Cliff Lee (SP-PHI). Lee bounced back from his rough initial outing by shutting out the Cubs for 7 innings on Saturday afternoon, adding 6 Ks for good measure. However, the news wasn't all good as he was touched up for 10 hits (all singles) by the feeble Cub offense. Lee has now given up 21 hits over 12 innings so far, which is a disturbing trend. At 35 years old, we may be seeing the beginning of Lee's decline phase. I stayed away from Lee in drafts and if you are a Lee owner, it may be time to consider trying to flip him for a younger pitcher with a little more upside.
Jeff Samardzija (SP-CHC). Samardzija was the tough-luck loser opposite Lee on Saturday, giving up only 2 ER over seven innings while striking out 8. Samardzija, who appears to be determined to prove that the Cubs made a mistake in not extending his contract, has posted a 1.29 ERA over his first two starts. Although I wasn't able to get him, Samardzija was a target of mine in drafts and we like him to bounce back from his relatively disappointing 2013 as we project him to post a 3.62 ERA with 205 Ks.
Adeiny Hechevarria (SS-MIA). Hechevarria, after a four hit performance on Friday night, is batting leadoff again for the Marlins on Saturday. Although Hechevarria is uninspiring for fantasy purposes, he could achieve some NL-only value if he continues to hit in the leadoff spot. Hechevarria's woeful .227/.267/.298 line in 2013 was affected by a .270 BABIP, and if he can get his BA up over the .250 level, he could provide some positive impact in runs and SBs. Fangraphs' ZiPS projection system projects Hechevarria to put up a .254/.289/.345 line with 6 HR and 11 SBs. If he could achieve those numbers, while increasing his run total by virtue of hitting atop the Marlins' lineup (which has shown signs of being more productive this year), he would be roser-worthy in NL only leagues.
Stephen Strasburg (SP-WAS). Strasburg was lit up by the Braves for 6 runs (3 earned) in only 4.1 innings. This makes two un-Strasburg-like starts in a row, but it's probably nothing more than a little early-season rust. Strasburg's peripherals (16Ks in 10.1 innings) remain strong and his results in these two starts have been greatly impacted by an inflated BABIP and an extremely low strand rate. Having said that, Strasburg's fastball velocity is down from last year and, while this may just be an early-season anomaly, I will be watching Strasburg's next few starts carefully.
Adam LaRoche (1B-WAS). LaRoche went 2 for 2 with a 2-run HR off of Julio Teheran on Saturday night. Contrary to his history, LaRoche is off to a red-hot start, posting a .294/.478/.706 line with 2 HR and 8 RBI over his first 5 games. LaRoche seems to be on his way to posting a bounceback campaign after a disappointing 2013. Some rebound is to be expected, as LaRoche's 2013 numbers were impacted by a low .277 BABIP (which led to a .237 BA) and a low 12.6 HR/FB% (which was more than 2% lower than LaRoche's career rate and which led to a disappointing 20 HR total). LaRoche is not likely to match his 2012 total of 33 HR, but, at least based on the early returns, it is not unrealistic to expect 25 HR and a .260 BA out of LaRoche this year, which makes him worthy of CI consideration in at least deeper mixed leagues.
Charlie Blackmon (OF-COL). Blackmon went 3 for 4 with a run and an SB on Saturday night and appears to be winning the CF competition in Colorado. The big night raised Blackmon's slash line to a ludicrous .600/.619/.900 in the early going. While I still think Corey Dickerson has more upside, Blackmon's hot start makes him a must-add in NL only leagues. However, I would not be rushing out to add him in mixed leagues. There is nothing in Blackmon's minor league track record to indicate that he is capable of maintaining a high BA (.288 BA in hitter's paradise Colorado Springs in 2013), nor is there anything that would indicate that Blackmon is capable of posting elite HR or SB numbers (single season highs of 11 HR and 19 SB in AA). He will cool off and it would be a mistake to drop a more established OF for him based on his current hot streak, as Blackmon's playing time is by no means guaranteed with Stubbs and Dickerson still in the mix.