I've been writing stuff like this for 13 years; now it's Eric Seidman's turn:
This will not be a lengthy or detailed post discussing what sample sizes are or why they carry importance, but rather a personal plea for fans and readers, especially of this site, to avoid overestimating talent based on a few good games in April. While we can deny ever falling prey to this issue, it is human nature to try and glean information from any and all angles, for whatever reason, be it an edge in a fantasy league or an article claiming why Player A should get more playing time/get a contract extension/get a date with Alyssa Milano.
Last night, Jordan Schafer kickstarted his major league career with a home run in his first at-bat. He followed it up with a single to centerfield. On the night, the 22-yr-old rookie went 2-3 with an intentional walk. Seeing as the Braves/Phillies matchup was the first of the season, on national television, I would not be surprised in the least if fantasy players flocked to free agent pools to put in a claim for Schafer's services. Now, Schafer may very well be a fine major league player but situations like this arise all too often, and they are particularly annoying. A player starts his season off on the right foot, fantasy players get all gooey-eyed, and then call the player a fluke upon dropping him in June on the heels of a .230/.310/.360 slash line.
Schafer could defy his projections and post excellent numbers this season but that is not the point. The point is that decisions should not be based on small sample sizes and we need to admit this is a problem before ever moving past it. It is one thing to discuss how a player has performed in a certain 10-game span, like during Lance Berkman's ridiculous stretch last season but it is a completely different animal to use such discussions or small samples as the basis for definitive performance claims. On a teamwide level, going crazy over Schafer right now would be equivalent to trying to decipher what is wrong with the Phillies. One measly game has been played. Let's not go crazy over players until we at least know a little bit about them.
Last year, Jordan Schafer batted .269/.378/.471 in the Double-A Southern League. Those were fine numbers for a 21-year-old center fielder with good wheels and a strong arm. Those numbers do not suggest that Schafer is ready, right now, to do anything more than hold his own against major league pitching. His projection according to Baseball Prospectus: .238/.308/.391.
We shouldn't be surprised if Schafer betters those numbers, because (1) projections are like shotgun blasts: We're just trying to get close; and (2) young players don't always develop the way you think they're going to. We also shouldn't be surprised if Schafer spends a good chunk of this summer in the International League, fighting for his next shot with the big club.