Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fantasy Funkhouser: The LEAP Game

When Jose Fernandez takes the bump tonight; every fantasy owner should be paying attention. (Getty)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

There's a popular term out there in both real and fantasy sports known as the leap year. The year in which a promising prospect or player with a couple years in the league takes the leap to another level. Attains a higher clout in his sport, and makes more disbelievers into believers. Getting such a player during such a year in fantasy is the ultimate joy. Especially in keeper leagues where you've been through some of the ups and downs that come with attempting to master a sport at a young age. I'm looking at you Justin Upton.

Well, on the micro level - with small sample sizes all over the place - there is also a leap game. A game that serves as the breaking point for a lot of fantasy owners who are monitoring specific players. You're seeing them perform early on, don't believe it - then they put a game together where you go, "Ok, I'm in on this guy."

The two more recent successful ventures I can remember (because who remembers the failures?) was Adam Dunn last year and Jose Bautista in his legendary 2010 year. Last year, Dunn - who was coming off a horrific year - hit two homers in Seattle on April 20th and I thought he was a good rebound candidate, so seeing the power was back was what I needed to add him. 41 homers and 96 RBI later, he was one of the best pick ups of the year.

Of course in 2010, no one expected anything out of Jose Bautista, and that can be evidenced by the fact that I was the first person in my league to add him ... on May 23rd. By that point he had already dinged 13 homers en route to his career and leading homerun total of 54. I also learned another important lesson that year, if a guy is tearing it up - just add him. Risk is minimal and the rewards are potentially high.

Some guys this year I've been an earlier buyer on in free agency: Coco Crisp, Evan Gattis, Starling Marte, and I'm almost there with Jose Quintana. But the cream of the crop thus far has been Jose Fernandez.

So have I struck gold, or have his first two starts just been against inept offenses? I'm tending to lean more towards the former than the latter, but that's where tonight's game comes into play. Fernandez will be on the road in Cincinnati taking on the Reds. As it stands right now, I'm sure there are a lot of skeptics on this 20 year old that was suddenly brought up and pitching for the worst team in baseball, but if he can go out and dominate the Reds - well, then you have the leap game.

Doubters will become believers and Fernandez's fantasy value will go through the roof. In the main league I own him in, I'm avidly attempting to trade him. Not because I don't believe in him, but because I have some nice pitching already, and I need to focus on winning this year, not the next couple of years. Fernandez is a valuable asset in the interim, but an innings cap and potential rough patches down the road make him more trade bait for me.

Depending on what side of the line you fall on, fantasy owners should be actively pursuing Fernandez now - not after tonight. If you're worried now what you'll have to give up for him ... well, come 10:30 pm ET tonight, if he has his leap game, that price just went up.

As a seller on Fernandez, for the reasons mentioned above, I have some offers out for him, but probably an hour before game time, I'm pulling them all. Unless he's scratched with the flu, any other outcome will either negate the trade I currently have out there or boost his value higher. I'm not leaving that decision in another owner's hands because he wants to wait and see how this evening turns out.

Personally, in a Matt Harvey world, I'm surprised someone isn't willing to jump in on Fernandez just because. I'm not the kind of owner that will hold Fernandez hostage for an elite pitcher (for example, I offered him straight up for Dan Haren a week ago ... thankfully, that was not accepted).

On the macro level - this start won't be the end of the world for Fernandez. If he gets knocked around, it doesn't mean he's no longer an elite talent. He could go strike out 15 in his next outing, but if he is able to succeed, this will drastically alter his value. He'll be in all the fantasy write-ups tomorrow and people will begin to believe.

The Funkman is down the rabbit hole: He's beginning to believe!

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