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Stock Watch: Buy & Sell Analysis

Nothing increases a player's value more in a standard eight- or 10-category league than when a reliever moves into the closer's role.  This month's trading deadline provides the best opportunity to pick up future closers from the waiver wire and either move up in saves or make a deal to solidify your roster in other areas (I recommend dealing a closer to a team that is right below your opponent at the top of the standings in saves so your opponent drops in saves while you increase points in other categories).  This week's Stock Watch will emphasize relievers you should be claiming off waiver wires because they may soon jump into the closer's role:

Buy

  • Mat Latos - After giving up only two earned runs in his last three starts covering 25 innings, Latos is finally out of his season-long funk after an offseason trade to the Reds.  With a 4.13 ERA on the season, perhaps Latos can still be acquired on the relative cheap from a disgruntled owner that suffered through Latos' terrible start to the season. Last year Latos had a slow first half before compiling a 2.87 ERA and 1.00 WHIP after the All-Star break (however, the opposite was true in 2010).  Compared to last year, Latos is walking fewer batters and (predictably) giving up substantially more home runs with a HR/FB percentage that has nearly doubled after his move from the Padres to the Reds. Settling into his new surroundings, I expect Latos' second-half ERA to be in line with his current SIERA of 3.63, which is exactly half a run lower than his ERA.
  • Max Scherzer - Has the second highest K/9 innings rate (11.19) and the second highest BABIP (.349) among qualifying starters.  Scherzer has five straight quality starts that has brought his ERA all the down from a 5.88 mark on June 6 to its current 4.72.  Here is another starter that may have left owners who drafted him with a bad taste in their mouths after his slow start.  Scherzer's 3.08 SIERA shows the upside that exists with a BABIP correction despite pitching in front of the Tigers' poor defense.
  • Michael Brantley - Owned in only 27% of Yahoo leagues, Brantley should see increased RBI opportunities as he hit between fourth and sixth in the Indians last series of the first half.  Brantley has two home runs and seven RBIs in 27 July at-bats, and he offers a decent power/speed combination with an improving batting average that has spiked based on a substantial reduction in strikeouts this season while keeping his walk rate steady.
  • Juan Carlos Oviedo - The Marlins have finally moved to a closer committee after Heath Bell's latest blown saves.  The pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez has closer experience and could see save opportunities by the end of the month. Ozzie Guillen recently mentioned Oviedo as a candidate for saves.
  • David Hernandez - With the Diamondbacks shopping Justin Upton and seemingly willing to make trades targeted at 2013 and beyond, J.J. Putz may be dealt since Hernandez is waiting in the wings to assume the closer job under a recently extended contract that bought out two arbitration years.  Hernandez has been filthy this season while striking out 57 batters in only 37 1/3 innings and rocking a 2.38 SIERA.
  • Luke Gregerson - Only owed in 3% of Yahoo leagues, Gregerson's strikeout rate has returned to a dominant 9.46 per nine innings this season.  While Dale Thayer has predictably fallen flat lately, Gregerson has only given up four earned runs in 17 1/3 innings since June 1.  With Huston Street likely being dealt by the Padres, I anticipate Gregerson getting the first shot at closing.
  • James Russell - Here is a a deep sleeper for saves that I anticipate getting a chance over the final few months of the season if Carlos Marmol is dealt. Russell received the save opportunity when Marmol was unavailable on July 2, and he has an excellend 2.38 ERA on the season.
  • Wilton Lopez / Brandon Lyon / Matt Belisle / Rex Brothers/ Greg Holland - These relievers all could be closing for their respective teams by Aug. 1, but it is unclear if they would step into the role.  Holland has not been regularly used in the eighth inning, and Lopez/Lyon (I prefer Lopez) and Belisle/Brothers (I prefer Belisle) would be competing for the job.

Sell

  • C.J. Wilson - After enjoying a spectacular first half, now is the time for pitching-rich owners to see what they can get for this "ace" pitcher.  Wilson's strikeouts are way down (7.11 K/9 compared to 8.30 last year) and his walks are way up (3.96 BB/9 compared to 2.98 last year).  His success can be partly attributed to a .242 BABIP that is nearly forty points below his career average.  ZiPS projects a 3.48 ERA for the remainder of the season, which is far below his current 4.28 SIERA.


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