Here's some unusual advice for fantasy owners intent on winning leagues: Don't look at box scores.
At least for the first few weeks of April, studying box scores only can lead to regrettable decisions. No two-homer opening game can significantly alter Edgar Renteria's inevitable .290-15-70, 15 stolen-base season; no 0-for-5, four-strikeout debut for new Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche will make him any less likely to drive in 100 runs.
First-week performances carry no more weight than those of any other week. Players have good weeks and bad weeks, and paying close attention in early April will cause overeager owners to make bad trades.
Just ask those who traded for Tigers first baseman Chris Shelton last year.
After four games, Shelton was hitting .688 with five homers. He became the fastest player in American League history to reach nine homers, after 13 games. Suddenly, owners were offering players like Richie Sexson for a piece of Shelton's breakout season.
Shelton then tanked; he was in the minors by Aug. 1.
Sexson, who hit two homers last April, finished the year with 34 - 18 more than Shelton.
So don't give up Jimmy Rollins, a notorious slow starter, for Renteria, regardless of what the first week brings. You'll be sorry.
If you're dying for an April box score fix, check out where players are batting in team's lineups. That's much more telling than early-season numbers.
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WORTH NOTING
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Diamondbacks: Observers might have noticed Hudson batting third for Arizona during the first week. A longtime prospect known for his hitting prowess, Hudson has never been counted upon as a middle-of-the-order producer, has never batted third or fourth before, but flashed offensive potential last year in his first season with the Diamondbacks (.287-15-67). He's being asked to hit third for the young club. If he only does an average job of it, he'll catapult into elite 2B status. A .300-20-90 season is within reach, and there might only be one other second baseman - Chase Utley - who will do that this season.
Josh Bard, C, Padres: Who's that batting fourth for the defending NL West champion Padres? It's Bard, one of the main reasons the team let Mike Piazza go. Bard surprised people with his bat last season (.338-9-40 in 231 ABs with San Diego) after arriving from Boston via trade May 1. Now the team is counting on him to continue showing that ability. He might not be Piazza in his prime, but Bard could hit .300 with 15 to 20 homers. That's nothing to scoff at from a catcher.
Alejandro De Aza, OF, Marlins: Who? De Aza, who has never played above Double-A, won the starting CF job in Florida. He beat out Alex Sanchez and Eric Reed for the job. Neither of those guys were about to win your fantasy league for you either, but De Aza plays hard and has good speed, having stolen 27 bases in 230 ABs in Double-A last season. Don't laugh. Last April, no one outside of South Florida had ever heard of Dan Uggla, either.
PAY NO ATTENTION
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: Four strikeouts in his Pirates debut. 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts in his first three games. Ouch. LaRoche whiffed 128 times in 492 ABs last year in Atlanta, so the Ks are no surprise. But the Pirates needed a power bat and his 32 homers last year were no fluke. He's capable of adding to that total. Don't get scared off. If inexplicably he's on the waiver wire in your league, run, don't walk.
Carl Pavano, SP, Yankees: Pavano wasn't too convincing as an opening day starter for the Yankees, allowing five runs - four earned, in 4 1-3 innings against the Devil Rays. Is he an ace? Probably not. But these are the Yankees, and unless they start pulling people out of the stands, someone on their roster is going to take the hill for them. Pavano will be counted upon every five days, and he's bound to pick up some wins. If he stays healthy, 15 wins and an ERA around 4.20 is probable.
Rodrigo Lopez, SP, Rockies: He excelled in his Coors Field debut Wednesday, allowing one earned run on five hits in seven strong innings. Does that signal a return to prominence for the former All-Star, who led the league in losses last year in Baltimore? Hard to say. Does it mean you should pick him up? No, no, no, no, no. Let some other owner take that dubious gamble. He could destroy your ERA and WHIP.
QUICK HITS: Want a sleeper two-start pitcher for the week? Try Ian Snell of the Pirates, scheduled to go Monday against the Cardinals and Sunday against the Giants. He struck out a career-high 11 in his season debut. Brewers OF Geoff Jenkins was supposed to platoon with Kevin Mench this season, but started each of the team's first three games against the Dodgers. In deep leagues, he's a waiver-wire pickup with considerable upside. While Octavio Dotel is on the disabled list, the Royals will use David Riske as their closer. The name says it all: Riske.
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