It’s really hard to win your fantasy baseball league in the first few rounds. But you can certainly lose it.  

Given the nature of the game, the players selected early should have a very narrow range of statistical outcomes when we take into account the scope of a 162-game season. There’s just no reason to gamble right out of the gate when we can pen in statistics for guys like McCutchen, Bautista, Felix, Posey, Price etc.

So as draft season vaults into full swing, we don’t want to get our mind set on positions or players to take in Rounds 1 through 3. We do want to go into drafts with a simple philosophy of safety up front, upside in the middle, risks in the back. Some guys to shy away from early on:

 

Climbing down Altuve

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve finished as fantasy’s No. 1 overall player last season, leading all of baseball in batting average (.341) and tying for second in steals (56). Here comes the regression. Altuve’s outrageous 2014 campaign was aided by an unsustainable/career-best .360 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and 56 steals – 21 more than his previous career-high. Paying top dollar for a two-category specialist who can’t repeat a perfect season is a recipe for disaster.  

 

Free for a reason

Freddie Freeman’s 2014 season was slightly concerning. He hit just 18 homers in 607 at-bats, with six of those jacks coming in April. That lack of pop is a concern, but the Braves lineup is the real nightmare. After losing Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton, Freeman is a threat to get pitched around by opponents often. Current projections have the likes of Jonny Gomes, Chris Johnson and Alberto Callaspo hitting behind Freeman. Add it up and there’s no way we should be fingering Freddie in the first 3-4 rounds.  

 

Petco Graveyard

Petco Park in San Diego is where offense goes to die. Based on adjusted runs, it was the second-most unfriendly park for scoring in 2014, worst in 2013 and fifth-worst in 2012. So even though the Padres upgraded their offense significantly this winter, this is not a place to target our fantasy hitters. That’s especially true in the case of Matt Kemp, who no longer brings stolen base upside thanks to the litany of injuries that have plagued him. And with the park sapping his power upside, we can safely avoid. 

 

NBA Pickups of the Week

Ish Smith, PG, Sixers – Earned the starting job over Isaiah Canaan with difference-making penetration ability.    

Dwight Howard, C, Rockets – After two months on the shelf, Howard (knee) is finally ready to be eased back in.  

Ryan Kelly, PF, Lakers — The tanking is on as Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill may get shut down. Kelly locked into 25-30 minutes.  

 

NFL News

Free agency couldn’t have gone much better for Jordan Matthews. The Eagles let Jeremy Maclin walk to Kansas City and added no other wideout help, leaving blocker Riley Cooper and unproven Josh Huff as outside “starters” for now. They also ditched the somewhat erratic Nick Foles for the highly accurate Sam Bradford. Matthews will be Bradford’s go-to guy out of the slot and will have top-12 fantasy WR upside as an NFL sophomore.