And now, for a history lesson. Once upon a time, there was a young hitting machine for the Cleveland Indians that left many a fantasy owner drooling in anticipation for a star-studded career — both for the Indians, and as a first-base fantasy mainstay.
And who could blame the masses? This power hitter finished the 2006 season with 42 homers, 117 RBI and 100 runs scored — all with a .300 batting average in 454 at-bats. Travis Hafner was on his way — except …
His numbers dipped in 2007, with 24 round-trippers, 100 RBI and 80 runs scored in 545 at-bats. Baseball fans were suspicious, but willing to give “Pronk” a second chance to become the savior of Cleveland.
And then, in 2008, the wheels completely fell off the Hafner wagon. Riddled with injuries, mental miscues and overall ineptitude, Hafner played in just 52 games, with 198 at-bats, and hit just five home runs. Hef finished with an unexcuseable 24 RBI, 21 runs scored and a paltry .197 batting average. Pronk, for all fantasy baseball purposes, had become extinct.
And yet, while Hafner’s career hit the proverbial wall, there has never been any question that he has the raw talent and skills to succeed.
Fast forward to the present. Hafner has completed his first week of the regular season. In 20 at-bats, he already has three home runs, six RBI and four runs scored. He is batting .283. Sure, the sample size is small, and there is a definite possibility that Hafner will have more bad games than good throughout the course of the season, but it makes perfect sense to consider Hafner as a sleeper with upside this season, based solely on alent alone.
Sure, there may be a few better options on your respective waiver wires — but I guarantee that there are hundreds of worse risks to take a flyer on. I would urge fantasy baseball owners in all leagues to take a good look at Hafner and consider picking him up before others take a chance and reap the possible statistical benefits.
What do you think of Hafner’s first week of play in 2009? A sign of things to come, or a fantasy tease? We’d love to hear your opinion.