May 1st is the unofficial date in fantasy baseball where "small sample size" turns into something a little bit more. We are a little more than 1/6th of the way through the season so its time to look at the underlying trends and make some projections based on what we've seen so far. I tried to be a little bold with these predictions, but at the same time not going overboard because they are based on what the player has done so far this year.
1. Pedro Alvarez will hit 45+ HRs this year
Alvarez hit 6 home runs in the first month. A solid number, but its only on pace for 36 HRs. Why the optimism? Alvarez is only hitting just over .200 but his walk and strikeout rates are easily the best of his career without sacrificing power. That indicates to me that as a hitter he has made some improvements. Unfortunately, he has had terrible BABIP luck. Even if he hits just .230 which is what he did last year, he can hit 40 HR. Based on his improved patience at the plate I think his average can get even higher and with it go the home runs. A great buy low if someone is unhappy with the average.
Gordon currently leads the majors with 19 steals which keeps this from being a ridiculous prediction. However, most people are not optimistic that he will keep the starting job all year. The problem is that Alex Guerrero has been tearing up AAA so as soon as Gordon starts struggling Guerrero will probably get an opportunity. I still think Gordon can hit .275 with his speed and that should allow him enough plate appearances to steal 60+ bases. As for Hamilton, despite playing better recently I don't see him hitting over .220-.230 and because of that he won't have enough opportunities to outrun Gordon.
3. Starling Marte hits under .250 with a decrease in HRs and SBs
To me it seems like pitchers have figured out Marte. He doesn't walk much and he is tied for third in strikeouts. In addition to his paltry .229 batting average there has been almost no power to go along with it. He is slugging just .305. The steals have been there but if he continues to struggle at the plate Im not sure he'll get to 30. Its worth noting that even with his .229 BA his BABIP is still an above-average .343. Not good.
4. Melky Cabrera will be closer to his 2012 numbers than 2013.
Even when Cabrera was playing last year he did not look fully healthy. This year that is not the case and he had a great first month. He has a hit in all but 2 games so far this year with nice power and some speed. Even with some regression he seems like he has a great shot to hit over .300 with 20 home runs. I would pursue Cabrera if someone thinks they are selling high on him without asking too much.
5. Josmil Pinto establishes himself as a top-10 fantasy catcher.
Pinto has gone relatively unnoticed through the first month despite great HR and walk rates. No he wasn't going to hit .342 again as he did in his major league debut last year. He did hit .306 across several levels in 2012 and '13 combined. Most of that was below AAA but it still shows he is capable of contact and better than his current .198 average. Add to that his 20 HR potential and that is a very solid catcher. If you don't have a top player at the position, Pinto is worth a look.
6. Jose Fernandez is not the only above average fantasy SP on the Marlins.
Yordano Ventura may have gotten all the hype for the blazing fastball but Nathan Eovaldi throws a heater that averages 96 MPH. He has also exhibited excellent control so far. His start this season may be a small sample size but throw in last year and Eovaldi has 24 starts in the majors with a 3.17 ERA and 3.22 FIP. This guy should be owned in way more leagues than he is. It's also worth noting that the Marlins have top prospect Andrew Heaney dominating at AA. If he gets the call I expect him to also pitch well in the MLB.
7. Johnny Cueto stays healthy and remains dominant.
Cueto provided fantastic value on draft day. That was because there were some big injury concerns - he only pitched in 11 games last year and 24 in 2011. The talent is unquestionable. He hasn't had a season ERA over 2.82 since 2010. Its true that Cueto has been tremendously lucky so far. His BABIP is 2nd best among starting pitchers while he also ranks 1st in LOB%. But even when the ERA rises it should still be around 2.50. There is a health risk here, but Cueto is worth the gamble. If it weren't for Jose Fernandez, Cueto would be my Cy Young pick.
8. Drew Hutchison is the most valuable pitcher on the Blue Jays.
Okay sure, none of the Blue Jays pitchers are great unless you believe R.A. Dickey will return to the excellence he had with the Mets. Even so they still have Dickey, Buehrle and top prospect Marcus Stroman so it definitely won't be an easy accomplishment to be the best of that group as a rookie. Hutchison missed large parts of 2012 and 2013 with Tommy John surgery. Since coming back he has posted great strikeout rates at every level with decent control. He currently leads all Jays starters in FIP and XFIP by a healthy amount. As Buehrle comes back down, Hutchison should should overtake him as their ace.
9. Ian Kennedy wins 15 games and has an ERA under 3.30
I've always liked Ian Kennedy dating back to his days as a Yankees prospect. After having one fantastic year for the D'Backs he has been fairly mediocre since then. He improved after moving to the Padres last year but still didn't give us a reason to think he would pitch at an all-star level again. So far in 2014 he has career best strikeout and walk rates. His average fastball is over 1 MPH faster than its ever been in a full season. Even if those numbers regress a bit he looks great and he is pitching half his games in spacious Petco Park.
10. Shelby Miller will be fantasy irrelevant.
With great luck Miller has managed a 3.15 ERA so far this year. But its no secret that the Cardinals lost faith in him at the end of the season last year as he went almost untouched in the postseason. From April to August Shelby Miller struck out at least a batter per inning every single month. Suddenly in September his strikeouts were cut in half and it was chalked up to an endurance problem in his first full season at the major league level. Unfortunately April has now become the second month where Miller has posted a K/9 under 9 and it is still well below that at 6.82. This season he has also had terrible control tying the major league league in walks and home runs. These are awful awful indicators. Miller does not look right and if you can trade him for anything of value, I would do so.