Hot Starts: For Real or For Naught?

We’re barely 10 games into a long MLB season, but there’s an influx of new data and it’s easy to overreact. I’m going to take a look at some of the hottest and coldest starts around the league and give my verdict on whether the player’s start will continue. In this post, I’ll look at a pitcher and hitter I think are legit, and two who are not.

Brandon Belt, Giants 1B

Belt's start has left all of his fantasy owners smiling. I think they'll stay that way.

Belt’s start has left all of his fantasy owners smiling. I think they’ll stay that way.

Belt was a popular sleeper pick heading into the season, and has paid off incredibly for owners with 5 homers and a .325 average in his first 40 plate appearances. He has yet to walk this season, but if he is able to improve his plate discipline as the season goes on, Belt could be an absolute monster. His swing is a bit long, but he has proven scouts wrong at every level with his ability to churn out line drives. He also maintains a fly ball percentage above 40%, which only 24 players did last season. That will eventually lead to more homers, and this season may be his coming out party. I’m on the bandwagon, and if his owner in your league is trying to sell high, jump at the opportunity.

Jesse Chavez, Athletics SP

The 30-year old journey man has secured a spot in Oakland’s rotation, and given their park factors and strong defensive numbers, that’s a very valuable slot to hold. It’s hard to judge 13 innings’ validity, much less the third and fourth starts of a pitcher’s career, but for Chavez we are going to have to go off of the data we are given. In the bullpen or not, Chavez has submitted solid K and BB rates and displayed five pitches that he feels comfortable with. So far this season, he is 10th among all pitchers by throwing first strikes 68.6% of the time. There’s no denying that Chavez is a wild card, but there is a lot of upside given his small samples and his situation. He’s owned in just 0.6% of ESPN leagues and has RP eligibility, which can always be a nice bonus.

Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays OF

After two fantastic (and steroid-fueled) years in Kansas City and San Francisco, Cabrera struggled in his first season in Toronto last season, hitting .279 and playing just 88 games with various injuries. Less than two weeks into the 2014 season, Melky already has 4 homers – tied for best in the AL and one more than he had for all of 2013. Unfortunately for his owners, I have no faith in this continuing. HR/FB is an easy way to see just how powerful a player is, and whether his trends can continue. Cabrera has a HR/FB of just 11.2% for his career. While that was a measly 3.2% last year, it is at a ridiculous 50% so far this season. Cabrera has never been a fly ball hitter, and while that is good news for his average it his terrible for his home run total. His FB% will hover around 30%, and as his HR/FB regresses to 11% it will leave him with around 15 homers on the year. He’s nothing more than a #4 or 5 outfielder in standard leagues.

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers SP

Fantasy owners are smart enough to not look only at ERA, but Gallardo’s 0.00 certainly stands out to start the year. Last season his K rate dropped substantially, and that has continued so far into this season. This has mirrored a drop in velocity, and while velocity is usually lower near the start of the season this is still a major concern. Even if his control is improved, he is far from a trustworthy fantasy starter. I’d rank him outside the top 50 starters – there are just too many other good pitchers out there right now. Don’t put too much stock into a couple of “lucky” early season starts.

Matt Cott is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis. Follow him on Twitter @KidCotti21! 


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