Russell Martin's revival

Russell Martin already has more home runs this year than he had in the entire 2010 season. David Butler II/US Presswire

Branch Rickey famously said "it's better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late." As sports fans, we're similarly obsessed with pouring dirt on a player's grave. A slump makes us skeptical. An injury makes us fearful. One off year and we're ready to close the book on a player for good.

Thing is, baseball players' careers rarely look like perfect bell curves. A star seemingly in decline can come back strong, well into his 30s. Hot prospects can look like stars early on, fade away, then re-emerge when you don't expect it.

Six players are off to huge starts this season that few people expected. Since we're just three-and-a-half weeks into the season, it's too soon to assume they'll all continue to excel. But these strong beginnings remind us that giving up too soon on a player can -- with apologies to Mr. Rickey -- have its own repercussions.