The first week of the fantasy baseball season is almost in the books. Here are some early performances that will make you cheer, shed a tear and even instill fear for your fantasy baseball team.
Chris Owings, Arizona — Owings is off to a hot start, as he's near the top of the league in hits, average, runs and stolen bases. Some fantasy owners might be wondering where this came from or if Owing is for real. Trust me, Owings is the real deal and the production is coming from his skill. Owings stole 21 bases in just 119 games (466 at-bats) last year while hitting .277. The Diamondbacks rewarded Owings' spring training performance with a full-time role, and he's batting ahead of Paul Goldschmidt. That will help anyone. Owings should near 150 games this year, and batting second will have him scoring 70-plus runs and stealing around 30 bags.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers — Is this the Puig we've been desperately waiting for all these years? Sure, Puig is on fire to start the year, but this isn't the first time Puig has run hot. Puig was scorching in May 2014, but his inconsistent play has plagued him. It's hard to buy into Puig having fixed that issue, especially when we see players such as Justin Upton make a career out of streaky play. The other issue is the numerous options Dave Roberts has, which will lead to Puig sitting games as soon as he slumps a bit. I'd sell high to someone thinking the breakout is happening. If you can get Top 25 outfielder value for Puig, you may never do better.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota — Buxton is off to a miserable start, and it's time to start asking if Buxton will ever be what fantasy baseball owners want him to be. It's quite possible that Buxton simply doesn't have the plate discipline to succeed. Buxton has the skills to be a 20/30 player, but his strikeout percentage remains over 30 percent. To be fair, Buxton is still a kid at 23, so there is plenty of time to improve. As with teammate Miguel Sano, though, we need to see Buxton in control at the plate. While Sano has taken that step, it's fair to wonder if a stint back in Triple-A might help Buxton, and that's why you should sell "low" now and get value before you're forced to cut him.
Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia — It's hard to find a 37-save season uglier than Gomez's 2016 campaign. Gomez finished with a 4.85 ERA and a terrible 8.4 SOBB. It's obvious why people expect Hector Neris to take over the closer role at some point. Gomez is struggling again this season, and while it's early, he looks like the same pitcher from last season. There is no way that the Phillies can continue with Gomez as their closer in 2017; their patience will eventually wear thin. Grab Neris and even Jaoquin Benoit if you need saves. Neris is the favorite, but this team is insistent on experience (why Gomez even has the job), so Benoit could get the first opportunity once Gomez loses the gig.
Sam Dyson, Texas — Speaking of losing the closer's role, Dyson looks as bad as Gomez, possibly worse. The good news is that Dyson has an ERA of 2.63 or lower the past three seasons. On the other hand, Dyson only strikes out a few more batters than Gomez does, and Dyson's walks can get him in trouble. Matt Bush and Jeremy Jeffres are behind Dyson if he can't turn it around, but I'd expect Dyson to have a longer leash than Gomez given his history of strong ERAs. As with the Phillies, Bush is like Neris in that he has better strikeout numbers and ability, but Jeffres has some experience. I'd prioritize Bush and pick him up immediately, as he can help with ratios even without closing, and deeper leagues can grab Jeffres.
STREAMING WITH SOBB
It's still very early in the season, but the Brewers lineup is filled with high-strikeout hitters. The team is hovering around 30 for K percentage so far, which sets up nicely for J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and even Brandon Finnegan if you're feeling frisky. The White Sox and Rangers are just behind the Brewers in K percentage and SOBB. While you're always starting the big three of the Indians, Josh Tomlin is intriguing, as is Ervin Santana of the Twins for streaming and/or DFS purposes, as both face the White Sox. As for the Rangers, a matchup with them makes Garrett Richards a strong play, James Paxton a must start and Tyler Skaggs a streaming consideration.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com