Stock Watch


Stock Watch: Super Pitching Edition

If it feels like it’s been a long time since Stock Watch was back to normal…well, that’s because it was. Well, the normal format is back. Sort of. No more trading advice, since that time has passed. There are still plenty of opportunities on the waiver wire, though, and when we hit the September roster expansion there will be plenty more. Too bad our fantasy rosters don’t expand too…. 

Also, it’s been so long since I did this that I ended up writing over a thousand words just on the pitchers. So…yeah. Super pitching edition! We’ll be back with hitters next week…. 

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned in Yahoo! Leagues)     

I think there’s a misconception out there that shallow leagues are easy to win, something for novices. But that's not completely true, because there’s so little room for error. You take a chance on a guy with upside and you don’t have any choice but to throw him right into your lineup. What’s that mean for you now? Well, it means I’ll try to find only good players to throw in this category.

Mike Fiers (49%) has, um, caught fire. His ownership has skyrocketed too, but you can consider this a green light to take the chance on a player who’s torched the competition before (and burned his owners before too). 

Chris Young (46%) is not real. I mean that literally. He is a FIP-ignoring, strike-throwing, ratio-lowering robot. That’s not as good an explanation as what you can probably find on Fangraphs, but at least we both understand it. Anyway, he’s done it this long, has a favorable park and his team is winning games. Go for it. (But spoiler alert: the Mariners’ September schedule doesn’t look too good.)

Marcus Stroman (45%) might have gotten dropped after his last start (less than an inning of work). This bad one was his second bad start in his last three, but the rest of his work has been stellar. I can understand being worried that the rookie is gassed, but if you need some upside, here’s your play.

Kyle Hendricks (42%)is getting outstanding results (he hasn’t allowed more than one run in a game since his debut). More good news is that he allowed more than half of his season’s walk total in his first two starts, so his control has largely been better than his final line indicates. Hendricks is not missing bats, though, and that worries me. This is an upside-play, to be sure, but I don’t think the performance is real.

James Paxton (41%) is back from injury. He was straight-up dominant at the beginning of the year and was the sort of prospect that performance isn’t shocking from. Snatch him back up.

I promised myself (and my wife) that I wouldn’t talk up Brandon McCarthy (41%) ever again. It seems like every time I do, he becomes horrible almost instantly. But he has been flat-out dominant since going to the Yankees. His AL ERA is 2.03 and he’s got season-long strikeout-to-walk ratio over 5.00. Seriously.

Danny Salazar (39%) is a high-risk/high-reward type at this point, but there must be teams out there that could benefit from taking a chance on him now that the pre-season hype has worn off. 

Collin McHugh (39%) appears to be better than he’s getting credit for. With over a strikeout per inning and a team that’s not as bad as everyone still thinks, there’s something here. His games logs don’t show any sign that the magic fairy dust is wearing off, and sometimes it never does.This is one guy I expect to draft next year.

Jesse Hahn (32%) isn’t really on this list for shallow leaguers, as he just got sent down to the minors. But rumor has it that he’s coming back for September when rosters expand. He’s been lights-out, so anyone with room on their roster still should consider stashing him. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Matt Shoemaker (28%) has pitched pretty well, plays for a first-place team and (spoiler alert) the Angels have a great pitching schedule in September, with nearly every game in favorable parks. This guy could quietly have a big last month for fantasy owners. 

Vance Worley (23%) might be falling apart as I type, as he’s had two bad starts in a row. Still, the Pirates need any pitching they can get and Worley has one great attribute: impeccable control. The pitcher hasn’t allowed more than two walks in any start this year. That’s a chance worth taking in plenty of leagues. 

Nathan Eovaldi (23%) is another super-control guy: he’s allowed more than two walks in a game just twice all season—and he’s been pitching since April 1. He’s also three good starts removed from a late-July rough patch. 

Deep Leagues (10-20% Owned) 

Jeremy Hellickson (18%) has largely pitched well since his return from the DL. What else is there to say? 

Chase Anderson (15%) has been quietly delivering OK pitching for most of the year. I wasn’t excited and I wasn’t going to list him—then I remembered that in deep leagues sometimes a nice dose of just OK is exactly what you need. So, if you do, here he is.

Trevor Bauer (15%) just got lit up, and he’s hardly been consistent this year, but he’s shown flashes of his prospect status more than once. He’s certainly a more exciting option than most of the players this deep into Stock Watch.

Roberto Hernandez (15%) should enjoy pitching for the Dodgers down the stretch. A decent pitcher on a good team is about the best bet you can make if you’re in need of wins help. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug one of my few fellow Oregonians in baseball: Jimmy Nelson (14%). Also, he’s shown good control, and his overall numbers are bloated by a single bad start in July. He’s looking like a useful back-end rotation piece, and he pitches for a good-hitting team. 

Hector Santiago (12%) should, like his teammate Shoemaker (above) enjoy a pitching-friendly schedule for the Angels in September. Plus, he still misses bats and the Halos score a ton of runs. Beware of the walks, though.

Super-Deep Bonus (Less than 10% Owned) 

Roenis Elias and Tsuyoshi Wada (both 8%) have pitched very well over the last month and (obviously) aren’t on many radars.

You should never take me at face value when I talk about Chris Capuano (3%). For some reason, I’ve always rooted for him, and always expect him to be awesome. So I’ll just present the facts: he has struck out lots of batters and allowed too many runs since joining the Yankees. He is also available in your league. Don’t get too excited, but don’t mind me while I look at that cherry-picked strikeout-to-walk ratio since the beginning of August: 28:3.



Stock Watch: Fantasy Trading Deadline Part 3—Pitchers

There are only a couple days to go before most of us blast by the August Fantasy Trading Deadline, largely cementing the key players on our teams. It’s the last chance to make a big change, so get your offers in quickly and send a decent offer first. Naturally, our third installment of this series is the last, as it won’t be terribly helpful next week. You can find part one here, about some risk/reward management for trades, and part two here, dedicated to hitters to target and broken down by category. 

So click on those links and read those pieces if you’ve got time. But if you need to make a big splash in the pitching categories, you don’t have much time. So get your league pages up and ready to offer trades as you read. Or, better yet, if you’re lucky enough to play in a league where people still call each other to talk trades, start looking for phone numbers you never use anymore and get ready to wheel and deal like Billy Beane.

Today we’re going to look at the four starting pitcher categories, since RotoAuthority has an entire column dedicated to closers that pretty much tells you what you need to know every week. All I’ll add about saves is this: if you need ‘em, now is the time to suck it up and pay the market price. Saves tends to be a volatile category, and if the likes of Jake Petricka and Jenrry Mejia can actually move you up a few places in the standings, don’t be afraid to roll the dice and trade someone good to get them. (See part one of this series.)

What we aren’t going to do this week is the obvious: if you truly need pitching it’s easy enough to target a four-category monster like Clayton Kershaw or David Price, or even a three-category lock like Chris Sale or Felix Hernandez. So yes, if you need help in all four starter categories, by all means, trade for a stud pitcher if you somehow can. (Look for someone who’s too close to their innings cap!) But that advice is as easy to give as it is difficult to make happen in a real league. So this column will focus more on those less-than-perfect pitchers who might only be a true asset in the category you’re trading to get.

Strikeouts

This is probably the easiest category to go out and trade for. You need some quantity, but you only have so many roster slots and so many more innings before you reach your cap. Fortunately, you probably have more innings left than most people if you are behind in strikeouts. Unfortunately, this is such a high-total category that it can be tough to claw your way up it. We’ll try.

Looking by K/9, the top four pitchers are true superstars. Assuming you don’t have the hitters to offer in trade for Yu Darvish and Stephen Strasburg, have you thought of Jake Odorizzi? The Rays’ hurler has a 10.20 K/9, a hair better than Max Scherzer’s mark. Corey Kluber (9.80) won’t come cheap anymore, but he’ll still probably cost less than most of the names around his spot on the list. Padre pitchers are like fantasy gold: Ian Kennedy (9.53) and Tyson Ross (8.96) will help with more than just the strikeouts. Garrett Richards (8,85) could still be a relative bargain. Some more pitchers who’ve shown flaws but still managed to whiff 8.00 batters per nine or more include: Zack Wheeler, Jesse Chavez, Wade Miley, Tim Lincecum, Lance Lynn, Roenis Elias, Drew Hutchison, Chris Archer, Jason Hammel, and C.J. Wilson

If you’re more of a “What have you done for me lately?” sort of person, these guys have been getting the whiffs in the last thirty days: Alex Wood (37 strikeouts), Julio Teheran (36, and with a bad ERA on the month, so his owner might want to deal him), Drew Smyly (34), Alex Cobb (34), Francisco Liriano (33), Brandon McCarthy (33—but buyer beware, I’ve advised him before and it hasn’t gone well), Ervin Santana (32), R.A. Dickey (31), Bud Norris (29), Gio Gonzalez (29), Mike Leake (29), Chris Tillman (28), Jake Arrieta (28). Even Bartolo Colon has been in on the strikeout action in the last month, with 28 in 32.2 IP. Waiver Wire Options abound in strikeouts if you can afford to take hits in ERA and/or WHIP. Fortunately, many such options also help out in wins, balancing things a bit. 

ERA

Looking at some of those names on the strikeout lists, I’m reminded that sometimes the best thing you can do for your ERA is a little addition by subtraction. If you can afford the strikeouts or wins, consider trading or dropping your least good pitchers and replacing them with high-quality relievers—or not at all. This is especially important when you might be running into your innings cap faster than most of your leaguemates.

But most of us probably want to do some addition by addition, so here are some of the better choices to target: Phil Hughes (2.64 FIP, 3.88 ERA), Jordan Zimmermann (2.68 FIP, 3.06 ERA), Hyun-jin Ryu (2.79 FIP, 3.21 ERA), Jose Quintana (2.92 FIP, 3.04 ERA), Kennedy (3.10 FIP, 3.51 ERA), Lynn (3.15 FIP, 2.97 ERA), Archer (3.18 FIP, 3.33 ERA), Hisashi Iwakuma (3.18 FIP, 2.86 ERA), and Dallas Keuchel (3.28 FIP, 3.07 ERA). This list was compiled by looking at  the best FIP's in baseball, but now here are some buyer-beware candidates whose ERA’s are beating their FIP’s: Henderson Alvarez (3.38 FIP, 2.34 ERA), Tanner Roark (3.37 FIP, 2.86 ERA), Sonny Gray (3.35 FIP, 2.86 ERA), Jeff Samardzija (3.37 FIP, 2.91 ERA), and Tim Hudson (3.44 FIP, 2.81 ERA).           

WHIP

The good news is that you usually get a good WHIP with your ERA. The bad news is that it can be hard to get one without paying the price for two when you only need to (or only can) make up ground in one category or the other. Still, here are some guys to look for when trying to help out your WHIP: Iwakuma (0.97), Roark (1.09), Chris Young (1.12), Matt Garza (1.13), Hudson (1.14), Rick Porcello (1.14), Alfredo Simon (1.16), Kyle Lohse (1.16), Colon (1.16), Jared Weaver (1.19), Jason Hammel (1.19), and Nathan Eovaldi (1.20). 

You can also target pretty much anyone with a low walk rate and hope for the best when it comes to hits over the rest of the season: Hughes (2.4 BB%), Hudson (3.9%), McCarthy (4.2%), Alvarez (4.8%), James Shields (4.9%), Dan Haren (4.9%), Hiroki Kuroda (5%), Jason Vargas (5.2%), John Lackey (5.4%), and Leake (5.5%).  

Wins

Wins are a tough one, because what you really need here is quantity, and you’re only going to manage that if you’ve got room left in your innings cap. For this one, I’d suggest looking for top teams and targeting any pitchers you can find on them. The Dodgers’ Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez comes to mind, as do his teammates Haren and (better yet) Ryu. Porcello, Doug Fister, Gonzalez, Lohse, Wily Peralta, Yovani Gallardo, Wilson, Scott Kazmir, Hammel, Liriano, Justin Masterson, Lackey, Lynn, Chris Tillman, and Marcus Stroman, are all targets too. Why? Because they play on good-to-great teams that win by scoring some runs and should be fighting (or cruising) through the rest of the season.

Waiver Wire Options: pretty much anyone unowned who pitchers for a team in the pennant race. This is also a category in which some targeted free agent moves can come in handy, either as options to keep or streamers to cycle through. Check out my upcoming series on September schedules, and tune in to Stock Watch next week, when all our coverage will be devoted to the waiver wire. ‘Cause, obviously…..



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Waiver Wire Wayback

It has been a terrible week for injuries, I know. My teams are riddled with little red DL markers too: the likes of Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Josh Beckett have all hit the shelf, among others—Beckett perhaps for good. But I’m not here to talk about their replacements--though I suppose pitching for the Dodgers can’t be a bad situation for newly-acquired Roberto Hernandez (fka Fausto Carmona, not to be confusted with the onetime Devil Rays closer from a long time ago). Anyway, I’m not, partly because you’ll be getting a pitching edition of Stock Watch tomorrow and partly because I did an injury replacement piece here last week.

But Beckett’s injury got me thinking. He was someone I advocated for pretty early on in the season, and I felt (and still feel) pretty good about that call. But I started wondering: how else did I do?

So today we’ll take a look at some of my most useful suggestions from early April…and yeah, we’ll chuckle over my other ideas too.

Most of my suggestions came from editions of Stock Watch, though there’s a particularly embarrassing entry in this column describing why you shouldn’t give up on Alejandro De Aza or Alfonso Soriano. Yeah, I hope you missed that one. If you didn’t, you’ll have to search for it, ‘cause I’m too embarrassed to link to it. Self-evidently, that one counts as a big swing-and-a-miss.

Homer Picks

We’ll start with the good, including plugging this article’s inspiration, Josh Beckett, for the first time on April 26. I went from skeptic to owner and the team I got him on is my best this year. Coincidence? Maybe. Drafting Jose Altuve doesn’t hurt….

I was a little behind on fellow Dodger Dee Gordon: he was already owned in 38% of Yahoo! leagues when I advised picking him up in the first week of April. Again, I had been a skeptic.

I feel good about advising Justin Morneau early on too, though only shallow leaguers got to enjoy the suggestion. I’d say Colorado has been good for the slugger: he’s hitting .321 with 13 home runs.

Shallow leaguers also got my advice to take Miguel Montero, which I think remains good advice.

It was a quick mention, but I can still take credit for suggesting the resurgent Phil Hughes, and you know I’ve been plugging Jose Quintana all year. I also advised a few other pitchers who hadn’t even started yet: Tim Hudson, Drew Smyly, and Rick Porcello. Hudson, in particular, would have made you happy if you’d taken him.

He’s not a superstar, but if you grabbed Marcell Ozuna off the waiver wire in the season’s first week, I bet you’re glad you did. 

It wasn’t until the second week of the season (too late for me) that I jumped on the Melky Cabrera bandwagon. But since he was still available in 68% of leagues, better late than never I guess.

The second week is also when I came around to this year’s true waiver wire superstar: Charlie Blalckmon. Like Cabrera, he was taken in 42% of leagues already, so I can’t take credit for discovering him so much as passing news of him on.

I was a little bolder with Mike Morse, who was owned in less than a quarter of leagues when I plugged him on April 9. His recent performance hasn’t been awesome, but he’s delivered plenty of value to his owners.

Jon Niese is kind of the pitching equivalent to Morse: despite the fact that things haven’t been great recently, you’ve still benefited from having him on your team for the good times.

Jake Odorizzi has had his ups and downs, but if you’ve been playing him since early April are you happy? I’m guessing you are. 

I didn’t want to write good things about Alcides Escobar after getting burned so bad in 2013, but if you picked him up when he was only 28% owned, you got a better shortstop than most of us have.

Whiff Picks

I was a big fan of Grady Sizemore’s comeback, and a hot (ish) first week convinced me there was something there worth picking up. Maybe his current stint with the Phillies will work out, but in the meantime this one is a black eye for me.

The worst part about advising Sizemore? I did it two weeks in a row. I did the same with Dustin Ackley, who’s MI eligibility will no longer be fooling me into thinking he’s a bargain.

Suggestions of Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso would have been good to miss in the season’s first week.

I really though Dan Straily would get straightened out—and I really didn’t think the A’s would send him to the minors and then trade for three pitchers in July.

For some reason, I also thought Brandon Morrow would be relevant again. Why?

Seeing some decent control, I got pretty excited over Tyler Skaggs. It didn’t last and now the former top prospect is heading for Tommy John surgery. Classic swing-and-a-miss!

I also thought I was starting a worthwhile bandwagon for Ryan Ludwick (3% owned at the time), but he hasn’t gotten the playing time and hasn’t performed well enough to deserve it.

I think Martin Perez got injured right after I suggested picking him up. Nice.

Seriously suggesting Ike Davis and Mike Olt seems pretty silly now, but the true whiff here is that I gave Lucas Duda only passing mention after Davis went to Pittsburgh.

Also shameful: around the end of April I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel for for Mike Moustakas. Turns out it was nothin’ but a burglar’s torch (What? No one else listened to the rest of the songs on the “Centerfield” album?).

I seemed to think early on that Corey Hart was a good idea. Rest assured, I no longer think that.

Well, I’m pleased enough and a bit surprised that my suggestions have done as well as they have—at least that my April ideas have. Hopefully a few of these guys made it on to your team, because that injury problem I mentioned in the intro? The best time to solve it was in April when you built your team’s depth.



Stock Watch: Fantasy Trading Deadline Part 2—Hitters

Even as Major League trades just get more complicated, we fantasy owners are hurtling towards our more concrete trading deadlines—probably around August 17th, but check the rules for each of your leagues. Last week, we discussed players to target if you need to add upside to your squad—or if you need to eliminate risk. Today, we’ll simply take a look at some hitters who shouldn’t be impossible to wrest from the clutches of your opponents who offer help in the five standard categories.

A note for all those offering August trades: don’t waste time trying to get the perfect deal, or trying to “win” a trade. Fill in your needs for a cost you can afford. That’s it. 

Average

With a .300 average, Daniel Murphy is a pretty valuable second base option—but his speed hasn’t matched last year’s numbers and he isn’t such a superstar that he shouldn’t be available. First baseman Justin Morneau’s .307 mark is sustained by a very reasonable .317 BABIP, so he’s a good candidate to keep hitting for average in the last part of the season. Kurt Suzuki has gotten a lot more attention this year than in the past, thanks in large part to a .305 batting average; his is also buoyed by a reasonable enough .325 BABIP.

Nick Markakis isn’t a premium name, and his .288 average doesn’t jump off the page—but it does come in a lot of at bats, giving it extra weight thanks to his spot in the order, playing time, and small number of walks. You could say the same things about Ian Kinsler (also a .288 average) and Hunter Pence (.291).

If you need some steals with your average, Ben Revere offers 30 of the former while batting .303. Alexei Ramirez (17 steals, .288 average), and Denard Span (23 steals, .296 average) are other good choices for speed and batting.

Howie Kendrick (.283) and Jonathan Lucroy (.307) are reliable choices who always seem to help in this category.

Off the waiver wire, think about Conor Gillaspie (21% owned in Yahoo! leagues, .317 average) and James Loney (23%, .290). Even Derek Jeter (41%, .277) has something left to offer.

Home Runs

These three near-stars offer nice power numbers at the expense of average: David Ortiz (26 homers), Brandon Moss (23), and Josh Donaldson (23). All three are batting .251 or under. Of course, Chris Carter blows them all out of the water, with his .216 average and 22 homers. He may be available on your waiver wire too.

Marlon Byrd (21 homers) is underrated. Albert Pujols (21) has been disappointing. Lucas Duda (20) has snuck up on people. Carlos Santana (20) has felt like a disaster. Chris Davis (18) has been a disaster. Khris Davis and Evan Gattis (17 each) weren’t given high expectations before the season. What do all these guys have in common? You ought to be able to trade for them, despite the fact that they’re likely to contribute in homers for the rest of the season.

Jimmy Rollins and Jhonny Peralta (15 homers each) haven’t been that good—until you remember that they play shortstop. At second base, Neil Walker (16) and Luis Valbuena (10 homers in just 317 AB) make good trade targets.

Off the waiver wire, some usual suspects are still available: Mark Reynolds (17% owned, 19 homers), Mike Zunino (17%, 17), Juan Francisco (15%, 16), Colby Rasmus (21%, 15), Dayan Viciedo (8%, 13), Mike Moustakas (16%, 13), and Matt Dominguez (9%, 13). Needless to say, all these guys will be giving you serious trouble in batting average. That’s why they’re free.

Runs

In this category, Pence (79 runs), Anthony Rendon (79) and the much-slowed Brian Dozier (78) top the runs charts. Actually, Dozier is tied with Mike Trout, but good luck landing that fish in a trade. (What?) These (probably) attainable sluggers are scoring more runs than driving them in: Antony Rizzo (75), Brett Gardner (71), Freddie Freeman (70), Kinsler (70), Span (70), Melky Cabrera (70), and Matt Carpenter (69).

Some more players who ought to help out by scoring runs include Kendrick (62), Christian Yelich (61), Elvis Andrus (59), Kole Calhoun (57), Desmond Jennings (57), Adam Eaton (55), Markakis (55), Austin Jackson (54), and Ben Zobrist (54). Each of these players has totaled quite a few more runs than RBI on the season. What does that tell us? Simply that they’ve been hitting in the part of the lineup that allows them to cross the plate more often, as opposed to plating others.

Since getting on base should lead to more runs, think about these high-OBP players when going after this category: Mike Napoli (.381 OBP), Seth Smith (.382), Santana (.374), Adam LaRoche (.373), Casey McGehee (.371), Matt Holliday (.370), Lonnie Chisenhall (.368), and Gillaspie (.368)

RBI

Adrian Gonzalez (72 RBI) stands out as a guy who’s knocked in a lot of runs despite a relatively low homer total (15) and a pretty marginal batting average (.259). Good lineups help, don’t they? Donaldson (78), Pujols (70), Yoenis Cespedes (67), Justin Upton (64), Morneau (63), Torii Hunter (62), and Jayson Werth (62) all know something about good lineups too.

Kyle Seager (67), Ian Desmond (66), Miguel Montero (59), Starlin Castro (59), and Kinsler (59) offer nice RBI power at premium positions. 

Sluggers Duda (62) and LaRoche (56) are relatively unheralded, while Holliday (58) and Evan Longoria (57) are contributing RBI despite otherwise disappointing seasons. All four can make pretty good trade targets.

Stolen Bases 

After this year’s Big Three of steals, Revere leads the league with 30, but Rajai Davis and Eric Young (26 apiece) aren’t far behind. With the David Price/Austin Jackson trade, expect Davis to get more playing time and more chances to steal. Young is probably on your waiver wire, but that’s just because he can’t really hit.

Span and Alcides Escobar (23 steals each) can hit though. (I can’t believe I just wrote that, after what Escobar did last year.) Elvis Andrus and Starling Marte (21 each) also belong in the steals and a little hitting category. Rollins (22) and Jose Reyes (20) are higher caliber hitters, so they’ll cost a bit more.

Jarrod Dyson (22 steals) is barely owned—he’s on teams in just 2% of Yahoo! leagues. So there’s no excuse if you need speed. (Never mind that he doesn’t really play all that often.)

It’s worth noting that needing steals isn’t that bad a problem to have; these guys tend to be pretty available.

Good luck filling out your category needs through trades. We’ve got one final installment of this series coming up next week; after that Stock Watch will be shifting into our post-deadline coverage, concentrating on waiver wire players.



Stock Watch: Fantasy Trading Deadline Part 1—Risk and Reward

 There’s a trading deadline coming up and it’s not July 31.(Okay, that one’s coming up too.)  But what I’m talking about is your fantasy league’s trading deadline. The last day for trades in my various Yahoo! leagues is August 17; in a custom CBS league we have all the way until the start of the playoffs in early September. But whatever it is, you really don’t want to be the team that notices a need, goes to make a trade offer…and only then discovers that it’s late August and trading is over. What? Like I’m the only one who’s ever done that...? 

We fantasy baseball players don’t have the luxury of the August waiver-trading period to make the deals we couldn’t get done before the deadline, so I’m going to spend the next three weeks going a little off-format on Stock Watch to discuss trade scenarios.

This week, we’ll focus on what types of risk you should take on depending on your format, your team’s place in the standings, and your goals for the season. In the next two weeks we’ll get a little more specific with trade targets that will help you in each category. 

Not a Zero-Sum Game Anymore

In the beginning of the season, you pretty much just want to get the most value you can out of a trade—quite possibly at the other team’s expense. Those days are over. I’m not the first fantasy pundit to suggest that you don’t need to get more value than your trading partner does to win a trade—you just need to make a trade that helps you in the right ways. So maybe trading Jose Abreu for Rajai Davis and a closer is what you need to do—that’s fine, make it happen if it makes you better. 

(The exception to this is when trading with teams right next to you in the standings—but those offers don’t tend to come up all that often anyway.)

Even if you should (and probably can) get better stuff for your star players than the hypothetical trade above, it’s important to remember that it is (at this point) perfectly okay to trade greater players for lesser ones if the needs you have are filled. You can let your leaguemates scoff if you like, but making one opponent improve relative to your own team for the chance to improve yourself relative to the other ten is usually a pretty good idea. Just don’t make that trade with the team you’re fighting for first place…or eleventh.

Playing with Risk: Evaluating Your Format, Standings, and Goals

In the future, I’ll be breaking players down by category, but today I’m going to talk about risk—should you be trading it away, or trying to pile as much as you can onto your team? By risk, I don’t mean just downside but the magnitude of the upside/downside split. Are you in the position where you need to put everything on the line? Or do you just need to make sure you don’t slip any further in the standings and out of a playoff slot…or out of the league, RotoAuthority League-style? 

I’ve got teams in just about every category: I’m first in one, tenth in another, and slugging it out in three more. So I’ll be taking different approaches in my various leagues. Sitting in first, I’m going to be ditching my highest downside players, even if they do have good upside. Ideally, I’ll be able to ship them to someone low in the standings for steady-Eddie types.

For my tenth-place team, I’d love to be the one shipping out those steady-Eddies who weren’t enough to keep me form the bottom half of the standings for some guys with high upside; any downside they offer can only drop me two slots in the league! My middle teams will need a more nuanced approach and may need a bit of risk in some categories and a bit of safety in others. But we’ll check that out in the coming weeks.

Before sending out your last three weeks of trade offers, you’ve got to know what you’re playing for. In my tenth-place team, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m not going to make an epic comeback and win it all. But I can probably save myself some embarrassment by moving a few places up the standings to end it in a respectable position. So I’m going for that.

Head-to-head formats can make things more complicated: do you make some high-risk moves, knowing that they could pay off with the biggest September? Or do you shore up your chances of just getting into the playoffs and cross your fingers? I’m guessing that’s going to depend on your league’s payout formula….

Upside Plays: Pitchers

The first guy who jumps to mind is Cliff Lee.  It could go terribly wrong…or he could be a carry-your-team staff ace. Other unproven pitchers who’ve been aces so far seem to fit this mold as well: Garrett Richards, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber,  and Tyson Ross. They seem real enough to trade for, but have short or spotty enough track records that you can’t feel totally secure in them.

Overachievers and underachievers alike add upside to your team: Johnny Cueto , Julio Teheran (especially with his recent struggles), Ian Kennedy, and Josh Beckett seem like they should have high error bars on their rest-of-season performance. Same for guys that have been relatively disappointing or inconsistent, or changed roles during the season or spent time on the DL, like Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, and Tim Lincecum

Finally, out-of-nowhere (or out of somewhere previously terrible) guys add upside. Think of Jesse Chavez, Alfredo Simon, Phil Hughes, Jake Odorizzi, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Marcus Stroman, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Young. Tim Hudson kind of counts too, though where he came from wasn’t bad…just not all that useful in fantasy. 

Safe Choices: Pitchers

If you need to hang on to your gains and play it safe, you can do more than just trading away the pitchers above. Think about trading for serious aces (you know who you are, guys) or for steady-good types like these: Jered Weaver, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Madison Bumgarner. You’ll note that there aren’t nearly as many safe choices on the pitching side—well, that’s part of pitching. One of the safest things you can do, actually, is trade pitching for hitting.

Upside Plays: Hitters

This year has featured some impressive breakout stars and the rest of the season will be spend sorting out which ones are for real and which ones have holes in their swings. Guys like Jose Abreu, Michael Brantley George Springer, Jose Altuve, Nelson Cruz, Todd Frazier, Victor Martinez, Dee Gordon, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Brian Dozier, and Corey Dickerson come to mind as high-impact guys who still have downside, whether it’s from nonexistent track records like Abreu, horrible track records like Gordon, or being an old guy playing better than ever like Martinez. 

As with pitchers, you can always bet on underperformers to bounce back when you’re going out and actively adding upside to your squad. Consider some of these guys who could return to glory in the final months of the season: Chris Davis, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Jason Kipnis, Dustin Pedroia, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Joe Mauer, Matt Kemp, Mark Trumbo, Josh Hamilton, Alexei RamirezMarlon Byrd, Carlos Santana, and Carlos Beltran

There are plenty of hitters offering upside that they haven’t shown this year…or who’ve shown more than they probably really do have to give, so use the above list as a jumping-off point on your trade list and not as a restriction.

Safe Choices: Hitters

Trading for bona fide stars is almost always a safe choice, and it’s even safer at this point of the season. But top-tier superstars aren’t the only guys who offer steady production. Think about these guys: Hunter Pence, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Jayson Werth, David Ortiz, Kyle Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Alex Gordon, Aramis Ramirez, and Rajai Davis.

I suppose we could argue about who’s “safe” and show isn’t—maybe you think Ramirez will get hurt again, or that Moss is sufficiently established as not to be a risk—and that’s fine. The important thing is making the trade that fits you, that fits your team.



Stock Watch: Cross Your Fingers

Starting next week, I envision this column getting pretty trade-suggestion heavy, between speculating about real-life trades and their potential impact on fantasy values and our own fantasy trading deadlines, which start showing up quicker than I think—probably mid-August for most of us.

So let’s take a little time to enjoy the subtler flavors of the waiver wire, just for a little. While we’re at it, let’s try and keep ourselves concentrated on the subgroup of players who’ve actually been good in the last month. This is the part of the year when you grab who you can and you cross your fingers that good play is more than an aberration. Sometimes it even is.

Shallow Leagues (Under 50% Owned)

I mentioned Dellin Betances (48%) yesterday, but seriously, if you have room for any non-closer, you have room for Betances. Even in shallow leagues, keep him in mind, especially if you’re starting to punt saves or needing to reduce your innings pitched. 

Speaking of relievers, Santiago Casilla (48%) hasn’t allowed an earned run on the month, but has notched five saves and recently put out a fire started by Sergio Romo. Pick him up. (Not Romo…pick up Casilla.)

All-Star super-utility-man Josh Harrison (45%, plays three positions) hasn’t hit that much over the last month, but he has managed seven steals. His multi-position eligibility makes him all the more useful in shallow leagues, I would think.

Danny Salazar (44%) started yesterday, but as of this writing (before yesterday’s start) it was unclear whether or not he’d be staying in the Bigs. Check out the latest news before dropping someone good for him, but don’t let him stay unowned for long, unless you see he's headed straight back to the Minors.

Stephen Vogt (39%) has hit over .370 in the last month getting playing time behind the plate, at first, and in the outfield. The A’s are the quintessential example of “better than the sum of their parts” and their players can make your fantasy team that way too. At least, if you have daily changes they can….

Kolten Wong (39%) is in the middle of a crazy-hot streak right now, batting over .350 with five homers and three steals. He seems like an up-and-down kind of player so far…so enjoy the up times with him.

Jacob deGrom (39%) has just rocked the last month: 2.10 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 25.2 IP. Ride the lightning. 

Chris Young (36%) has actually been striking people out lately; he’s managed 27 K’s in his last 31 IP, all while keeping his WHIP at an even 1.00. 

Carl Crawford (35%) has not hit, but a sense of duty reminds me to inform you he’s off the DL and has stolen two bases since returning to play. Buywer beware.

Charlie Morton (34%) has also struck out more people than usual lately (30 in 33 IP), and allowed just a 0.91 WHIP. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

I mentioned Jake Odorizzi (29%) yesterday, since he’s so good for your strikeouts, but even over the course of a pretty good last month (3.09 ERA), he’s still killing WHIP’s with a 1.50 mark. Ouch.

Marcus Stroman (29%) looks very, very good. He’s got a sub-1.00 WHIP, an ERA under 2.30 and nearly a strikeout per inning over the last month. This young pitcher is the guy to target in this section.

Wade Miley (27%) has been pitching extremely well too: 32 strikeouts in 32.2 innings, a 2.76 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP.

Chris Carter (26%) has smacked six homers in the last month and become a batting average machine. Okay, so he’s hitting about .270 on the month, but for him, that’s…well, I never thought it would happen.

Omar Infante (26%) is hitting over .350 on the month, so he’s regressing to his normally nice mean batting average. I’ll take it, and I’ll take the recent hot hitting in its own right.

Odrisamer Despaigne (25%) finally has a couple strikeouts, but his rate is still ridiculously low. As are his rate stats. I don’t know what his deal is, but I’ll use a roster spot to see if it’s even close to real. Even if it’s not, there’s always PetCo Park.

Danny Santana (24%) is back from the DL. He’s not doing much, but he’s still shortstop eligible and therefore interesting—and that’s before we talk about second and outfield.

Edinson Volquez (24%) has put up a great ERA over the last month and gotten four wins for his trouble…but he isn’t generating the strikeouts. That worries me, but maybe it shouldn’t, since he was never all that good when he was striking people out. Jeff Locke (23%) can tell a similar story, but he’s never generated whiffs.

David Freese (23%) is having a hot month, but rising tides raise all boats—even Mr. Freeze—or something like that. Anyway, Freese’s hot month is good for the Angels, and the Angels’ hot play is good for Freese’s numbers. A hot player on a hot team is just the sort of thing you want contributing to your team.

Remember Chris Coghlan (23%)? No? I can’t believe you! Well, apparently he’s back, and hitting .333 with three homers and three steals. And playing third. I’m intrigued, I’ll admit.

Denard Span (21%) continues to hit a bit (.301 average) and steal some bases (four). That seems pretty useful, right?

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned) 

Lorenzo Cain (20%) has snagged six bags in the last month and continued to hit good enough to survive in your lineup.

James Loney (19%) has hit .301 in his last month…which is pretty much what he does. I’m truly inclined to think that boring-but-reliable batting average is worth more than 19% ownership.

Trevor Bauer (17%) isn’t helping you in WHIP (but he’s better than Odorizzi!), but deep leaguers ought to take a chance on a guy with his history of promise and a solid 3.13 ERA and 28 strikeouts in his last 31.2 IP.

When we last checked in on Conor Gillaspie (17%) he had just hit his first homer of the year. Now he’s up to four. It hasn’t been long since I mentioned him in this column. I don’t know if his homer swing was missing, but it really does help to know that he’s got one, at least. Just a .280 average on the month, though. Way to disappoint us, Conor. 

Arismendy Alcantara (15%) should be owned immediately. Immediately! The dude’s already got three steals in just 35 at-bats, plays a middle infield position, and is an actual prospect with real-life promise. And his competition is Darwin Barney. Pick him up.

Brandon McCarthy (9%) is off to a pretty good start in New York, and he’s striking out almost a batter per inning over the last month. I’m still not excited about his batted-ball profile in Yankee Stadium, but I guess it can’t be much worse than it already is.



Stock Watch: Enjoy the Magic (While It Lasts)

Sometimes, in fantasy baseball, you need to look at the long stretch of season ahead and think about what moves make sense for the long haul. If you're in a keeper league you need to be thinking about next year too, and the one after.

But this isn't one of those times. Sometimes you just have to grab a player who's performing well--even if you don't really think they'll keep it up. Sometimes, you just have to enjoy the magic. While it lasts.

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Okay it’s time. Henderson Alvarez (50%) has an ERA under 2.30 and he’s still just 50% owned. Yes, he’s overperforming his abilities. No, he doesn’t strike anybody out. But really. At some point you have to just enjoy the magic that’s there instead of ignoring it just because it will eventually go away. It’s time.

Taijuan Walker (49%) absolutely must be owned. He isn’t destroying his competition, but he’s an electric young pitcher with more impact potential than just about anyone else on the waiver wire. Not only that, but he’s got a very friendly home park, and—don’t look now—his Mariners aren’t bad and ought to help him win a few ballgames. Come on, shallow leaguers.

Josh Harrison (46%) has managed to get MI/CI/OF eligibility and make the All-Star team. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not sure about him for the whole season, but if you need someone now, go for it.

Brock Holt (45%) can play the corners and the outfield, so that’s pretty awesome. Also, he’s got a very nice little hitting line. Like Harrison, I don’t feel very confident about projecting Holt (for better or worse) for the rest of the season—but if you have a hole to fill, fill it with a guy who’s hitting. Maybe he won’t stop. 

Wilson Ramos (44%) might be finding his stroke, after spending most of the early part of the season on the DL. An above-average catcher flyer.

Why do I keep trying to match you up with Jose Quintana (44%)? Because he’s awesome, and so are you: you deserve each other. Seriously, the White Sox like him so much they aren’t listening to offers, which means the folks who know the most about him are on my side of this one.

Rumors have popped up involving Jake Peavy (39%) going to St. Louis. I’d take a chance on the veteran getting new life with a change of scenery. I mean, I wouldn’t go out trading for him, but I’d consider lifting him off the waiver wire before someone else gets the chance. This just in: maybe not. (Check out the link to see the talks progress or devolve.) What you don’t want is the Peavy of the possible future in which he stays with the Sox, so maybe wait on this one. 

You know, a mostly empty .270 batting average isn’t that bad for a shortstop these days. Or for a batting average, for that matter. Think about picking up the captain, Derek Jeter (36%) as he rides into the sunset.

Danny Duffy (34%) warrants more of an eyebrow raise than most Royals pitchers; though I’d like a few more strikeouts, I do like the WHIP.

Scooter Gennett (33%) is still hitting the ball, by the way. Go figure.

Oscar Taveras (31%) is back, also. Perennially worth the flyer, it seems.

Collin McHugh (31%) is still pitching very, very well. Over a strikeout per inning, so that’s always nice.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Charlie Morton (25%) is pitching pretty well, in his usual, unexciting fashion.

C.J. Cron (23%) is starting to look interesting, with a solid batting average. If you’re like me and just lost Joey Votto to another DL stint, think about Cron.

If you like living on the edge, Jake Odorizzi (22%) gives you a ton of strikeouts. And the occasional total implosion thanks to all the walks. It’s an exciting ride either way.

Denard Span (20%) isn’t a bad hitter and he’s got some speed (13 steals). He’s a good choice if you need to balance stolen bases and, you know, actual hitting categories.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

Is Logan Forsythe (19%) the new Ben Zobrist? He plays 3B/SS/2B/OF, sort of hits and plays, well not that much. Okay, so if you need him, he’s probably already owned because your league is really deep, but his multi-position eligibility means he ought to be on our radars.

Lucas Duda (19%) continues to emerge from the shadow of the Ike Davis platoon experiment. I think he’ll be rising up the first base rankings.

Largely because I didn’t feel confident plugging him earlier in the season, Lorenzo Cain (17%) refuses to stop hitting. Seriously, he’s got a .311 batting average, yet is available in 83% of leagues? He even steals bases. Time to follow this week’s theme and enjoy the magic.

Josh Willingham (15%) has shown a little pop for the Twins and could find himself a friendlier home park soon enough.

I’m not sure who or what James Jones (15%) is, or why he’s getting enough at bats to steal 17 bases, but hey, we’re just here to profit from the production.

Has Vance Worley (13%) come back to life for Pittsburgh? Maybe. Not a lot of whiffs, but PNC Park is a good place to pitch.

You know who else won’t stop hitting? Drew Stubbs (11%). Yeah, weird. But add him to the list of Colorado outfielders you wouldn’t have expected to want. If nothing else, consider him for a home/road platoon slot on your roster.

Odrisamer Despaigne (10%) only have five strikeouts in 19.2 IP. That’s kind of crazy, and yes, it makes me worry. But he’s still got an ERA of 0.92 and a WHIP of 0.97. Enjoy it.

Conor Gillaspie (8%) finally has a home run! And it didn’t even cost him his .310 average.

Jeremy Hellickson (7%) isn’t the most awesome (or consistent) name in fantasy baseball, but he is coming off the DL. He’s helped (and hurt) fantasy teams in the past, so at least he’s a somebody.

Robinson Chirinos (5%) has quietly picked up nine homers in 179 AB playing catcher for Texas. Hey, deep leaguers need backup catchers too.

Josh Rutledge (3%) hasn’t flashed much power, but he plays all three premium infield positions and spends his home games at Coors Field. A lot more teams could use a backup like that.

Logan Morrison (3%) is getting more playing time lately and making some use of it. He’s worth keeping an eye on.

Tsuyoshi Wada (2%) is coming up to make his Major League debut for the Cubbies. If you remember his name, it’s because he come over from Japan some time ago but was derailed by injuries. Well, he’s up now. So, enjoy, very deep leaguers.



Stock Watch: Switch the Power On (While You Still Can)

It’s been way too long since I’ve done a normal Stock Watch column, so let’s skip the intro (I’m pretty sure you do anyway) and get right to the good stuff. 

Trade For 

Cliff Lee is about to start his rehab assignment, which means it’s about time to start preparing trade offers for him. Trading for injured pitchers is always a risky move, but getting quality pitchers at a discount is a worthy investment.

James Shields continues to underperform, but he’s been such a good, consistent pitcher for so long that it’s hard for me to think it will last forever. Plus, he hasn’t been truly bad in real baseball (unlike a fellow AL Central ace we’ll see below)…just not helpful for his fantasy teams.

Jeff Samardzija remains a trade away candidate for the Cubs, so he remains a trade for candidate for you—his fantasy value would go up at pretty much any plausible destination.

Robinson Cano seems to have found his power stroke in recent weeks. It’s probably nothing more than catching up to the percentages, so your last chance to pry him from disappointed owners might already be slipping by. But you can make the deal more assured that he’s the Cano you know….

Joey Votto has not shown that he’s returning to his old self yet, and yeah, I am getting worried. But fantasy baseball is a game of gambles, and betting that as consistently excellent a player as Votto eventually returns to form seems like a bet worth making.

Mark Trumbo looks like he’s about two weeks away from a return. While he might encounter setbacks, his foot injury shouldn’t hurt his power. (‘Cause, obviously, that’s never been a problem for Albert Pujols.) But really, the scarcity of homers and Trumbo’s ability to hit them makes him a valuable commodity.

Trade Away

A good start against the Astros might earn you more bites on Justin Verlander, but it’s hardly enough to renew my optimism for the fallen ace. I'd still be shopping him.

Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle have been amazing. Let’s give them that. They’re very good real-baseball pitchers; let’s give them that too. But their strikeout rates are going to hurt your team in the long run. Sell high, especially to a team with a lot of innings to fill up before reaching the cap.

With Alex Wood making a triumphant return to the Majors and the Braves’ starting rotation, it’s probably time to consider dealing him if you play in a head-to-head league. Why? Because I suspect this isn’t the last time Atlanta messes with his playing time to keep his innings down. Maybe it is, but it seems like the chances of him pitching from the ‘pen or being shut down altogether in September seem fairly high—especially if the Braves either lock up the division or fall from contention. Not what you need in the playoffs.

Vague rumors have cropped up that Alex Rios—and every Ranger not named Darvish or Beltre—might be on the trading block this month. If you’re only counting on the steals from Rios, fine, but I’d be very worried about the rest of his production if he does move out of Texas. 

Matt Adams is still sporting a bloated batting average, and I still don’t believe in it. 

Gregory Polanco is off to a nice little start to his Major League career. So you know what to do: trade him before he hits the mostly-inevitable “downs” of a rookie season’s ups and downs.

Pick Up

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Josh Harrison (43%) is still hitting the ball and has IF/OF eligibility. I’m not really a Harrison believer, as he wasn’t that special of a prospect—but I’ll happily use a waiver claim to get him. Plus, he if keeps it up a little longer, he might have some trade value.

Mookie Betts (41%) isn’t off to the best Major League start ever…but how often do potentially-viable shortstops show up on the waiver wire? Pretty much never. Roll the dice (or place your bet) if you’re still trotting out the likes of Everth Cabrera or Jonathan Villar

Who is Jesse Hahn (38%)? Well, he’s pitching lights-out and plays for the Padres. You had me at Padres, Jesse Hahn.

Chris Johnson (36%) has managed to get his average to creep up over .280. A high-BABIP guy, he could be a nice boost in the BA category, plus he can sub in at first and third.

Speaking of middle infielders, Scooter Gennett (35%) keeps, well, scooting along with a .311 average. Is your MI player really better than that?

If Jose Quintana (34%) hits the trading block, he should get a nice boost in value—especially if he goes to a team with a real bullpen. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Adam Dunn (30%) has seemed stuck at about 12 homers for a long time now, so there probably isn’t a huge rush to pick him up. But his average really doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. If you’ve got a couple bench slots (which you probably don’t, seeing as this is the medium leagues section, but hang on for a second), he’s the sort of guy I like to platoon with an empty average type, or an all-speed guy, and just play the matchups. 

Andrew Heaney (28%) is off to a pretty rough looking start—but I’ll take a 12:3 strikeout to walk ratio any day. The Marlins prospect ought to be able to lower his ERA in a hurry. 

Roenis Elias (25%) doesn’t have amazing season stats, but playing half his games in Seattle ought to help you get more bang for your buck. Or less bang, since the term seems to suggest homers and runs scored. Either way, he looks like a useful half-time starter at a minimum. 

Colby Rasmus (25%) is pretty much like Adam Dunn, but younger and with longer hair. And you can play him in the outfield. Anyway, he’s healthy again, so pick him up if you need homers.

Denard Span (22%) should be owned in pretty much every five-OF league. And maybe he is, I guess. Decent speed and just good enough hitting skills to keep him from hurting you in average, maybe even helping in runs. My fifth OF’s aren’t better than that.

Steve Pearce (22%) once was a prospect (I think—it’s been awhile), and I’ve been kind of skeptical of him, but he just keeps hitting, so he should get the playing time. Go for it. 

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned) 

Omar Infante (18%) has shown some signs of life lately. Over the years, he’s been a consistently just-good-enough MI with decent averages, that I think he’s a good candidate to raise his current average to the level where it helps your team.

Juan Francisco (18%) is yet another all power, no average type. This article needs a theme, so I’ll go ahead and recommend him. Plus, he has dual eligibility. Maybe platoon him and Johnson?

For those who don’t hate the batting average category, consider Lorenzo Cain and James Loney (both 18%).

Lucas Duda (17%) might actually be a good player, so take him over the other options here just in case.

I’m surprised as anyone to recommend Chris Young (13%--the pitcher), but this article makes me willing to use him for his home starts. But only in leagues where I can spare the strikeout hit.

Conor Gillaspie (9%) still won’t agree to bring his batting average down to where no-namers without any home runs should be keeping it. So I’ll just keep mentioning him until he does. If he’s on your waiver wire, don’t complain about your place in the batting average standings.

James Jones (8%) is kind of a poor-man’s Eric Young. So take that or leave it, I guess.

Odrisamer Despaigne’s (7%) ERA and WHIP are both under one. He also has just three strikeouts. I’m sure all those numbers will normalize to a certain extent, but since he pitches for San Diego, he could be a sort of Chris Young-lite. Maybe that’s stretching  the terms of fantasy viability, but we’re talking deep leagues at this point.

Josh Rutledge (3%) plays for Colorado, is hitting okay already, and was once a promising middle infielder. Why is he available in 97% of leagues?



Stock Watch: In Case You Forgot—Plus Very, Very Deep Leagues

Editor’s Note: This author is traveling this week and is making an effort to produce content that might still be relevant after several days have passed. Hopefully it’s working.

Welcome to a Very Special Episode of Stock Watch, in which we depart somewhat from our usual format. Insofar as we actually follow it anyway. We’re focusing on two kinds of players today: the first are hitters who slumped so badly early in the season that you might have forgotten they can still play. We could have included pitchers, but we didn’t. The second is an oft-neglected group of players, those already owned in only the deepest of leagues. Instead of our usual waiver wire splits, we’ll jump right to players owned in fewer than 10% of leagues. In fact, we’ll limit that section to hitters too. Don’t worry, you know I can’t keep myself from talking about pitchers for very long, so I’m sure we’ll get back to them next time around.

Lest you shallow-leaguers out there get bored, remember that guys from both of these categories may have already broken out by the time you read this….

You forgot about us, didn’t you? 

Or at least you tried to. 

Let’s face it, unless he plays on your fantasy team, you don’t pay much attention when a player slumps in July or August and hits .180 for the month without any homers or steals. You might pause when you see his recent production if offered a trade, but you’ll look at his season numbers and conclude (usually rightly) that it was nothing but the sort of slump everyone goes through.

But when that horrific slump happens in April, it’s a lot easier to write those guys completely off. Especially if you didn’t think they were going to be any good this year anyway. Even in June, a terrible April can eclipse the next two months of perfectly normal production. 

Take the case of Curtis Granderson. I didn’t believe in him going into the year, so when he had a very, very bad April, (the lowest qualifying batting average in MLB at .136, with just one homer) I felt like my position had been proved. That was sloppy thinking, though, because a) I certainly didn’t predict Grandy to suddenly become the worst player in baseball, and b) small sample!

Sure enough, Granderson is still only rocking a .226 average. But if he was dropped and you snagged him off the wire, you were able to live through his .253 average in May (with five homers), and now you’re enjoying his .340 mark in June (and the three homers, not to mention the three steals or the fact that he has more walks than strikeouts this month). So, Grandy’s given us two fantasy-productive months and one awful one. But that bad month is dominating his stat line. Makes him a pretty nice trade candidate, if you ask me. Actually, he’s the one that inspired this article, so let’s take a look at a few more April busts who might be turning things around—or who already have.

Did you know Carlos Santana grounded into seven double plays in March/April? Okay, that’s not very fantasy relevant, since those don’t count double against his average, but still, it kind of typifies the kind of April he had. He batted under the Mendoza line (way under) in both of the season’s first two months, but in twelve June games, he’s smacking the ball with some serious authority. Between his history of success and the fact that he’s still walking nearly as much as he’s striking out, I like Santana’s chances of returning to your fantasy good graces. 

I recently tried to swing a trade for Jason Heyward, but I guess his owner didn’t need this article to realize his value. (But, hey, Hyun-jin Ryu seems fair, right?) Heyward hit just .206 with two homers and 26 strikeouts in April, but he’s hit .284 since then, with six homers and 30 strikeouts. (In 76 more at bats, remember.) His season-long OBP is already up to .340, but offer your trades before his slugging catches up (it’s at just .388 for the season, but .478 so far in June).

Asdrubal Cabrera was, like Granderson, another victory for my preconceived notions of his lousy-ness. He batted just .220 in March/April, depressing his season total to .255. Since then, however, his average has been .275 in May, and .281 in June. His power has ticked up just a bit, too. If you’re looking for alternatives at short (like, say, to a certain other Cabrera), Asdrubal is probably better than he looks.

Allen Craig lives by his batting average, so when he buried himself with a .220 mark for April, I (yet again) felt vindicated. He’s raised his average up to .260 by now, with steady hitting since the first month. He still doesn’t do much else, but it’s not like you were asking him to anyway. Interestingly, though his March/April BABIP was just .239, and his May BABIP rocketed up to .360, he’s now evened almost exactly out, to a neutral .301. Not that he’s ever had a neutral BABIP over a full season…so there's a decent chance that average is moving on up.

Pablo Sandoval is actually having a pretty decent year. I wouldn’t have guessed it, since his April batting average of .177 is dragging his season number down to .265, but yeah. Since the end of April (still very cold in San Francisco, I note, suggesting a simplistic, yet tangible explanation without offering concrete evidence for its role as a cause), Sandoval has batted about .317. If you need a third baseman, I’d make an offer relatively soon.

Very Deep Waiver Wire Pickups

Conor Gillaspie (8% owned) still has no power. And he’s still hitting for average. If you’re hurting at 3B or CI, give him serious thought.

Tommy La Stella (8%) is off to a pretty good start as Dan Uggla’s replacement. He’s probably more of an emergency fill-in than anything else, but in leagues as deep as yours must be, any hot streak is worth checking into. 

Lucas Duda and Oswaldo Arcia (both 7%) are showing some modest power in the last month, with five and four homers respectively.

Rougned Odor (6%), aside from having an awesome name (I pronounce it “Roughened” in my head, but that probably isn’t right), is hitting the ball well for Texas. He could stick on a team decimated by injuries and ultimately help out fantasy squads.

J.D. Martinez (5%) who, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know was on the Tigers now, is absolutely killing the ball (1.026 OPS, five homers) in 60 at bats in the last month. It’s a niche market, but if you have room for a part-timer and want to take advantage of a “streaky” player on a hot run, go for it. At the least, it could end up giving him more playing time.

Luis Valbuena (5%) kind of inspired this section of the article, when I read about him last week and gave him a quick mention. In Yahoo!, he’s eligible at second and third, and he’s been batting .330 in the last month. Yes, he’s BABIP-fueled, but he’s also changed his approach to generate more line drives. 

Jon Jay (4%), who I almost skipped by because he’s, well, Jon Jay, is hitting .360 on the month. If I’m gonna mention Martinez, I’d better mention Jay too. I guess.

Josh Rutledge (4%) has sweet 2B/SS dual eligibility and he’s smacking the ball hard (.925 OPS) since returning to the Majors in place of Nolan Arenado. (No, he isn’t playing third, the Rockies just shifted DJ LeMahieu.) It’s totally worth speculating on the chance that he capitalizes on his early-career promise, even though it’s not incredibly likely.



Stock Watch: Great Players and Early Disappointments

This article is about playing the percentages. All the hitters I suggest trading for this week are stars you invested heavily for—and are dragging you’re their teams down. It’s a lot more common for stars like these to have lousy month (or three) than a lost entire season, or to regress to retirement age all at once. On the whole, expect most to bounce back. Unfortunately, I can’t give any guarantees about them individually…. 

Trade For

Buster Posey and Joe Mauer haven’t done their owners many favors at catcher this year, but unless you drafted Jonathan Lucroy, that’s probably true for your catcher too. As the top talents at their position, this pair is more likely to bounce back than the Wilin Rosarios of the world. 

David Wright and Evan Longoria haven’t seemed to put anything together either, but both have such long track records of excellence that they should fix it up and power your lineup in the second half. Longoria is the better target of the two, since he’s younger and therefore less likely to be underproducing due to suddenly-advanced-age.

Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis—like Posey and Mauer—are just two of several disappointments at their position. Like their catching counterparts, Pedroia and Kipnis still have the most overall talent* at their position and, therefore, make the best buy-low candidates.

*I have no more idea than anyone else where Robinson Cano’s power went. But as long as he’s hitting over .320 it’s hard to really call him slumping. And as long as the power's out, it's hard to advise you to trade for him.

Matt Holliday and Shin-Soo Choo were once extremely stable producers, but both have seen their power fall off a cliff, and their averages are following. Choo isn’t even stealing. I always worry when I don’t know why a player is underperforming so badly (which is pretty often, to be honest; I’m not a scout and I’m not the players’ trainer), but both of these players have track records long enough to bet on in principle.

Cliff Lee is showing good progress from the DL and stands a decent chance of being traded away from the struggling Phillies (again). Any pitcher who’s already injured is a huge risk, but the potential rewards from Lee are significant. Especially on a good team…. 

Speaking of getting traded, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are on the block. You can be pretty confident that any team that trades for them will be better for the wins than the Cubs. While there’s always the worry of getting traded to the AL East, Samardzija has been linked with the Giants and Hammel with the Mariners. Also, Hammel has pitched well for about two and a half months longer than I expected, so I’ll give him some credit for that.

I was going to put Johnny Cueto on my “Trade Away” list, ‘cause, you know…he’s just too good to be real. Well yeah. But the thing is, Cueto has beaten his FIP every season of his Major League career—since 2008. (It wasn’t super-pronounced in the beginning, but still.) So he’s got a 2.76 FIP right now, and a history of putting up even better ERA’s…I want to be on the buying side of a sell-high trade, I think. He can regress a bit and still work out very, very well for whoever ends up with him.

Trade Away 

I have nothing against Jose Bautista or Josh Hamilton’s production this year. But it’s been pretty much forever (since 2011, which we all barely remember) since Bautista was healthy all year. Trading him now, when his production is off-the-charts-awesome, is purely a risk-mitigation strategy. Hamilton is just now back from (this) injury, but there could easily be more coming down the road. I’d rather deal these guys too early than be stuck with nothing—at least if I’m near the top of the standings.

Jean Segura and Everth Cabrera are managing sub-.600 OPS’s. So how do you get anything of value out of them? From owners who are desperate for steals, of course! It might not be much, but they should return something better than what you can find on the waiver wire, or at least sweeten a larger deal. Neither one is hitting well enough to keep around if you aren’t speed-starved. 

George Springer may not have a higher point in his trade value this season. Rookies always have their ups and downs, and as good as it is to get them off the waiver wire in time for the ups, it’s even better to trade them for a high price before the downs. (Note: sometimes the rookie is Mike Trout and never ends up having downs but becomes the best player in baseball. Life is tough that way.) Gregory Polanco is off to a hot first week in the Majors, and that means I’d start dangling him in trade offers right away. You can’t count on a 10-homer month for every prospect you want to trade….

Josh Beckett, like Bautista and Hamilton above, is actually a player who’s production I believe in. You know I spent half of this season urging everyone in the world to pick him up. But like his hitting brethren, Beckett has a long and varied history of injury and carries, therefore, more injury risk than most. That’s the sort of thing it’s better to mitigate while you still can.

I have no idea what’s up with Justin Verlander. And neither does he. He just got lit up again and isn’t generating strikeouts. I’m starting to think the bold play here is to cut bait and try to get something playable for him if there’s anyone left willing to take the risk. Note that this goes against the percentage-playing theory of most of this article, but combined with last year, there does seem to be a trajectory here and it isn’t towards continued excellence.

Pick Up

That’s a lot of trade talk, so we’ll make the waiver wire suggestions quick. Real quick.

Shallow Leagues (30-50%)

Collin McHugh (37%) and Jose Quintana (32%--he’s back!) are your pickup pitchers this week.

Marlon Byrd (48%), Kendrys Morales (41%), and Adam Lind (35%--yes, still) all pack some punch for you shallow-leaguers needing a hitter. 

Medium Leagues (20-30%)

Juan Francisco (25%) is looking like a real power source and Eric Young (20%) is off the DL and ready to steal.

Jaime Garcia (25%) looks like a Wins and WHIP helper, but I say that every week, don’t I? Well, that’s what happens when you have a 0.96 WHIP for the Cardinals. Jake Arrieta (21%) is the opposite, having been helpful in strikeouts and ERA thus far. He’s also been mentioned in the Cubs’ trade talks. (Same link as Hammel, above.)

Deep Leagues (Under 20%) 

Denard Span (19%) could be a steals source who actually hits occasionally. Brandon Crawford (17%) has been a lot better than most shortstops this year, especially if you play in an OBP or SLG league. (But he’s still kinda good in regular formats too.) Matt Dominguez (12%) may offer more power than your current CI player. I said bad things yesterday about Luis Valbuena (5%) and his chances of keeping his average up, but I read this article that suggests maybe he can be useful after all. Good for you, Luis Valbuena!

Kevin Gausman (14%) and Josh Tomlin (11%) have little in common…except that they can both (probably) help your fantasy team. 

Hey, for me, this counts as really brief!





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