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Patience is a fantasy must

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The fantasy baseball season, like life, is a marathon, not a sprint, and therefore patience is a quality necessary to survive and thrive in it.

We're less than a dozen games into each team's season and now is not the time to "panic trade" your star first baseman Albert Pujols because he has yet to hit a home run.

In the case of Pujols, he's as close to a sure thing as there is in baseball. In each of his first 11 seasons, he's never hit less than 34 home runs, knocked in less than 99 RBIs or batted less than .299. So what if he's gone a personal-record 44 plate appearances to begin the season without reaching the cheap seats. Everyone knows by season's end, he'll produce.

So why are you in panic mode already?

If you own Pujols and keep staring at the big goose egg in the home run column, relax, you are not alone.

Here is a long list of home run hitters who have yet to test out there home run trot in 2012:

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado - Gonzalez has averaged 30 homers over the past two seasons. He's not off to a horrible start, he just hasn't hit the long ball yet. Gonzalez is batting .290 with a .796 OPS. "Cargo" is historically a much better second-half hitter with an OPS 115 points higher after the All- Star break. Therefore you must stay the course and weather the slow start to be rewarded with the big fantasy numbers.

Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees - Teixeira is the very definition of a slow starter. He has a career .238 batting average in April and just .270 before the All-Star break. After the break, he's a .292 hitter with 156 homers and a .939 OPS. Patience, my friend.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami - The young slugger hasn't quite played two full seasons in the majors and already has 56 home runs. Stanton hits one every 15.625 at-bats (for reference, Pujols hits one every 14.276 at-bats, and Ryan Braun every 17.988 at-bats). While Stanton is off to a slow start in April, that shouldn't be a surprise to fantasy owners who have looked deeper into the numbers. Stanton is a second-half hitter with an OPS 132 points higher (.789 vs. .921) after the "Summer Classic."

Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta - Uggla has hit 30-plus home runs in each of the last five seasons and he's healthy, so there is no reason to think the string will end anytime soon. It was just last year that Uggla got off to the slowest start of his career, batting .194 in April, .160 in May and .179 in June, and still he rebounded to bat .233 with 36 HRs and 82 RBIs.

Justin Upton, OF, Arizona - After finishing fourth in the 2011 National League MVP voting, a lot is expected of Upton from fantasy owners (Yahoo ADP 10). They are looking for continued improvement on last season's 105 runs, 31 HRs and 88 RBIs. So far, they haven't seen much, but the 24-year-old is too talented to jettison this early in the campaign.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston - I don't think of Ellsbury as a home run hitter, but he did smack 32 last season. Considering his previous best was nine, most experts expected his total to drop into the 20-25 range. After playing 158 games in 2011, Ellsbury will miss one or two months with a shoulder injury. While his season-long numbers will obviously take a big hit, trading him at this point in time will likely get you nothing resembling his true fantasy value in return.

Lance Berkman, 1B, St. Louis - Berkman surprised many fantasy owners when he blasted 31 homers last season. Even more of a shock was that the 14-year veteran managed to get 145 games out of his oft-injured body. Fantasy owners believed in his comeback at the 2012 draft and made him a seventh-round selection this season (ADP 78). Berkman is batting .375 this season, but without a home run and only one RBI. Worse, he's already missed a couple of games due an slightly torn left calf. This is one to watch and be wary.

Beside the seven "heavy hitters" listed above, there are plenty of good hitters who haven't hit a home run this season They include Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland; Jeff Francoeur, OF Kansas City; Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta; Torii Hunter, OF, Anaheim; Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto; Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh; Logan Morrison, OF, Miami; Jhonny Peralta, SS, Detroit; Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati; Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee; Mark Reynolds, 3B, Baltimore; Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Miami; and Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Boston.

The bottom line from all these examples is that it's far too early to make an accurate evaluation on any player. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything will be just fine so long as you don't panic 10 games into the season.

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


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