Hold or Fold – Hot and Cold Starts

“Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues” ~ Journey “Don’t Stop Believin'”

It’s so easy to overreact to the first few days of the season. Everyone’s either riding high or feeling low, and in most cases, it’s a mirage. Unless your team is suddenly beset with injuries, it’s far too soon to judge it. That means it is also far too soon to tell you what to do with specific players.

If it’s too soon to tell how your team will end up, and too soon to give you specific advice, then what exactly am I doing here? Well, Voice in my head, I’m glad you asked. I’m here to follow Journey’s advice. It’s too soon to stop believin’. You might be losing or singing the blues now, but that doesn’t mean that will be the case all year.

So here’s the breakdown on early returns:

Hold

Overreactions

So Trent Thornton had a great first start. Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright did not. Do not turn Wilson or Wright into Trent Thornton. Don’t do it.

Do you know who else had a great first start of their career? Kyle Davies. Do you remember the rest of his career? Of course not, because outside of his first few starts, Davies pitched to an utterly unremarkable 5.57 career ERA with 6.4 k/9 and 4.3 bb/9. Davies also had better minor league numbers than Thornton.

I’m not knocking Davies or Thornton here. I have fond memories of Davies’ first starts in a Braves uniform and I actually like Thornton. But it’s far too easy to jump on a fast-starting rookie only to regret it down the road. If you have an oft-injured arm like a Brett Anderson on your team, sure, go grab Thornton instead. But don’t give up prospect pedigree or proven performance for him. For the sake of perspective, Chris Sale had a worse first start than nearly anyone, but you wouldn’t give him up for Julio Teheran or Nick Margevicius would you?

Hot Starts

There are 2 simple rules I follow for hot starting players.

Rule 1. If they are on my team, I ride the wave. No matter where I drafted them, I keep them while they are hot.

There are lots of people who will tell you to sell-high on Christian Yelich or Khris Davis. They are wrong. That kind of trade is only worth it if you can get a quarter for a dime. Those offers don’t generally happen. Instead of worrying about it, just enjoy the ride. You’re getting more than what you paid for, so just be excited, be grateful, and enjoy it.

Rule 2. If they are not on my team, I leave them be.

If a hot week turns into a hot two weeks, then into a good month and a regular job, I missed out. Generally, there are other windows to grab a player before completely missing out. But even if you do miss out, take comfort in the fact that most hot streaks are unsustainable and do not represent a new level of performance. Pedro Florimon had a great spring for the Braves this year. Florimon also didn’t make the team, primarily because his career OPS is .588, and that is far more indicative of his talent level than his hot spring.

Cold Starts

Rule 1. If they are on my team, I (probably) leave them be.

Rule 1A. I did say probably.

Some guys are valuable because they won a job. However, they might have only done so because someone else was hurt. Maybe they won it by the skin of their teeth. It’s ok to own these players, but it’s also ok to look at these players as expendable.

If you have a cold-starting player who either barely won a job, or won it on account of someone else’s injury, it’s ok to see if someone else has flinched. Someone generally does. Even if they have job security, it’s still ok to look around. Just the other day I found someone had flinched and dropped Nick Castellanos and Adalberto Mondesi after opening day. Hunter, who writes the Stock Watch article here, is also in that league and found someone had dumped Pete Alonso. It’s ok to react to be the end of a chain of overreaction – just don’t be the one who starts it.

Hold or Fold

Injuries

The first, the last, the only legitimate reason to have an extreme reaction this early in the season. If your guys get hurt, you’re behind the 8-ball from day 1.

This year I’m right there with you. I play in 3 long-term leagues. In one I’m down Lindor. In another, I’m already down Matt Olson and Stanton (along with Danny Salazar, Ryan Borucki, Dinelson Lamet and Jose Castillo). And in the third, a 30 team league that had a 3-month long draft this past offseason, I’ve lost Stanton, Souza, Silvino Bracho, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day to injury.

Injuries stink, but they are an unfortunate part of the fantasy game. I’m back and forth on burning 2 of the teams down, but I hate not even trying to compete. At the same time, sometimes a rebuild is the only path forward. I’ve got to decide quickly because some players have more value in this window of initial reactions than they will later on. But when dealing with injuries, you have to react. Players must either be coming in as replacements or heading out as you begin to rebuild.

Don’t be afraid to chase contention, and don’t be afraid to rebuild. It’s your team. However you decide to deal with injuries is fine. The only way to overreact to injuries is not to react at all.

 

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Seth Bias

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I'm Seth. I love baseball, especially the Braves, and rock n' roll on vinyl. Books, sandals and tacos too, though I find most of my money for those things going to vinyl these days. Once turned Prince Fielder into Justin Verlander and Paul Goldschmidt in a dynasty league. Also ashamed to say I once cut Jose Ramirez. I don't hate your favorite team unless your favorite team is the Nationals or Phillies. May or may not have cried when David Justice hit that home run in game 6 of the 95 World Series - though if you actually ask me, I'll claim I did not.