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Roundtable: Worrisome Starts

RotoAuthority is hosting this week's roundtable.  The question:

Despite the tiny sample, what one player are you most worried about so far?

Rudy Gamble, Razzball.com (answered on April 12th)

After one week, it would be silly to re-evaluate projections but it's not silly to give some thought to the impact of early-season slumps on playing time opportunity.  A closer gets dethroned or a position player goes from starter to platooning and their value plummets.  My 'worry' criteria is based on a combination of 1) strength of replacement and 2) team commitment to player.

Thus, a Mike Gonzalez, who looks awful so far, is less of a concern only because he doesn't have a strong replacement and the team has a financial commitment to him.  Same for David Ortiz who is untradeable ($12MM, icon) and Lowell/Hermida are nothing great either.

Nate McLouth and Dexter Fowler both are at risk of losing 100+ plate appearances to Melky and Seth Smith but I'd say Frank Francisco is the biggest concern right now.  He had a rough 2nd half last year (7.00 ERA in July/August) which was largely bad luck (FIP closer to 4.00 with a 11+ K/9IP) but still hurts his perception in Texas.  He's dependent on his fastball for success and it's down a couple ticks this year (93.5 vs. 91.8) - maybe that's just an early season thing but it's not a positive sign.  The team would really like to test drive Neftali Feliz and I'm not sure Francisco will get the job back if Feliz has some success.  

Patrick DiCaprio, FantasyPros911.com (answered April 16th)

Nate McLouth. Normally we recommend that you completely ignore early season stats. But in McLouth's case, we have a continuation of Spring Training troubles, as he has started 3-27 with one RBI (through April 16). The question becomes whether and at what point does a small sample of bad luck become something more?

McLouth's Spring troubles were widely publicized. Now they are continuing into the season. We can only speculate on causes. It may be a spate of bad luck, a loss of confidence, a hidden injury or nothing at all. His 45% K rate (through April 16) normally might be attributed to bad luck. But given what happened in the Spring it is fair to surmise that he is pressing. Human psychology is not only extremely difficult to assess when you have full information but as fantasy owners we are virtually in the dark. We are in the realm of shadows and fog no matter how much you hear a coach or manager saying otherwise, or that he has a hitch in his swing or other such nonsense. Hitting a baseball is neurological not physical for the most part, so a mechanical issue is not to blame.

2009 gave no indication of problems. In fact he was unusually consistent, batting no worse than .252 and no better than .270 in any month. So whatever happened, if anything, is not a carry over from last year. News is lacking any off-field problem of significant enough consequence to explain any mental distraction.

Tim's question is who we are worried about. My Patented Worry Index for McLouth is a 40 on a scale of 100.

Derek Carty, The Hardball Times Fantasy (answered April 25th)

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but I'm getting worried about Rich Harden.  He's striking tons of people out and his pitches are still moving well, but between his velocity being down, his awful control, and the reports from worried scouts from as early as March, he's a guy I'm having trouble trusting right now.  I suppose the best we can hope for is that this is just small sample madness, with the next best scenario being that he's hiding an injury that he'll get over shortly.  If something worse is going on, Harden might not be the undervalued player I thought he could be coming into the year.

Tim Dierkes, RotoAuthority (answered April 26th)

I'm officially worried about Jake Peavy.  Even in Chicago, I was thinking 190 innings, an ERA under 3.80, a 1.25 WHIP, and 185 Ks.  So far in four starts the strikeouts are not there at all (6.0 K/9) and the walks are high enough at 6.0 BB/9 to make me wonder if he's entirely healthy.  It was natural to expect more home runs in U.S. Cellular, but Peavy owners are seriously screwed if his groundball rate stays below 34%.  However, I would still hang on to him rather than sell low.

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