One month into a season is no time to panic.
It's also no time to procrastinate.
It's a simple formula: The sooner you shore up your roster, the greater the long-term impact.
To that end, here are some hot starters who merit skepticism and slow ones who deserve patience.
Time to cash in
Jermaine Allensworth, Pirates CF. There's no evidence he's a .300 hitter. He batted .330 at Triple-A Calgary one season, but Calgary inflates offense pretty severely, and last season his average hopped around 100 points from month to month.
Glenallen Hill, Mariners LF. Streak hitter. His defense is atrocious, and I'm not sure how long Lou Piniella will stick with him when he slumps.
Jeff Juden, Brewers SP. If he makes it through a season without bloating up or cheesing off his manager, it'll be a first. Don't be bamboozled.
Hal Morris, Royals DH. This has to be the least productive .400 start I've seen. He's their No. 3 hitter, yet he has no homers and eight RBI. A DH! When his average drops he'll do you little good.
Henry Rodriguez, Cubs LF. Rodriguez has about as extreme a first half/second half split as you'll ever see. Last season he slugged .512 before the All-Star break, .422 after; in the past five seasons, his monthly slugging averages were .615 (March/April), .514, .438, .400, .405, .425. Most damning: Felipe Alou didn't want him; the Cubs did.
Don't give up on
Jose Cruz Jr. and Shawn Green, Blue Jays OFs. I wonder if Green needs to alter his off-season regimen, because he just can't break this April hex. Cruz is a typical free-swinging sophomore, and you have to be patient with this type.
Rockies 1B Todd Helton and SS Neifi Perez. Do I really have to say it? They're in Coors.
Andruw Jones, Braves CF. No, I won't let this go. It's excruciating to watch him flail away; with his talent he never should suffer through a month like this. It's like a singer _ let's call her "Celine" _ who forces her big, clear, accurate voice into ear-shattering overkill. Of course, Celine will always be abhorrent. Andruw will be exceptional.
Chan Ho Park, Dodgers SP. Back pain and mechanical flaws have wrecked his consistency. He feels better now, and the Dodgers, who in other respects might as well be managed by Basil Fawlty, usually are adept with pitchers.
Jay Powell, Marlins RP. Since I speculated that he'd lost the closer job, Powell has pitched okay. He blew a save Monday, but the tying hit was a squibber that sneaked through, and crucially, he threw strikes. Jim Leyland showed enough confidence to use him with the game on the line.
Fernando Tatis, Rangers 3B. He jumped from Double A last season and his swing is a bit long, so it's natural he'd struggle. He's also strong, smart and motivated, and though he hasn't shown it he understands the strike zone. He'll be fine.
On the fence
Albert Belle, White Sox LF. About two years ago I offhandedly compared Belle with George Foster _ a slow, slugging, right-handed leftfielder who at 28 won an MVP for a season similar to one for which Belle, at 28, got robbed of his. That's the model _ you probably could think of a dozen more parallels. Trouble is, their skills are so limited that when their bats turn sluggish they cease to be useful Belle's a fanatically devoted athlete, and though some might say psychopathic, no one says stupid. I don't expect him to contend for an MVP again.
Bret Saberhagen, Red Sox SP. Injuries obscured it, but prime Sabes was the best pitcher in baseball after Roger Clemens. In that respect his start is unsurprising; he's plenty capable of adjusting to diminished velocity. Balancing that are his injury history and a middling Red Sox offense. It's a great story, but his value probably is as high as it'll ever be.