Buy or Sell: Opening Day Heroes and Villans

Opening day is one of the best days of the year. The excitement of having games that actually count — and fantasy stats that actually count(!) — can cause quite a stir to one’s emotions. Sometimes that emotion can be taken advantage of.
 
“Should I drop Carlos Santana for Ramon Hernandez?”
 
“Jeff Francoeur is available in my league. Pick him up?”
 
“I’m thinking of trading John Axford for Luis Castillo. Pull the trigger?”
 
OK, so at least one of those was made up, but all are examples of the type of knee-jerk reactions that can happen on opening day.
 

John Axford will struggle the entire season – Sell

No, Axford didn’t have great command on Thursday and he did allow runners to get one base. However, Casey McGehee didn’t help any when he failed to record a single out on a routine ground ball with runners on first and second. That loaded the bases. Axford’s command/control has never been great, which is why he was viewed as a #2 closer on draft day. One bad outing, partly a product of a failed defensive play, shouldn’t change your mind at this point.
 
Ramon Hernandez is worth an add in 12 team mixed leagues – Sell
It was a big day for Hernandez, who went 4-for-5 with the walk-off three-run home run, but it was in fact only one game. Throughout the course of the year Hernandez may have a few games like this one, but all the research that I (as well as many others) did this offseason suggests that in the long run these types of games are not likely to occur very frequently.
 
Drew Stubbs, who hit his first home run of 2011, is going to be a fantasy beast – Sell
I’ve never questioned Stubbs’s power/speed ability, but he does have a track record that suggests hitting for AVG consistently in the big leagues could be a problem. His .269 career minor league average is an example of that and his swing, which does generate plenty of power, also generates plenty of whiffs, leading to high strikeout totals. I wonder how high you could see Stubbs right now given his draft day hype and opening day performance.
 
Edinson Volquez will struggle with command/control all season – Sell
Well, to be honest, Volquez may indeed have issues with command/control as he has in the past, but his strikeout upside is still worth buying in on. Just as we wouldn’t judge a pitcher on one performance in mid-May, we have to try and look past this poor outing by Volquez.
 
Craig Kimbrel will get decisively more saves than Jonny Ventrer – Buy
The lefty matchups were there in the ninth to use Venters, but he got the call in the eighth. I’ve called for Kimbrel to be the main man in the ninth all offseason. Venters may get a share of saves, but it is likely to be a small share. Whether it is the right way to do it or not, managers like to name their closer and stick with him.
 
Home run heroes (buying or selling big power seasons)…
 
Jason Heyward – Hold
There are only two things working against Jason Heyward: 1) He is still so friggin young 2) He has had some injury issues over the course of his young career both at the major league and minor league levels. There is zero question that he has the talent to hit 30-plus home runs as soon as this season, but it’s a bit much to simply expect it to happen.
 
Rickie Weeks – Buy (the power, that is)
I’m absolutely buying Weeks’s power potential. However, my concern remains about his ability to stay healthy. This was a concern all offseason long. No need to change my opinion now.
 
Carlos Gomez – Sell
While I will admit that Gomez has some sneaky power, his track record of poor plate discipline suggests that consistency will be hard to come by. His speed is his biggest asset and if he begins to try and jack balls out of the yard he’ll be doing more harm than good.
 
Ryan Braun – Buy
I think he has the potential for 40-plus bombs in 2011
 
Joey Votto and Matt Holliday – Buy (both should do right around what we expect them to do)
 
Cameron Maybin – Sell (kind of)
I think the move to San Diego will end up being the turning point to Maybin’s career. Not that he will necessarily turn into the stud people projected he could, but at least he can become a very good everyday centerfielder. If he can stay healthy, I can see 10-15 home runs and 20-plus stolen bases with a .275-ish AVG. Those numbers would be very usable in most leagues. Maybin came up limping after his base hit in extra innings and battled some pain in spring training. Keep him on your watch list in 12-team mixed leagues.
 
Patt Burrell – Hold
Pat still has some pop in his bat, but there is no reason to think he’ll be a monster this season. He was looking fastball and got a straight one from Jonathan Broxtron. Burrell may muster around 20 bombs, but it will almost certainly come with a low AVG. If you drafted him in 2011, you were probably expecting the same.
 
Mark Teixeira – Buy (obviously)
 
Curtis Granderson – Buy
I love, love, love the changes Grandy made to his stance/swing while working with hitting coach Kevin Long late last season. His homer came off of lefty Phil Coke, which is important because of Grandy’s recent history of struggling against left-handed pitching. His new stance keeps his front shoulder in longer and allows him to be shorter to the ball. I’ll buy a better AVG and 30-plus bombs from Grandy in 2011.
 
Torii Hunter – Hold (expect what you projected him to do)
 
Jeff Mathis – Sell
Mathis actually has some pop in his bat despite his meager showing last season. He hit as many as 21 homers in a minor league season — granted, those came in hitter-friendly Salt Lake City in a hitter friendly Pacific Coast League — and averaged 10-plus per season while down on the farm. I don’t think there is any reason he can’t hit around 10 homers in 2011. Expecting much AVG-wise may be another issue, however.
 
Mike Aviles – Hold
Not that I think Aviles will be a 20-home run bat, but I think he has the skills to be a valuable asset to fantasy owners in 2011 with 10-15 homers, a high AVG and 80-90 runs scored.
 
Jeff Francoeur – Sell
Remember how hot Frenchy was at the start of last season? Remember how he reverted back to his old hacking ways after that? Nuff said.