Stock Watch


Stock Watch: Waiver Wire Special Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about trading for the last couple weeks—in fact, I think it’s been on everyone’s mind here at RotoAuthority. Nothing wrong with that—there’s no more significant way to improve your team than by swinging a trade—but maybe you need a break from constant advice about how to get rid of the few players you drafted still on your roster. So today on Stock Watch, we’re going to take a short break from trade advice and look a little deeper into the waiver wire.

Oh, and if he’s somehow available in your league…pick up Gregory Polanco!

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Jon Singleton (48%) has two homers and a .200 average so far. So…not much has changed since he took over first for Chris Carter, I guess. It’s a good thing that he isn’t hitting that well, because if he was he wouldn’t still be grabable. Grabbable? You couldn’t pick him up. 

Marlon Byrd (47%) isn’t the most beautiful bird in the sky (I had to), but his numbers (nine homers, .263 average) stand out next to those around him. Of course, if you don’t like him, there are plenty of fish in the sea of shallow leagues. (fish…Marlon…marlin…ooookay.) Puns aside, Byrd does look better than his immediate contemporaries.

Tanner Roark (46%) has been a pretty solid all-around contributor for Washington. Chances are he can help your WHIP and Wins, in particular. 

Dexter Fowler (44%) is still doing a little of everything. I’m gonna make the early call that the Astros won the trade that brought him in, since it looks like he can hit .280 outside of Coors. 

Speaking of Astros, I normally make a point of ignoring their pitchers, but Collin McHugh (42%) has 60 K’s in 54.1 IP, and Houston isn’t so bad that they haven’t been able to manage any wins for him. Like Dallas Keuchel before him, McHugh looks like he might have some real fantasy value. Where do the Astros find these guys?

If your format makes it easier to stash minor leaguers than DL players, Taijuan Walker (41%) definitely needs to get picked up. Actually, he should probably be picked up anyway. 

Adam Lind (40%) still seems to deserve more ownership, though even I’m starting to wonder if he’s going to hit for any power.

Kendrys Morales (34%) must’ve been working out, or playing t-ball, or something, because he’s already got a game played and a batting average. He was always fantasy-viable, so hurry and pick him up while your opponents assume he’s playing extended spring training or something. Just because he didn’t land with Texas doesn’t mean he shouldn’t land in your CI slot (at which he is eligible, at least in the ever-flexible Yahoo! format). 

Garrett Jones (34%) is playing pretty good baseball too, proving that shallow leaguers everywhere already have their 1B, CI, and Util slots already filled. Actually, leagues this shallow probably aren’t using that CI position, are they? That’s why they’re shallow…. 

Juan Francisco and Adam Dunn (both 32%) are useful as homer-only players off your bench, though if you’re relying on them to play everyday, your league is probably deep enough that they’re already owned…by you. 

No, there are no middle infielders or catchers that I want to pick up at this level of ownership. Why? Because in shallow leagues you don’t have any business relying on players from the weaker positions. Also, there aren’t any good middle infielders, and I pretty much assume that shallow leagues are one-catcher affairs and that you've got that one covered on your own.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Trevor Bauer (29%) is generating serious strikeouts (35 whiffs in 28.2 IP) without completely destroying your WHIP (1.29). If that’s the category you need, make this move.

Bartolo Colon (29%) may not have attractive season stats, but you have to love his control. 

Brad Miller (29%) has shown some recent signs of improvement. He’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re hurting at short. If you’re really hurting.

Danny Santana (27%) is off to a red-hot start. I have no idea if he’s for real, but he plays three positions and I’m willing to drop a fringy player to keep him on my team just in case he keeps producing at anything close to this level. Actually, he doesn’t even have to come all that close, since he’s hitting a ridiculous .364 in 77 AB.

B.J. Upton (27%) has provided some of his old power and speed (5 homers, 10 steals). If you want to take chances with your batting average, you could do worse than Upton.

Corey Dickerson (25%) should be getting more playing time. He’s worth a chance, though most people expect him to be overexposed in a full time role.

Gerardo Parra (23%) does a little of everything. I mean, really, a little. But still—it’s better than doing none of anything, right?

I actually just dropped James Loney (21%), who hasn’t been helping my batting average like he’s supposed to. (Mostly because I had Joey Votto come off the DL, actually.) But he’s been a pretty consistent batting average guy, and I do expect him to pick it back up over the course of the season. He’s still hitting about .280, and ought to end up between there and .310 by season’s end.

Marcus Stroman (20%) pitched quite nicely against St. Louis last time out, and Toronto seems willing to trust him to work things out at the Major League level. Could be a real gem. 

Denard Span (20%) is holding his average up still, and with nine steals, is managing some decent speed too. Better than your fifth OF, almost guaranteed.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

In deep leagues, decent pitchers on good teams are hard to find, but if you need wins, I still suggest Jaime Garcia (19%) because he fits just that description. 

Kolten Wong (19%) has turned up his game since returning to the Majors, and he’s contributing eight steals on the season. Probably worth your MI slot.

Brock Holt (16%) has been hitting very well in replacement of Will Middlebrooks. So far, it’s mostly come in batting average, which may or may not be believable. But at this level, you know you can’t wait to believe a player is for real to pick him up. 

Josh Harrison (15%) has also been putting up some very nice numbers, with a little power, a little speed (really, a little), and a solid average. As a bonus, he’s eligible at second and third in Yahoo! leagues, as well as his OF position. How much playing time he continues to receive now that Polanco is coming up is, however, still uncertain.

Tommy Milone (14%) isn’t going to be a strikeout pitcher anytime soon, but he’s decent, and comes with the help of a good team and a friendly ballpark. Expect decent Wins and ERA. 

Mike Aviles (13%) plays all three premium infield positions and doesn’t hit that badly. 

Chris Owings (12%) stubbornly refuses to become bad: he could approach a 15/15 season. At shortstop. 

Josh Tomlin (11%) is still rocking a sub-1.00 WHIP. Always good with control, so far he’s managed not to allow too many hits either. He could be a nice pickup.

Jacob deGrom (10%) keeps pitching well, with nearly a strikeout per inning and a decent WHIP.

Kevin Gausman (7%) is finally looking like he might be able to deliver on his promise.



Stock Watch: Short-Term Gains

Sometimes you need to look at the big picture with a player, to see his numbers in the context of his current season, his recent-years trends, and even his entire career arc. 

Specifically, that time is draft day. It isn’t today. That’s why—like last week—we’ll be putting on some short-term blinders and looking at short-term trends, hoping for short-term gain. Basically, we’re taking the title of this column literally and playing the fantasy stock market. Fortunately, we (probably) can’t tank the world economy if we screw up. 

But to be on the safe side, we’ll emphasize the waiver wire instead of telling you to trade every player on your team for Edwin Encarnacion

Trade For 

Albert Pujols looked like he was back in April—but he’s rocking just a .216 average for (essentially, it’s the last 30 days anyway) May. I’m still more encouraged by Pujols showing us good play than I am a lousy average, but his owner might be getting antsy. Looks like a good opportunity to me.

What’s up with Buster Posey? I almost tried to trade for him and maybe I should have. Unless you find out about an injury, trust stars to return to their starry level and make offers on them when they slump. 

Masahiro Tanaka is showing absolutely no sign of slowing down. Sometimes it takes  another trip around the league for that to happen (I keep thinking about Dontrelle Willis for some reason, but that can’t possibly be fair), but I’m more encouraged by the sustained success. Match up with an owner looking to sell high if you need premium pitching.

Evan Longoria is too good a hitter to keep up a powerless, sub .270 average, right? Right. Take advantage.

It appears time to admit that John Lackey is good again.

Xander Bogaerts is hitting the ball very well and is worth thinking about if his owner hasn’t already started to depend on him. 

After an atrocious April, Khris Davis has hit six homers and batted nearly .300 over the last month. Which one is the real Khris? It probably won’t take that much to find out…. 

Alcides Escobar has outstolen Billy Hamilton 10-9 in the last 30 days. That’s got to count for something.

Trade Away 

I was offered the chance to deal Chris Sale, and maybe I should have taken it: you get offered good stuff for pitchers with 0.50 ERA’s in the last month. Actually, I was offered Tim Hudson, and if I took that trade, I’d fire myself from RotoAuthority. Incidentally, I don’t blame the other owner for offering the deal—Hudson is a great trade away candidate too. 

Ian Kinsler’s .308 average and five combined homers and steals really isn’t that great—but with other second basemen underperforming or only just returning from injury, those numbers start looking pretty good. Deal him before his bettors straighten out. 

Nelson Cruz has 12 homers in the last 30 days, which would be impressive if Encarnacion wasn’t doing what he’s doing. Actually, it is impressive. Cruz is a high-quality fantasy player (as in, better than his real life value), but he isn’t this good. But it’s plausible, you know? Plausible enough for you to get good stuff back for him.

You absolutely have to trade Shelby Miller. Seriously, look up his advanced stats. Get him off your team. 

Chris Archer looks like he’s pitching good. If you don’t look at his WHIP. Maybe a trade partner won’t? Hey, it’s worth a shot.

It’s obvious enough, but George Springer is literally the perfect trade candidate: super prospect (check), double-digit homers in the last month (check)…uh, actually that’s all there needs to be.

Pick Up
Shallow Leagues (30-50% Ownership)

Drew Pomeranz (48%) is so far justifying all of us who’ve been suggesting him. Keep it up, Drew.

Mike Leake (45%) has been pitching pretty hot lately, (2.14 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). I can’t get excited about anyone with his low levels of strikeouts, but the short-term value could be there until he runs colder.

Trevor Bauer (32%)—now that’s someone I can be excited about (21 K’s in 16.1 IP). Not that his ERA (4.41) or WHIP (1.47) recommend him, but if you’re in need of counting stats….

Marcell Ozuna (46%) has powered five homers this month. That’s a lot better than most on the waiver wire—and better than most in my own outfields….

Jon Singleton (45%) is totally the headliner of this club. Well worth picking him up; though be warned that he isn’t a Springer or an Oscar Taveras-quality prospect.

Lonnie Chisenhall (41%) has given us the best month of his Major League life (I assume—I didn’t care enough to look it up), and the remotest chance that this is a sign that he’ll be a playable third baseman going forward means he should be owned. 

This isn’t a pickup recommendation, it’s just amazing: Jonathan Villar (39%) has an OPS of .343 in the last month. That’s straight-up amazing. And there’s no way that’s worth those five steals. Cut him. 

Adam Lind (39%) has batted .375 in the last month, mostly since returning from the DL. Well worth your CI slot.

Derek Jeter (34%) is offering an empty .280 average. That’s actually pretty good for a shortstop.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Ownership)

Ryan Vogelsong (30%) has been an all-around quality pitcher for the last month’s worth of starts. He’s done this before, so there could be something useful here. But be ready to let him go at the first sign of trouble, because when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad.

Jason Vargas (29%) is actually putting up similar numbers to Bauer, but the high-K’s, high-WHIP fits less well with his history, making the walks/hits scarier and the K’s less enticing.

Bartolo Colon (28%) has pitched pretty well this month and still has more starts than walks on the season. Hey, low-K guys look more exciting the deeper your league….

Jaime Garcia (26%) probably won’t keep striking out a batter per inning, but halfway decent Cardinals pitchers seem like a great source of potential wins.

Seth Smith (29%) continues to rake in a platoon role. You can use that, honest.

David Murphy (23%) and Gerardo Parra (20%) are both hitting decently well in  more or less full-time roles. 

Deep Leagues (Less than 20% Ownership)

Bronson Arroyo (17%) is separated from Leake in uniform but not in spirit, as he too is pitching well without getting strikeouts. Henderson Alvarez (16%) also appears cut from the same cloth, and is also riding a wave of recent success.

Roenis Elias (14%) might be settling in nicely, with a decent strikeout rate and a 1.15 WHIP. 

Tommy Milone (12%) is on fire, with a 0.66 WHIP and a 1.67 ERA. Of course, he can’t generate strikeouts either, but pitching for the A’s has brought him three wins. His situation recommends him to better season-long success than most.

Gavin Floyd (10%) and Josh Collmenter (9%) are getting surprisingly good results lately.

Jake Odorizzi (7%) has a pretty extreme strikeout total (37 K’s in 25 IP) and a WHIP that actually hasn’t been that bad lately (1.24).

Omar Infante (14%) isn’t hitting at all—but at least he’s healthy.

Denard Span (13%) is a great value at this ownership level: he’s batting over .300 with four steals in the last month. (Hey, I didn’t say he was a star, did I?)

Conor Gillaspie (12%) and Gordon Beckham (12%) are hitting quite well for the White Sox, with Beckham even knocking four homers. And I'd given up on him years ago....

Matt Dominguez (12%) has been surprisingly steady, with an average that doesn’t kill you and a bit of power.

John Jaso (12%) is the hot hitting catcher of the day. You never know how long it’ll last, but what if you just devoted your catcher slot to whoever happens to be on a hot streak? Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

Michael Saunders (11%) is giving us one of those months that remind us why he sometimes got drafted in past years. It won't last, but it doesn't really have to, does it?



Stock Watch: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

This week in Stock Watch, we’re going to take a look at some trade and waiver strategies that take the last month’s play into extra account, to see if any useful trends can be spotted. There's a lot to see, so let's dive right in.

Trade For

Jay Bruce has been injured and terrible this year, and more of both in the month of May. Why trade for him? For one thing, his owners are probably getting impatient. I remember last year, when he was also terrible (and not even hurt) at this point in the season…and still put up great overall numbers. I’d be willing to bet that he turns it around and gives us another high-power, low-average year. 

Wilin Rosario is someone to trade for if you still believe in him as a hitter at all. I do—two years of good power gets more than a couple bad months benefit of the doubt for me. Like Bruce, he’s been really, really bad, so get a good price and cross your fingers.

Jason Heyward isn’t doing bad this month—in fact, he seems to have finally picked things up. Maybe it’s the beginning of the Big Breakout that we all knew was coming eventually…for the last several years. Or maybe it’s not, but this game is about taking chances, and the Heyward upside is worth it.

Jean Segura is another guy with lousy full-season stats that are dragged down by a horrible April. He hasn’t been bad in May, but that might not stop his owners from being disgruntled—especially in roto formats, where the owner might not be looking too closely at week-by-week stats.

Adam Jones has the same story: his season stats look like they’re dragging down his roto teams, but he’s pretty much back to form for the last 30 days. Take advantage if you can, because I don’t see anything to worry about here. 

Mike Minor hasn’t quite gotten it back together since coming off the DL. It’s been a few starts and he’s been…well, he’s been OK. Maybe his owner is thinking that’s Minor’s level for the year. I ain’t. He’ll be back to form, hopefully on your team.

Jeff Samardzija is someone I told you to trade away last week…hopefully you didn’t, ‘cause I’ve changed my mind. This article put things in better perspective, but I wasn’t convinced until I saw for myself that his May K/9 is back near 9.0. Not only that, but there’s a great chance the woebegone Cubbies deal him to a team with a Major League offense sometime this summer. Don’t be afraid to admit it when you’re wrong: I’d make a deal for Samardzija. 

Trade Away

Mark Teixeira is clubbing the ball like crazy this month. What? I’d thought his career was pretty much gone, but I guess not. Actually, I’m still not that confident in him making it through the year with his power. Sell while he’s healthy and the number eight still shows up in his last 30 days’ homer production. 

Matt Adams isn’t putting up the power he showed last year—in fact, he’s giving little more than a BABIP-inflated batting average. I’m willing to end the experiment before his BABIP drops and Oscar Taveras takes his place in the lineup.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Yasiel Puig. (Now anyway.) But he’s hitting at as close to the top of his game as you can expect and his trade value probably won’t ever be higher. Make a huge splash and deal him. Your opponent will get great production, but you ought to get even more. 

George Springer is blowing up the fantasy-site advice articles with his red-hot May…so trade him. Yeah, he’s good, but rookie phenoms can almost always return more value in trade than they give in the lineup.

Jordan Zimmermann is not pitching well, and I’m not sure he has the strikeout rate to recover himself. I’d make a deal while people still have their preseason rankings in their heads.

Jered Weaver has been lights-out this month; point that out when you deal him, especially if your staff needs to be giving you more K/9 in an innings-limited league.

Yordano Ventura has something called “valgus stress overload.” (No, I didn’t make that name up—but I wish I was that creative.) I don’t know exactly what that means, but it sounds…bad, and apparently it affects in-game management of velocity. I’d deal him and hope that someone else wants to take a chance on his upside.

Josh Beckett just threw a no-hitter! I love a no-hitter as much as anyone (more actually, since I learned baseball from my Nolan Ryan-fan father), but that’s the best press Beckett’s getting all year. Plus, he threw a ton of pitches after relatively low innings counts for most of this season. By now, we all know the drill when it comes to high pitch counts and no-hitters.... 

Pick Up
Shallow Leagues (30-50% Ownership)
 

Phil Hughes (46%) is lighting things up this month. Who knew? 

Dexter Fowler (43%) is quietly playing pretty well, doing—as he does—a little of everything.

Ubaldo Jimenez (40%) has actually been pretty good in May, though his overall numbers don’t show it. He’ll never be great for your WHIP, but he’ll add some strikeouts.

Taijuan Walker (40%) is about to start his rehab. Go ahead and pick him up, because his ownership rate is about to spike. 

A.J. Pollock (39%) continues to hit very well. I don’t know if it’s a fluky hot streak or if he’ll be a good outfielder all season, but does it really matter? He’s good now, so if you need an OF, go for it. 

Chris Johnson (39%) has put up a good average for the last month, and that’s the only reason why you’d want him tackling third base for you. Well, that and the fact that all other 3B on the waiver wire are probably really, really bad (except those listed below--they're great).

Jon Niese (38%) is great. Pick him up. Last warning: his ownership ought to be in more like the 75% range.

Jose Quintana (37%) is pretty good too. Also last warning: his ownership ought to make it to the 50-60% range. 

Lonnie Chisenhall (32%) is finally hitting. Maybe it just took the specter of Carlos Santana taking his place at third, I don’t know. But yeah, he’s killing the ball. Pick him up on the off chance there was a reason Cleveland kept giving him chances out there.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Ownership)

David Murphy (30%) is almost graduated from this ownership level, which is too bad, because these are the kind of teams that need his brand of good-enough.

James Loney (26%) has got to be worth more than this—I mean, most of the shallowest leagues let you play multiple Util players, which means more first basemen, and getting help for your batting average is always useful. Anyone who already has Adam Dunn should get Loney too.

Ryan Vogelsong (26%) might be tricking us all, but he’s pitched like the (good) old version of himself lately. 

Dustin Ackley (23%) has been coming to play, and his 2B/OF eligibility is really helpful. 

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Ownership)

Kolten Wong (18%) has hit since returning to the Big Leagues. And hit pretty good too.

Jaime Garcia (16%) is a great add for teams in need of wins. It’s nice that he’s pitched well in his two post-DL starts.

Omar Infante (15%) is back off the DL. Hitting .270-ish is a pretty good thing for someone who can play MI and is available in 85% of leagues.

Matt Dominguez (14%) and Brandon Crawford (14%) are both offering a nice bit of power for deep leaguers interested in infielders. 

Roenis Elias (13%) has his control troubles but also has roughly a 9.0 K/9 for the month of May and a friendly home park. 

Junior Lake (11%) is really hitting well. Deep leagues can’t worry about whether or not a player is likely to keep it up—go with the hot hand while he’s hot. 

Conor Gillaspie (10%) is batting over .400 for the month. No, he doesn’t do anything else, but that’s one category more than most other waiver wire 3B available in 90% of leagues. 

Brandon McCarthy (9%) has pitched really good for a while now (excluding his most recent start, I know), and deserves to be much more widely owned than this.

Jake Odorizzi (9%) and Gavin Floyd (9%) have been strikeout machines for the last month. Odorizzi is more likely to keep it up, but also more likely burn in a fiery walk implosion.

Tommy Milone (7%) is not getting strikeouts, but Oakland is a very favorable pitching situation, with a great team and a friendly park.

Rafael Montero (7%) has shown some upside and some troubles in his first couple starts, but he’s done enough to be intriguing, that’s for sure.

Josh Tomlin (5%) was actually pretty good a couple years ago and he’s pitching nicely so far in May. More upside than one might guess. 

Nick Tepesch (5%) has had some success for Texas. They’ll have to depend on him, with about a hundred pitchers on the DL already. He ought to have a long leash and good run support.

Yunel Escobar (4%) is pretty mediocre, so if you need a short-term shortstop, he’s your guy.

David DeJesus (2%) is way, way better than almost anyone available in 98% of leagues. He doesn’t play 100% of the time, but he plays pretty well when he does. That’s probably useful in more than 2% of leagues.



Stock Watch: New Stats and Other Shiny Objects

It's always nice to get new things, so I was pretty excited to see that Fangraphs.com added a new stat yesterday: K-BB%. Who would I be not to take a look and see who looks like they need to be targeted in trade—or be sent packing—based on a stat? Okay, so it's not like it's new knowledge--it's just more convenient, but that's plenty for me. 

We’ll have to cover hitters next week, because overcoming my biases of interest in favor of new stuff and pitching at the same time is impossible. Impossible.

Trade For 

Who looks good based on K-BB%? Well, you probably aren’t going to pry Masahiro Tanaka (26.3%) or David Price (24.6%) from their owners without paying a fortune, and you definitely don’t want to trade for the stat’s leader, Jose Fernandez (27.8%) in a redraft league, but that doesn’t mean you can’t like the selection of pitchers below: 

Ian Kennedy (21.2%) is looking like his old, healthy, awesome self. No, I still wouldn’t give up Cole Hamels for him, as has been asked in the comments, but I’d definitely target Kennedy in a trade. 

Corey Kluber (21.1%) will be pitching himself out of the bargain space soon, but it wasn’t too late for me to encourage my wife to target him in trade a couple days ago. I’ll encourage you to do the same, probably for the last time. Hopefully I’ll be able to hype him up enough that he makes it into the “Trade Away” section below….

Alex Wood (19.9%) is pitching well enough that you should go after him if you can handle the wasted roster slot, especially in a keeper format. Him, I believe in…teammate Aaron Harang (18.9%), not so much. When Harang’s regression comes, Wood ought to be ready. And if Harang doesn’t regress…well, weird stuff is what makes baseball great, right?

Yordano Ventura (18.5%) isn’t getting as much hype as you’d expect, but he’s proving his supporters right with a strong K-BB%. 

“What’s he do?” candidate Jesse Chavez (18.2%) continues to be excellent and I’m starting to think he’s worth prying away from owners that are as surprised as everyone else at his performance.

Trade Away 

On the other side of the K-BB% things look a little less awesome. 

It’s time to deal Shelby Miller (5%), preferably to an owner that doesn’t understand that having a 5.34 FIP means your 2.79 ERA is probably going way, way up.

Jake Peavy (6.8%) may (or may not) have some trade value left from name recognition alone. Let him go and remember his Padre days fondly. 

R.A. Dickey (7.6%) probably isn’t giving anyone much hope, but this is more reason not to have it. 

A.J. Burnett (8.1%) was a big favorite of mine before the year began, but this number really spells trouble. Nothing like a new(ly sortable) stat to snap me out of denial. It’s backed up in the difference between his ERA (3.13) and his FIP (4.32). Keep in mind also, that Philadelphia (presumably, I haven’t been hanging out there recently) hasn’t heated up for the summer to turn the park into a homer-launching pad. 

Justin Verlander (9%) makes it onto this list thanks to a strikeout rate that has pretty much shriveled up and died. His ERA and FIP are almost perfectly matched (3.15 and 3.14), but his xFIP smells trouble (4.31)…but can advanced statistics really smell?

Pick Up

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Adam LaRoche (49%) is about to come off the DL. He was raking before the injury, so he’s worth a chance even in those shallowest of leagues in which he’s available.

Dallas Keuchel (48%) had two articles written on him yesterday, on Yahoo! and on Fangraphs. When two great oracles agree, it’s time to quit hating on the Astros and take a chance on a guy. Of course, almost half of you already have….

Eric Young (38%) is an all-worlder in steals, and the Mets don’t seem to care much about his horrible average. He should be more widely owned, even if just as a bench piece to protect you from his average and still sneak in some steals.

Trevor Bauer (36%) is up in place of Danny Salazar. More upside than most with that ownership level, though his previous MLB experience reminds us of his downside.

Final warning for Jon Niese (34%): he’s awesome. But I talk about him too much, so now it’s up to you not to forget about him.

Adam Lind (31%) has more pop than most in this ownership level. I’m inclined to think he deserves rostering in about half of fantasy leagues. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

James Loney (27%) should be more owned: seriously, .300 averages don’t grow on trees, even without power.

I don’t normally talk about relievers here, but Joaquin Benoit (25%) is really awesome (2.18 ERA, 0.82 WHIP).

Bartolo Colon (23%) hasn’t been nearly as bad as his bloated ERA leads one to believe.

Gerardo Parra and Dayan Viciedo (both 22%) have been passable if you’re in need, but OF continues to be pretty tough on those in medium and deep leagues.

Who before the season would have expected that Tyler Skaggs (21%) would hurt you in strikeouts (just 33 in 51.2 IP) but help in WHIP (1.16)? No one. So go for it if you need the WHIP really bad.

Drew Hutchison (20%) has a nifty WHIP and is striking out a batter per inning.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

Another reliever for you: Dellin Betances (16%) has 42 strikeouts in 24.1 IP, so that’s pretty awesome.

Daniel Murphy (14%) is offering steady production and playing often enough to be useful.

Matt Dominguez (12%) has a little power and an average that isn’t as bad as you’d expect. Considering how many third baseman have sustained injuries this year, he ought to be a bit more widely owend.

Rafael Montero (11%) wasn’t bad in his first start, and his prospect-ness means that he’s got more upside than most. And at this depth “wasn’t bad” is pretty much the same as great.

Jake Odorizzi (9%) has control issues and his rate stats warn against trusting him…but he’s whiffing more than a batter per inning, so those searching desperately for K’s may have a use for him as long as the Rays do.

Corey Dickerson (8%) is raking. Anyone hitting that good should be on more teams, even if it’s destined not to last. You don't have to believe in him to ride a hot streak.

Brandon McCarthy (7%) showed up pretty high on the K-BB% list and is pitching better than his ERA would indicate. Of course, it would be helpful if Arizona would win some ballgames….

Lorenzo Cain (5%) is batting .295 in the last month and might be heating up a little. Hey, an empty batting average is better than nothing, right? 

Edwin Jackson (4%) has been pretty hot lately, and has more track record of relative success than most players on the waiver wires of deep leagues.

Barely on the Radar

These aren’t guys to pick up yet…just to keep in mind. Dylan Bundy is rehabbing and could be pitching (in the minors) soon. Stephen Drew is back with the Sox and should be with the team on Wednesday. Unless you’re desperate for help at short, I’d wait to see what his playing time shakes out to be before dropping someone useful to get him. Jason Motte has been activated, so pencil him in as once-and-future-closer-in-waiting, though Trevor Rosenthal will have to stumble big time for Motte to get his old job back..



Stock Watch: ISOlate your BABIP?

In this week's Stock Watch, we'll examine some hitters with high isolated power numbers you should be interested in, as well as some hitters getting too much of their value from BABIP numbers they probably can't sustain. Also, check out some top-prospect pitchers coming up from the minors....

 Trade For

If you're in the market for an ace, target Stephen Strasburg and his 12.17 K/9. That 3.42 ERA might keep his price down a little in some leagues, but his 2.51 FIP should reassure you that he's awesome. Corey Kluber is an even better target, but you better get your offers in before his 3.48 ERA starts crawling down to match his 2.41 FIP.

Michael Morse (.256 ISO) is killing the ball like the old days...of not that long ago when he was also healthy. Get him before his owners realize they can trust him.

Todd Frazier (.242 ISO) wasn't expected to do too much before the season, and his numbers haven't been flashy...but they have been good, especially at an injury-depleted third base position.

Jonathan Villar (.218 ISO--hey, ISO is this week's theme stat) already has more homers (five) than I expected him to launch all season. Though he started slow and doesn't look like a batting average guy, I'm intrigued by the thought of a high-speed-plus-a-little-power shortstop. If he keeps up the pace and puts up a 15 HR/30 SB season, that would be a high-value player.

Kyle Seager (.214 ISO) started so slow I had to drop him from one team, but his power is climbing back up. His full-season numbers still don't look awesome, which is always a trading bonus.

Trade Away

Jeff Samardzija  is supposed to be a strikeout machine, but 7.23 K/9 looks more like...um...well, like not that. His 1.45 ERA sure is nice, but a 2.92 FIP and 3.51xFIP suggest regression is coming. The lack of strikeouts, the apparently impending regression and the fact that he's got a super-snazzy ERA all make him a good guy to peddle away.

Garrett Richards isn't much of a household name, but he's been pretty productive so far, with a 2.80 ERA and a 2.75 FIP. Why trade him away? Because a look at his 4.0 BB/9 and 0.2 HR/9 tells me that his peripheral numbers are the ones in line for a regression. Beware.

Marlon Byrd is rocking an obscene.424 BABIP. (Okay, I don't know how that's "obscene," except that that'll describe the words fantasy owners have for him when the BABIP comes down.)

Shin-Soo Choo has a .415 BABIP that's leading to a very nice average...but where will the average go when the BABIP does? I'm not saying he's a candidate to crater (like some of these other guys), but his trade value probably won't go much higher than it is now.

Emilio Bonifacio (.394 BABIP) Brett Gardner (.386 BABIP) should be dealt to anyone who needs steals, because it looks like a matter of time before they turn back into one-category players.

Matt Adams was interesting before the season for his power, but he's got only two homers and his . 375 BABIP is all that's sustaining him as a fantasy player right now.

Pick Up*

*Percentages are Yahoo! league ownership rates.

Shallow Leagues

Alcides Escobar (44%) has earned his forgiveness for 2013. Pick him up.

Derek Norris (34%) is a catcher and he's raking. In the revolving-door life of two-catcher leagues, that's all that matters.

Jon Niese (41%) was once good. Then he was bad because he was injured. Now he's pitching great. Hmm...

How many more times should I recommend picking up Josh Beckett (30%)? Good ERA, check. Good WHIP, check. Good chance for wins on a good team, check. Striking out a batter per inning, check.  

Medium Leagues

Adam Lind (29%) is back from injury and an above-average power source.

Gregory Polanco (28%) is killing the ball in the minors. Maybe only 28% of leagues have room to stash a minor leaguer that's probably coming up just after the super-two cutoff...but I think it's more than that.

James Loney (27%) is what he is: a safe batting average first baseman. Given the number of Mark Reynoldses in the world, a guy like Loney has more value than this just because he's different.

Dustin Ackley (21%) has been hitting pretty well for the last couple weeks. As a lifelong Mariners fan, no, I don't believe he'll keep it up. As a semi-objective observer, I'm willing to take a chance on a guy who's eligible in the infield and outfield and riding a hot streak.

Deep Leagues

I talked about Drew Pomeranz (18%) yesterday. Pick him up.

Mike Zunino (15%) is on a hot streak, catches, and was a pretty good prospect. Mariner or not, that's probably worth more than 15% ownership.

A.J. Pollock (15%) is someone I've been ignoring for a while, but he's hitting the ball and seems to do a little of everything.

Kevin Gausman (12%) is scheduled to come up for Baltimore, while Rafael Montero (12%) is joining the Mets' rotation. Both are worthy prospects and ought to be added in a lot of formats.

Carlos Quentin (7%) is coming off the DL. The reason one rarely drafts Quentin is because he's always hurt, not because he can't hit. I can't say how long The Big Q (okay, I made that nickname up) will be in the lineup, but he's worth adding while he's here. 



Stock Watch: April Fails

Last week we made some trade suggestions for some of April's best players, with the promise that we'd be back for suggestions about some of April's worst. Enjoy.* Also included free of charge are some waiver wire suggestions that the last article was so sadly missing.

*Please enjoy these suggestions responsibly. Just because Jedd Gyorko is a "Trade For" this week and Justin Upton was a "Trade Away" last week does not mean I recommend a straight-up swap....

Trade For

I'd offer a trade for Jedd Gyorko. Why? Because guys who play second and third and have a 20-homer season under their belt don't grow on trees. Also, because he's been so thoroughly awful that he can't possibly cost much. If he does, don't pull the trigger.

Prince Fielder hasn't shown any power at all, and that does worry me a little, but his history has earned him plenty of benefit of the doubt. What's more, he's also got a giant walk rate and a tiny BABIP, which tells me that he should turn things around in the contact and on-base departments. Could be a bargain if his owner is frustrated.

Billy Butler isn't returning to his 2012 power ways, but he's typically managed much better BABIP's than his current .282 mark, and I'd expect his average to climb eventually.

Mike Moustakas is on the rise, I tell you! Maybe not, but it does seem like the worst of the season might have ended with the first couple weeks.

Elvis Andrus has nine steals and a .250 BABIP. That average will come up and he'll be a speed-star again.

Brian McCann has a .225 BABIP dragging down his .229 average. You have to think both numbers will go up as the weather heats up and his sample size increases.

David Wright doesn't have any positive indicators at this point: a .330 BABIP and a 5.6% walk rate are very bad under-the-hood stats. But this is David Wright we're talking about, and players of his caliber shouldn't be tossed aside after a month of bad play--even if that month is backed up by the peripherals. Bet on him to go back to normal.

Adam Jones has actually been worse than Wright, but like him, has earned our trust with years of good play. If you can pry either from a frustrated owner, go for it.

Ian Desmond is a shortstop with power. The strikeouts are bad, the average is bad, I know. But seriously, he's a shortstop with power. How many of those are there?

Danny Salazar was one of the most-hyped players on draft day, and now where is he? Rocking a 5.93 ERA. So trade for him, because he's got a 10.98 K/9, a .395 BABIP, and a 3.55 xFIP. He ought to straighten things out.

Homer Bailey deserves a trade offer...unless you play in Mark's fantasy league. And check out his in-depth analysis if you didn't see it already.

Phil Hughes has a 1.93 BB/9 and an 8.36 K/9, to go with a .353 BABIP. No wonder his FIP of 3.41 and xFIP of 3.72 are beating his current ERA.

CC Sabathia has a 5.11 ERA...and a 2.79 xFIP. 2.79! With a strikeout rate over 9.00 and a walk rate under 2.00, no wonder. I suspect it won't be long before people are talking about CC's resurgence, so get some trade offers in while you still can.

David Price looked like a dangerous guy to own coming into the year, but his 10.17 K/9 and 0.92 BB/9 suggest that this should have been one of the best months of his career--and not one that ended with a 4.44 ERA. His FIP is 3.37 and xFIP is 2.58. A trade target for anyone who needs pitching.

John Lackey came back from the dead last year and, while his 3.83 ERA isn't horrible, his peripherals suggest he could be doing even better: 3.40 FIP and 3.19 xFIP. Feel safe making trade offers for him.

Sell Low If You Still Can

Brandon Phillips may not be sellable at this point, but it's worth a shot. Cincinnati was shopping him for a reason, and it wasn't just his personality.

Curtis Granderson really doesn't have much going for him at this point. Presumably, he'll improve on that .200 BABIP, but will it be enough? I doubt it.

Pablo Sandoval seems to think that his production is worth $100 million. Hopefully he's playing in your fantasy league, because I'd be willing to sell for somewhat less. Sandoval's really not getting much done.

Jean Segura has a walk rate of just 1.9%. You don't get to be a useful leadoff man with that kind of number. Deal him while his name still has value.

Domonic Brown wasn't someone it was easy feel sure about endorsing or writing off before the season, so most of us writers hedged our bets and took a middle position. He might well bounce back, but I wouldn't use a roster spot on waiting, because he might not.

B.J. Upton has stolen a few bases, which is cool, but hitting-wise, he looks done. It's not good when a .294 BABIP leads to just a .214 average.                                                                                

Nick Swisher has always been one of my guys: underrated and dependable, but it looks like our time together might be through. Like Upton, his .214 average isn't coming from a BABIP that smacks of terrible and soon-to-reverse luck--it's a pretty normal .278. Sorry Swish....

Ubaldo Jimenez is someone you probably already dropped, but if you haven't, I'd probably try squeezing him into a trade offer if the other owner needs strikeouts. It's been pretty ugly, and none of the signs point to a coming improvement.

R.A. Dickey seems like he's lost that knuckleball magic, which is really a shame, 'cause it was cool. I'd try passing him along to someone who needs to take a big risk.

Matt Cain was supposed to have remembered how to keep the ball in the park...but his HR/FB rate has only gotten worse this month. I was very bullish on him going into the season, and I'm not truly ready to give up--but I would deal him away for a decent offer, and each homer allowed makes me more pessimistic.

Hiroki Kuroda was once the model of consistent good-but-not-greatness, the guy you could always count on. His ERA will come down, but the lowered strikeout rates don't cut it anymore in most leagues.

Shallow Leagues

Dillon Gee (36%), Jose Quintana (34%), and Bartolo Colon (33%) haven't set the world on fire, but all ought to be useful going forward. Quintana offers more strikeouts, but the Mets on either side of him ought to benefit more in ERA from their home park.

Why not own Adam Dunn (41%)? We all owned Mark Trumbo when he was doing exactly the same thing before getting hurt. Except with a much worse average. Pick Dunn up and hang on to him until his average craters. If it doesn't, you'll get a ton of value. If it does, just enjoy the homers while you can.

Jonathan Villar (41%) has six steals and bad-but-not-vortex-of-suck batting average. That's all we were asking for before the season, and it ought to be valuable enough at short and MI.

Marcell Ozuna (35%) is hitting pretty well and ought to move up the ownership charts. He might be the most likely of this group to keep the production up all year.

Alcides Escobar (33%), like Villar, isn't hitting that bad, and has a respectable number of steals. There's no excuse not to pick one of them up if you need stolen bases.

Medium Leagues

Drew Smyly (29%) hasn't really gotten a chance to prove himself or fail in the starter experiment, but as we move into May, there should be fewer opportunities to skip his spot in the rotation. Let's see what he's got.

Tyler Skaggs (27%) may or may not keep this up all year, but there's no reason not to try enjoying it while you can.

Josh Beckett (25%) had another good start, from a K:BB perspective--8:1 last time out. It's time to let bygones be bygones and roster him.

Colby Rasmus (24%) has a bunch of homers to go with his sub-Mendoza average. I imagine some BABIP luck correction will push the average up into the almost-playable range--which will work well enough if he keeps hitting with this much power.

Deep Leagues

Drew Hutchison (18%) is off to a nifty start, despite being totally unheralded coming into the year.

Colby Lewis (3%) has nearly a strikeout per inning. He's got a lot more upside than a lot of pitchers more widely owned than him.

Mark Reynolds (12%) is a cheap power source, but you won't like what he does to your average. If I'm gonna recommend Dunn and Rasmus, though, I'd better do the same for Reynolds, especially in leagues that can play him at third.

Garrett Jones (11%) has been kind of an all-around producer so far. It probably won't last, but we take what we can get in deep leagues.

Welington Castillo (5%) is smacking the ball with some authority. And he's a catcher. Always a pleasant combination.


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Stock Watch: April's Finest

We always think we know something after a month. We think it's enough time. It feels like enough time to know, if we just regress things back from their extremes who's improved and who's toast. Take Charlie Blackmon, for instance: weknow he's not the best player in baseball--but don't we also know that he's at least good? Surely, he's got to be good to put up a month like this. Got to be. Right?

Of course, seasoned baseball fans and statheads alike will tell you that we don't really know that much after April passes. Some hot starts go the way of Chris Shelton--and some follow Chris Davis. It's impossible to know.

Oh well, because anyone who's played more than a season worth of fantasy knows you can't stand pat just because you can't be sure. I'm not saying you should go out and make a bunch of rash trades...but it's no longer too early to make a move.

Today, we'll take a look at some of the players around baseball off to the hottest starts to determine whether they're a value play going forward. Keep in mind, it's not a straightforward will-he-stay-hot-or-come-back-to-earth deal--it's about the likely difference between each player's future performance, and how your leaguemates are likely to evaluate it themselves. Sometimes it makes sense to deal away someone off to a great start--and sometimes that's just who you need to trade for.

A final note on trading before the meat of this article: a lot of trade offers get bandied around in hopes of making that great steal of a trade at the beginning of the season that rockets you up the standings and sinks one of your unsuspecting competitors. The thing is, such trade offers rarely bring real fruit.

I'm fine with making a trade that's so beneficial that it hurts my trading partner, but those are tough to pull off and usually the result of luck (like the time I traded away Emilio Bonifacio less than a week before he hit the DL for two or three months), or the result of another owner making a stupid offer (like the time I got offered Andrew McCutchen for Chris Carter...and it turned out to be the owner's kid messing around). So let stupidity come to you and make reasonable offers if you want to make a deal, and if that means improving someone else's team at the same time as yours cool: you still improve relative to ten more teams.

Trade Targets

Albert Pujols was a first round pick not too long ago. How shocking is it that he's hitting like one now? My thinking is his health was the big question going into the season, and he looks pretty healthy to me. If his owner is feeling surprised by his production, he might be a good player to target. He won't be cheap, but he might be cheaper than he should be.

Melky Cabrera is another "prove yourself" guy, as a lot of today's trade targets are. Well, he's looking pretty well proved that he's more than a PED creation, and that he's healthy. Like Pujols, he is a good player to target if his owner is a skeptic.

Dee Gordon went from waiver wire pickup to trade target? Yup. The speed is real and so is the playing time. The fact that he wasn't drafted will only keep his price down for so long. It'll go up as his owners start to depend on his steals.

Justin Morneau may not really be back to his elite old ways, but he's making a ton of contact and slugging over .600 in Colorado. So maybe the old Morneau is back. If not, the new Morneau seems very much at home in the mountains.

Josh Donaldson failed to be drafted as an elite third baseman because he only had one year's track record to demonstrate his skills. Seven homers into 2014 and I'm buying. He won't be cheap, but he won't cost as much as David Wright or Evan Longoria. (And you don't have to make the deal if he does....)

Brian Dozier has gotten talked about a lot and for good reason: he looks like a serious power/speed threat at second. Chances are he was drafted as a MI, so his owner probably has other options at the position too, lowering his potential cost.

Jon Lester really looks too good to be true, especially with his jump in strikeout rate. But all the pieces are there for his improvement to be real, and trading for him represents serious upside if you're only giving a little more than draft day cost to get him. For what it's worth, most of his success has come against pretty good offensive teams: the Orioles, Yankees, and Blue Jays.

Scott Kazmir has also been crazy-good and not too easy to believe in, but when you think about the talent he had years ago maybe it isn't all that surprising at all. Like Lester, he's got all the right pieces to suggest he's for real.

Masahiro Tanaka looked like the most overrated pitcher in baseball before the draft. Now, he looks pretty underrated. The worry is that the league will figure him out, and it could certainly happen that way, but his owner's likely thinking along similar lines and wanting to sell high. If that's the case (big if, to be fair), take advantage of the upside.

Dan Haren has needed to prove himself for a long while now...and the start he's having to the season is working for me. What I find most convincing is actually that his ERA is better than his FIP, since he'd had the opposite problem last year, which suggested either bad luck or skill slippage in avoiding hard contact.

Sell High

Justin Upton is killing the ball and maybe he's finally taken his game from very good to great. But he's done this before (last year, in fact), and I'm not ready to trust Upton's strong start. It's not that I'm predicting doom and gloom, just that I think he'll command more in trade than he'll produce, going forward.

Adrian Gonzalez has found his missing power? Eight homers and a slugging percentage over .600? Yeah, I'm not so sure. It could be for real, but it doesn't really seem likely to me. His hot start and still-high name value ought to mean he'll bring back a lot in trade.

Ben Zobrist is riding a good BABIP to nifty fantasy value so far, but he's only hit three homers and stolen two bases. If you can manage losing his versatility, I'd consider dealing him for an upgrade at whatever position you're playing him in.

Jose Abreu is basically the ultimate sell high candidate, with 10 homers to date. But you better sell really high, because the one thing he's truly proved is that he's got Major League power. Hold out for a serious offer, but take it if you get it.

Alexei Ramirez was supposed to have traded his homers for steals, but he's got four of each and he's batting .358. Raise your hand if you called that one. It would be very surprising to see him continue hitting like last year's Jean Segura, so trade him to someone desperate...like anyone who drafted the real Segura.

Mike Napoli has power, but his average is very, very BABIP-dependent. Right now, it's taking a .390 BABIP to keep his average at .300. His plodding profile does not suggest a long-term skill for ridiculously high BABIP marks, so deal him on.

Martin Perez is rocking a sub-2.00 ERA without high strikeout numbers. Yeah, I don't buy it.

Have Jeff Samardzija and Julio Teheran traded strikeouts for low ERA's? Neither one is generating whiffs, so I definitely worry that they won't be able to continue their early success--or that they'll have to surrender a few more runs to get the K's back. Either way, I'd rather make a deal while their ERA's still look shiny. Especially with Samardzija.

Kyle Lohse has magically become a strikeout machine? Probably not. I don't expect him to crater, but I'd imagine that K/9 creeps back below 6.0 before the year is over. He's a good sort of guy to include in a larger trade.

Jesse Chavez is enjoying the appearance of a phenom, with his entry from the unknown and his hot start. Unfortunately, the unknown looks a lot like a journeyman reliever and his competition has included the Mariners, Twins, Angels, and Astros. He's one to trade while you can.


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Stock Watch: Saturday Waiver Wire Special

No, it’s not Wednesday, but it’s “Stock Watch” day anyway. I humbly thank our technical difficulties for the chance to get a few more days of data before putting this article out for everyone. By the way, there was so much good fruit on the waiver wire that I couldn’t bear to trim the list to make room for some pretty questionable trade advice…so enjoy a week of waiver suggestions and I promise that I’ll make the trade for/away advice up to you next time.

If I remember.

As always, ownership percentages are from Yahoo! and you can expect all the numbers to be higher (and harder to find) on CBS.

Shallow Leagues

I hate playing in shallow leagues. Why? Because it just feels so wrong that players like these are unowned! I want to pick everyone up. So help me out, by lifting these guys off your waiver wires at least, and giving me a little sanity back.

Miguel Montero (49%) is hitting again. Come on: a long track record of success and a good start to the season should be enough to forget about 2013. At least at catcher.

Eric Young (47%) and Rajai Davis (45%) should be owned in every daily 5x5 league for their steals value alone. Speedsters make the best bench subs (‘cause they steal much more often than low-quality power guys hit home runs), and Davis is actually hitting the ball, which could lead to more playing time.

Speaking of “low-quality power guys,” Adam Dunn (37%) is clobbering the ball. It’s worth noting that he’s only a lucky BABIP away from being a real stud. Even without the luck, he’s worth owning in more leagues than this.

Marcell Ozuna (33%) is off to a pretty hot start. The great thing about young guys is that sometimes they are that good. Or, at least, still good enough to start after they cool off a bit.

Corey Hart (31%) isn’t playing pretty well, which seems to suggest he’s healthy—which was the only reason he wasn’t widely owned in the first place. Time to pick him up.

Wily Peralta (41%) isn’t generating the strikeouts we’d hope him to, but he is pitching well. Very well.

Dan Straily (38%) does not seem to be pitching well, but check out his strikeouts and walks—he’ll be fine.

Jenrry Mejia (35%) is still this unowned? Seriously, pick this guy up. Not-that-bold-prediction: he’s a top-50 starter this year, easy.

Nathan Eovaldi (30%) is someone I duly ignored in the preseason, but he’s generating some whiffs and having success for a Marlins squad that might be less horrible than anticipated. Or they might be, but that doesn’t change the fact that Eovaldi has been pretty decent so far.

Medium Leagues

Alcides Escobar (28%) has been much, much better than last year. Actually, that phrase shouldn’t buy him anything, since he was so epically bad in 2013, but he’s been more than playable this season, which is likely better than several teams in your league can say about their shortstop production.

Mike Moustakas (27%) has not been good, but there is a glimmer of hope: of his 11 hits on the season, 10 have come in the last two weeks. Good for a batting average over .200! Hey, hope is hope with Moustakas and waiver wire third basemen.

Gregory Polanco (20%) is raking in triple-A and the Pirates are struggling. Sounds like only a matter of time to me. If you have room to speculate on anyone, you have room to speculate on Polanco.

Zach McAllister (24%) has been pretty good for Cleveland. Not, you know, great, but good enough to be better than plenty of guys more widely owned than him.

Edinson Volquez (20%) is getting some press for his magic turnaround, but should you care if he isn’t striking people out? It’s hard to get excited over someone with a K/9 under 6.00…but hard not to get excited about a WHIP under 1.00. I guess there are worse things for a fantasy team than the chance that Volquez has become the new Kyle Lohse…like the old Volquez, for instance.

Deep Leagues

Matt Joyce (18%) is raking in his platoon role. One imagines that more than 18% of leagues are deep enough to enjoy his contributions.

Tyler Flowers (17%) is hitting. He plays catcher. This is not rocket science.

Chris Owings (14%) is also hitting. He plays shortstop. He’s even stolen a couple bases. Again, not rocket science.

Ike Davis (12%) is not doing anything special, but a fresh start with Pittsburgh is more than enough to take a chance on his potential. Lucas Duda (8%) also benefits from the trade but is still required to hit at CitiField.         

Alberto Callaspo (11%) has the pleasant distinction of being eligible at 2B and 3B—and therefore also CI and MI. This is the sort of player to stash on your bench in case of injury in weekly leagues or those with limited acquisitions…and the sort to keep around to maximize your total at bats in daily leagues. As long as he’s no worse than mediocre, everybody wins.

Mike Olt (4%) is like Mike Moustakas lite. Okay, that’s mean, but both of them started out horrific and have spent the last two weeks being merely bad. That's improvement! Both play third base and both have shown promise in the past that may not have been unfounded.

Danny Espinosa (4%) might get squeezed out of the Nationals’ lineup when Ryan Zimmerman returns. But that’s a long, long ways away. Right now he’s a hitting second baseman, which is a rare and valuable commodity. If he keeps hitting like this, he’ll force Washington to keep him in the lineup anyway.

Josh Beckett (13%) has been more than not bad so far: he’s been actually good. If you’ve owned Beckett in the last couple years (or known someone who has), you may be skeptical, but he hasn’t allowed a run since his first (admittedly bad) start of the year. One thing he hasn’t done, though, is last more than five innings in a game. Maybe the Dodgers are protecting him from a third trip through the lineup, or arm fatigue, or whatever…but that can actually be to your advantage in leagues with innings caps.

Jonathon Niese (10%) is also pitching well. Before his injury-marred 2013, he was considered a top-40ish starter. I think he’s on his way back to that level. He should be much more widely owned.

Brandon Morrow (9%) is striking people out again. The other results haven’t been awesome, but it’s time to start keeping an eye on him at least. Because his strikeout ability is serious and the rest of the pieces could still conceivably fall into place. Or come close enough for his whiffs to be worth his WHIP.



Stock Watch: For You with Quick Trigger Fingers

This one is for you, everyone who's been just itching to send out a flurry of trade offers. Whether your team seems to be sinking fast or rising high (or doing something else cliché) you're wanting to get in there and make a deal. Okay--go for it.

A recent trend in fantasy trade advice is to buy high at this point in the season, and it's a sensible trend: buy high on a hot-starting player whose owner doesn't believe in him. The player keeps producing (even if not at the sky-high levels of the first week) and things work out for you and bad for your opponent. Everyone's happy. Well, you are.

But there are tons of players off to good starts--who to choose? Below are some players that I think can find the sweet spot between season-long production and low expectations from current owners.

Trade For

Melky Cabrera got written off as a PED product by most...but what if he's not? What if he can hit? If his current owner grabbed him as a late-round flier this could be a great buy-high opportunity. Of course, if the owner's been a true Melkman believer for years, it'll be a different story.

Adam LaRoche made his owners and the Nationals suffer through a horrific 2013. Well, a bad one, anyway. It's not like he went all Chone Figgins on us or anything. Regardless, he's hitting the ball now and has spent enough time as a good hitter to suggest it could continue. His owner probably drafted him without much in the way of expectations.

Aramis Ramirez is old and injury-prone...but he's hitting, and he's always hit. I believe in him more than most of his owners, and you should too.

Anthony Rendon sort of made us forget about him as a prospect last year, but he's starting to make up for it. It's not proof that he's ready to break out as an awesome 2B/3B option...but it's certainly not evidence against it.

Christian Yelich is another young guy off to a good start. That's a great sort of player to target at this stage, because you're taking the chance that they could be for real and making a stride that established players don't make. Wait too long, and the price goes way, way up.

Andrew Cashner is striking people out! That's all we had left to ask for. Snap him up.

Stephen Strasburg is also striking people out, despite being in the middle of getting clobbered by the powerhouse Marlins as I write this. His ERA ought to be nice and inflated, which is always good in trade negotiations with worried owners.

CC Sabathia is another guy with good strikeout numbers and an ugly ERA. It's better than the other way around, and it might mean good things for him as the year progresses. Take a chance, especially since his rate stats should have him priced to move.

Trade Away

Chase Utley is a guy I like, but his injury history sort of looms over everything. He's raking now, like crazy, so his trade value should be pretty high. Consider moving him if you have MI depth.

Charlie Blackmon is going nuts with batting average and high altitude. I don't buy it. He probably won't anchor a trade offer, but he's a good player to include to ostensibly sweeten a deal.

Adam Eaton is hitting but not giving us what he was really supposed to: steals. I don't want a speed guy who doesn't steal bases, so I'd deal him while everything else looks good in case there's a reason he isn't running.

Scott Kazmir is absolutely dealing so far. I'm a believer, but he can't keep it up. (No one can.) Because of his crazy story and former glory, he's the sort of guy that could fetch more in a trade than his draft slot would suggest.

Chris Tillman is putting up great rate stats...which probably won't last too long in the AL East. Another guy that makes a good deal "sweetener."

Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse are powering the Brew Crew to greatness and maybe they'll continue to do so, despite swapping strikeout rates. Actually, it is the whiffs that make me want to deal them. RotoGraphs gave us great evidence about why Gallardo's strikeout rate is staying down, and Lohse, well, Lohse probably hasn't magically turned into Nolan Ryan.

Pick Up

Jose Quintana (45% owned) is looking like a must-own. He was worthy last year....

Justin Morneau (44%) is hitting and plays for Colorado. What more could you possibly need?

Adam Dunn (34%) is not yet murdering batting averages. Cool. Also, his homers are still valuable. I especially love him as a head to head bench guy to play when you need the longballs and RBI.

Rajai Davis (32%) is smoking on the basepaths. Not quite Dee Buttersnaps Gordon-style, but good. Another tactical option for head-to-head benches.

Mike Moustakas (27%) is bad. But it's time to bench him, not give up entirely. That can wait another week or two. Also worth a chance if you were one of the many owners to lose their good 3B this week.

Devin Mesoraco (25%) is killing the ball like a non-catcher. Your team should be part of this.

Chris Owings (23%) is outproducing plenty of starting shortstops.

Mike Zunino (15%) and Tyler Flowers (14%) are also hitting, but more quietly than Mescoraco. Zunino's prospect pedigree makes him especially interesting.

Jason Kubel (13%) is hitting over .380 and is only one season removed from hitting 30 homers. He deserves more owners than this. Bold prediction: he keeps producing and tops the 80% owned mark by the end of the season.

 All right, good luck out there on the trade market. Now you just have to find other owners willing to pull that trigger....


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Stock Watch: There's No Downside....

Just over a week is on the books, and you’ve either started climbing above the fray or digging yourself in a hole, at least head-to-head owners are, since their games are logged and on the books forever. Meanwhile, roto players get to keep yo-yoing up and down the standings like crazy for a little while longer.

The same small samples that are causing your standings to reshuffle themselves every day are the same ones that have me reluctant to tell you who to trade for or trade away, so we’ll do one more week (at least) of waiver wire only action here on Stock Watch.

This is the time of year to take chances on the waiver wire, as the best opportunities may still be available and the safe fallbacks will still be there if things don't work out. Just like trying to pressure my college buddies into doing something stupid, I'm here to tell you there's no downside...but this time it's true.

Shallow League Targets (40-50% owned)

Grady Sizemore (47%) is back? There’s no way to know for sure yet (and I wouldn’t bet on the speed), but even the slight chance that he can return to 75% of what he used to be means he should be owned in all formats. If he gets hurt or falters, you can always find another low-upside OF to replace the guy you drop. Do this.

Justin Smoak (45%) gets a lot of bad press, but what’s your real cost of adding him while he’s hot? If you can’t answer that question, pick him up. If you can, fair enough.

Melky Cabrera (42%) is kind of like a baseball soap opera, with all the injuries and PED usage…but he is hitting the ball, and he has hit well before. The upside is probably better than someone on your team.

Charlie Blackmon (42%) will probably platoon, but he’s got the good half and plays in Colorado. At his ownership rate, it’s possible that he’s already taken in all the leagues in which he’s actually useful for the long term, but anyone swinging that hot a bat at Coors Field ought to be picked up for the short term in plenty more formats.

It’s cheating a little to suggest Taijuan Walker (51%), but he’s schedule to make one last rehab start and come back for the Mariners. If you’re in the 49%, now is the time to make your move.

Kyle Lohse (44%) isn’t on this list for striking out eight hitters in his first start; he’s on this list for being pretty good and usually a nice help in WHIP. Take a look if that’s what you need.

Rick Porcello (42%) and his rising strikeout rate got decent fantasy coverage in the pre-season, but only whiffed three guys in his first real start. Time to move on. Right? No? Well, then a guy with good peripherals, a rising strikeout rate, and a great team around him should be owned in more leagues then.

Leagues of Moderate Depth (20-40%)

Dustin Ackley (37%) is great because MI/OF eligibility is really handy if you’ve got a pretty short bench. There have always been rumors of his ability to hit, and while I never saw much evidence of their truth while living in Seattle, he’s been plenty playable so far. Moderate-depth leagues are (often) particularly suited to his versatility too.

Chris Owings (29%) stole the shortstop’s job in spring and now he’s stolen three bases already—pretty good for a waiver wire MI. Expect his ownership rates to rise as more people take notice, as very few playable SS options remain on the waiver wire for long.

Asking if you believe in Casey McGehee (26%) is like asking if you believe in ghosts. I’m on the fence about both, but in the right situation, I’d take my chance on him. For one thing, batting after Giancarlo Stanton shouldn’t hurt.

Michael Morse (24%) is someone I was intrigued by before draft day…and unlike many such players, he’s actually hitting the ball. He was so bad last year that it’s easy to forget how good a hitter he was from 2011-12.

Jose Quintana (37%) pitched pretty well, but this mention is more for his overall good-albeit-not-truly-awesomeness last season. For most leagues of this size, that’s probably better than one or two pitchers on each team. He doesn’t have to be a first choice to be a good choice.

Tyler Skaggs (25%) showed something truly amazing against the Astros: control. I know it’s the Astros, but the biggest negative about Skaggs is that he hasn’t been in charge of where the ball goes. I’d like to wait until he faces tougher tests…but he might be gone by then. Get him while you can, because the reward is an impact pitcher.

Shallow Leagues Only Get Outfielders (0-20%)

Marcell Ozuna (10%) was a person with some promise before the season, and maybe there’s something in the Miami water, but he’s been hitting the ball well. Youth and upside aren’t always the same thing, but this time they are.

Matt Joyce (8%) is another platooner, but he ought to see plenty of DH at bats, and he usually ends up with around 20 homers. If he can platoon for the Rays, he can platoon for deeper fantasy teams.

Ryan Ludwick (3%) was one of my 2013 pre-season guys…and lost basically the whole year to an Opening Day injury. Rough for me, worse for him. His 2014 is already better, though, as he’s hitting the ball with some authority. Some roto authority…sorry. But pick him up.

Martin Perez (16%) might be the only guy after Darvish worth owning in the Texas rotation. (Said the Tanner Scheppers owner.)

Pedro Strop (15%) could take over Jose Veras’s job, but we’ll see how quick the Cubbies are with the hook.

Embarrassingly, I’m not able to pronounce Jenrry Mejia (9%) name no matter how hard I try. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, to pick him up. The strikeout potential and the home park make him well worth the risks. Not for shallow leagues only.

Jake Odorizzi (7%) is a young pitcher who plays for Tampa Bay. Yes, that should be enough to make him interesting. Keep an eye on him, at the least.

Jonathon Niese (7%) appears to be healthy. Back from the DL, at the very least. Two years ago, he was quietly excellent, and I suspect he’ll return to that level.

Brandon Morrow (6%) used to be the king of strikeouts and walks. After so much time off (and weird 2012) I really don’t know what to expect. But the chance is there and he’s worth owning or watching at this ownership rate.

Edwin Jackson (2%) is sort of the prototypical low-upside, low-downside guy. Or, he was before we saw some luck-related downside last year. He’s got a good start under his belt and should be remembered in weekly formats and as a spot starter.

Edinson Volquez (2%), like Skaggs above, showed amazing control in his first game, issuing only one walk. I say amazing, not because of the feat itself, but because it was Volquez doing this. (And against the Cardinals too!) If he can keep up his control (huge if, I know) he could be a great pickup in a lot of formats.

Colby Lewis (1%) is supposed to start on Saturday. I wouldn’t slide him into your lineup for that first game back, but he’s well worth some serious attention.





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