Fantasy baseball is a cruel game that rewards the patient and penalizes the impulsive. Owners who make knee-jerk decisions, dropping prized draft picks for the latest "it" player, occasionally benefit . Many times, however, they live to regret their hastiness.
Those who prematurely kicked Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt to the curb are a prime example.
After beating up on Double-A pitching for a large portion of 2011 (.306/.435/1.061), the Schmidt earned a late-season portion to showcase his wares. He immediately delivered. Seizing the D-Backs' first base job in August, he slashed an impressive .250-8-26-28-4 line over just 156 at-bats. Most outstandingly, the thunderous booms he delivered in key moments down the stretch helped vault Arizona into the playoffs.
Entering 2012, the Snake's scintillating finish raised the bar of exception to astronomical heights.
Back in March, when not rapping about college hoop RPIs and efficiency stats, the Noise incessantly fueled the Goldschmidt hype machine. On radio, local TV, webcasts and in print, bold predictions were made, most of which were admittedly regrettable (e.g. Goldy will finish ahead of Mark Teixeira). Still, I practiced what was preached, drafting the hulky power hitter in every league imaginable, including in the seventh round (No. 83 overall) of the Friends and Family league, a full round ahead of former boy toy Billy Butler.
To say he's disappointed would be a gross understatement.
Over the first month and a half, a sophomore slump overwhelmed Goldschmidt. Strikeouts mounted. O-fers were all too common. Southpaws, pitchers he usually mashed, vexed him. Worst of all, days off became routine. When yawn-worthy Lyle Overbay, the Applebee's of first basemen, forces a loose timeshare, you know you're in a miserable drought. Through May 15, Goldy ranked No. 28 among 1Bs and No. 467 overall, behind the likes of Ty Wigginton, Casey Kotchman and Garrett Jones. Owners in shallow formats dropped him en masse.
Instead of wallowing in misery, Goldschmidt pressed on, refining his plate approach both mentally and physically.
His diligence paid off.
Since mid-May the once downtrodden slugger has quietly sizzled. During that stretch, he's tallied a 15:9 K:BB split and .379-4-6-10-1 line over 58 at-bats, a top-10 output at his position. With his ISO, contact rates, his spot in the order finally climbing and again relishing success versus lefties (.333 BA on year), the master blaster is back on track. Kirk Gibson credits sharpened mechanics for the turnaround. From Fox Sports Arizona:
"Mechanically, he's better. He feels better. He's more confident," Gibson said. "He's certainly striking the ball … he's behind the ball now. You see it carrying more.
"He is not out on his front foot. He is not pulling off the ball. The bat is straight through the ball. The ball just takes off like that. Stay behind the ball and you use your strength. Everything comes together like it is supposed to be. His timing is better, so the ball comes off a little hotter."
For fantasy purposes, the 60-percent owned commodity needs to be reacquired in shallow mixers. The man possesses incredible raw power and can score in bunches. It would be no surprise if he kept pace or finished just ahead of Michael Young, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Dunn the rest of the way.
That happens and a certain follically-challenged blowhard will feel redeemed.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 381 at-bats, .268 BA, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 54 R, 7 SB
FLAMES OF THE WEEK
Francisco Liriano, Min, SP (22-percent owned) — Well, well, well. Francisco's "Fransucko" alter-ego might — and I emphasize "MIGHT" — be dead. After getting pounded like a nail in a coffin over the first two months of the season, the once cherished southpaw has undergone a swift and sudden revival. Over his past two starts he's allowed just one earned, punched out 17 and walked three, an astonishing turnabout. Since his breakout season in 2010, the three biggest gripes Liriano owners had were 1) Health, 2) Control and 3) Velocity. Again attracting umpire points with his slider and registering 94-96 mph on the gun with his four-seamer, he appears to be back. Doubters will continue to question, but if you pluck him off waivers, what's to lose? One more quality start and he's firmly seated in the circle of trust. Fully admit, I've run the gamut with Liriano, but, listen to Biggie Smalls, give him "One More Chance."
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 135.1 IP, 5 W, 3.94 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 136 K
Rajai Davis, Tor, OF (5-percent) — Speed is a powerful drug in fantasy and Davis has plenty of it. The optioning of Eric Thames to Triple-A paved the way for the utilityman to gain extra at-bats. Though his contribution in runs is suppressed batting down in the Jays order and his free-swinging ways (12.0 SwStr%) will keep his BA around .250, he offers premium steals upside. With 10 stolen bases in just 40 games, he is capable of swiping an additional 30-40 bags over the remainder of the season. Recall last year in just 95 games with Oh, Canada! he stole 34 bases. Still available even in some competitive formats, he could greatly bolster your ranking in SBs if you're lagging.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 348 at-bats, .254 BA, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 37 R, 34 SB
LAMES O' THE WEAK
James Shields, TB, SP — May was a thankless month for the innings eater. Wins were somewhat frequent, but his ERA (4.54) and WHIP (1.41) left a bitter taste in owner mouths. Despite the hike in those categories, Shields' soft market price likely won't last long. Beneath the surface lies a a pitcher with ace-quality numbers. He's maintained a strong swinging strike rate (10.7) and increased his K/9 ('11: 8.12, '12: 8.77). Most impressively, his groundball rate is up nearly 12 percent compared to last year. However, gopher balls have plagued him, evident in his 18.9 HR/FB percentage, well above his 11.8 career mark. If that return normalizes over the coming weeks, he should undergo a major ERA revival. His 3.13 xFIP supports exactly that. For opportunists, his face-plant against the Yankees Tuesday presents the perfect time to strike. Send out a feeler. In recent one-for-one swaps he attracted Aroldis Chapman, Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Zimmerman.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 157.1 IP, 8 W, 3.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 141 K
Howie Kendrick, LAA, 1B/2B/OF — Unable to shake the contagion that infected all Angels not named Mark Trumbo earlier this year, Kendrick has posted sickly numbers through the first third of the season. Hitting .292 May 12, his BA has plummeted some 40 points since. Homers and steals have also been few and far between. The last time he went yard was May 2. His last recorded steal, May 9. Kendrick believes it's all a balancing act and his numbers will be there in the end, but unless advancements within his underlying profile are made, the saber stats suggest otherwise. His swinging strike percentage rise ('11: 9.1, '12: 10.6) is quite worrisome. That accompanied with a sharp downturn in ISO (.116) stunts his long-term projection. Until he exudes more patience, his totals will continue to suffer. The Halo's versatility is quite useful, but in shallow mixers he's quickly becoming expendable.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 369 at-bats, .265 BA, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 40 R, 6 SB
QUICK HITTERS (Random musings from my demented brain)
• Juxtapose the career paths of Homer Bailey and Phil Hughes over one another and it appears the pair were forged from the same zygote. Both were highly touted prospects. Both experienced only modest success as starters. Both were banished to the bullpen. And now both are ascending rapidly. If I had to choose, Hughes would be the player to roster. Though his fly-ball rate is unnerving, especially when taking the hill at Yankees Stadium, his K:BB disparity (8.29 K/9, 2.34 BB/9) lends hope he can build on his recent surge. Provided he can overcome his bout of gopheritis (1.90 HR/9), his near 5.00 ERA could eventually drop below 4.00. The 13-percent owned righty is one to watch in shallow formats.
• It never ceases to amaze how quickly promising players with a track-record of success, albeit a short one, are miscast as busts by the common fantasy player. Like Goldy above, Eric Hosmer is another piece of low-hanging fruit worth plucking off the tree. His BA may still be hovering uncomfortably close to the Mendoza Line, but his other roto numbers are quite healthy. He's on a 21 homer, 88-RBI, 10-steal pace. After shortening his leg kick in an attempt to improve his timing, he's quietly started to turn things around. Over his past 11 games, the Royal is 15-for-41 with three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. It's doubtful he'll meet the mammoth expectations many put on him preseason, but a top-12 line at his position over the rest of the season is very attainable. This week he was traded this week for Jonathan Broxton, Jed Lowrie and Ichiro in one-for-one industry deals. The sales price is about to expire.
• I'm becoming increasingly convinced Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton is the love-child of a random Vince Coleman-FloJo hookup. Running wild — and that's a conservative description — at High-A Bakersfield, he has 63 stolen bases in 55 games. Yes, you read that correctly, he's averaging better than a steal per game. If he maintains his current blistering pace, he will finish with 163 swipes (Recall, seasons on the farm last 140 games, not 162). Behrens has already written extensively about the outfielder's exploits, but, again, he's a player to sacrifice a kidney for in deep keeper leagues. It's unlikely he'll even sip the Starbucks come September, but the throwback could become the ultimate catcher nuisance as early as 2013. I for one can't wait to see him blaze a line of fire on the big league basepaths.
• Justin Blackmon was charged with aggravated DUI after blowing a .24 (Siphoning gasoline?) at 3 AM over the weekend. His mugshot says it all. Isn't that the best "Yep, Blaine Gabbert is my (expletive) quarterback" expression you've ever seen? The passer's dreadful pocket awareness, poor reads and shoddy accuracy would drive almost any receiver to the bottle. It's doubtful Blackmon will face any suspension time for the incident since he's yet to sign a contract, but he's certainly earning an unwanted reputation. Still, for fantasy purposes, the hope here is A) He cleans up his act, B) Chad Henne seizes the starting reins from Gabbert early in the regular season. When healthy, the Oklahoma St. product is certainly talented enough to rack useful numbers. At this point my 65-850-6 fearless forecast remains. In other words, he's a fringe WR3 in 12-team leagues. And that's probably a generous prediction.
• Bath salts. Really? No asteroid. No catastrophic climate change. No little green men. If a designer-man-made-still-legal-in-many-states-substance-that-could-also-deodorize-one's-bathroom creates an unthinkable apocalyptic scenario, the Noise will be a wee bit peeved. Suppose it's time to befriend the entire U.S. archery team, one of the dude's from "Top Shot" and Kevin Durant. When "Walkers" overrun the planet, knowing people who are deadly accurate from long distances is a must. Aim for the head, amigos.
Want to bean Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 PM PT/8 PM ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio