Fantasy Baseball: What storylines are we watching? (2024)

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You want to freak out, but you know you can't. It's just one game or two, and that just isn't enough to tell us much of anything.

There are some people who will tell you a total media blackout isn't the worst way to go about understanding the first few weeks of the major-league season. This line of thought centers around the idea that it is way too easy to overreact to the first few weeks of an MLB season, which leads to bad reasoning.

I'm sympathetic to this world view, but it's also totally unrealistic. For one thing, baseball is just an entertaining game; why would I ignore it? For another, just because it is easy to make mistakes by overreacting to early-season results, that doesn't mean they are totally meaningless. You can find the beginning of trends that could change your Fantasy season, or spot others that are continuing from last season.

With this in mind, I asked my Fantasy baseball colleagues for five storylines or signs they will be on high alert for over the next few weeks. Keep an eye on this stuff -- it could be important.

Or it could be meaningless. It's April!

What is Al Melchior watching for?

Fantasy Baseball: What storylines are we watching? (1)

1. Are there signs of a Johnny Cueto bounceback?
Cueto seriously struggled in the second half last season, especially after dealing with elbow issues. He was tagged for 11 runs in 10 1/3 spring innings, so can he turn things around in the early going and silence the skeptics?

2. How much are the Diamondbacks running?
With Jean Segura at the top of the order and Paul Goldschmidt having significantly better wheels than your average first sacker, will Chip Hale have the Diamondbacks on the move?

3. How much will Tyler White play?
Marwin Gonzalez got the start Tuesday at first base; White is expected to start Wednesday. Will he get enough playing time to translate his strong minor-league numbers?

4. Will Justin Verlander/Stephen Strasburg pick up where they left off?
Bother Verlander and Strasburg looked like the aces we expected them to be in the second half last season, but were still viewed as somewhat risky coming into the reason. Will skepticism be proven right?

5. Is the Francisco Lindor regression coming?
For all of his pedigree, Lindor simply wasn't much of a hitter in the minors, sporting a .738 OPS in 416 games; he cleared that by nearly 100 points in his first taste of the majors. Which is the real Lindor?

What is Chris Towers watching for?

Fantasy Baseball: What storylines are we watching? (2)

1. Can Byron Buxton hit major-league pitching?
Buxton is still just 22, so if he isn't ready for the majors yet, that isn't a big deal. However, he had a miserable spring and struck out three times on opening day, so he's got to start hitting soon.

2. Are Madison Bumgarner's spring issues real?
Bumgarner's shaky outing on Opening Day wouldn't be much of a reason for concern if he didn't struggle with injuries while giving up 14 runs in 11 1/3 innings in the spring. Is that a sign of more troubles to come?

3. Was Tulo's second-half swoon the new normal?
Tulowitzki left Coors Field last season, and his skeptics' worst fears came true; he homered just five times in 41 games, and hit a paltry .239 with the Blue Jays. Will a big spring be a sign of things to come?

4. Is Victor Martinez healthy and able to hit left-handed?
Martinez looked pretty V-Mart-y from the right side of the plate, as he hit lefties to the tune of an .870 OPS. However, he sported a paltry .616 line against righties as he dealt with lingering knee trouble. At 37, can he get back to full health?

5. Was Chris Tillman's velocity spike real?
I didn't even notice this one until this morning's episode of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, but Tillman was throwing heat before rain forced him out of Monday start. He averaged 94.8 MPH with his fastball -- maxed out at 96.8, per -- a mark he hasn't matched in an outing since 2012. Is that a sign that Tillman has a big season in him?

What is Heath Cummings watching for?

Fantasy Baseball: What storylines are we watching? (3)

1. Is Maikel Franco as good as I think?
Heath is a big believer in Franco, especially after watching him post solid power numbers tied to strong contact skills despite a wrist injury as a rookie. Can he put it together for a full season?

2. Can Carlos Martinez or Carlos Carrasco take the next step?
These players are firmly stuck in that "sub-elite" pitcher tier, but it's clear to anyone who watches them they have the talent to take the next step. Can Martinez avoid nagging injuries and put together a whole elite season? Can Carrasco stay healthy and keep the ball in the yard -- and get some help from his defense?

3. Are the Padres' pitchers still weird?
Tyson Ross can't stop walking people. James Shields' strikeout rate spiked, but an even bigger jump in his HR/9 kept him from succeeding. Andrew Cashner's wicked stuff doesn't often translate to strikeouts. Can these three overcome their various bugaboos?

4. Are any old players about to fall off the cliff?
If you've looked at our rankings page, Heath loves to question older players. He's the biggest skeptic. Will the likes of Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre continue to stave off time and prove him wrong?

5. Is Carlos Gomez himself again?
Carlos Gomez's game should have been well-suited to the short porch in left field in Houston, but he was a disaster, hitting just .242/.288/.383 after last year's trade; can he get back on track at 30?

What is Scott White watching for?

Fantasy Baseball: What storylines are we watching? (4)

1. How will Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler split at-bats?
Fowler should get the lion's share here with his ability to play center, but Soler and Schwarber have the kind of bats that can ruin any plan. How will Joe Maddon, one of the league's most flexible managers, wield this trio of weapons?

2. How will Dickerson adjusts to life after Coors?
An Opening Day homer helps, but Dickerson is still hitting just .249/.286/.410 away from Coors Field for his career, so doubts will persist until he puts them to rest.

3. How long can Trevor Story keep this up?
We figured Story could put a charge into a ball when he got into it, and he did that twice on Opening Day. The biggest question is whether he will make contact consistently enough to make that count.

4. Can Byung-Ho Park's power translate?
Park crushed 210 homers in 868 games in the Korean leagues, with 105 of them coming during a torrid two-season run that just came to an end. Can he do the same in the majors?

5. Who emerges in the ninth inning for the Phillies?
David Hernandez failed to record even a single out in his first taste of action this season, as he blew a lead in the eighth inning on Opening Day. Of course, that means Dalier Hinojosa was going to get the ninth if not for Hernandez's meltdown; can he keep the ball in the strike zone and keep that job?

Fantasy Baseball: What storylines are we watching? (2024)


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