Caution: Falling Values

Since returning from the disabled list, Andre Ethier is hitting .219 with one home run.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When a player starts off the season in a blaze of hits and RBI, fantasy owners suddenly expect him to continue at the same pace, no matter how unreasonable.

A perfect example of this "syndrome" occurred in the first week of the season when Philadelphia Phillies third baseman, Placido Polanco, got off to a hot start. Through the team's first 10 games, Polanco batted .444 with two homers, 12 RBI and an OPS of 1.116.

Around the office, I heard "he's my new favorite player" more than once.

But barring a player having a "career" year, most hitters and pitchers will soon "return to earth" and their normal production level. That's happened with Polanco, who through 62 games is now batting .318 with five home runs and 27 RBI.

Below are six more hitters who started out the season like a July firecracker, but of late have been more like a dud.

Andre Ethier - Until he was hurt in mid-May, Ethier was one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Through his first 33 games, the Dodgers' outfielder was batting .392 with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs and an OPS of 1.201. Since returning from the disabled list, Ethier is hitting .219 with one home run and nine RBI. His real level is somewhere in between these two extremes, so don't expect him to return to his April/May production. Perhaps you can still trade him while his numbers are high and get a star in return.

Jayson Werth - Werth began the season as if he was going to have one of those "contract years" in which everything goes perfectly and the player is rewarded with a free agent contract well above his production level. Through his first 29 games, Werth was batting .359 with six homers, 24 RBI and an OPS of 1.109. But in truth, Werth is a career .268 hitter and despite last year's great season (36 HR, 99 RBI), he'll likely end up somewhere in the .275 range for 2010. Since May 8th, Werth is batting .245 with seven homers and 24 RBI. If your team can absorb the lower batting average, I'd still keep him because he's going to knock in lots of runs and hit plenty of home runs.

Jeff Francoeur - In 2006 and 2007, Francoeur was a rising star in the Atlanta Braves organization. In his 2006 season, his full year in the major leagues, he posted 29 HR and 103 RBI. The following year he hit 19 HR, still knocked in over 100 runs and raised his batting average to a respectable .293 from .260 the previous season. Unfortunately, he fell off the fantasy landscape in 2008 and by 2009 was traded to the Mets. He had a pretty good second half of the year in New York, hitting .311 with 10 homers and 41 RBI. He continued that hot hitting right into the new season, batting 16-for-53 (.302) and slamming three homers in the first 14 games. Unfortunately, since that point he has reverted back to his normal level, batting .257. At this point he doesn't have much trade value, so if he's still on your roster you might as well keep him and hope for a hot streak or two down the stretch.

Kelly Johnson - Johnson, a borderline fantasy second baseman heading into the season, was one of the hottest hitters in April batting .313 with nine home runs and 18 RBI in his first 22 games. He was also one of the most picked up hitters in all of fantasy in the first month. But a player's statistics almost always return to their "normal" level and over the past two weeks he's batting .163 with no home runs. It's time to trade him while you can still get decent value and his numbers look good.

Alex Gonzalez - Gonzalez is a career .248 hitter who for the first two and-a- half months of the season was hitting the long ball with regularity. He has 14 homers already this year, and only three times in his 12-year career has he hit more. He's batting .227 over the past two weeks with just one home run. I believe the "party is over" and it's time to trade him while his value is at its peak.

Jason Heyward - The rookie is going to be a very good ballplayer, but the "hype" at the beginning of the season was way over the top, particularly after his opening day, game-winning home run. He batted .302 for the first dozen games, but he's striking out a lot (68 in 255 at-bats). If you are in a keeper league you must keep him because of his long-term upside, but in single-season leagues he should be traded.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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