitter broke -6.56 inches,compared to -6.53 against the Blue Jays just last Monday. Even with his splitter working, the Jays hitters were clearly unfazed by this version of Tanaka, with Jose Reyes saying that, “It’s different when you have a pitcher that’s throwing 93, 94, 95 mph with that kind of stuff Tanaka has. But when he throws 88, 89 we feel a bit more comfortable, for sure”.
As you’re reading this article, Tanaka will have already completed his second start, this time against the new look Red Sox, and we can better judge how his 2015 might play out. Tanaka had serious control problems in his brief start against the Jays and served up extremely hittable pitches. If his rough start continues and the elbow concerns are still making the rounds, finding a trade partner (if at all possible depending on how much your other fantasy owners pay attention) wouldn’t be the worst thing to do. Even if Tanaka manages to avoid TJ surgery in 2015, he’s still a prime candidate to miss time to the DL as he did in his first taste of major league action.
The baseball season is a long one, and just as front offices don’t start wheeling and dealing after the first week’s results are in, you shouldn’t either. Player performances will eventually normalize and regress or return to the mean. Before trading or dropping a player that you might regret, let some time go by and see where they are at the end of the month.
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