Stock Watch


Stock Watch: The Exciting Part

Stock Watch, like the baseball season itself, is nearly at an end. And like the baseball season, Stock Watch is just now getting to its most exciting point.

Okay, maybe not if you’re stuck with the hopeless task of dragging your team from eighth place to seventh, but if you’re desperately trying to claw into first place or beat your first week’s playoff matchup, yeah, we’re reaching the climax of the season.

Yesterday, we talked about the strategy of just trying to get through the week (also, I made oblique references to Duran Duran, but not as many as I’d hoped) and I’ll stand by that idea for anyone in the playoffs…and pretty close to it for roto leagues too. (You keeper leaguers are on your own, as usual.) But just in case you feel the need to do things like plan ahead, check out our September Values feature for a look at some players who have the chance to overperform their talent thanks to the parks they’ll be playing in or the quality of their opponents.

Wow, between those last couple articles, I guess you don’t need Stock Watch at all. I guess I’ll call it a season….

All right, enough fake self-effacing. I wanted to think of a clever transition between useful past articles and the fact that keeping Stock Watch up-to-date was still relevant, but this was the best I could come up with. So before my creative writing skills are tested (any further) past their limits, let’s just move on to the players.

Shallow Leagues (Owned in 30-50% of Leagues)

Collin McHugh (49%) continues to dominate. He’s probably owned by everyone who reads this column, but seriously, tell your friends or something.

Javier Baez (49%) and Mookie Betts (47%) might be part of a pretty bright shortstop future, but they’re also part of a pretty bright present. Baez isn’t hitting for average, but he’s producing power and speed, and the Cubs get to face the soft underbelly of NL Central pitching this month. Betts is doing everything that Baez is…but also hitting for average. In my mind, these guys should be universally owned. Plus, both play an extra position in Yahoo! leagues.

Dustin Ackley (45%) is another middle infielder producing power and speed over the last month. He’s not exactly a prospect anymore, but he’s producing.

Kennys Vargas (45%) might be next year’s Matt Adams-type—that is, he didn’t really get much attention before coming up, but just didn’t stop hitting and forced us to think seriously about him in the draft. Anyway, he’s hitting for power and average, and Minnesota’s Target Field may depress homers, but has actually increased scoring this year—by a lot.

James Paxton (45%) isn’t generating a ton of strikeouts, but he’s pitching quite well anyway and gets to enjoy one of baseball’s best pitching parks.

Jake Odorizzi (45%) has kept his WHIP under 1.00 for the last month—which is particularly important since giving up too many walks is his only real drawback.

The success of Kyle Hendricks (41%) continues, and it continues to surprise me. I don’t like the Cubbies’ schedule for pitchers this month almost as much as I do like it for their hitters, but there it is: Hendricks has been awesome.

Brock Holt (41%) is scoring and stealing like crazy. A great option for a shallow bench, since he plays just about everywhere.

Bartolo Colon (40%) will get to enjoy a nice schedule and (unless his turn in the rotation is really unlucky) a bunch of home games.

Brandon McCarthy (38%) keeps on pitching really, really well for the Yankees.

Jed Lowrie (38%) is off to a pretty good start since returning from the DL.

I mentioned Kolten Wong (36%) yesterday for his good matchups this week, but those should continue all month. Love the Cards’ schedule for hitters.

Dioner Navarro (34%) is hitting better than most catchers, and yet is not widely owned.

Nick Castellanos (33%) isn’t doing anything truly special, but racking up Runs and RBI anyway. It’s good to play for the Tigers.

Medium Leagues (Owned in 20-30% of Leagues)

Brad Miller (30%) is finally showing some of why he seemed to have offensive promise before the season.

Scooter Gennett (28%) is not the reason for the Brewers’ offensive malaise; he’ll still help your average, and maybe Runs and RBI. 

Luis Valbuena (28%) is cheap power at 2B and 3B. Who needs Kris Bryant anyway?

Juan Lagares (28%) has stolen nine bases in the last month and actually hit the ball too.

Jarred Cosart (27%) has gotten amazing results without dominating through strikeouts. Naturally, I’m skeptical, but sometimes it takes awhile for hitters to catch up to my disbelief.

Miguel Gonzalez (25%) has pretty much the same story as Cosart, plus his team is coasting into the playoffs. Who could have predicted we could say that about the Orioles in this lifetime, let alone this year?

Travis d’Arnaud (25%) might have to hit in the Mets’ CitiField, but he should still be owned—at the least—in every two-catcher league. And he might be better than your catcher in single leagues too.

James Loney (24%) must be a favorite here, but hey, consistent average is hard to find. For what it’s worth (not much) he hit for power last month too.

Drew Stubbs (22%) has a little power, a little speed, and a Colorado home park. How is he not more loved than this?

Derek Holland (22%) has been great in two starts since coming off the DL. Pick him up. Now.

Jacob Turner (21%) keeps hitting while playing all over the diamond. Not a ton of playing time, but he’s batting nearly .370.

Oscar Taveras (21%) is finally hitting!

Dillon Gee (21%) and Jon Niese (20%) pitch for the Mets. They have a bunch of home games. They don’t have to be that good to be good for your fantasy team.

Tsuyoshi Wada (20%) will have an uphill battle against tough NL Central hitters…but man, has he been good so far. Keep an eye on him, as this month is likely to be a good test of his staying power.

Deep Leagues (Owned in Under 20% of Leagues)

Kendrys Morales (19%) might have finally busted out of his season-long funk: he’s hit five homers and sports a respectable .255 batting average in the last month. Maybe don’t sit out till May next year….

Jon Jay (19%) has been hitting for a huge average for the last month. With a favorable schedule, he could even keep it up.

Steve Pearce (19%) is the Orioles’ latest Chris Davis. Okay, maybe without quite so much power, but also without the whole hitting .200 thing.

Drew Hutchison (19%) has struck out nearly a batter per inning in the last month. But yeah, pitching in Toronto is still scary. Tom Koehler (18%) has done pretty much the same thing, but he gets to pitch in the NL East. Bud Norris (17%) is another whiff-per-inning guy, and he might give the best possibility for wins out of this trio.

Joe Panik (18%) now has a .400 average in his last 100 AB. Not ignorable, even if it’s not sustainable.

Jordy Mercer (17%) has provided more-than-customary power in the last month from the middle infield and hits in a potent Pittsburgh lineup.

Lorenzo Cain (17%) is for those who need an influx of steals.

A.J. Pollock (17%) was hitting great. Then he went on the DL. Now he’s back. It’s only been two games, but he’s hitting great. Not convinced? Ask RotoGraphs.

Yusmeiro Petit (17%) just dominated. Again. Maybe the onetime-prospect-turned-journeyman-turned-reliever-turned-emergency-replacement-for-Time Lincecum has finally found his footing in a Major League rotation. It’s certainly worth a roster spot to find out.

Kevin Gausman (13%) could be a very good source of both SP counting stats. Can’t really say the same for ERA and WHIP.

Josh Collmenter (11%) has been really, really good lately. He’s a pick-up-and-drop option, though, because Arizona pitchers have very little shelf life until they become deadly to your team—they spend the whole second half of September in hitters’ parks, mostly against good-hitting teams.

Arismendy Alcantara (11%) can’t hit the Mendoza line, but he can smack five homers in a month. You know it: Cubs schedule.

Tyler Flowers (10%) also hit five homers in the last month. Hey, second catchers don’t grow on trees.

Jordan Schafer (10%) is hitting over .300 with seven steals in the last month.

Oswaldo Arcia (8%) has smacked eight homers in the last month. He hasn’t hit for any average, but that much power is worth a look.

Odrisamer Despaigne (7%) hasn’t been any good lately—but he should be getting more starts in San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles for the rest of the season.

Ender Inciarte, Jose Ramirez, and Jarrod Dyson (all 5%) have been good steals sources in the last month.

Jonathan Schoop (5%) has hit a bunch of homers and plays 2B/3B.



Stock Watch: You Have But One Choice

Stock Watch: You Have But One Choice

Whether you need to shore up your lineup after getting hit with an injury, you need more pitching to rack up innings, or your stagnant team needs a desperate high-reward play, there’s only one place for you to turn: the waiver wire. So good luck with that.

That's why Stock Watch is here to help you out.

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Can I join a league in which Jacob deGrom (49%) is still available? Seriously, a young pitcher with gas, who gets to pitch in Citi Field?! Get this guy on your roster before I have to use another interrobang.

Angel Pagan (47%) is healthy again and helps a little in steals and average—a relatively tough combo to find this late in the season. (Unless you're picking up part-time Kansas City outfielders, but that's another story.)

Casey McGehee (46%) has (somehow) contributed in batting average all year long. With a friendly schedule going forward, I guess he can probably keep it up for September.

Danny Salazar (46%) just likes this part of the year. He’s tearing it up again, like he did last year, and his season stats are masking it from those searching the waiver wire for new talent. Unless they set their player list to "last 30 days." So get him before they do.

Speaking of which, Kyle Hendricks (44%) has been awesome. With his low strikeout rate and a tough schedule coming up, I’m not particularly impressed…but the results have been too good to ignore.

Collin McHugh (43%) has too good of an ERA to be unowned in so many leagues. Somebody’s missing out. Many a quality season has gone useless while we all wait for regression that doesn’t come—or at least takes a long time.

Russell Martin (43%) is having an awesome year, and pretty quietly. I don’t know why he’s suddenly so good (and I didn’t look it up), but I do know he’s playing in a high-caliber offense and that the bar is pretty low at catcher.

Brandon McCarthy (42%) is another guy who shouldn’t be doing so well. Mostly because he waited until after I gave up on him. But, yeah, he’s been great since joining the Yankees. I wish my writing improved so much after moving to New York….

Jake Odorizzi (41%) is far from consistent—but he’s also the guy on the waiver wire most likely to deliver a string of truly dominant starts and carry you through the playoffs. That’s an upside play I’ll gladly make.

Lonnie Chisenhall (39%) isn’t the batting average dynamo that he looked like earlier in the season (BABIP happens), but that doesn’t mean he can’t help a fantasy team anymore.

Jed Lowrie (38%) is back off the DL, in case you want to take a chance on his little-bit-up-really-really-far-down season. That 2B/SS eligibility does come in handy, though, and sometimes all the more so in shallow leagues.

Carlos Carrasco (38%) has been crazy-good since returning to the Indians’ rotation in mid-August. I’m always intrigued when an ex-prospect shows some unexpectedly-good performance.

Kennys Vargas (37%) is pretty good. Certainly better so far than the similarly-first-named guy he replaced in the Twins’ lineup.

Kolten Wong (33%) can still provide some speed in the middle infield, and the Cards have a great schedule for hitters this month.  

Marcus Stroman (32%) is way too good to be available in so many leagues. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Gregory Polanco (28%) is back from the minors. It seems reasonable that he could shake off his slump and help you and the Pirates. Good if you need some upside.

Tsuyoshi Wada (28%) has rocked so far for the Cubs, seriously impressing their management. I mentioned before that Chicago’s schedule is a worry for me, but that hasn’t kept me from owning Wada in a couple leagues.

Dioner Navarro (26%) has a pretty respectable batting line for a catcher. What? That’s praise—sort of.

Drew Stubbs (24%) is giving owners power and speed. It had been awhile, but this was his profile back when he was getting drafted as a number two or three outfielder. And his playing time competition is hurt. And he plays for Colorado! Pick him up and use him in every home and Arizona game. Bench him for the others if you want, but pick him up.

Oscar Taveras (22%) has a little hitting streak, but that’s not why I’d keep an eye on him or pick him up; the Cards have a great hitting schedule, which could be just what the top prospect needs to kick-start his Major League career.

Dillon Gee (22%) and Jon Niese (21%) will get to enjoy plenty of home games and starts against weak-hitting opponents. September should be a good month for the Mets’ pitchers.

Jonathan Villar (21%) is back up with the Astros. I don’t know if he’ll play everyday, but he could still give you some steals, in a sort of Eric Young-in-the-infield sort of way.

Yusmeiro Petit (20%) has been too good out of the bullpen to ignore in the rotation. You’ve got to take a chance on a guy doing that.

Steve Pearce (20%) is going to sit out a couple days, but keep an eye on him; if he isn’t too hurt, the Orioles’ new acquisitions shouldn’t be much threat to his playing time.

Mookie Betts (20%) is heating up and plays shortstop and outfield.

Justin Turner (20%) plays all the infield positions and is hitting over .320. That's...pretty impressive, even in less than 300 AB.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

Colby Rasmus (19%) makes some sense if you’re in need of power—but mostly if you’re desperate. He could lose some playing time down the stretch to Toronto’s September call ups.

We might as well admit that Lorenzo Cain (18%) is a speed/average threat, since he’s got 24 steals and a .298 batting average this late in the season.

Jon Jay (18%) offers little besides average, but if that’s what you need, his favorable schedule makes him a good source of it in deep formats.

A.J. Pollock (17%) is back! He was producing across the board when he got hurt and could really help you out in the last two weeks of the season, with a bunch of games at home in Arizona.

Conor Gillaspie (17%) is still hitting for average. Still!

Hector Santiago (16%) makes this list again. Why? Because he deserves it. Not pitching bad (an admitted worry with Santiago), getting strikeouts, and playing a favorable schedule for the month. Just for the rest of the season, I’d take him over plenty of pitchers who are more talented and reliable.

Bud Norris (15%) could be helpful if you need some wins and have innings to spare, pitching as he does for the heavy-hitting Orioles.

Shane Greene (15%) just got beaten badly by the Red Sox, but he’s still striking out nearly a batter per inning.

Josh Collmenter (13%) isn’t that great—but I do like his chances to produce in the next two weeks, with some favorable matchups in parks and opponents.

Arismendy Alcantara (13%) isn’t consistent, but if you can handle the average (or you’re punting it), he provides power and speed in the infield and outfield.

Derek Holland (11%) pitched well in his first start of the season. He’s an intriguing high-risk, high-reward guy. I literally just picked him up in a league in which I’m hovering around eighth and ninth place and need to take some chances.

Tyler Flowers (8%) has been my go-to replacement catcher as I’ve dealt with injuries to Yan Gomes and Brian McCann, who were pretty much the only catchers I drafted this season. But anyway, Flowers can fill in for you too.

You don’t have to truly believe in Odrisamer Despaigne (8%) to enjoy his brand of low-strikeout, low-run starts. Pitching in San Diego, expect more of the same and own this guy.

Jimmy Nelson (7%) is another high-reward type, as the top prospect for a contending (albeit stumbling) Brewers team.

Andrew Heaney (5%) just came back up for the Fish. Upside? Totally. Plus the Marlins have a pretty favorable schedule, thanks to in-division opponents like the Phillies and Mets.



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?





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