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Stock Watch: I'll Bet You $10...

Years ago, some friends and I went to a baseball game. We were sitting up in the cheap seats, watching a rare close game for the Mariners in the ninth. One of my friends was...ah...not so baseball-astute, so I offered him a bet when Richie Sexson came up to bat. (I told you this was a long time ago.) I told my friend, I'll bet you $10 that Richie doesn't hit a home run. My friend chided me for my pessimism and was eager to take the bet, which I hadn't really expected but wasn't about to let go of now. Fortunately, a third friend interevened and tried to explain the low odds of even the best hitter putting the ball out of the park at any given moment. Reluctantly, my friend called off the bet and my conscience felt a little better.

Moments later, Sexson hit a home run.

In fantasy baseball (and much of life, perhaps), every move you make is its own gamble, small or large. There are two good reasons to make a bet: one, the side you're taking has a very good chance of coming to pass (me, wagering that Sexson will not homer right  at this moment), whether the gain is small or large; two, the potential gain is very large, and just possible enough to justify the fact that it will probably not pay off (my friend, wagering that Sexson will homer right now). Over the long run, these are the bets that pay off and win fantasy leagues. 

Some of the bets I'll suggest below are of the kind that I think likely to happen...others are riskier choices that may end up with a bigger payoff. What about bets that combine the two? You made those in your draft.

Trade For

Dan Haren has started to pick up a little velocity on his fastball, sitting at about 90mph for much of his most recent outing, while striking out five and walking none (interestingly, the third start this year in which he's performed that feat). Is he all the way back, or even definitively healthy. Well, no. This is one of those riskier options. If he takes off, he could be a bargain-bin ace. Or maybe he'll fall again. The trouble is that once you know for sure that he's on track he won't be on the trading block anymore.

Josh Reddick is finally on a hot streak, though he's striking out a ton and batting just .155 with one home run. Very disappointing for those who had dreams of another 30-HR season, which may already be out of reach. The good news is just .192 (last year it was .269). He's pounding the ball into the ground at a 39.6% rate (up 10% from last year!), and popping up 20% of the time. His HR/FB rate has dropped to just 4%. So why am I interested in getting this guy? Well, because these are all things the young hitter should be able to fix, and his current stretch of success might be suggesting that he already has.

Anthony Rizzo is a simple case of BABIP value, so if his owner is statistically inclined, don't expect to pry him away. If not, consider that his miserable .195 AVG will go up when his unsustainably bad .170 BABIP does. The homers are already among the league leaders, so an excellent season could well be in the making.

Lucas Duda remains unowned in a significant number of leagues (CBS: 70%/ESPN: 34%/Yahoo!: 24%), but his 17 walks are tied for fourth in baseball, and his .438 OBP sandwiches him in between Miguel Cabrera and Dustin Pedroia on the leaderboard. With five homers to go along with the on-base, I'm on board with trading for Duda, as he's looking like a relatively low-risk bet.

Pick Up

Andrew Cashner (CBS: 39%/ESPN: 2.4%/Yahoo!: 17%) is a strikeout machine and he appears to be in the rotation for good. He immediately becomes the Padres' best pitcher and he's a smart add for any fantasy team. Grab him while you can, because these low numbers are likely to spike in the next week.

David Phelps (CBS: 11%/ESPN: 0.1%/Yahoo!: 3%) will be slotting into the Yankees rotation. If he pitches well, he might even stick over Ivan Nova, though that isn't necessarily a given. He hasn't gotten good results out of the bullpen (ugly 5.29 ERA/1.47 WHIP), but he's been racking up strikeouts (22 K's in 17 IP). He's worth a try, especially in deeper leagues.

Carlos Ruiz (CBS: 50%/ESPN: 13%/Yahoo!: 21%) is coming back from his suspension, so nab him off the waiver wire if he's available. He mashed last year and, while he isn't incredibly likely to repeat those numbers at age 34, there's little reason not to give him a chance.

Trade Away

Matt Moore just won his fifth game of the season, and he's dealing to the tune of a 1.12 ERA, an 0.88 WHIP, and a 10.69 K/9. So why am I considering offering him up in trades? Because a young pitcher who was expected to do well, and is pitching amazingly can fetch a huge return. Am I betting against Moore breaking out and joining the aces this year. Not really, I think there's a great chance he does. But, as with Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller last week, I think Moore represents an opportunity to get even more value back than he'll give for the rest of the season.

Bryce Harper and Justin Upton are off to fantasy baseball's best starts and here I am recommending you send them packing. I wasn't high on Upton before the season began, I'll admit, but even I can see that he's not in line for another disappointing 17-HR campaign. But here's the thing: Upton won't be hitting 88 homers (his current pace), and Harper won't end up with 60, or a .374 average (probably). Both guys are superstars and both are having great months. There's no better time to trade them, especially with their level of youth and hype. Don't do it if you can't get an absolutely outrageous return, but I'd be willing to bet you can.


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