This is the weekly Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld Baseball in on a quick staff discussion. It's water cooler talk ... that we've decided to publish. Look for it every Tuesday.
Drew Silva: Let's examine hot starts from unlikely players -- which ones we believe in, which ones we don't. There are some names we weren't necessarily expecting to see at the top of MLB's batting and pitching leaderboards through Week 3. Give me someone of this ilk that you expect to continue producing at a high-level rate and someone you expect to regress significantly as we move into the summer months.
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Ryan Boyer: I'm not sure his hot start can be classified as unlikely since he's gone through nice stretches in the past, but one guy I like to mostly maintain what he's done so far is Hector Santiago. The Angels left-hander has looked terrific early on this season, and a jump in velocity is a big reason why. Santiago has mostly sat at 90-92 mph as a starter in his career, but BrooksBaseball.net has him averaging over 93 mph with his heater this month and topping out over 96 mph. Is the tick up in velocity sustainable? That remains to be seen, but Santiago altered his workout routine over the winter and it seems that's helped him add some juice to his fastball.
On the other end of the spectrum, I suspect the expectations going forward for Trevor Story are probably too high in many leagues. The regression has already begun to occur since his other-worldly first week, as Story went into play Monday batting .208/.264/.417 with one homer over his last 12 games. The power from Story is for real. His average flyball distance is the best in baseball, according to BaseballHeatMaps.com. However, he's also leading the National League in strikeouts and was a career .263 hitter in the minors. I have no doubt Story is still going to hit his fair share of homers, but if you're expecting an elite fantasy shortstop all season you'll probably wind up disappointed.
Nate Grimm: I'm a big believer in Bryce Ha...oh, is that not what we're doing here? Fine. I'm buying what Steven Souza is selling. He's the definition of a post-hype sleeper after injuries shortened his 2015 season, but even in 110 games he hit 16 homers with 12 steals. That's the upside, and he's started strong out of the gate, with five home runs and a stolen base in 15 games. He strikes out too often to be a solid contributor in batting average, but the 20/20 possibility makes him worth it if you manage your expectations. He's owned in 57 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there's still some room on the bus as well.
Conversely, it's not hard to look at Mat Latos and recognize that this can't last. He's not striking out anybody, opposing hitters have a .167 batting average on balls in play, and 96.9 percent of baserunners are being left on, per Fangraphs. He's also not throwing any harder than he has in the past, which can sometimes be an indicator of real change. That all adds up to a completely unsustainable high-wire act that is going to come crashing down, and crashing down hard. Unfortunately, there's almost no opportunity to sell high, so owners will just have to watch intently and jump ship at the first sign of trouble.
D.J. Short: I have jumped on the Rick Porcello hype train in the past, sometimes to my detriment, but there’s a lot to like here right now. After finishing 2015 with a 3.14 ERA over his last eight starts, the 27-year-old has posted a 3.51 ERA and 30/5 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings over his first four starts this season. This includes 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Braves on Monday. I’ll admit that was an easy assignment, but Porcello continues to miss bats while throwing plenty of strikes. One key to his turnaround has been increased reliance on his sinker. Obviously pitching in the AL East isn’t easy, so I’m not expecting a fantasy ace here, but Porcello is capable of sticking on mixed league rosters all year.
I’ll go ahead and throw some cold water on Chris Carter. The 29-year-old has been a nice surprise for the Brewers in the early part of the season by batting .295/.361/.689 with five home runs and 15 RBI over 18 games, but let’s not get carried away here. He’s a .220 lifetime hitter. And while he has improved his contact rate so far this season, we need more than a couple of weeks of games to suggest that he has taken a dramatic step forward with his approach. He has been using the whole field more, but I'm not sure that's enough to explain a .333 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is 56 points higher than his career average. Enjoy the power, but odds are he'll be a drag on your batting average again before long. Also keep in mind that the rebuilding Brewers could flip Carter to a contender this summer. There's no guarantee that he'll end up in another hitter-friendly ballpark or even with a full-time gig.
David Shovein: One player off to a terrific start that looks completely legit and sustainable is Colby Rasmus. This is a guy who was drafted outside the top 300 picks in most mixed leagues despite the fact that he was a former elite prospect and was projected to hit cleanup in one of the best lineups in baseball. All he has done through his first 20 games is blast seven home runs and drive in 18 while slashing .279/.423/.672. Even more encouraging is the 18/16 K/BB ratio which represents a significant drop in his strikeout rate and mammoth boost to his walk rate. While he won't continue at this pace, he could conceivably blast 30 home runs and drive in 90+ runs.
The fickle beast that is regression is bound to come calling for Red Sox starter Steven Wright. The 31-year-old knuckleballer owns an outstanding 1.40 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 17/8 K/BB ratio over his first 19 1/3 innings. This isn't the second coming of Phil Niekro though (or even Tim Wakefield). Wright has allowed an absurdly low home run rate (0.47/9) and his xFIP sits at 4.15. He has also stranded a career-best 85.4% of baserunners. He'll come crashing back down to earth soon, so make sure he's not someone you trust in any fantasy lineups outside of AL-only leagues.
Drew Silva: I'll give a little love to Mark Trumbo, who ranks first in the majors in batting average (.366) and 12th in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.020) as of Tuesday afternoon. He also has five home runs and 16 RBI in 18 games for the American League East-leading Orioles. We've seen big power numbers from Trumbo in the past and he's in the perfect spot to keep that ball rolling in Baltimore. The 30-year-old slugger kind of fell off the radar as his tenure in Arizona came to a rocky end and he didn't do a whole lot last year in Seattle, but I like him to continue racking up the counting stats in the heart of a very good Orioles batting order. He's been batting fifth behind Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado. Pretty good place to be.
As for someone I expect to fall off, I hope it's not too obvious to say Cardinals outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker. He's batting .308 with a 1.064 OPS in 19 games at the time this Fantasy Roundtable will go live, but the career minor leaguer did most of his damage during the first week of the season and then fell into a deep slump. He has since emerged from that slump, but I would expect the 28-year-old to fall into another one here shortly. Hazelbaker has some intriguing tools -- power, speed, defense -- but he remains mostly unproven at the major league level and the Cardinals' outfield depth chart is going to get crowded when Tommy Pham returns from his early-April oblique strain. Hazelbaker could be in the midst of one of those numerical valleys the moment Pham is ready.