Four games into his major league career, Jay Bruce is 8-for-14 with two doubles and two stolen bases. For comparison, Ryan Braun, last year’s absurdly amazing (and cute) rookie, was a meager 4-for-15 with one double, one stolen base, and one home run. If you used your waiver priority (or a draft pick, as in my league) on Bruce, you should be feeling pretty good right now. It’ll be hard to match Braun’s crazy home run total from last year (34 in 113 games!), but whatever he does, Bruce is this year’s difference-making rookie. At least in fantasy. The Reds are pretty bad, with or without him.
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Managing a fantasy baseball team is about more than drafting a guaranteed 40-home run hitter, or a 200-strikeout pitcher. It’s about putting together a team of players that you believe in. It’s about taking a chance on an athletic young right fielder with quick hands, on a new setup man with dangerous movement on his fastball, on an aging first baseman-turned-dh who may or may not have anything left but has this look in his eye that says you can still trust him with men on in the late innings.
Some people give in to home team bias and draft the entire starting outfield, others stubbornly or superstitiously avoid their teams’ aces to prevent double heartbreak. Personally, I won’t go near players that have publicly revealed themselves to be schmucks — the offenses range from the minor and perhaps imagined (hitting a little too well against my home team, and smirking while doing so) to the more legitimate (regular hissy fits), to the genuinely despicable (domestic abuse).
And I have a soft spot for the cute ones. Sometimes that works – see Barry Zito’s stats, 2000-2003. Sometimes that doesn’t – see Barry Zito’s stats, 2007. Either way, having a stake in a sexy, shaggy-haired pitcher’s strikeout total in an otherwise meaningless game is exactly what fantasy baseball is about.