Hot and Sour Soup – Early Season NL Surprises

What players are having surprising seasons, both good and bad?
To answer that question, I compared prices computed from my RotoValue projections with ones computed with 2013 stats through Friday. Here are the biggest positive surprises in  a 5×5 NL league:
Evan Gattis – With roto star Brian McCann missing the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, Gattis (.250, 6 HR, 9 R, 13 RBI, 0 SB) has been given the bulk of the time behind the plate in Atlanta, and he’s been excellent. While his average is mediocre, leaving just a .310 OBP, for a catcher it’s not bad, and his power pace would project to 42 over a full season. His .609 slugging percentage gives him a .919 OPS, which is outstanding for any position. If you’ve been lucky enough to own him, prepare for a sharp reduction soon – McCann homered twice in a rehab game Friday, and is expected back in early May. Gattis’s year so far has been worth $17.80 in this 5×5 format, fourth best among NL catchers.
Nate Schierholtz – While he’s not been outstanding in any one category, the former Giant has been good in all five: .312 average in 64 AB, 3 HR, 11 R, 9 RBI, and 3 SB, and sports a .388 wOBA, giving him a RotoValue of $22.33 in a 10-team NL-only format. For a guy who has historically been a fourth outfielder, and whom my system projected to have slightly negative value, that’s quite nice production.
John Buck – Buck has long showed good power behind the plate, but has historically been limited by a low batting average and relatively few RBI opportunities. My projections certainly saw him as worth starting  – he had a $7.76 RotoValue from projected stats in this league, which starts a total of 20 catchers. But this year, he’s been a genuine star so far, the most valuable catcher, and th best at any position with a $32.11 RotoValue. Buck is leading the NL with 23 RBI so far, to go along with 8 HR, 14 runs scored, and a .263 average. That power pace would project to 59 HR and 168 RBI over the full season. He won’t keep up this pace, of course, but he’s locked in as the Mets’ starter. Backup Anthony Recker has just 10 AB on the season, so it looks like the Mets will give Buck all the time he can handle. His average and power pace are likely to slow, but unless he gets hurt, he could make a run at his career high in AB, and as such will be a solid producer, especially in leagues that use two catchers.
Shelby Miller – The highly touted Cardinals’ rookie has been sensational so far, with 3 wins in 4 starts, and just a 1.44 ERA and a 0.840 WHIP over 25 IP. He’s struck out 26 and walked only 7, giving him a RotoValue of $22.65 in the 10-team 5×5 format. An he’s still just 22 years old. As the league becomes more familiar with him, he should come down to Earth a bit, but he’s been quite a pleasant surprise for his owners.
Jean Segura – Another rookie, Segura has become an instant star at short, with a league-leading 7 SB and a .359 average, along with 1 HR, 10 runs, and 6 RBI. He was the main prospect the Brewers received when trading Zack Greinke to the Angels last season, and his $28.47 RotoValue so far this year is the highest among NL shortstops.
Starling Marte – Marte (.323, 1 HR, 16 R, 8 RBI, 6 SB) has been excellent, earning $31.12, the 10th best NL  value this season. So far he’s outperformed star teammate Andrew McCutchen, matching him in SB and runs scored, but with a much higher batting average. While that likely won’t last, Marte does seem set to easily earn much more than his preseason projections.
If you have any of these guys on your team, you’re probably doing quite well so far.
The next list are five players expected to be very good, but who all have been worth much less than expected, and in some cases, worthless.
Cole Hamels has mixed erratic performance with bad luck – his numbers aren’t awful: a 5.40 ERA, 1.326 WHIP, and 26 Ks in 31.67 innings. Like teammate Cliff Lee in 2012, he’s lacked run support: despite 3 quality starts, including one yielding just 2 earned runs in 8 innings, and another giving up only 1 in 6, Hamels is still winless on the year. So far, that’s worth $-1.64, below replacement level. Owners can take some solace that, like teammate Roy Halladay, he’s improved significantly after his first two starts. But so far, his owners are probably lagging in wins and ERA.
Giancarlo Stanton was expected to be an offensive force in the outfield, a young power hitter and potential MVP. He’s just hit his first homer of the year tonight as I’m writing this, which has raised his RotoValue from $0.00 to $1.73, making him no longer worthless. But his owners surely expected much more than a .215 average, 5 runs, and 5 RBI. If his owner is jittery, it might be a nice time to make an offer for him. If I owned Stanton, I’d be disappointed so far, but not worried.
Matt Cain was expected to be an ace starter, and on opening day, he pitched like one, yielding just 4 hits, 1 walk, and 0 earned runs over 6 innings. But he didn’t win. Nor, like Cole Hamels, did he win in his other two quality starts (7 IP 2 ER, and 6 IP 3 ER). His other two starts were awful, as Cain was pounded for 7 ER in 6 innings by the Brewers on April 18th, and yielded 9 ER to the Cardinals in just 3.67 IP on April 7th. So the aggregate is an ugly 6.59 ERA, but an at-least-respectable 1.256 WHIP in his 5 winless starts. He does have 26 Ks in 28.67 innings, though, so his owners can take some solace in that. But the numbers add up to an ugly $-2.95 RotoValue.
Kris Medlen converted from the bullpen to be a dominating starter in the 2nd half last season, so hopes were high for the young Brave entering 2013. And overall he’s pitched reasonably well, but his season still qualifies as a disappointment. His ERA has been good at 3.26, but his 1.352 WHIP is pulling his teams down, and he has just 1 win in 5 starts. Also of note in a 5×5 league is the rather low total of 18 Ks in 30.33 innings. Those numbers are worth $3.17 so far, much less than his owners would have hoped.
Jason Heyward is an exciting player, and a potential 5 category star. But so far in 2013, he’s been bad, batting just .121 on the season. His 2 HR, 8 runs, 5 RBI, and 1 SB did at least give him some positive value in this rather deep 10 team league (it uses 5 OF per team, so 50 NL outfielders are in someone’s lineup, more than the 45 the league can start each game), but only barely, at $0.90. But while you might hope to write this off as just an early-season slump, his owners now also have to deal with a  DL stint, as he had an appendectomy on Tuesday, and it will be a few weeks before he can get back on the field and try to right things. All the projection systems on my site thought he would be worth at least $20, with one going as high as $30. If you spent close to that on him, you’re not too happy right now.
If you don’t own the slumping players, it can’t hurt to see if their owner is panicking over their slow starts; in some cases you might be able to pick up a talented player at fairly low cost. If you own them, I wouldn’t be in a rush to make a deal, but I’d be open to discussions. Starters especially are more volatile – they play fewer games, and so luck is a bigger part of their observed performance. I’d need to be bowled over to consider moving Stanton now, but the appendectomy has me a little more worried about Heyward, how soon he may return, and whether there may be lingering effects from the surgery. I wouldn’t be shopping him, but I’d at least listen, and if I got what I thought was fair preseason value, or maybe even close, I might pull the trigger.

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