Solitaire with draft bargains will pay off for league managers

It’s easy to panic when players struggle at the beginning of the season (hello, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and countless others).

Roto Rage always preaches patience, even if things look really ugly. Just because a player doesn’t excel right off the bat (pun intended), doesn’t mean they won’t as the season progresses and the weather gets warmer.

The worst thing you can do is drop a player — especially one you drafted as a key piece of your team — because of a cold start (this is why there are bench spots). The last thing you want is a player you drafted helping your competition down the line because of your impatience early on.

It has been said a million times, but we’re going to say it again: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Colorado’s Brendan Rodgers struggled mightily (and even that is putting it mildly) over his first 14 games, hitting .078 — yeah, that’s right, .078 — with no homers, three runs, one RBI and 16 strikeouts. He had a .172 on-base percentage and a .098 slugging percentage (.270 OPS).

Among players with a minimum of 50 plate appearances, Rodgers ranked dead last in average, slugging percentage and OPS, and had the third-worst OBP.

Those numbers made Roto Rage look foolish for calling him one of the best draft bargains and the most underrated second baseman heading into the season. It also made every fantasy owner who used a valuable mid-round pick to snag him nervous — and rightfully so.

Gleyber Torres has been a hot hitter for the Yankees in the month of May and has been an excellent bargain for fantasy baseball managers.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Once May hit, however, Rodgers was like Lincoln Hawk turning his hat around before facing Bob “Bull” Hurley in “Over the Top.”

Over his first 14 games this month, Rodgers was 21-for-58 (.362) with two homers, 16 RBIs, 11 runs and just 10 strikeouts. He had a .569 slugging percentage and .373 on-base percentage (.942 OPS).

Though Rodgers entered the weekend with the fifth-worst walk rate (1.6 percent) in the majors this month, he ranked 11th in average, 30th in runs and ninth in RBIs. He also ranked 17th in slugging percentage and 27th in OPS, which is quite the turnaround from his horrific start.

Is he going to be this good for the remainder of the season? Not with the unsustainable .413 BaBIP he has had this month, but Rodgers will not be anywhere near as bad as he was in April. He is available in 60 percent of ESPN leagues, so now is a good time to make your team stronger by taking advantage of impatient owners who dropped him (or pick him back up if you were the one who dropped him).

Here’s a look at some other players who have started to turn things around after slow starts:

Over his first 17 games, the Reds’ Tommy Pham was hitting .186 with three homers, four RBIs, 17 strikeouts and a .667 OPS. In his past 18 games, the 34-year-old raised his average to .240 after going 19-for-66 (.288) with a homer, eight RBIs, 12 runs, two stolen bases and a .784 OPS. He is a solid veteran outfielder who remains available in 55 percent of ESPN leagues.

Gleyber Torres was an All Star in his first two big-league seasons, but looked nothing like that player in 2020 or 2021. Despite being one of Roto Rage’s favorite bargain draft targets, it looked like nothing had changed over his first 11 games (. 143, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 R, 9 SO, .491 OPS). The 25-year-old flipped the script in his first 24 games since April 21, going 23-for-81 (.284) with four homers, 17 RBIs, nine runs and a .816 OPS.

Avisail Garcia of the Marlins is still hitting just .213 for the season, but the 30-year-old entered Friday with a at least one hit in nine of his previous 11 games while going 13-for-45 (.289) with two homers, five RBIs, a stolen base, five runs and a .727 OPS in that span. He ranks in the top 1 percent in the league in max exit velocity.

Last year’s World Series MVP, Jorge Soler, was hitting .167 after his first 26 games for Miami, but raised his average to a still terrible .195 after going 10-for-37 (.270) with four homers, 10 RBIs and a .929 OPS in his past nine games.

The Dodgers’ Justin Turner was hitting .168 with one homer, 13 RBIs, 20 strikeouts and a .469 OPS over his first 26 games, but went 10-for-33 (.303) with three homers, 15 RBIs and a 1,070 OPS about his previous nine games before Friday night.

Big Hits

Freddy Peralta SP, Brewers

Over his past three starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA, 25-4 strikeout-walk rate and .177 opponents average. Has a 1.57 ERA with 38 strikeouts, six walks and a .168 opponent average over his past five starts.

Paul Goldschmist 1B, Cardinals

Entered Friday on a 12-game hit streak, going 22-for-50 (.440) with four homers, 16 RBIs, 10 runs, a stolen base and a 1.333 OPS in that span.

Paul Goldschmidt entered Friday with a 12-game hit streak.
Paul Goldschmidt entered Friday with a 12-game hit streak.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Tony Gonsolin SP, Dodgers

Hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in his first seven starts, and is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and .132 opponent average in his first three starts this month.

Kolten Wong 2B, Brewers

At least one hit in 12 of his past 13 games entering Friday, going 15-for-47 (.319) with three HRs, six RBIs, 10 runs, five stolen bases and a 1.041 OPS.

Big Whiffs

Joc Pederson OF, Giants

Watched his average plunge from .353 on April 27 to .222 on Tuesday after going 2-for-39 (.051) with one homer, four RBIs, two runs, 11 strikeouts and a .284 OPS in his first 13 games this month .

Steven Matz SP, Cardinals

Allowed seven homers in his past three starts while going 0-2 with a 8.56 ERA and a .263 opponent average and .949 OPS in that span.

Chris Taylor OF/2B/3B/SS, Dodgers

Tied with Patrick Wisdom for the most strikeouts (38) from April 19 through Thursday. He was hitting .207 with a .675 OPS in that span.

Chris Taylor, despite being an All Star last season, has been on a cold streak.
Chris Taylor, despite being an All Star last season, has been on a cold streak.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Nathan Eovaldi SP, Red Sox

He is 0-2 with a 8.31 ERA, seven homers allowed and a .351 opponent average in his first three starts this month. No wins since April 13.

Check Swings

Brandon Nimmo had at least one hit in 15 of his first 17 games this month, going 20-for-66 (.303) with seven RBIs, 12 runs and a .819 OPS. He entered the weekend ranked eighth in the NL in walk rate (13.7 percent), ninth in on-base percentage (.391) and 13th in runs (23). He also had the 15th-lowest strikeout rate (15 percent) in the NL.

– After struggling over his first 26 games (.141, no homers, six RBIs, four runs, .341 OPS), the Royals’ Whit Merrifield entered the weekend on a 10-game hit streak during which he was 16-for-43 (.372) with two homers, 10 RBIs, 10 runs, three stolen bases and a .949 OPS.

Whit Merrfield has picked up his play after a slow start to the beginning of the 2022 MLB season.
Whit Merrfield has picked up his play after a slow start to the beginning of the 2022 MLB season.
Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

David Bednar, available in 35 percent of ESPN leagues, has a 27-3 strikeout-walk rate for the Pirates while maintaining a 0.90 ERA and .132 opponent average in his first 16 appearances. He also is 8-for-8 in save chances.

Team Name of the Week

Harold & Kumar Rocker Go to White Castle

Submitted by Brad Smith

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