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Historically Slow Starters to Avoid on Draft Day?

There is no telling how this 60-game jumble of a 2020 season will affect each MLB player individually. Some may relish the opportunity to have an outsized impact on the season. Others may feel uncomfortable playing at all, let alone be at full game speed in time for Opening Day. Regardless of the unknowns, however, there is something we can safely extrapolate.

Perennially slow starters - those players who ease into game action and need time to acclimate themselves to the league and opposing pitchers each season - will be even more detrimental to their respective teams in a two-month crunch. A player who starts slow will have no time to reverse his production. Unlike a normal year, a slow month or six weeks is more than half the season. At that point, his value is toast.

This is particularly relevant to fantasy teams. Owners cannot afford to draft slow starters this year. They will be unable to offer a meaningful return on the investment it cost to draft them. Thus, there is a batch of historically slow starters that should be avoided in fantasy.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Alex Bregman (3B/SS, HOU)

Bregman is a really good baseball player (assuming he can still hit without knowing what pitch is coming). Bregman is really good for almost all months of a normal season. As the weather gets nice, he gets cracking at the plate to the tune of a .902 career OPS in May and June. In the heat of the summer, he stays hot and then some: career OPS in July is .894; in August, it's a scalding .985. Then, when the weather gets cold again, he just stays in his zone. September is his second-best month, just a shade behind August.

There is one exception to the Bregman domination. He is really bad for his standards when the season first starts. Bregman has a career .765 OPS in March/April. That figure is completely torpedoed by his inability to hit for power. A .385 career slugging percentage is a figure normally reserved for ninth-place hitters who are known for their defense. Bregman is an MVP candidate in a normal season. Fantasy owners may not be able to expect anything close to that production if he starts 2020 like he starts every other season.


Yuli Gurriel (1B, HOU)

Perhaps there is something about early seasons in Houston (or that the team didn't start cheating until the weather got nice). But like Bregman, Gurriel is a much worse hitter in the early months of a new season. In March, April, and May for his career, Gurriel shows little to no power. His swing is off too because, despite similar BABIP figures across months, he can't crack .280 in the early going. His batting eye is off as well. Gurriel can't get on base before June.

Once June hits, Gurriel hits. His career batting average jumps 31 points from May to June. His OBP goes from putrid to okay to downright solid once the summer really blows through. His slugging percentage leaps from .376 in May to .493 in June and a whopping .604 in July. When the year begins, Gurriel is not good enough to warrant playing time. By the time he rounds into shape, he is a bonafide middle-of-the-order hitter. In 2020, there is no time to round into shape. If he's the normal Gurriel to begin a season, he shouldn't even be drafted in fantasy.


Byron Buxton (OF, MIN)

We thought, perhaps, maybe, hopefully, a shortened season would allow us to see an actual full year of Buxton. After all, he wouldn't have time to get hurt. Instead, he's already hurt heading into the year. But if you are one to see the positive of a foot sprain not sidelining him for long, you may want to steer clear of Buxton this season regardless.

Buxton has one of the most dramatic splits between first and second halves of any fantasy-relevant player. His .639 OPS and 82 tOPS+ in the first half for his career are in line with the very worst qualified hitters in baseball each season. His .814 OPS and 129 tOPS+ in the second half are figures more representative of a top 30 hitter in the AL in a given year.

Fans like to throw around the qualifier that, when he's healthy, Buxton is really good. That is simply not true. When he's healthy, he's really good half the time. The other half, he shouldn't be in the lineup.


Kole Calhoun (OF, ARI)

The split between Calhoun's normal first halves and second halves is very reminiscent of Gurriel's, albeit with a lower ceiling once things turn around. Calhoun struggles out of the gate on an annual basis but starts to hit entering June and July. The OPS from May to June jumps 109 points and not in a small sample. Calhoun has played long enough where this trend seems set in stone. If you want to quibble with Gurriel's inclusion because he only has 80 or so games in each calendar month, no such caveat fits Calhoun's resume. The outfielder has a roughly 75 percent larger sample each month than that.

Moving to a new team for the first time in his career shouldn't help matters. After eight years with the Angels, Calhoun now has to find his footing with Arizona. The added DH for the Diamondbacks helps iron out any potential playing time questions, but if Calhoun has his normal slow start, don't be surprised if the team's lineup flexibility bites him as players get shuffled around to fill a void.



Fantasy owners will have a lot of questions about how this season is going to play out. No one knows what to make of an unprecedented situation; not even the players themselves. If there is a safe way of building a fantasy team, though, it would be by avoiding historically slow starters. These guys won't be able to find a groove early enough to help a lineup. It's best to avoid them altogether at their expected draft position.

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