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Engel's Angles - Darvish's Struggles, Alcantara's Breakout and More

Each week, I will be bringing you my latest insights from around the Fantasy world. For now, I will be gathering storylines from around Major League Baseball.

This week, we look at very early results and how some intangibles and health issues can factor in overall outlooks for spotlighted players. Is it too early to panic about Yu Darvish? Is Sandy Alcantara for real? Let's take a look at some of the most interesting storylines from Week 1 of the fantasy baseball season.

Editor's Note: Scott Engel is a 20-plus year veteran of the fantasy sports industry and an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Check out his Insider series by subscribing to our Premium MLB Package.

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Less Than Impressive Starts

Those who believed that Yu Darvish was a great value pick this spring were slapped in the face immediately when he walked seven and allowed three runs in Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Pitching coach Tom Hottovy told the Chicago Tribune that Darvish may have been too hyped by pitching his first game of the season at his old Texas ballpark. This is an intangible part of the game that fantasy owners must consider. Not only did Darvish want to put the memory of a lost season behind him quickly, but he also wanted to do so against his former team in their home venue.

Many other notable starting pitchers began the season with rocky outings, so maintain some confidence in Darvish for his next start Thursday against the Braves. Atlanta is hitting .221 with just 11 runs generated so far and Darvish should be a good DFS play.

-I have completely avoided Joey Votto this year and recommended that fantasy owners do the same. In fact, some fantasy analysts in the preseason wondered if Votto had any lingering back issues. Such speculation is unfounded but did not add any confidence to my outlook on him. Votto has heard the talk, as he recently wore a “Decline Phase” T-shirt during a recent pregame workout. Well, it’s too early to tell anything from one series, but Votto does not have an RBI yet. His pre-2018 history suggests Votto could still rebound and maybe last season was an aberration. But the drop-off was so instantly sharp that I remain skeptical and at age 35, continued struggles in the power and RBI departments are highly likely.

-Maybe Josh Donaldson needs to contact Joey Votto’s T-shirt company? He has one hit in his first 11 at-bats. I believe injuries may finally have caught up to Donaldson at this point of his career. I am not just saying that because of a few bad games, either. Yes, he did hit 33 homers two years ago, but he also hit .246 that season. An age of 33 years old does not mean the end for many players, but he has been plagued by a lot of health problems over the past three years that have accelerated his progressive decline. I would deal Donaldson to a believer if you drafted him.


Breakout Players to Watch

-There does not seem to be much excitement coming out of Miami, but Sandy Alcantara may have delivered a breakout performance in Sunday’s win over Colorado. Alcantara pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out six. Most impressively, Alcantara did not issue a single walk. That was a very positive sign for him when you consider he walked 23 batters in 34 innings pitched last season, and control was an obvious concern entering 2019. Neil Walker noted that Alcantara’s slider was working well, and the Marlins pitcher also said his secondary stuff was effective. If he can maintain command and keep throwing other pitches besides his heater effectively. Alcantara could continue to flourish. Alcantara is owned in only 4.3 percent of ESPN leagues right now.

-The Tigers juggled their lineup for Sunday’s win over Toronto. The most notable change Ron Gardenhire made was to boldly put Jeimer Candelario in the leadoff spot, and he responded with a career-high five hits after going 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts to open the season. Candelario hit .224 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 192 at-bats in the leadoff spot last year. Most importantly, he only had a .314 OBP. He had two RBI on Sunday. This is a trend to monitor to see if Candelario can run with the lineup change and show even more signs of improvement in 2019. Josh Harrison hit .091 as the Detroit leadoff hitter in the first three games. Harrison obviously has more speed, but cannot utilize it if he is not getting on base. The move can possibly boost the confidence of Candelario.

-After 26 at-bats, Domingo Santana is hitting .308 with three home runs and 10 RBI as the Mariners offense has been impressive as a whole very early. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports recently indicated that all Santana needed was a comfortable spot in the lineup to call his own. He believes if Santana plays well, other teams may start calling Seattle to see if they can trade for him. But the Mariners may want to keep him for a long time. Mentally, it seems Santana has started to settle into his new home quickly after being bounced out of position in Milwaukee. Having a good level of comfort with a new team could go a long way to Santana regaining his 2017 form for fantasy players who spent a later pick on him this season.


Not Exciting But Still Effective

-The Rangers certainly landed a “glue guy” to stabilize the longtime third base position left empty by Adrian Beltre. Asdrubal Cabrera seems to be the unsexiest of acquisitions in the real and fantasy world. Yet he is already making a quick mark with a .455 average, two home runs, five RBI and five runs scored. You can certainly expect a .270 average and 20-plus homers, which is really good for a late flier. If you make an offer for him now, some other owner will think he is duping you because of his hot start. But you won’t have to give up much and will end up with great depth production. Cabrera does not get enough respect from fantasy players and fans, but he is considered a clubhouse and lineup stalwart to his teammates.

-Kole Calhoun is hitting .313 so far with a .375 OBP and a .625 slugging percentage. The Angels really need Calhoun to keep stepping up with Justin Upton out and not much else power-wise in the lineup. Justin Bour can hit homers in bunches, but when he is cold, Calhoun has to step into that void. Last year, Calhoun hit 10 home runs in July, so he is capable of filling a power gap. The pressure is on Calhoun right now, so you will either see him respond to your fantasy delight, or swoon to the point where you will have to replace him in your lineup. We’ll know soon which scenario applies.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice