It wasn't a surprise that the immediate reaction on Twitter to Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick's launching a mammoth home run Thursday was about his ridiculously cool beard because, let's face it, it really is cool. It's not quite as shaggy or dark as what former closer Brian Wilson boasted in recent years, but Reddick should nevertheless be proud of himself. If only this was a fantasy category. As for the home run -- a first-inning blast off Seattle Mariners rookie Brandon Maurer, measured at 434 feet -- well, fantasy owners are probably a bit more interested in that.
Reddick hit 32 home runs last season, but those numbers kind of came out of nowhere and he certainly didn't help much in batting average, so an 0-for-10 start to the season is going to scare people. It shouldn't because it has been only a few days and this is a legitimate slugger, but fantasy owners are notably too reactive, even before the first weekend of the regular season. Reddick later doubled, hit a sacrifice fly, had another hit stolen when center fielder Franklin Gutierrez made a diving catch, but still delivered four RBIs to prematurely worried fantasy owners in Oakland's 8-2 win. The double to left-center was a nice harbinger as well, since Reddick was mainly a pull hitter in his breakout 2012 and has been working to adjust his approach.
An 18th-round choice in ESPN average live drafts, which is about five or six rounds later than I was prepared to take him, ESPN Fantasy projects Reddick for 25 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .254 batting average. I don't see much issue with that -- though I'd bump up the power -- but argue even a modest drop in power output is worth more than it used to be. Nobody had a higher fly ball rate last year, and although many would say his season is not repeatable, I also don't think Reddick's minor league numbers or approach tell us much. He's a different player now.
Reddick is owned in 100 percent of leagues, but if he has a slow start this season, it shouldn't be too tough to pry him away in potential trades. I'm a believer. This is certainly not a contender for the batting title, but as colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft proved this week, the bar for what a fantasy team needs to compete in batting average has been lowered, so much that even if Reddick can't hit .250, as long as he delivers 30 home runs he's more valuable than a player of his type used to be.
Ultimately we know that a slow week in April will land some of last season's surprises, like Reddick, on free agency in too many leagues. The wise fantasy owner should always be on the lookout for this. I've been trying to acquire Reddick in one of my leagues, and Thursday's performance will not help, not for what I hoped to get him for. Still, I don't view Reddick's 2012 as a fluke. I think it's legit. Maybe it's the beard that catches your eye on "SportsCenter," but it's the power that will make fantasy owners smile.
Box score bits (NL): One of the tougher starting pitchers to analyze this winter was Atlanta Braves right-hander Kris Medlen. After all, the guy delivered a 1.57 ERA last season. Medlen started 12 games last year, allowing 11 runs total, with none as messy as his outing Thursday, when he allowed 10 baserunners but only two runs in five innings. He remains a top-25 starter, for now. ... His teammate B.J. Upton whiffed two more times, including a streak of six consecutive strikeouts over two days, and remains hitless in 11 at-bats. Hey, you knew this was coming. So are 20 home runs and 35 steals. ... It's early, but I've seen roughly half of San Diego Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso's at-bats, and he's hitting the ball hard. If he could lift the ball more consistently, 20 home runs wouldn't be a stretch. ... Oh those Miami Marlins. Greg Dobbs will see regular time at first base now that Casey Kotchman is on the DL, and he hit cleanup. In deeper leagues, put a claim in for intriguing Joe Mahoney; he is able to come off the DL in about a week and will play. By the way, the Fish have 20 total bases after three inept games, but outfielder Justin Ruggiano -- I'm a fan -- has six of them. ... Great start for Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander James McDonald. Remember his terrific first half from 2012? He's capable of a repeat.
Box score bits (AL): It's looking like Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis has Player of the Week honors firmly in his grasp. Davis homered for the third consecutive game Thursday and has 11 RBIs already. Twelve teams have yet to score 11 runs. If you can trade Davis for a top-50 player, do it. I don't view his 2012 as a fluke either, but he's not a top-50 player, so be realistic. ... Brian Roberts left Thursday's game after feeling a pop in his hamstring. Ugh. It's a shame, but also a trend. Alexi Casilla stole 21 bases last year and should fill in and run. ... Neither Albert Pujols nor Josh Hamilton will enter the weekend hitting better than .100. And I'd still buy low. ... I wasn't buying Rick Porcello's walk-free spring, and I'm not buying now. He looked pretty ordinary allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings Thursday, and he doesn't miss bats. ... The Yankees moved Robinson Cano up to the No. 2 lineup spot. If that continues, and it probably won't, good luck approaching 100 RBIs. ... Great starts for catchers Tyler Flowers and J.P. Arencibia. Each has hit two home runs. I'd actually take Flowers first, but be prepared; neither hits close to .240.