SP James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
In competitive leagues with savvy players, Paxton was costly. In others, he was a bargain. I was surprised to see he lasted until round 14 of the Sirius XM Host League, which consists of 12 owners. I took him with joy! Paxton has yet to allow a run through 12 innings with both starts against a good Astros lineup. He has allowed six hits, walked three and struck out 13. He averaged close to 97 miles per hour with his fastball last season, had an 11.7 percent swinging strike rate, a 22.9 percent strikeout rate and a 4.7 percent walk rate. He had a 48.1 percent ground ball rate and 30.1 percent fly ball rate. Paxton made 20 starts and went 6-7 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. The underlying numbers indicate he had some bad luck with a .347 BABIP, a 66.3 percent strand rate and 2.80 FIP. Paxton threw 121 innings with the Mariners last season and 50.2 innings in the minors. The 171.2 innings combined was the most he has ever thrown in a single season. He got better in the second half of 2016, producing a 24.4 percent strikeout rate, 3.4 percent walk rate and a 1.11 WHIP over 72.2 innings. Paxton is the real deal and is someone to hold. If you didn't draft him, attempt to make a deal for him as soon as he has a bad start. There's some injury risk, but that is the case with almost every pitcher.
OF Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers
There's no doubt Mazara has the talent. He turns 22 years old at the end of the month and had a good rookie season last year in which he batted .266 with 59 runs, 20 home runs, 64 RBIs and a .739 OPS. He started hot and cooled off with a .723 OPS in the second half. Once again, Mazara has started with a bang. He is batting .368 with nine runs, three home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.073 OPS in 38 at-bats. A good sign is he's been batting third in the lineup. Mazara has struck out 22 percent of the time and walked 4.9 percent of the time. He needs to hit more fly balls to take another step up and hit for more power. Mazara had a 29.7 percent fly ball rate last season and 31 percent this season. The youngster will be good, but he doesn't appear to be a difference maker yet. If someone sends you a good offer for him based on the hot start, don't hesitate to move him in a redraft league.
1B Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Zimmermann was drafted in very few mixed leagues. He was a popular pickup on waiver wires last weekend. He's off to a great start, batting .382 with six runs, three home runs, six RBIs and even a stolen base in 34 at-bats. Zimmermann has been productive when he's been on the field the last few seasons, but that's the issue. He can't stay on the field. Health has prevented him from playing many games. He has played 61, 95 and 115 games the last three seasons. Zimmermann is still striking out often with a 27.8 percent rate and his hard hit rate is 29.2 percent, which is down from the last few seasons, although it is a limited sample size. There can't be many teams that will trade anything valuable for him, but if there is one sending an offer, make the deal.
1B Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians
It hasn't been a great start for Encarnacion after signing a three-year, $60 million deal with the Indians. We often see free agents struggle out of the gate after signing big contracts. They tend to press and justify the contract and that might be happening for Encarnacion. He is batting .156 with two runs, one home run and one RBI with a 13:6 K:BB ratio in 34 at-bats. Encarnacion is hitting the ball hard with a 42.1 percent hard hit rate. He has five consecutive seasons of at least 34 home runs. Time to buy on Encarnacion.
SP Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics
Through two starts, Manaea hasn't lived up to the expectations many had for him, including myself. He is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. The WHIP immediately indicates he hasn't allowed a lot of base runners. Manaea has pitched 11.1 innings and allowed eight hits, four walks and struck out 14 batters. He has hit three batters after hitting only four in 144.2 innings last season. Manaea has an extremely unlucky strand rate with a 36.8 percent mark. His career average is 71.8 percent. Manaea is getting strikeouts, has a 64.3 percent ground ball rate and a 19.1 percent swinging strike rate. Clearly, that's not sustainable, but he had an 11.8 percent mark last season. He is someone to buy while you still can now.
OF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
It's getting worse for Buxton. He's looks awful at the plate and keeps striking out. Buxton began the year hitting third in the order and was recently dropped to the bottom third. Buxton is batting .088 with one run, no home runs, no RBIs and one stolen base while striking out 19 times compared to drawing one walk over 34 at-bats. Buxton has been widely regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball for a few seasons, but has had injuries and not spent a lot of time in the minor leagues. He struggled most of 2016 before getting very hot in September, leading some to believe he figured some things out. Buxton hit nine home runs last September and most of them came against real good pitchers. He batted .287 with a .357 on-base percentage and a .653 slugging percentage over than span, but he still struck out 33.3 percent of the time and had a .370 BABIP. Clearly, he wasn't going to maintain the power streak, but the strikeouts were alarming. Pitchers will continue to throw him breaking balls and less fastballs. I have Buxton in a 15-team mixed league, so I will hold and bench him for now. That being said, in more shallow leagues, you can't be patient much longer.