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Stock Watch: Party Like it's 2008

Trade For

The first trio of trade-worthy players hit like gangbusters out of the gate: Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, and Todd Frazier. This group hasn't done a whole lot since. If you'd tried to trade for one of these guys after the first week of the season, their owners would have wanted a huge pile of return. Now, though, after sitting through a few weeks of regression to the mean (and still having decent power numbers), all three hitters are showing downward trends and frustrating owners who had their expectations raised in early April. With some hitters, it would be time to give up, but this group has displayed serious hitting skill in the past and all stand a good chance of regressing upward in the coming weeks. Frazier is certainly the riskiest play of the bunch, but he should also come at the lowest cost.

Two more third basemen worth trading for have essentially opposite stories despite similar power numbers: Will Middlebrooks has been awful, aside from the power, and the victim of a .240 BABIP (which can only partially explain his .205 average); Josh Donaldson has been a beast, with a .323 average (thanks in part to a .361 BABIP). While Donaldson is likely to see his average go down and Middlebrooks see his go up, I still think it's a decent time to trade for both. Middlebrooks owners must be disappointed with his performance while Dondaldson's owners are probably pretty surprised. The A's 3B was pretty unheralded coming into the season, and he's a bit old to have been a prospect. That said, his minor league numbers show power at every stop and he's a great candidate to continue to be productive going forward. If his current owner thinks he's a fluke, grab him.

If 3B, 1B, and C eligible players aren't what you're looking for, how about 2B/SS Josh Rutledge? He's shown a useful combination of five homers and five steals, but his batting average has been pretty lousy. His BABIP is .267, which isn't incredibly low...but it is low for someone who gets to play half his games at Coors Field. With summer weather coming to the mountains, it seems reasonable to expect his BABIP to go up, especially at home, and boost his other numbers along with it.

I will now plug one pitcher I always do, and two I never have. It'll be weird.

I'm always telling everyone how wonderful Marco Estrada is (seriously, the guy should send me a thank-you card or something), and his bloated 5.32 ERA isn't deterring me any. Why? Because his xFIP is a healthy 3.93 and his K/BB is 3.38. Of course, that neatly overlooks his hideous HR/9 rate of 2.17, a full HR worse than what he did last year. It seems that his situation is a dichotomy: either he's all washed up, and will continue allowing homers at this pace until his release, or he will cut down on that homer rate and go back to being a good pitcher who allows a few too many homers, Bert Blyleven style. (Okay, he might not be headed for the Hall of Fame, but still.)

Josh Beckett once authored one of the most memorable pitching performances I've ever seen, shutting out the Yankees in Game 6 of the World Series. Ten years ago. He's a different pitcher now, and after watching him scuffle and inflate ERA and WHIP numbers for entire fantasy teams for the last couple years, let's just say the magic seems to have worn off. Currently, he's treating owners to an 0-5 record and a 5.19 ERA. Like Estrada, he's got a much nicer looking xFIP (3.88) and an unsightly HR/9 (1.66). He's also sporting a .323 BABIP against. One key point in which he's improved from last year, though, is his K/9--now at 8.52, the highest it's been at since 2008. Like Estrada, he won't improve if he can't cut down on the homers; like Estrada, he'll be very useful if he does.

Anyone who looks casually at Ervin Santana's 2.79 ERA is going to cry "fluke!" I can't blame them: Santana has been one of the most frustratingly inconsistent pitchers in baseball for the last several years. The one thing he's done reliably is walk about three batters per nine innings. In 2013, he's cut that rate by two-thirds, and his K/BB is among the league leaders at 6.50. Only one other time has Santana had a quality K/BB--2008, when he was one of the best pitchers in baseball and posted a 6.0 WAR. There's a good chance his owners feel lucky to have him, and would happily flip him for a useful "reliable" player. Do it, and reap the benefits of a potentially dominant season.

Trade Away

Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells have been two of the most surprisingly productive fantasy players this year, helping the Yankees thrive amid Curtis Granderson's absence. All that is coming to an end, though, as Granderson is back and Hafner and Wells will be sharing time at DH. Deal either away if you still can.

It's always hardest to trade away a hitter proving to be a great bargain. Starling Marte and Carlos Beltran are both knocking the cover off the ball and probably producing better than the first outfielder you drafted. Beltran's got 10 HR's and a .299 batting average that's for real (.306 BABIP), but his fade in last year's second half worries me. With most players, I'd say something about sample size and luck...but Beltran is 36 with a long injury history and I wouldn't be surprised if time took its toll on him last year. 

Marte is a different story, as his power and speed are legitimate, but his .314 average is the product of a .390 BABIP. Even when his average returns to earth (last year it was just .257 with a .333 BABIP) he's going to be a highly useful outfielder, but he's not going to keep producing like he is at the moment. Fangraphs gave the other side of this arugment last week, and if you can get him on your team for a low price, do it. If you can get him off your team for a high price, do that.

Both Beltran and Marte should not be traded except for decently large returns, becuase neither should be expected to see their production crater going forward--just to drop a bit.

Chris Sale is this week's sell high in pitching, as he's thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, dominated four starts in a row (including a one-hitter last Sunday), and pitched seven innings or more in six in a row. He's not so much someone to deal before his production goes down, as someone whose current trade value is probably higher than his projected season value, making him a good trade candidate if you need to move pitching for hitting.

Pick Up

Remember Kyle Blanks? Some time ago, he was supposed to be the next (good version of) Adam Dunn. Injuries got in the way, but he's back to playing time with San Diego and still only 26. If you're in the market for a longshot with power upside, Blanks might be your man.

Colby Lewis reportedly has just three more rehab starts to make, which means he could be back in the Show in as little as two weeks. I suggest grabbing him before your competition can get their hands on him, even if that means carrying him on your DL for a while, becuase he was dominant before last year's injury. Even if he isn't dominant this year, pitching for Texas will probably make him useful in wins.

Guess who leads the Majors in K/BB. If you said Cliff Lee (like I did, before I looked it up), you were wrong. It's Bartolo Colon. Seriously, that Bartolo Colon. He's got a K/BB of 13.50! So yes, you can believe in his 1.10 WHIP. If you need help in that category, snap up Colon, despite his mediocre ERA and low K/9.

Last but not least, Ubaldo Jimenez is finally pitching like the guy the Indians traded for. He was so bad to start the season that his ERA is still 5.31, but he's now got 44 K's in 40.2 IP, and has struck ou at least eight batters in each of his last three starts. I don't know if it will continue, but he's well worth gambling on at this point.

 


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