Stock Watch


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.



Stock Watch: Opening Week Lottery Tickets

Ever unsure whether to pick someone up off the waiver wire or just stand pat? Spend your time wondering if your slumping third OF will rebound…or if you should trade him while you still can? Trying to figure out whether to sell high on a surprise player…or buy high on him in another league?

That’s why we have Stock Watch, and it’s back for another year of player value analysis. Each week, we’ll take a look at players who should be available on waiver wires around the fantasy world, plus we’ll look into which players you should try to target in trades and which ones you should try getting onto someone else’s roster as soon as possible.

This week being just barely underway, we’ll take a look at some widely available players with the potential to make an impact and we won’t worry about suggesting trades; for the next couple weeks, my suggestion is: don’t. Enjoy the team you drafted, and if someone else comes to you with a deal that works, that’s great. If not, give your players time to, you know, actually play. So we’ll add that feature in coming weeks.

Closers Have it Worst

Opening Week is rough on closers. Especially Brewers closers. (How the tables have turned, Jim Henderson!) I’ll let Luckey Helms tackle these guys in his column and over at @CloserNews, but I’ll quickly say this: add Jose Valverde, Matt Lindstrom, and Francisco Rodriguez while you still can! Actually, you probably can’t, because you already did on the advice of @CloserNews. If you didn’t, someone in your league did.

Swimming in the Shallow End (40%-50% owned in Y!)

If your league is pretty shallow (like a standard Yahoo! public or pro league, or a 10-team format), some of these guys might be available. If not…well, they probably aren’t. Ownership rates are for Yahoo! leagues unless otherwise specified.

Justin Morneau (49%) and Chris Carter (49%) both offer flawed power for your Util slot or your bench. I love these guys in daily leagues: Morneau ought to put up good numbers during his home games and Carter can be plugged in any time and have a better chance of throwing you a bench homer than anyone else. Adam Lind (42%) and Colby Rasmus (42%) could also provide some bench power. It’s worth remembering that players with power are very hard to find on the wire later in the season, as these guys tend to get scooped up as injury and failed-gamble replacements.

Grady Sizemore (49%) is killing it already (in one game…). Could he be this year’s comeback star? Why not—the one thing we know for sure is that his ceiling was once sky-high. No reason not to buy, since you can always pick up a replacement 4th OF later on.

Miguel Montero (46%) has already put one out of the park (though he’s had a few more at bats than most players, since he got to play in the Australia games). I’m guessing he’s only available in one-catcher leagues, but if you were betting on Wilson Ramos, Montero might make a good replacement.

Dillon Gee (47%) gave an encouraging (but not awesome) start already, and he’s a decent guy to add. John Lackey 45%) deserves a shot in more leagues than this, having pitched well last season and playing for a Red Sox club likely to bring him some wins.

Medium-Depth Leagues (20%-40% owned in Y!)

If you’re looking for speed or MI help, there are two guys you should target: Dee Gordon (38%) and Emilio Bonifacio (31%). Neither looked all that likely to get a lot of playing time for most of the spring…but both may be starting on a regular basis, and both can fly.

Eric Young (27%) can help in speed but not play MI, while Kolten Wong (32%) can play MI but doesn’t offer as much speed. (But maybe he can hit.)

If you’re looking for a flexible backup, Dustin Ackley (23%) has a good game under his belt (maybe that sample size is too low) and plays in the infield and outfield. His teammate Corey Hart (365) and Adam LaRoche (24%) offer upside for owners in need of some 1B power.

There are a lot of interesting guys with some potential here. None of them have pitched yet, but keep an eye on Drew Smyly (35%), Rick Porcello (38%), Dan Straily (38%), Tim Hudson (35%), and Jose Quintana (35%).

Tanner Scheppers (25%) got beaten badly, but I’ll give him a mulligan on an Opening Day that also featured Cliff Lee getting rocked. This experiment may be short-lived, but it isn’t over.

Wade Miley (22%) whiffed eight Giants, so he’s showing something good.

Deep League Opportunities (under 20% owned)

Justin Smoak (12%) had a great Opening Day, and deep league owners have to pounce on things like that. Miami’s Marcell Ozuna (7%) made a nice splash in his first game of the season. It’s young (or young-ish) players like these that often make the best early waiver wire picks in deep leagues.

Cody Asche (6%) was part of the Texas-Philly offense explosion in which I had both starting pitchers…anyway, I’d take his Opening Day with a grain of salt--and yet consider picking him up. We’re making wild stabs in the dark here. If they work out, the results could be great. If not, it’s not like you’re dropping established players to snag these lottery tickets.

James Loney (15%) and Yonder Alonso (11%) may be oh-for-the-season, but still project to put up palatable averages. If your team need someone to “do no harm” they might be good targets.

Staff injuries mean that James Paxton (16%) and Martin Perez (15%) should have nice long leashes—which is exactly what fantasy managers want out of young pitchers. Keep them in mind. Tyler Skaggs (10%) threw hard in Spring Training, which is probably good. The Angels may have to depend on him too. The Twins will be depending on Phil Hughes (11%), so snatch him up at the first signs of success.

Brandon Morrow (7%) appears not to be hurt yet, so remember his old strikeout days when you go to the waiver wire. Jenrry Mejia (5%) looked good at the end of last year and is worth thinking about in these deep leagues.

If you remember nothing else about the season’s first weeks, remember this: now is the time for high-impact pickups. Yes, the sample sizes are small, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win big on an early lottery ticket.



Stock Watch: One Last Wild Stab in the Dark

There's only one week of the season in which I'll seriously suggest picking up Bruce Chen.

Yep, this is the one. When a guy's only got two starts left, might just get both while his team claws towards a wild card slot, and he's scheduled against the Mariners and White Sox, who cares what his peripherals look like. Chen's KC teammate, the newly called up Yordano Ventura (whom I'll admit, I'd never even heard of before this morning, which either reflects his status as a prospect or mine as a prospect watcher) gets the same matchups and should draw at least as much interest.

How confident am I in a journeyman who's put up suspiciously average numbers this season and guy who's made exactly one Major League start will have a good final week. Confident enough to make them my top free agent choices in my head-to-head World Series matchup league with a couple hundred bucks on the line.

So...not confident at all.

But there's upside, and when the safety of the long season is gone, upside is really all that's left. Well, and a little common sense, I suppose: technically, Mike Pelfrey could beat both the Tigers and Indians next week--but that's a bet I'd rather not make.

So, with this rather terrifying thought experiment nearly ready to play out in real life, let's take a look at a few more players who can be added in the next week. 

But First, a Few Quick Rules about Whom to Drop

By this time, you've either given up, shed all your dead weight, or play in a league that restricts your transactions. If either the first or third of those choices are true, you've still got several obvious players to cut ties with. Me, I'm cutting Chris Capuano, aka Mr. Really Good for a Month Before You Pick Me Up and Tell Everyone Else to Do the Same, but Then Awful and Injured. But, with only a week to go, there's a lot of hidden dead weight on everyone's roster.

Those in weekly formats have it easiest: anyone injured or probably injured for even half the week (like Allen Craig, to pick another instance from my own life) and any player that you don't intend to stick into your lineup, for any reason whatsoever. Since nobody will have a chance to pick up whomever you drop, you can ditch elite players if their contributions are in categories you aren't fighting for. Don't need homers, but desperate for batting average? I won't stop you from dropping Chris Davis. Got saves wrapped up, but you're way behind in innings? Drop your closers and stream.

Even outside of weekly formats, though, there are probably plenty of guys you don't need anymore. While you shouldn't drop superstars and give them to your competition, you can take the schedule into careful consideration. Is your shortstop scheduled for all seven games? Then drop his backup. Does your first baseman have Monday and Thursday off? Make sure you add a backup. 

Pitchers are the easiest: if their talent and matchup don't combine to be better than what you can get off the waiver wire, then make a change. In one league, I've got Marco Estrada set to face Atlanta; in another I've got James Shields against Texas. I'm not thrilled about either matchup and might make a change. If your Arizona pitcher is unlucky enough to have his last start at Colorado, I'd probably let him go, but the particulars of what your team needs and what's available on your waiver wire are not known to me, so I won't get too specific with the advice.

Adds -- Pitchers

While granting that many teams have run up against their innings limits, pitchers like Sonny Gray, Ivan Nova, and Andy Pettitte far more leagues: they have upcoming games against Minnesota and San Francisco. Zack Wheeler, Jorge De La Rosa, and Ryan Dempster look (sort of) tempting, but all have unfavorable matchups.

Michael Wacha is tempting, but the Nationals are pretty hot lately--that one's your call. Tanner Roark has been hot and has two starts--but they're against St. Louis and Arizona. 

Alex Wood and Paul Maholm look pretty good against the Brewers. Kyle Kendrick could be a last-week hero, as he draws the hapless Marlins. Danny Salazar and Rick Porcello should look pretty good against the White Sox, while Corey Kluber and Scott Kazmir should look even better against the Astros. 

Keep in mind that pitching situations are highly fluid next week, as contending teams do whatever it takes to punch their ticket for the playoffs, while teams that have everything locked up (or locked out) take the opportunity to look at rookies, rest veterans, and set playoff lineups.

Adds -- Hitters

Here's a pair I never thought I'd be mentioning in the same sentence: Alex Rodriguez and Brian Dozier. Both are available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues and both have been hitting some homers with bad batting averages. Also, they both play hard-to-fill infield positions. Evan Gattis has hit for power too, but with even less average.

If you don't like those guys, that's okay, because Jedd Gyorko, Adam Lind, Matt Adams, Darin Ruf, and Chris Carter have been even better and are even more widely available. Sometimes life is nice like that.

Omar Infante has brought the batting average, Alcides Escobar has finally remembered how to steal bases, and Denard Span has been a flat out boss. There is no league in which he should remain unowned. Really. Angel Pagan has been really good too.

Adam Eaton, Zack Cozart, Carlos Ruiz, Raul Ibanez, and Christian Yelich have all done enough to catch a little attention lately. Trevor Plouffe, Kole Calhoun, Dustin Ackley, and Scooter Gennett each raise half an eyebrow or so. In less playing time, Josh Rutledge has looked pretty good. Matt Dominguez, Junior Lake, Dayan Viciedo, Yan Gomes, Khris Davis, and Brad Miller are all kind of interesting.

Actually, there are a lot of potentially decent pickups. With only a week to go, we don't need to bother with things like sustainable production or realistic expectations. Those in weekly leagues should consider the full schedule of games, for their current players and for any they might pick up. In daily leagues, all you really need to care about is what's happening next: if the matchup looks good, you need the category or help at the position, go for it.

Good luck, and Stock Watch will see you next year.

 


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Stock Watch: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

A roto-style fantasy season is won over the course of six long months, and most of those are mostly wrapped up. First-place owners drafted well, watched the waiver wire, traded shrewdly, and got more good luck than bad; now they're ready to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Head-to-head owners, however, and anyone else in a playoff format still have everything left to be decided in the next two weeks. Winning it all, or out of the money, who can say what will happen? This is equally true, by the way (or nearly so), of roto leagues in which everyone's place is not yet determined. In fantasy, all is vanity.

Or close enough to it, anyway. More accurate, though, would be to say that all is hot streaks and good timing. Last year, Chris Davis's September carried me to a championship...this year some other player will carry some other teams to their championships. Well, hopefully it will be some other player, anyway, because I don't own Davis this season.

As we wind down Stock Watch, we'll continue to look at players worth picking up for that final push...as well as those worth trimming from your team as their play and schedules demand it.

Pick Up

Right out of the gate, let's look at some pitchers who could help in this coming week. If your adds and drops are limited at all, then you know how important two-start weeks are. Ditto if you're under your innings limit and want to make up ground in Wins and Strikeouts.

Yusmeiro Petit gets two spins in New York City, one against the Mets and the other against the Yankees. The Mets game is unsurprisingly favorable, but the Yankees don't hit like they used to.

Scott Kazmir is always a high-risk guy, but against Kansas City and Houston, he could deliver high rewards. Teammate Corey Kluber gets to face the same teams. Got to love that Cleveland schedule.

Tanner Roark has to face Atlanta...but he also gets Miami. The nice thing about him is how widely available he is. Wily Peralta has the same story, with the Cubs and Cardinals; unfortunately for Peralta, his team is rather less likely to bring home the win than Roark's Nationals.

Freddy Garcia isn't a two-start guy, but he's filling in very well for the Braves. Will the magic last long? Probably not. But it doesn't have to.

If you need a catcher and forgot about Miguel Montero, maybe it's time to remember him. He's been hitting well (especially in average) since returning from the DL. Maybe he can't redeem his disaster season, but it's worth it to own him while he tries.

Matt Dominguez and Denard Span have been crushing the ball in the last month, and Baltimore's Danny Valencia has been killing the ball in part-time play, with a .489 average and three homers in 45 AB. Andy Dirks has been very good as well, and he gets to take advantage of Detroit's soft schedule.

In a shorter time frame of just the last two weeks, Alex Presley has been hitting the ball well for his new team. The other Minnesota beneficiary of the Justin Morneau trade, Chris Colabello has three homers in the last couple weeks. Juan Uribe (remember him) has four. Houston shortstop Jonathan Villar is strictly a ride-the-hot hand type of guy, but he's been the waiver wire star of the last two weeks, with an average over .330 and six stolen bases.

Grant Green, Freddy Galvis, and Angel Pagan are three more potential hot hands.

Colby Rasmus is back from the DL. With his Friday home run, he's suggested that he'll just keep on hitting. Will his good luck continue into 2014? Who knows? Who cares?

Josh Fields appears to be closing in Houston. Might as well pick him up. I guess.

Stay Away

Some of the most intriguing pitchers on most waiver wires should actually be avoided based on their next matchups: Esmil Rogers (faces Boston), Erasmo Ramirez (Angels), James Paxton (Tigers). Those interested in Henderson Alvarez should remember that facing the Nationals (his next opponent) is not the same as shutting out the Mets. Daisuke Matsuzaka came back from the (mostly) dead to collect a win, and his next start is against the Phillies...so good news? I guess, except he gets to face Cole Hamels. Plus, there's the inherent risk in rolling with Dice-K....

While there are hot pitchers I'll stay away from right now, there are almost no hitters I won't try. The reason is this: waiver wire pitchers have about the same values to their risk and reward right now—a bad game will set you back a lot, while a great one can push you over the top. There's a lot at stake on the pitcher's mound. In the batter's box, the story is different: hitters can only help and hurt you incrementally. By the time a hitter can suck value for your team with too many consecutive oh-fer's, you've probably already dropped him. And if he keeps hitting (or stealing), you keep him in the lineup. (Obviously, weekly leaguers need to be more careful than this, so they should take upcoming matchups into particular consideration.)

Drop

Owners might be excited that Dexter Fowler is back from injury, but he still isn't starting, and who knows how long it might take to get him back up to speed. On top of that, the out-of-contention Rockies will have no incentive to rush him or risk re-injury. You can let him go.

Phil Hughes has been banished to the bullpen, so that's it for him. For completely different reasons, Jose Fernandez can be let go too.

At this point, there isn't a lot of downside left to giving up on disappointing players like B.J. Upton, Alcides Escobar, David Freese, Paul Konerko, Starlin Castro. Unfortunately, that list sounds a lot like my fantasy bench right now.

Adam Dunn is on the low side of his playing pendulum, and I don't know if there's enough time left for it to matter if he turns things around again. Really, though, any marginal player in a slump can probably be let go in favor of another player on a hot streak. The differences in real player talent will have less to the results of the next two weeks than many other factors (some of which are nonrandom, but nevertheless chalked up to “luck”). The cycle of success and failure is one of those factors.

Even good injured players like Allen Craig might be appropriate to toss overboard—I mean, is one week (if that) of Craig really better than two of Alex Presley or Colby Rasmus? (Okay, maybe it is, but it's worth thinking about.) Joe Mauer might be rejoining the Twins soon, but if your fill-in has done well enough, I might just drop Mauer, as concussion recoveries are hard to predict, and, well, two more weeks just isn't that much time. Jacoby Ellsbury has a foot injury, but the strategy of letting him go so he isn't wasting space on your roster while he gets the feel of playing again remains the same.

CC Sabathia has been flat-out awful lately, so drop him....wait a minute. Yes, I will take a chance on Sabathia against the Giants. After that, I'll consider letting him loose. For other struggling pitchers, we should follow the same model: who are they scheduled to start against? Lance Lynn, for instance, gets to pitch at Colorado. Drop him. The better the pitcher, the more benefit of the doubt you should leave. I wouldn't drop Felix Hernandez, but I wouldn't pitch him against Detroit, either.


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Stock Watch: If You've Got Anything to Play For, Play These Guys

With the first week of September in the books, your fantasy season has either kicked into high gear…or stalled completely. Many of us, sadly, have little left to play for, while a few of you (also sadly, since I’m not among you) have your leagues wrapped up.

Fortunately, most of us are playing for something still, even if it’s no more than pride. This article is for you who are still playing…

Pick Up (Hitters)

If you’re in need of steals, Jarrod Dyson should be your guy (for the moment). KC has a tough schedule, but Dyson’s on fire on the bases and not yet killing you at the plate. Emilio Bonifacio and Eric Young remain options for the steals-thirsty.

James Loney and Neil Walker are good choices for anyone looking to stabilize their batting average.

If your average can’t be stabilized (or is so good it can afford a hit), Chris Carter will throw some power into your lineup. Darin Ruf keeps doing his power thing too, and at least his bad batting average isn’t a total certainty like Carter’s.

Jedd Gyorko and Josh Rutledge haven’t quite lived up to their preseason hype, but both provide nice position flexibility. Gyorko has hit well lately and Rutledge…is up from the minors, at least.

Adam Eaton isn’t the big steals threat we expected, but he’s having a quietly good and balanced month for anyone needing a fourth or fifth outfielder. Meanwhile Khris Davis keeps on hitting. Ride this hot streak.

Carlos Ruiz is hitting the ball better than most widely owned catchers.

Ryan Ludwick is my favorite pickup right now. I loved him before the season (that turned out well, I know), but now that he’s back, he’s hitting, and the Reds have a killer schedule for the month.

Will Middlebrooks was a popular sleeper (at least on my fantasy teams) before the season, and he might be living up to the potential he showed last year after his most recent callup. Or maybe he’s just having a random good month. Either way, snap him up, because a random good month is what we’re all looking for

Pick Up (Pitchers)

Brad Ziegler and LaTroy Hawkins are both closing. Why are they on any waiver wires? Even in shallow leagues, every save can count. Those in head-to-head formats really have no excuse to leave these closers available—they don’t have to be elite, only just good enough.

Jonathon Niese is over half owned, I know, but he looks totally back to form and should be owned in every league deep enough to have drafted him. His teammate Zack Wheeler ought to be better owned too; both get favorable schedules for the final month, so there are no excuses.

Yusmeiro Petit was once a prospect and he never panned out. I have no long-term prediction for him, but at the moment, he’s a lot better than Barry Zito and the Giants’ opponents and parks shape up to be quite friendly for the rest of the season.

Michael Wacha, or “Yo-Yo Wacha,” as I’ve taken to calling him in my head, is back up for the Cards. If he can keep his rotation residency, he’ll have value.

Sonny Gray keeps pitching well and striking people out. Leave him unowned at your own risk.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Corey Kluber are flawed, yes (walks by the truckload for Jimenez and Kazmir, just returning from injury for Kluber), but all three have talent, a deceptively good offense, and a soft September schedule. Zach McAllister is less flawed than his rotation-mates, but possesses less upside too. But he’s got the same offense and the same schedule; prefer him if your position in the standings recommends risk-avoidance.

Rick Porcello has had a rough couple turns of the rotation, but I still like his upcoming matchups. Charlie Morton and Tanner Roark should similarly benefit from friendly opposing lineups.

Stay Away (Hitters)

Billy Hamilton has a season line that reads like this on my fantasy roster screen: 2 0 0 2 --. That’s right: two runs, two steals, and no at-bats at all. This guy could lead the league in steals as a pure pinch runner. While that might actually be better than the MI options on your league waiver wire, it probably isn’t. Get someone allowed to swing the bat.

Mike Moustakas spent part of the second half of this season looking like a good pickup option (indeed, his name was mentioned in this space more than once), but that time is no more. With a brutal pitching schedule upcoming for his squad, let someone else eat the Moose Tacos.

Josh Willingham didn’t get that change of scenery I was hoping for when I picked him up a couple weeks ago. Who knows if that would have helped, but staying put doesn’t seem to be doing him any good. Jason Kubel did get a change of scenery and it hasn’t helped yet.

Stay Away (Pitchers)

Jorge de la Rosa is the subject of an interesting RotoGraphs article, but I’d avoid him for one very simple reason: Coors Field. The Rox don’t have a big home/road disparity, and I just don’t want to pick up any of their pitchers unless I can get a couple road starts in a row.

Jeremy Hellickson briefly looked interesting—just long enough for me to hop off my years-running anti-Hellickson train. Well, I’m back on, thanks in large part to the Rays’ upcoming schedule. Teammate Alex Torres is avoidable for the same reason.

Phil Hughes is always tempting, but don’t do it. The Yanks play a lot of the AL East, and those guys can hit.

Speaking of bad schedules, Hector Santiago and Danny Duffy look interesting (or, at least Duffy does), but I want nothing of the amount of times their teams get to play Detroit and Cleveland.

Jake Westbrook is back from the DL and pitches for the Cardinals, and Cardinal pitchers who aren’t injured are good, so you should pick him up…right? Yeah, no. He struggled mightily before his injury, and there are plenty of available players with less obvious risk and easier upcoming opponents.

Let Go

If you’re still holding onto these guys, cut ‘em loose: David Freese, Erick Aybar and Paul Konerko are killing anyone still starting them. Rajai Davis has competition from other base-stealing specialists that are hitting less badly. Roy Halladay doesn’t seem to have it any more than he did at the beginning of the season, and Mike Leake seems to be running out of gas or out of magic.

While you’re at it, cut those guys that are out for the season, or kicked out of their closing jobs. Owners of Albert Pujols, Everth Cabrera, and Brandon League, I’m looking at you.


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Stock Watch: Strength of Schedule (Part 2)

Welcome to a very special crossover edition of Stock Watch Just days ago on RotoAuthority Unscripted, we examined the September schedules of the first fifteen MLB teams, on the premise that within such a small section of the season, the strength (or weakness) of any team’s opponents can have a huge impact on all its players.

We left off with the Milwaukee Brewers, so any team before them in the alphabet (by location, not nickname) can be found in Thursday’s post.

 Note that I'm taking 2013 park factors from ESPN and team pitching (sorted by xFIP) and hitting (sorted by wOBA) stats from Fangraphs.com. Each team’s name is a link to their schedule, so you can see for yourself if my suggestions are good.

 Minnesota Twins

Total: 28 games (17 home) Athletics 7(3), Indians 4(4), Blue Jays 3(3), Tigers 3(3), Rays 3(3),White Sox 3, Astros 3, Rangers 1, Angels 1

Home park factor: 1.075

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-third lineups, with only 6 against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Only 6 games against top-tier pitching (Rays and Tigers), but 10 against bottom-third pitching staffs (Blue Jays, Astros, Angels, Athletics)

Analysis: If you have any Twins pitchers (besides Glen Perkins), now is the perfect time to let them go. The hitters, however, have a mildly favorable schedule, and play a lot of games in their run-increasing (though homer killing) home park.

New York Mets

Total: 27 games (15 home) Nationals 5(4), Brewers 4, Marlins 4, Braves 3, Indians 3, Giants 3(3), Reds 3, Phillies 3

Home park factor: 0.878

Pitching: Six games against top-tier offenses (Braves and Indians), which all come in the first week of the month; after that 10 games against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Eleven games against top-third pitching; only the 3 Phillies games are against bottom-tier pitching staffs.

Analysis: Wait a week before picking up or starting Mets pitchers, but after that, they should encounter a mostly favorable schedule. Their hitters aren’t so lucky—cut ties with any fringy hitter you can spare.

New York Yankees

Total: 27 games (14 home) Red Sox 7(4), Orioles 5(1), White Sox 3(3), Blue Jays 3, Giants 3(3), Rays 3(3), Astros 3

Home park factor: 1.034

Pitching: The Yankees draw 12 games against the second and third best hitting teams in baseball (Red Sox and Orioles), plus 6 more against top-third lineups; they do have 9 games against lower-third teams.

Hitting: Three Rays games are the only top-third pitchers the Yanks will face, and they have 11 against bottom third pitchers.

Analysis: Pitching has been New York’s brightest spot, but this is a bad month to be a non-ace Yankee—if you can find similarly talented pitchers on other teams on the waiver wire, trade in your Yankee arms. The hitters, however, enjoy a very favorable month.

Oakland Athletics

Total: 27 games (15 home) Twins 7(4), Rangers 6(3), Angels 6(3), Astros 4(4), Mariners 3, Rays 1(1)

Home park factor: 0.881—with the 3 Seattle games and one in Tampa Bay, the A’s have 19 games in very pitcher-friendly parks.

Pitching: Thirteen games against top-third hitting, with only 4 against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Only 4 games against top-third pitching (Mariners, Rays), with 17 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Though not helped by the parks they’ll be playing in, the Athletics’ hitters have extremely good matchups. The pitching staff will need the help from those park factors and are not recommended.

Philadelphia Phillies

Total: 26 games (15 home) Braves 7(3), Nationals 6(3), Marlins 6(3), Padres 3, Mets 3, Cubs 1

Home park factor: 1.117

Pitching: The 7 Braves games are the only top-third matchups, while they play 13 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Phillies hitters face 13 games against top-quality pitching, and only 4 against bottom-third teams.

Analysis: Thanks to the park factor, Phillies pitchers come out more or less neutral with their schedule (maybe a little negative), but it’s probably not enough to recommend their hitters against tough opposition.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Total: 27 games (11 home) Cubs 7(4), Reds 6(3), Cardinals 4(1), Padres 4(4), Rangers 3, Brewers 3

Home park factor: 0.927

Pitching: Seven games against top-third lineups (Cardinals and Rangers), but 11 games against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Seven games against top-tier pitching staffs, but 11 against lower-tier pitchers (Padres and Cubs).

Analysis: Pittsburgh’s schedule is pretty balanced.

San Diego Padres

Total: 27 games (13 home) Giants 6(3), Dodgers 4(3), D-Backs 4(4), Pirates 4, Braves 3, Rockies 3(3), Phillies 3

Home park factor: 0.830. With the 13 games of lowest park factor in baseball, plus 7 more in strong pitchers’ parks (Giants, Dodgers, Pirates), Padre pitching should benefit at the expense of their hitters.

Pitching: Only 6 games against top-third offenses, with 9 against bottom-third clubs.

Hitting: Eleven games against top pitching staffs, with only 6 against bottom-third teams.

Analysis: Padre pitchers are in for a good month, but feel free to drop your Padre hitters.

San Francisco Giants

Total: 27 games (13 home) Dodgers 7(3), Padres 6(3), D-Backs 5(4), Rockies 3(3), Mets 3, Yankees 3

Home park factor: 0.848 The Giants play 23 games in the four strongest pitchers’ parks in baseball. That should tell you more than the matchups will.

Pitching: Only the 3 Rockies games are against top-third hitting, but 9 games are against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: The Giants get 10 games against top-third pitching, and 9 against lower-tier pitching.

Analysis: The Giants’ schedule is dominated by their September park factor. Drop their hitters and pick up any of their pitchers you can.

Seattle Mariners

Total: 27 games (12 home) Royals 7(3), Astros 4(3), Tigers 4, Rays 3(3), Cardinals 3, Angels 3, Athletics 3(3)

Home park factor: 0.936

Pitching: Seattle pitchers have 13 games against top-flight hitting 11 against bottom-tier hitters (Astros and Royals).

Hitting: The M’s have 10 games against high-quality pitching, and 14 against lower-third pitchers.

Analysis: The best part of the Mariners’ schedule for pitchers is in the first two weeks—after that, the competition is brutal. The hitting schedule is pretty balanced.

St. Louis Cardinals

Total: 27 games (15 home) Brewers 6(3), Pirates 4(3), Reds 4, Rockies 4, Nationals 3(3), Cubs 3(3)

Home park factor: 0.904

Pitching: Cards pitchers face only 4 games (Rockies) against top-third hitting, and only 3 (Cubs) against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Eleven games against top-third pitching, 7 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: This schedule is mostly balanced—Cardinal players are recommendable.

Tampa Bay Rays

Total: 28 games (11 home) Rangers 4(4), Angels 4, Orioles 4(4), Mariners 3, Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 3(3), Twins 3, Yankees 3, Athletics 1

Home park factor: 0.921

Pitching: Rays pitchers have 18 games against top-quality hitting, with only 6 (Yankees and Twins) against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Six games against top-third pitching, with 15 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: It’s time to let go of those Rays pitchers who were so good all year long, but expect good things from Tampa Bay’s hitters.

Texas Rangers

Total: 27 games (14 home) Angels 7(4), Athletics 6(3), Rays 4, Pirates 3(3), Royals 3, Astros 3(3), Twins 1(1)

Home park factor: 0.985—yes, Ballpark at Arlington has been a slight pitchers’ park this season.

Pitching: Eleven games against top-third hitting, with 7 against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Seven matchups against top-level pitching staffs, with 14 bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Mostly a balanced schedule, with some good news for the hitters.

Toronto Blue Jays

Total: 26 games (13 home) Orioles 6(3), Yankees 3(3), Red Sox 3, Rays 3(3), D-Backs 3, Twins 3, Angels 3(3), Royals 1(1), White Sox 1

Home park factor: 1.149

Pitching: Fifteen games against top-tier lineups, including 9 against the number two and three lineups (Red Sox and Orioles); 8 games against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: Six games against top pitching, with 10 against low-level pitching.

Analysis: The pitching matchups spell big trouble for Toronto hurlers, but their hitters have a somewhat favorable month.

Washington Nationals

Total: 27 games (11 home) Marlins 7(4), Phillies 6(3), Mets 5(1), Braves 3(3), Cardinals 3, D-Backs 3

Home park factor: 0.981

Pitching: Six games against top-third lineups, 18 against bottom-tier hitters.

Hitting: The Nats have 6 games against top-level pitching staffs, and 6 against bottom-level staffs (all against the Phillies).

Analysis: Though the hitters have a very neutral schedule, the pitchers should look great facing the Marlins, Phillies, and Mets for so many games.

Final MatchupsOverview

Pitchers 

These teams have such favorable matchups that even thier mediocre pitchers are worth picking up off the waiver wire: the Nationals, Braves, Giants, Tigers, and Indians have the best schedules; next are the Padres, Reds, Dodgers, Marlins, Mets (wait a week into the month), and Mariners (drop after two weeks).

Avoid or even release pitchers from these teams: the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and Blue Jays have the toughest schedules; the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Twins, Yankees, and Rays aren't far behind. Cut ties with any questionable pitcher on these squads.

Pitchers on unlisted teams can be selected or avoided the old-fashioned way: on their personal merit.

Hitters

Look for hitters on these teams when perusing the waiver wire: Yankees, A's, Rays, Braves, Reds, Indians, Tigers, and Angels.     

You can drop non-stars (and stay away from waiver bait) from these teams: Cubs, Royals, Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Giants.

Good luck navigating the playoffs. Next week, Stock Watch will be back to its regular format with specific advice for specific players.



Stock Watch: The Best Hitters on Your Waiver Wire (and Mine)

Who you should pick up on the waiver wire or free agent list depends entirely on what your team needs. If you're leading the league by a wide margin in steals (or in dead last by a ton), picking up a speedster won't help you. If you're fighting tooth and nail for every point of batting average, then you don't need the power hitters (who'll kill that average) on the list below.

That said, there are quite a few good players (or players having useful seasons, anyway) on a lot of waiver wires. Maybe this reflects how many owners have given up on their season, as these players might be the most help for those near the bottom of their leagues--those who could use a shot in the arm in one or two categories at the expense of another. Not every hitter on this list will be available in your league, but chances are a few of them are. Hopefully they match up with your team's needs.

Listed in order of Yahoo! league ownership, below are my very scientifically selected* Best Hitters on Your Waiver Wire.

James Loney (50%), 1B, TAM -- It feels very strange to promote Loney, but he's been great this year. I don't know what happened, but he's a BA force again, hitting in a good lineup, and a worthwhile addition for just about every team. Probably he's only available in the shallowest half of leagues, but he's still got value there.

J.P. Arencibia (42%), C, TOR -- Presumably he's owned in all two-catcher formats. If not, it's almost a guarantee that he's more valuable than your second catcher. Of course, he's only useful if you're in a position to trade average for homers.

Kelly Johnson (41%), 2B/3B/OF, TAM -- Though not the ideal starter, Johnson's eligiblity makes him very useful in leagues with MI and CI slots. 2B/3B eligibility is one of the most useful combos in baseball, and he hits for a little power. Perfect for almost anyone's bench or as an injury replacement.

Mike Moustakas (41%), 3B, KAN -- He's cooled off a little since regaining his stroke, but his recent hitting coupled with his prospect history of talent makes him a perfect high-upside add. Especially considering the lack of depth at third.

Will Venable (40%), OF, SDP -- Unless the steals take off in the next month, he'll probably miss going 20/20--but not by that much. As a bonus, he doesn't kill your average. Quite underrated.

Russell Martin (39%), C, PIT -- He's a catcher and he's got nine steals--how is that not better than your current #2 catcher? His average is bad, but not an Arencibia-style disaster.

Jedd Gyorko (33%), 2B/3B, SDP -- Basically Kelly Johnson without the OF eligiblity, but with more promise. He's the kind of young player that could turn a corner and put up a red-hot month without surprising anyone. How many already-useful bench bats have that much upside?

Ike Davis (33%), 1B, NYM -- One of the top bargains to be had. A slow start since returning from minor league banishment has been replaced by good play in the last month. His power history makes him a tremendous upside play. At the very least, he's on a hot streak worth riding out.

Rajai Davis (31%), OF, TOR -- If you need steals, there's no excuse for leaving Davis on the wire. I refuse to believe that 69% of leagues don't have stolen bases as a category. 

Brandon Moss (28%), 1B/OF, OAK -- One of the best power sources widely available. His bad-but-not-terrible average makes him especially useful for those wishing to improve in homers and RBI's without giving up too much BA.

Junior Lake (26%), 3B/OF, CHC -- Young player, hitting well, eligible in the infield and the outfield...hmmm...yes, you should pick him up. Whether his good hitting stays or not, he's certainly worth a shot.

Nick Franklin (24%), 2B/SS -- No, he isn't great. But how good is your starting shortstop? How about your second and short backups? Chances are, the backups are worse than Franklin. If you drafted the likes of Starlin Castro, Jimmy Rollins, or Alcides Escobar, Franklin might be better than your starter.

Chris Carter (23%), 1B/OF, HOU -- Possibly the best of the great homers, terrible average crowd. Surely there's a team in each league that has given up on batting average for the sake of the longball, right? 

Xander Bogaerts (23%), SS, BOS -- This guy's ownership seriously went up three percent while I was writing this article. (Or I looked at the numbers wrong.) An exciting prospect, a shortstop, cool name...pick him up in every league! Shortstops who can hit are few and far between, every team can make use of them.

Justin Smoak (20%), 1B, SEA -- Smoak has been hitting well for a couple months now, far too long for 80% of leagues to leave him on the waiver wire. I don't know if he's really turned into the player Seattle was hoping to get when they dealt Cliff Lee for him, but I do know he'd help any fantasy team that picks him up.

Emilio Bonifacio (19%), 2B/OF, KAN -- Bonifacio could lead the league in steals playing half a season. (Especially with Everth Cabrera suspended.) Even on your bench, he steals so often and has such convenient eligiblity that he's a highly valuable spot starter. If you play in a daily changes format and are competing in steals at all, he's almost a must-own. But remember, he gives no other contribution but the steals.

Khris Davis (16%), OF, MIL -- Easily the second best player in baseball with "hris Davis" in his name. Also, he's relatively young, raking this month, and by far the brightest spot on the beleagured Brewers. There's no way Milwaukee stops playing him, and hot streaks like his can help any fantasy team.

Juan Pierre (14%), OF, MIA -- Pierre has 20 steals in under 300 AB. And he's basically an elderly part-timer. A great steals option off the bench. His batting average isn't even awful.

Eric Young (14%), OF, NYM -- The last in our all-speed train (including Rajai Davis, Juan Pierre, and Emilio Bonifacio, for those with short memories), Young has been stealing like crazy for the Mets (28 bags in fewer than 400 AB). With a batting average that won't kill you,  and more playing time than Pierre, Young might be the best of the group, as well as the least-owned. 

Ryan Raburn (11%), 2B/OF, CLE -- Tigers fans remember the cold streaks that ran Raburn out of Motown, but his batting line for this season shows no signs of them. Returning from injury, Raburn is better (while hot) than most second sackers and plenty of outfielders. 

Ryan Ludwick (9%) OF, CIN -- One of my favorite players to target before the season began, Ludwick was hurt on the season's first day. I had to drop him in three or four leagues. Anyway, he's back and not hitting yet. He showed such great power last year, though, that it's almost impossible not to take a chance on him. He could be worthless for the year--but he could also be the best player on the waiver wire in any league.

Hopefully some of these guys are available in your leagues...if not, well, enjoy the fact that you play against sterling competition, I guess. Next week (unless something more urgent comes up) we'll look at the best pitchers widely available.

*I perused my All Players list, sorted by ownership rates and noted the names that stuck out. Like I said, very scientific. If I left out an important player available in your league--let me know who I missed in the comments. (After picking him up, of course--no need to share information with your own league....)


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Stock Watch: Last Chance to Make a Deal

I just pulled the trigger on a trade, so I'll lead with it. Because you all care a lot about what happens to my fantasy teams, I know. 

I swapped Patrick Corbin for Allen Craig. To me, these players are very similar: legitimately good (Corbin has a 3.12 FIP and a 3.33 K/BB, while Craig has a .367 OBP and 22 doubles) and decidedly lucky (Corbin has 12 wins and Craig has a .362 BABIP). Both players should be quite good for the rest of the year, but both have generated value over their true talent levels. (Though I'm definitely hoping Craig is a true-talent high-BABIP guy.) 

The point of using this trade as an illustration is that I probably didn't maximize my value for Corbin. I could have checked around the league and maybe gotten a slightly higher offer. Or I could have brought back one of those extra players I like to sneak into deals. I didn't. Why?

There is no time.

If you're offered a deal that helps your team (mine was running Brett Wallace and Adam LaRoche out there at first after Albert Pujols got hurt), go for it. When you send out trade offers, you might as well make you initial offer pretty fair, because we've only got two days left in most leagues to finish the deal. No more of this week long negotiating on whether or not the other owner will include Garret Jones as a throw-in, and no more trying to sell off all your scrubs for Troy Tulowitzki. If you've gotta make a deal, make the deal.

So, if we're trading to fill needs, who are good targets? I'll go position by position this time, with plausible targets for low, middle, and high players. If you've got the talent budget to trade, consider the high guys. If you can only afford incremental changes, aim low. 

Fair warning, this week's article is a long one, so if you have no time, feel free to skip to whichever position you're in need of.

Catcher

Low: Miguel Montero is having an awful season (and might be on your waiver wire), but he's got a history of success that makes his longshot upside quite good. And hey...you are targeting a "low" guy. Who'd you expect, John Buck?

Medium: J.P. Arencibia has an abysmal batting average but leads all catchers with 18 homers. Players with strong strengths and strong weaknesses make excellent trade targets, as owners might need to improve on the categories this type of player hurts in.

High: Of the high-level catchers, Jonathan Lucroy has a BABIP (.282) that exactly matches his average and a name that doesn't carry brand-related prices. Target him over Joe Mauer, who's got a .380 BABIP and iconic status.

First Base

Low: Options like the steady, low-upside Garrett Jones and Yonder Alonso are good ideas for teams needing to protect a high place in the standings. For those hoping against hope for a big rise (or a dominant September from a low-seed team) should consider the likes of Ike Davis, Chris Carter, and the potential return of Lance Berkman. Even Albert Pujols could help teams in that position.

Medium:  Consider Justin Smoak, Eric Hosmer, and yes, even Brandon Belt, as all three are showing signs of living up to their promise, but have season stat lines weighed down by abysmal starts. And yeah, first base is so rough lately that these guys count as medium. Nobody expects anything out of James Loney anymore, so he could be quite affordable.

High: Adrian Gonzalez has quietly returned to the top echelon of first basemen. Even if that reflects the position's hard times, his high-average medium-power game is better than it looks.

Second Base

Low: Marco Scutaro has no power and no speed, and he still manages not to be bad. His position flexibility is great too.

Medium: Ben Zobrist has ugly season-level numbers, but has played much better lately. Don't expect all the power to come back on, but he can still provide value. His flexibility is a great asset in leagues with short benches.

High: Aaron Hill has spent time injured, and he's been up and down when healthy. That said, he's got the skills to put up an elite final month and a half and shouldn't carry the same price tag as Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis, or Dustin Pedroia. If you really want to make a big splash, though, don't be afraid to pay superstar prices for Cano, as he's an elite 1B/OF bat playing at second.

Third Base

Low: Mike Moustakas might be on the upswing, and that might is all you need to make a low-level trade. Mark Reynolds might get playing time with the Yankees, but that might, might not make him worth trading for or picking up.

Medium: Pedro Alvarez has a familiar cycle of boom and bust production. I mentioned last week, but I'll say again: trade for him while he's busting, because a boom is never far behind. Josh Donaldson has come pretty much out of nowhere to be a top third baseman. Any owner who has him probably has another 3B-eligible player (the one they actually drafted), so they may be more open to a trade than others.

High: Evan Longoria's up and down season and low batting average make him an interesting trade option. At his best, he's better than David Wright. Miguel Cabrera is probably untouchable, but Adrian Beltre is a first-round producer in four categories himself. He may carry only a second round price.

Shortstop

Low: Jed Lowrie has a decent average and a few home runs. That sets him apart from competitors like Yunel Escobar and Stephen Drew who have bad averages, and Erick Aybar, who has less than half as many homers.

Medium: Starlin Castro has been as big a disappointment as they come for many this year. He hasn't played like a starter, let alone a star. Still, he's young and talented. How surprised would you really be if this guy put up one great month this season? J.J. Hardy's good-power-and-nothing-else might wear on some owners, but trade for him if you could use power. We can always upgrade at short....

High: Ian Desmond is having a good season...in all five categories. His lack of greatness at anything keeps him from being indispensible to an opponent's roster. You may not get a great deal for him, but you might actually get him, unlike other top shortstops. Otherwise, Troy Tulowitzki is a player I'd roll out the red carpet to get.

Outfield 

Low: While Carlos Quentin is on the DL again, and he got deservedly bad press for the Zack Greinke incident, he's put together a very good season. The recently returned Josh Willingham is worth a flyer. Norichika Aoki does a little of everything (and I do mean a little), but he won't hurt in any category, except maybe homers.

Medium: Matt Holliday's un-flashy year probably hasn't excited owners, but that's all the more reason to slot him into your outfield. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Beltran are flying a little under the radar, as are surprisingly good seasons from Alfonso Soriano and Hunter Pence. (Did you know they're even stealing bases again? I didn't, and Sori's on my team.)

High: Michael Cuddyer has been a beast this season. When healthy, this guy can really hit, and he's been healthy all year. With only a month and a half to go, his health risk isn't so much higher than anyone else's. His low draft slot will keep his cost down too. Shin-Soo Choo has more name value than Cuddyer, but his little-bit-of-everything style makes him an easier player to trade away, just as it does for Ian Desmond. If you want power, go for Giancarlo Stanton, whatever the price. If you need speed, do the same for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Starting Pitcher

Low: Some of the best bargains can be found here, particularly in roto leagues where some teams are trying to shed all but their best pitchers. Consider pitchers with big differences between their ERA's and their FIP's, xFIP's, SIERA's and such. Edwin Jackson, Rick Porcello, Jeremy Hellickson, and Andy Pettitte have all gotten cursed by the luck fairy...but could easily see a change in their fortunes. Ian Kennedy hasn't gotten much help from his new environment, but it's a good bet that he will.

Medium: Tim Lincecum is a name I've mentioned before, but I'll say it again: go after him. Jeff Samardzija has pitched badly of late, but his upside is with the top 25 starters in the game. CC Sabathia still has plenty more talent than what he's shown this season. Justin Masterson and Lance Lynn make interesting trade targets as well.

High: A.J. Burnett's age, injury history, and bad years in New York keep him from carrying an elite name, but he's given elite performance. Cole Hamels continues to ratchet his strikeout rate back up and close the gap between his ERA and FIP. Chris Sale is an ace with a losing record, one of the best kind of guys to trade for. Mike Minor looks a bit lucky, but he's also very, very good.

Relief Pitcher

Low: Guys with temporary or uncertain jobs like Mark Melancon, LaTroy Hawkins, Brad Ziegler, and your choice of Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt. Basically anyone Luckey Helms wrote about in Closer Updates.

Medium: For mid-tier guys, look for high strikeout rates with low saves totals, bad teams, or recently anointed closers. Danny Farquhar can check all three of those boxes, but consider also Kenley Jansen, Koji Uehara, and Joaquin Benoit. Fernando Rodney had so many struggles and such a high price tag early in the season that he's still an interesting trade target.

High: Mariano Rivera has blown three consecutive save chances, so this might be the best time in his career to trade for him. He'll have all the leash in the world in his final season, and he's been mostly lights out all year long. Mostly, though, high-end closers are rarely worth the price it takes to get them. Over a season, the differences in skill and opportunity manifest in value, but in less than two months, there's no telling who the most useful closers will be. So go cheap.

Good luck trading, everyone. I know I'm off to send out a last flurry of deadline deals....



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