Childs Play: Sorting through baseball's hot/cold starts

Some readers might remember that until last summer, Childs Walker wrote a weekly column on fantasy sports for The Sun. That ritual died for the cause of reducing newsprint costs (tough business, newspapers). But with the Toy Department open and its aisles boundless, Childs is back with his insights, laments and odes to joy regarding pretend baseball and pretend football. For previous editions of Childs Play, click here.

We're at the point in the baseball season when a lot of players look preposterously good or preposterously bad. And they've played enough that it's not quite so easy to shrug and say, "It's just one game."

That's what you should do. Whenever people ask me about their teams in April, I tell them to be patient and see where they stand after a month. If you know you have a weakness, that's one thing. But if you thought your team had great power going into the season, and you currently rank dead last in home runs, don't overreact.


That said, every owner wonders if the nobody who started hot will keep it up or whether the star with a 11.17 ERA (you're killing me, Cole Hamels) will regain his former glory. So here are my reads on some of the hottest and coldest starts of 2009.

Aaron Hill - I touted him two weeks ago, so I'm not going to turn around and say he sucks. Obviously, the Blue Jays second baseman isn't going to hit 40 home runs (he has five already.) But he showed two years ago that he can hit 15+ with a solid batting average. He remains an appealing option at second base, even if he's a sell-high candidate right now.


Zach Greinke - Fearless predictor says he won't hold opponents scoreless for the year. Seriously though, he's really good. He always had a sick combination of power fastball, sharply contrasting off-speed stuff and excellent control. Now that he has his non-playing life in order, he should remain pretty golden. You don't strike out 26 in 20 scoreless innings if you're a fluke.

Ian Kinsler - For a second straight year, he's looking like the best player in the American League early in the season. That can't be a total fluke, right? Kinsler will not continue to hit like Rogers Hornsby. But he carries a perfect profile for a fantasy star. He does everything well, he plays a position thin on offensive talent and his home park makes him look better than he is. As long as he stays healthy, he's a top-5 fantasy talent in the A.L., and I would not look to trade him.

Cole Hamels - Yeah, he's been lousy and yeah, he just told a reporter he was underprepared for the season. But his second start was better than his first, which happened in Colorado. His velocity has already improved. His control is fine. As long as he and the Phillies aren't hiding a more serious injury, I want him on my team.

Kevin Youkilis - I'll be honest. I love Youk, because I have him for $8 in my A.L. league. But I thought he played over his head last season. Maybe not, huh? Youkilis hit a lot of home runs that just cleared the fence in 2008, so I still expect his power totals to fall short of last year. He's a serious .300 threat, however, and he's back to drawing a lot of walks. Stick that package in the middle of a strong line-up, and the great production should continue.

Carlos Quentin - I could just about repeat my Youkilis comment. I have Quentin at a reasonable price ($16.) He broke out big-time last year. I expected less in 2009. But with seven homers, Quentin appears all the way back from a September wrist injury. His power stroke is obviously a perfect fit for his home park, so he should be fun to own as long as he remains in Chicago.

C.C. Sabathia - Again, we went through this last year. I'm sure stories will come out of New York that Sabathia is an overworked, out-of-shape, worn-down entity. There's nothing to like about his current pitching line. But the dude has never been bad in the major leagues and has never been less than excellent in the last three years. If you're selling, I'm buying.

Matt Kemp - I love this guy. He's not the most disciplined hitter, but he has always been able to make hard contact and he's an impressive athlete. Now that the Dodgers have stopped dicking around with him, I could see some .300, 30-homer, 30-steal seasons in the near future. Beyond the obvious guys like Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes, there's no young player I'd rather have from the National League.

Francisco Liriano - A perpetual reminder of the brutalities of pitching. He was as good as any starter in the league at age 22. But at age 25, post-surgery, he's not the same guy. He'll obviously improve on the 7.06 ERA, but his command isn't back, so rough patches could abound in 2009.

Jay Bruce - I'm counting on Bruce in two leagues, and that's an uncomfortable feeling. With three walks and 11 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances, he still doesn't make enough contact to hit for a good average. The 30-homer power is already there but the all-around package? Not yet.

Kosuke Fukudome - I liked Fukudome coming into this season. Many Japanese players have required an adjustment year, and his combination of plate patience and decent pop gave him a solid core of skills. He will cool down, but .280 with 15-17 homers and 15 steals isn't out of the question, and that's a useful player.

Nelson Cruz - The power is real. In that park, he could hit 25-30 home runs. Now, let's hope he starts running.

Brandon Inge - He's more .220 hitter than .320, though the reality lies somewhere in between. I love the position versatility, but he's a sell-high candidate.

Troy Tulowitzki - Sure, he's hitting .196 after a difficult 2008. But the Rockies have only played three of 14 games at home, so I trust Coors Field to take care of his slow start.

Jake Peavy - I feel like we go through this with him every other year. His 5.13 ERA looks bad, but everything else in his pitching line is the same as ever, and the park will always protect him. He remains a fantasy ace.

Jon Lester - Ditto to Peavy. His 5.50 ERA looks bad. Everything else about his performance looks good. Just ask the Orioles.

David Ortiz - I like Ortiz as a buy-low candidate. Talk up his age and the residual effects of his wrist injury. Point out the .220 average and .322 slugging average. Then snag a guy who can't help but drive in 100 in the middle of that line-up. He really wasn't that bad down the stretch in '08.

Heath Bell - Not a fluke. He has been one of the best relievers in baseball for three years. He just happens to be a closer now.

Fausto Carmona - He officially scares me now. As great as he looked as a power groundballer in 2007, you can't win consistently striking out four guys a game and walking five.

Ricky Nolasco - The 6.86 ERA is ugly, but he hasn't been very lucky on balls in play. His strikeout and walk data look fine, so I wouldn't worry.

Jarrod Washburn - His stats look great, but I just can't accept that 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA is reflective of his ability. Three years of lousy outweighs three starts of great.

Edison Volquez - You have to worry a little about 13 bb in 15 2/3 innings. That looks more like the second half of last year than the first.

Kyle Davies - I heard lots of positive reports on him coming out of spring training. The 21 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings tell me the reports weren't the usual March nonsense.

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