Stock Watch


Stock Watch: Trade Your Prospects

Real-life Major League teams are getting more and more sensible these days, holding onto prospects like a miser with a bag of pennies. Sure, sometimes they still trade away next year's top shortstop for a mid-season rental, but those Jean Segura warning stories just seem to make most teams all the more protective of their best prospects. 

You, on the other hand, should do no such thing. There's no next year in fantasy (unless you play in a keeper league, in which case this advice has little to do with your situation), so deal away. Because it makes a much easier transition, let's shake things up and start off with some great prospects to trade away....

Trade Away (All Your Favorite Prospects)

I suggested nabbing Zack Wheeler last week--and I spent nearly half my yearly FAAB budget to get him on one team--so why am I telling you to deal him away now? I mean, he hasn't even gotten to pitch yet! The reason is that now could very well be the peak of his value. For every Shelby Miller, there are several Kevin Gausman's (Gausmen?). If Wheeler pitches poorly in his first start, his value drops by a lot, but right now he's still got that new-car smell, that untainted, sky's-the-limit, prospect essence. If you sell now for a proven commodity, there is a real chance that you undersell his value. And a real chance that you win the deal big. What you can get, though, is the safety of acquiring the kind of proven player that can't be found on the waiver wire. 

Like Wheeler, it would have been a safe (and usually advisable) play to deal Gerrit Cole before his first start: though Cole is a higher-level prospect, uncertainty still remains with any pitcher in their situation. Owners are obviously glad they didn't trade him, as his value has gone up. Now he's proven to be able to handle big league hitters. I bet there are plenty of leagues in which you can get a star caliber return for Cole right away. Most of you probably already know which owner to offer the trade to....

Yasiel Puig is another prospect like Cole, who might be able to fetch a serious return. His early success really might carry into continued great hitting...or it might not, or he might slump just in time to get squeezed out of the outfield when the better-paid Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford return from the DL. Sell him while you can!

Jurickson Profar is another sell-high candidate another prospect worth trading. I actually released him in one league the week before Ian Kinsler got injured. I'm not exactly kicking myself for that decision, though I certainly did at first. Profar may or may not be "ready" for the Majors, but he hasn't hit like it, and certainly not well enough to push Kinsler to the outfield. While Texas hasn't said what they'll do when their second baseman is back from the DL, don't be shocked if Profar wanders back to AAA. Fortunately, his name value alone might be enough for you to get a usable fringe starter in a trade.

I mentioned above that you don't want to make trades like these in keeper leagues, but you also shouldn't make them in another situation: last place. If you're at or near the top of your league, then it makes sense to deal upside for likelihood of usefulness. Even when you're in the thick of the pack, that strategy makes sense (though you might want to hold out for better return). But when you're at or near the bottom, you need upside. If you get offered one of these players, or most other prospects, in a deal (except Profar) try to swing a trade, and remember that teams higher in the standings can still benefit from low-upside returns.

Trade Away (BABIP Heroes)

Two players stuck out to me as BABIP-induced sell-high's. Sometimes when a player's high BABIP is inflating their numbers, you know that everyone knows it's a big fluke. Seriously, nobody's going to give you anything good for Jhonny Peralta. (But take it if they do!) Instead, high-expectation players with high-BABIP's look much better when dangled in trade. If I told you Joe Mauer would have a high batting average, and derive most of his value from it, would you be surprised? Of course not. But that doesn't mean you should expect him to keep the .410 BABIP that has led to his .332 AVG. Similarly, Freddie Freeman entered the year with high expectations. He's only hit six homers, but his .314 AVG mitigates the sting of lost power somewhat. Unfortunately, a .314 AVG isn't that high when you consider that Freeman's BABIP is .381. Deal both of these guys, while their averages make them look elite. 

Trade For

Troy Tulowitzki is making his annual trip to the DL, this time for 4-6 weeks with a broken rib. If you've got depth at short and Tulo's owner is reeling, regretting using a second-round pick on a player who's always getting hurt, try sneaking him onto your roster--even discounting the injured time, there's still every reason to think the slugger will remain the top at his position when the year is out. Another injured shortstop, Jose Reyes, is beginning his rehab. This seems like a good time to swing a deal for him--though be aware he may be slowed by his injury after his return.

Anthony Rizzo started the year slowly, then hit like crazy, and now he's been slumping again for a while. It's early in his career to call him "streaky," but if he is, a low point in the boom and bust cycle is the right time to make a move for him. Not only that, but a .269 BABIP is suppressing his numbers at least a little.

Manny Machado should be traded for if you play in a points league. Owners might be mystified why a player with a BABIP-inflated .316 AVG, and just five homers and five steals is among the league's best. They might anticipate a drop in his overall production. They might not know that he's got 30 doubles already. That's a crazy amount, putting him on pace for 72 two-sackers, breaking the all-time record, and netting you a ton of points. Even in standard leagues, it's a sign that his runs and RBI's are more solid than they first appear--though owners in these leagues will be hurt more by any drop in his BABIP.

Pick Up

Brandon Beachy is a pretty obvious add, as his rehab stint is nearly done and even the small chance that he can return immediately to his former glory is worth FAAB money, waiver claims, and whatever else it might take to get him on your team. Another obvious choice is Seattle catching prospect Mike Zunino. While Zunino might be with the big club for only a little while, expect him to stay if he hits at all well. If he's good enough for your fantasy team, he'll be good enough for the Mariners.

Josh Rutledge is the beneficiary of Tulowitzki's injury. Sent down after getting his shot earlier in the season, he's been slugging in AAA (which is sort of a given in Colorado Springs) and will have another month or more to prove himself against Major League pitching. Middle infielders with any chance for power are rare enough that he deserves immediate attention.

Remember Rick Porcello? Well, he's pitched rather well well in four games in a row, and six of the last seven, and is worth claiming for your team. If he's ever going to turn his talent into results, that time might be now. Hector Santiago was an add last month, then a drop, and now he's an add again. The strikeouts he generates are worth the lousy WHIP he'll probably give you. Finally, Erasmo Ramirez might be the next pitching prospect up to the big leagues with Seattle, and could be worth stashing. And maybe dealing when he does hit the Majors....



Stock Watch: Scandalmakers and Struggling Shortstops

This week on Stock Watch, we're trying out something a little different. Not a lot different--don't worry--but there's been a bit of news out there that might affect your fantasy team....

Biogenesis Scandal

By now, you've probably heard more about this scandal than you care to, and--unlike the witch-hunting masses--your main worry is probably about whether your fantasy stars will be suspended and for how long. You're probably wondering what to do with players like ****** and ****, let alone *******. That's right--I didn't include their names! Why? Because none of the players involved has yet been proved guilty of anything, and none of them need their reputations tarnished by me any more than already has been. But I also need to provide useful fantasy advice, so I'll take the via media of linking to an article that mentions the players you should be concerned about. Among them are superstars, minor leaguers, rookies, veterans, and just about everyone else. 

Who will be suspended and for how long? I can't say. How long will the process take? Still don't know. Will players who've already received PED suspensions get more punishment? Tough to say, but the one bet I wouldn't make is for this process to be carried out in a way that's transparent or fair. Maybe I'm overly pessimistic about MLB's anti-PED unit, but that seems the safest route to me. While the players implicated haven't failed tests, they don't need to to get suspended. Many are mentioned by name in Tony Bosch's ledgers, but others are in by code name or mere association. It might be worth mentioning that Mr. Bosch has plenty of incentive to roll on Major Leaguers, the bigger the names, the better. More worrisome for owners is the report that MLB has" tons of witnesses" to corroborate the allegations. (Report from RotoAuthority alum, Mike Axisa.)

What to do if you own these players? I own several across a few leagues (though I did shy away from most during drafts), and I'm standing pat. Right now will be a very difficult time to trade these guys, because your leaguemates will be watching as much ESPN as you, and you aren't likely to get much value from them if you shop them. Trading for them doesn't seem like a great strategy either, as you may be paying for useless assets. If you want to shoot off some lowball offers, go for it, as the strategy could pay off big, despite a low probability of success. By the same token, if someone offers you, say, 70-80% value on a big-name player, make that trade and hope for the best. And, of course, keep following along with the news to see what happens next.

One guy you might not have to worry about--and whose name I don't mind mentioning--is Gio Gonzalez. Reportedly, he is mentioned but exonerated by the evidence found at Biogenesis, having only purchased legal and unbanned substances. Good news for Gio owners. If you happen to find yourself looking at a good deal for him, pull the trigger.

A final thought is that the suspensions handed out may be lengthy--perhaps 100 games, perhaps more--but they will probably not include lifetime bans. This may be a great opportunity to get quality players on your keeper roster for a low price--especially if you're already out of contention this year. Note that this is a pretty long-term plan, as some of the repercussions of the scandal may last into next season.

The most important thing to do is not to panic and make a bad deal, as any suspensions handed out may take a long time to end up happening--others may not happen at all.

Struggling Shortstops

Most shortstops are bad fantasy players--we all know this. That's why we spend so much auction money or used high draft picks to get the few who can hit. This year, not only are several injured (Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter, Asdrubal Cabrera), most of the other top choices have been pretty terrible.

Ben Zobrist
After putting up consecutive 20-HR seasons and enjoying Swiss-Army position flexibility, Zobrist was one of fantasy's hottest commodities going into the season. He's on most of my fantasy teams, making me glad that I decided to diversify and stay away from him in my final draft of the season. His slugging is down over .100 points, as he's hit just three homers. His batting average is down significantly, despite a BABIP in line with his career norms. His LD% is down and his HR/FB rate has absolutely cratered. The only good news is that his K%, BB%, and OBP haven't taken big hits, but the Rays care more about those numbers than our fantasy teams do. While Zobrist might well bust out of his protracted power slump, his age might be catching up to him. He may only be 32, but he didn't break out until age 27. Late  success is often an indicator of early decline. Sell him if you still can.

Starlin Castro
Another well-hyped early-rounder, Castro was drafted a bit for the success he's already had and a lot for the success he was expected to grow into. He may still grow into a superstar, but maybe the fantasy community was a bit premature drafting him like he already was one. His steals are down, his homers are down and his low-walk nature has kept him from getting on base in spite of his low average. Like Zobrist, his BABIP isn't bad (it's a nearly-average .296). Compared to last year, Castro is hitting slightly fewer line drives, popping up less, and grounding out a bit more. It's tough to be sure why his average is struggling so much, but slumps are a part of playing baseball, especially for young players. He's a good (but not slam-dunk) candidate to improve, so I'd call him a cautious buy.

Jimmy Rollins
At 34, Rollins is a pretty old shortstop, but unlike Ben Zobrist, he came up to the Majors at a young age and had a strong peak as one of the game's top stars. His years have been pretty up-and-down lately, but last year was an up, with 23 homers and 30 steals. This year has not been so good, with just four homers and six steals, despite a batting average and OBP better than what he put up last year. At .293, his BABIP is the highest it's been since 2007, but his HR/FB is his worst since 2003. Shortstops aren't expected to carry power or speed into their mid-30's and it's entirely possible that Rollins' bat and legs have slowed down. Then again, he gave us that impression for all of 2010 and managed to bounce back. Still, I'd say he's a cautious sell.

I was going to talk about Ian Desmond next, but his recent homers put his numbers in a pretty decent place--enough to make him one of the better shortstops this season.

Good luck navigating this week's muddy waters--and pick up Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole  if you still can.

 



Stock Watch: Bad Calls, Bad Aces, and Good Prospects

Last week on Stock Watch, we might have made some recommendations that...didn't quite work out. Jake Odorizzi got bombed and sent back to the minors, while Kevin Gausman, well, at least he didn't get sent down. The Rays certainly don't have enough committed to Odorizzi for you to keep him on your redraft roster while he pitches for AAA Durham, but Gausman is still worth hanging onto. His odds of being an impact rookie have gone down, but they aren't at zero yet, which is more than you can say for most pitchers on the waiver wire.

That said, let's get to this week's recommendations.

Trade For

Much has been made of the struggles of a certain catcher named Montero--hitting around the Mendoza-line, getting sent down, having his #1 prospect status replaced with that of ex-prospect, getting sent down to the minors, maybe going on the DL--but what about the other catching Montero? Well, he's been pretty bad too, to the tune of a .206 AVG and a .291 SLG. Yeah, I had to double-check to see that those numbers belonge to the previously-dependable Miguel and not his Seattle doppelganger. What's up with Miguel? It's hard to say for sure, but a .246 BABIP sure isn't helping. In hitter-friendly Arizona, expect that number to go up. Meanwhile, it seems like a decent bet that when his luck materializes other things might start to fall into place, raising his HR/FB and his ISO back to their previous rates. All this means that Montero's owner might be ready to dump him cheap, and you might be able to get a decent catcher for a bargain price.

Speaking of Prices, how about David Price? He's been a pretty significant disappointment, and now his sitting on the DL. He still doesn't have a timetable for return (not a good sign), but he's played catch for a couple days in a row (a good sign). With an ERA of 5.24, his owner might be glad to get someone healthy and effective, but his FIP (4.05) and xFIP (3.53) suggest he's been a lot better than his results. If you've got depth, use it to go after Price.

Matt Cain has been inarguably awful this season, but despite his most recent poor performance, he's got some significant bright spots. First of all, his strikeout rate of 8.60 is the best of his career, while his 2.91 BB/9 has been worse before without hurting Cain too much. What have hurt him are the homers and the stranded runners. His HR/9 rate to 1.57 after staying below 1.00 in every other season of his Major League career. His strand rate is just 62.8%, much worse than his career norms. Something seems to be going on with the homers, but the strand rate can be chalked up to luck. When Cain makes whatever adjustment he needs to, expect everything else to fall in line. His FIP (4.52) and xFIP (3.87) are already a lot better than his 5.45 ERA.

Need some help in the middle infield? Check out J.J. Hardy: despite a low batting average (and correspondingly low BABIP), he's smacked 12 homers. If his .228 BABIP goes up much, he'd be one of the best at his position. Actually, considering the scarcity of SS power, he already is. If he's got an owner who doesn't know that, make a deal.

Trade Away

Zack Greinke sports a 4.80 ERA with just a 6.00 K/9. His FIP is more optimistic, at 3.50, but xFIP isn't so impressed at 4.23. Sure, things could be worse, but that's when we get to his 2.50 K/BB ratio: sure, it isn't bad, but it's his worst since 2006--a time in which his number was usually around 3.50. Perhaps most worrying of all, though, is that his velocity is down by at least 1 mph on all three fastballs listed by Fangraphs.com. Greinke's injury seems to be the split between him being effective and being smacked around badly. Maybe he's (still) just rusty and will find his groove and be fine. Or maybe the injury is lingering. How badly do you want to stick around and find out? Your safest strategy is probably to try swinging a deal for a decent quality player--like Price or Cain. If Greinke gets it figured out, good for him. If not, he'll be on someone else's fantasy team.

Of course, if someone takes this advice to the extreme and offers you Greinke for a backup OF, take the chance on Greinke....

Pick Up

Some weeks are all about the trades, but others are all about those free agent targets. This is one of those weeks. Rumors are swirling about an unusual number of prospects--and several are already up to the majors. There are different levels of team commitment to each prospect, so we'll examine each in his appropriate category.

In Majors, Job to Keep

Nick Franklin has displaced former-top-prospect Dustin Ackley in the Mariners' 2B job, and it will be Franklin's to keep unless he plays his way out of it. On the off-chance Seattle brings Ackley back up to the bigs, Franklin can slide over and play short, so playing time is very much his to lose. That said, he's not an impact prospect so much as a pretty good one, so don't go dropping a productive player for him.

Filling in for Now

Alex Presley wasn't hitting much at all, so Pittsburgh sent him back to AAA in April. He hit well for Indianopolis and went three for five for the big club on Saturday. How much chance he'll be given to stick has yet to be determined, but he's well worth the fantasy shot.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. had one of those unbelievable springs...and then showed us why we shouldn't have believed it in his first Major League week. He torched AAA after getting sent down, however, and now he gets a chance to fill in for Jacoby Ellsbury. The idea is that he'll got back to Pawtucket when Ellsbury returns, but if he really hits the ball, I bet the Sox find him at bats. Plus, Ellsbury isn't exactly the healthiest guy in the world.

Michael Wacha dominated the Royals in his Major League debut and should be getting regular starts for the Cardinals. If you've already missed out on Wacha, don't feel too bad: his AAA K/9 rate wasn't anything special, he'll be on an IP limit, and, well, it was the Royals. That said, pick him up! He's a high-quality prospect and the Cardinals are just about the best team to be a pitching prospect for.

Just Wait Till We Get There

Anthony Rendon is playing second base in the minors, which seems to spell impending doom for the struggling Danny Espinosa. Though he fell flat last time through, the top prospect could certainly do better in his second chance. Adding 2B eligiblity would be nice for the 3B prospect too. It can be hard to get a prospect in a deep league, so this might represent the last chance to get him for lots of us.

Yasiel Puig has generated a lot of rumors this year, but there hasn't been any room in the crowded (and struggling) Dodgers outfield. With Matt Kemp on the DL, we have our opening. It might be temporary, but if Puig does come up, and he does hit, are the disappointing Dodgers really going to send him back down? Don't bet on it. 

There are a lot of if's with Rendon and Puig, but both have the talent to provide a lot of fantasy punch if those ifs work out--they're well worth the risk.

Not a Prosepct, Just a Closer

Surprise! Huston Street is hitting the DL with a calf injury. While he may not be out long, it's still worth picking up Luke Gregerson for some saves in the meantime. Technically Dale Thayer could get some opportunities too, but Gregerson should be the top guy. 


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Stock Watch: The Long Shots and the Very Obvious

This week has a pair of exciting prospects making appearances in Major League rotations, and both could be here to stay. That's why we call them the Very Obvious. Injury returners and the possible-but-not-imminent replacements (there need to be an word that means that) for hideous underperformers make up the other top pickup options for the week. If you're looking to make a trade, this smells like a good week to invest in power, and a good week to deal away center fielders with speed and average. 

Now that I've killed all the surprises but the names, enjoy what's left of the article....

Trade For

John Lackey hasn't been good since...well, since the Angels were good and he was one. But he's been flat-out great this year, surprising everyone but his mother. Okay, she's probably surprised too, 'cause he's striking people out like it's 2005. Actually, this year's 9.08 K/9 is the best of his big league career, so no wonder his FIP 2.92 and xFIP 3.03 are palindromes. I mean, no wonder they're so good. If his owner in your league is taking a happily skeptical attitude to the new, old John Lackey, tell him or her you'll be happy to take the risk on Lackey, as the success he's had appears plenty sustainable.

Pedro Alvarez has hit four homers in the last week and is a notoriously streaky hitter. But, man, those hot streaks are good. If he isn't available on your waiver wire, I'll bet his owner would be happy to get any value at all for Alvarez and his .200-ish average, while you can enjoy his periodic power-binges and the slightly less damaging batting averages they'll bring.

Josh Willingham is in a similar situation, having had a decent week of hitting to go with a terrible season average of .215. His BABIP could stand to go up, but that isn't as much to blame as he might like, sitting as it does at .261. Still, he's got a great power history, and is usually dependable for a mediocre average, not a terrible one. Expect some improvement here, as he reverts to his career norms.

Edwin Encarnacion (see, I was going to suggest power hitters) is a bad-BABIP victim, however: his .228 number is keeping him a three-category player. Now, his owner isn't going to be convinced that E5 is having a bad season--not with 13 homers for evidence otherwise--but they sure might feel like they overpaid for his services. If that's the case, you might be able to pay three-category price for a four-category player. Not a bad potential move.

Trade Away

If you're a Carlos Gomez owner you have two options: 1) Admit that Gomez is one of the best players in baseball and accept that someone will draft him in the first round next year. OR 2) Try to trade him, in the belief that he's a very good player having some of the best months of his entire career and at the highest point in his value. If you pick number one, then hang on to him and hope the .403 BABIP holds out. If you're more inclined to choice number two, try to find someone in your league who's thinking is more like number one. If you can get someone to blow you away in a trade, pull that trigger. Even if not, think carefully about any deal that comes close to approximating the value he's been giving.

Lorenzo Cain has been more of a speed and average guy than an MVP candidate, but he too is buoyed by a high BABIP: his .369 mark has translated into a good-but-not ridiculous .303 average. While fast players like Cain routinely put up good BABIP's, it won't take a huge dip in Cain's number to change his BA a lot. Move him to someone in need of steals or average if you have other decent OF options.

Add (The Obvious)

If you're in a daily league, Kevin Gausman and Jake Odorizzi have already been picked up. If you're a weekly player, maybe you've still got a chance. Get these guys onto your roster. Gausman has a ton of potential and struck out five batters in as many innings in his debut. The Orioles can hit the ball and they seem to intend to stick with him, so he's in a good situation. Odorizzi is also a highly talented prospect, though the Rays have a lot more options than the O's, so his leash won't be as long. Still, if he pitches well enough to stick on your fantasy team, the Rays might have no choice but to keep him in their real rotation. Bonus: he's in line for two starts next week.

Add (The Returning-from-Injury-or-Whatever)

John Danks made his first start back from injury and should be a mainstay in the Chicago rotation if he health holds up. After having previously being a pitcher of some use in fantasy, he could very well be again. He's not an ace, but he's got more potential to be useful than your usual "safe" good-but-not-awesome pitchers.

With Jim Henderson hitting the DL, Francisco Rodriguez is back just in time to save games for the Brew Crew. With John Axford remaining afflicted with terribleness, K-Rod is back to the ninth inning. It should only be temporary, but the saves he earns will be permanent in your stat sheet. (Unless you play head-to-head, I guess.) Considering how well Henderson was pitching before he got hurt, I wouldn't get excited about Rodriguez stealing the job for the long run.

The Long Shots

Remember Miguel Tejada? The Kansas City Royals do. No, he hasn't taken Mike Moustakas's job yet, but he just might, as Moose Tacos has been one of baseball's worst hitters this year. Tejada has already shown a little power, and if Moustakas gets sent down to the minors, he could be a source of cheap power, at a position that rarely has usable players on the waiver wire.

Sure Kelly Shoppach is starting for now, but Mike Zunino is the real beneficiary of the end of the Jesus Montero catching experience in Seattle. Yeah, Zunino is still down in the minors, but his status just got cemented as catcher of the future, and he's likely to come up to the bigs some time soon after the M's don't have to worry about him getting Super Two status. Keep a close eye on him, because he's got the talent to make an impact at the plate.

And Also Luke Scott

Poor Luke Scott isn't eligible for a position yet, other than DH/Util, which makes him a hard guy to roster. It's one thing to budget a spot like that for David Ortiz during your draft, but we didn't make room for Scott there. Well, if you did make room, pick Scotty up, as he continues to rake. Also, if you play in a Yahoo public league, what do you think those Util slots are for? Grab him.


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Stock Watch: Party Like it's 2008

Trade For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Away

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

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

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

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

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

Pick Up

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

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

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

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

 


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Stock Watch: It's a Good Week to Buy your Mom a First Baseman

As the title says, there are three intriguing 1B options on most waiver wires; in addition there's another pair who look like great candidates to improve as their BABIP normalizes. Those aren't the only players who might deserve to change hands in the next weeks, whether you're trading for slumping ace pitchers or trading away young phenoms who pitch the best game we're likely to see this season.

By the way, happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Trade For

If you had R.A. Dickey  and Cole Hamels in your rotation last year, your pitching was probably pretty good. This year...not so much. In Dickey's case, his strikeouts and velocity are down, while his homers and walks are up. It's an ugly mix, to say the least. So why do I recommend trading for the knuckleballer, when his problems appear not to be luck-related? Well, it's because of the inherent unpredictability of knuckleballs and those who throw them. It's natural to expect a higher degree of variance in their starts than in most. I'm not willing to give him a pass for his poor performance...but I'd be more than happy to buy low on him. 

Hamels is, to me, an even easier pitcher to trade for. Of course, you're less likely to find an owner willing to give up on him at this point than you are with Dickey. Hamels's strikeouts are down and his walks are up, and one can see from his FIP (4.42) and xFIP (4.15) that his mediocre ERA is of his own doing. That said, it's only been eight starts and he's been a world-class pitcher for five years now. I think he's earned more than a little benefit of the doubt, especially considering that his fastball velocity is actually up from last year.

Adam LaRoche is a fixture on any May trade-for or pick-up list. I'm not normally one to take a player's historical month-by-month splits very seriously, but with LaRoche it's appropriate to make an exception. In eight years (I added his partial 2004 and 2011 seasons into one), he's got a .214 average in 866 PA. He's a slow starter. He's starting to heat up. Nab him, especially if he's got a frustrated first-time owner.

Michael Morse was supposed to lose power in Safeco Field, and with it, most of his value. I, for one, was pretty skeptical about drafting him. Well, he's got nine homers and a .471 SLG in his first 30 games. The power seems to be there. What isn't is the average: he's dragging fantasy squads down with a mark of just .227. The good news is that he's suffering from a lousy .243 BABIP that's likely to come up. When it does, he ought to look a lot like the guy he was for the last season and half. Pretty useful.Oh, and he's had even worse luck on the road than at his much-maligned home park.

Trade Away

Jon Niese looked like a great pickup before the season, and he didn't start off terribly. Well, things have gotten terrible, as his K/9 has dropped from a healthy 7.33 last year to just 4.61 so far this year. Worse yet, his last couple performences have brought his K:BB ratio to 21:22. Exactly what's going on, I don't know. If you can include him as part of a larger package (and therefore sneak him onto someone else's team), do it. He's not a drop just yet, but he's getting unstartable.

Patrick Corbin is someone I've recommended picking up, but now is the time to send him packing. With a sparkly 5-0 record and a miniscule 0.38 HR/9, he's been a great fantasy pitcher. His track record, however, suggests that he should be a good fantasy pitcher going forward, and really nothing more. His strikeout and walk numbers support that thesis (6.99 K/9; 2.33 BB/9). If you can get a closer or a solid hitter for him, make the deal.

There is little in fantasy more difficult than trading a young player who could be a superstar in the making. The risk is very large--and all the more since it comes with the shame of trading away a player just as he's breaking out. All that said, the risk of standing pat is high too. Young players go up and down, sometimes looking like they've reached their full potential when they still have serious growing pains to get through. As such, I recommend trading Manny Machado, particularly if you have other serviceable 3B/CI options. He's been great so far, but a .351 BABIP suggests that he might not be this good yet. Rookies and young players with bright futures often command extra-high trade values, so if you can get a solid starting position player or a second/third tier SP, I would move Machado.

Shelby Miller just threw a perfect game, so trade him. (I know, I know, he allowed a hit first, but 27 outs in a row is still 27 in a row.) His trade value will never be higher and even the best rookie pitchers are rarely this good. Yes, I do think Miller will have a great rest of the season, command and deserve an ace-level draft pick next year and everything...but there is still a very good chance that you can get more value in a trade than he'll provide over the next couple months. If you can get the same return that you'd expect from a second-tier pitcher, like Max Scherzer, I think you'll be getting the better end of the deal, but aim higher and see how much you can get.

Pick Up

Luke Scott (Y!: 2%/ESPN: 0.2%/CBS: 5%) is hitting the ball well for the Rays and could be a very nice CI addition in Yahoo! leagues based on his history of hitting for power. Owners in other formats may be less interested, as he only qualifies at DH/Utility. Mitch Moreland (Y!: 11%/ESPN: 20.1%/CBS: 34%) has hit is well enough to quiet the rumors about Jurickson Profar moving up and Ian Kinsler moving over to first base for the moment. Lyle Overbay (Y!: 2%/ESPN: 0.4%/CBS: 6%) has a long history of marginal-ness, but he's certainly hitting well for the moment. Mark Teixeira may well squeeze him out of a job, but he's a good stopgap while he's hot.

Speaking of hot, Scott Kazmir (Y!: 16%/ESPN: 5.8%/CBS: 39%) is cooking with gas again. If he can regain any of his past magic, he'll be a great addition to any staff, especially those in need of strikeouts. If he can regain all of it....

Marcell Ozuna (Y!: 20%/ESPN: 12.7%/CBS: 29%) is hitting the cover off the ball for the Fish, to the tune of a .342/.390/.553 slash line. His .387 BABIP says that won't last long, but he doesn't have to win a batting title to be worth picking up, especially in deeper leagues.

Stay Away

Jeff Locke is gaining some traction as a pickup, but that's not a bandwagon you want to get on. His 2.95 ERA looks nice, but his K/9 (4.99) is way too close to his BB/9 (4.31) and his FIP (4.86). Nothing to see here.

This is a no-brainer for most, but just in case you were tempted, know that you really don't want Jason Marquis. His 5.15 FIP and 4.09 BB/9 don't tell me he can keep winning games.


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Stock Watch: I'll Bet You $10...

Years ago, some friends and I went to a baseball game. We were sitting up in the cheap seats, watching a rare close game for the Mariners in the ninth. One of my friends was...ah...not so baseball-astute, so I offered him a bet when Richie Sexson came up to bat. (I told you this was a long time ago.) I told my friend, I'll bet you $10 that Richie doesn't hit a home run. My friend chided me for my pessimism and was eager to take the bet, which I hadn't really expected but wasn't about to let go of now. Fortunately, a third friend interevened and tried to explain the low odds of even the best hitter putting the ball out of the park at any given moment. Reluctantly, my friend called off the bet and my conscience felt a little better.

Moments later, Sexson hit a home run.

In fantasy baseball (and much of life, perhaps), every move you make is its own gamble, small or large. There are two good reasons to make a bet: one, the side you're taking has a very good chance of coming to pass (me, wagering that Sexson will not homer right  at this moment), whether the gain is small or large; two, the potential gain is very large, and just possible enough to justify the fact that it will probably not pay off (my friend, wagering that Sexson will homer right now). Over the long run, these are the bets that pay off and win fantasy leagues. 

Some of the bets I'll suggest below are of the kind that I think likely to happen...others are riskier choices that may end up with a bigger payoff. What about bets that combine the two? You made those in your draft.

Trade For

Dan Haren has started to pick up a little velocity on his fastball, sitting at about 90mph for much of his most recent outing, while striking out five and walking none (interestingly, the third start this year in which he's performed that feat). Is he all the way back, or even definitively healthy. Well, no. This is one of those riskier options. If he takes off, he could be a bargain-bin ace. Or maybe he'll fall again. The trouble is that once you know for sure that he's on track he won't be on the trading block anymore.

Josh Reddick is finally on a hot streak, though he's striking out a ton and batting just .155 with one home run. Very disappointing for those who had dreams of another 30-HR season, which may already be out of reach. The good news is just .192 (last year it was .269). He's pounding the ball into the ground at a 39.6% rate (up 10% from last year!), and popping up 20% of the time. His HR/FB rate has dropped to just 4%. So why am I interested in getting this guy? Well, because these are all things the young hitter should be able to fix, and his current stretch of success might be suggesting that he already has.

Anthony Rizzo is a simple case of BABIP value, so if his owner is statistically inclined, don't expect to pry him away. If not, consider that his miserable .195 AVG will go up when his unsustainably bad .170 BABIP does. The homers are already among the league leaders, so an excellent season could well be in the making.

Lucas Duda remains unowned in a significant number of leagues (CBS: 70%/ESPN: 34%/Yahoo!: 24%), but his 17 walks are tied for fourth in baseball, and his .438 OBP sandwiches him in between Miguel Cabrera and Dustin Pedroia on the leaderboard. With five homers to go along with the on-base, I'm on board with trading for Duda, as he's looking like a relatively low-risk bet.

Pick Up

Andrew Cashner (CBS: 39%/ESPN: 2.4%/Yahoo!: 17%) is a strikeout machine and he appears to be in the rotation for good. He immediately becomes the Padres' best pitcher and he's a smart add for any fantasy team. Grab him while you can, because these low numbers are likely to spike in the next week.

David Phelps (CBS: 11%/ESPN: 0.1%/Yahoo!: 3%) will be slotting into the Yankees rotation. If he pitches well, he might even stick over Ivan Nova, though that isn't necessarily a given. He hasn't gotten good results out of the bullpen (ugly 5.29 ERA/1.47 WHIP), but he's been racking up strikeouts (22 K's in 17 IP). He's worth a try, especially in deeper leagues.

Carlos Ruiz (CBS: 50%/ESPN: 13%/Yahoo!: 21%) is coming back from his suspension, so nab him off the waiver wire if he's available. He mashed last year and, while he isn't incredibly likely to repeat those numbers at age 34, there's little reason not to give him a chance.

Trade Away

Matt Moore just won his fifth game of the season, and he's dealing to the tune of a 1.12 ERA, an 0.88 WHIP, and a 10.69 K/9. So why am I considering offering him up in trades? Because a young pitcher who was expected to do well, and is pitching amazingly can fetch a huge return. Am I betting against Moore breaking out and joining the aces this year. Not really, I think there's a great chance he does. But, as with Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller last week, I think Moore represents an opportunity to get even more value back than he'll give for the rest of the season.

Bryce Harper and Justin Upton are off to fantasy baseball's best starts and here I am recommending you send them packing. I wasn't high on Upton before the season began, I'll admit, but even I can see that he's not in line for another disappointing 17-HR campaign. But here's the thing: Upton won't be hitting 88 homers (his current pace), and Harper won't end up with 60, or a .374 average (probably). Both guys are superstars and both are having great months. There's no better time to trade them, especially with their level of youth and hype. Don't do it if you can't get an absolutely outrageous return, but I'd be willing to bet you can.


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Stock Watch: Sell High, Buy Low, Steal Healthy Guys

Finally! We now have data we can work with, understand, and safely extrapolate over the course of a full season.

Or...not. But we have gone on long enough that hot and cold streaks have lasted long enough to impact multiple weeks of fantasy play--not to mention the real standings, but why mention those here. The fantasy game is the real Big Show, after all.

Trade for These Guys

Giancarlo Stanton and Adam Dunn
Both of these guys are off to hideous starts, and both were expected to be among the HR leaders when the season started. Stanton, in particular, was supposed to be a cornerstone of many teams (most of mine, in fact), but he's produced just a single Run Scored for all four counting stats and just a .182 BA. Next to him, Dunn actually looks pretty good, with his two homers and his .105 average.

So, why trade for these guys? Because the power they had before the season still exists. Stanton has been dealing with nagging injuries that might scare off frustrated owners, but should explain away his struggles when combined with the caprices of the Gods of Small Sample Size. Speaking of sample size, it should be no surprise that Dunn has cold weeks. The fact that they're coming at the beginning of the season simply means you might be able to get a good deal on him. These two still have power that's almost unrivaled in baseball, and getting either at even a small discount would be a great idea for most teams.

Final bonus: Stanton may be traded at some time this season, and pretty much wherever he goes, he'll have a better lineup to drive in and offer him protection.

David Ortiz, Chase Headley, and Brett Lawrie
I shied away from this trio in drafts, as I wanted to avoid spending early picks on injured players. That didn't stop me from getting players like Corey Hart, Brian McCann, and Colby Lewis to stop up my DL slots like glue, but that's another story. This story is about how now is the time to trade for any of these three players.

The theory is this: when you spend the first weeks of a season without a particular player, you discover that you don't really need him. This lends owners to undervalue these nearly-healthy or newly-healthy players and overvalue their opportunity to finally get some use out of them via trade. It works particularly well if the owner has needs in other positions that can't be filled by the returning player. As Ortiz, Headley, and Lawrie come off the DL, it could be time to swoop in with a trade offer. Of course, this strategy won't work on every owner (it did on me last year)--some will cling to the returned player like he's their team savior. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Julio Teheran
He was the trendiest Spring Star to draft in the final weeks of the season, as he mowed down everyone he faced and seemed to be finally building on his top-prospect talent. Now he's sporting an ERA of 7.31 and is owned in only 34% of Yahoo! leagues. The thing is, he's still the guy he was going into that amazing Spring Training: a high-level prospect pitching for a good team. He could right the ship, and if you nab him now the cost won't be more than a waiver claim in many leagues. If you do trade for him, you shouldn't be paying much. Any more and I don't really recommend going after him.

Waiver Claims and Free Agents

Last week, I spent several entire minutes explaining why Ted Lilly was a good pickup. Then the Dodgers installed Chris Capuano into their rotation and I rewrote it all at the last minute. Well, look who's starting now. Yeah, Lilly is the one who will get the starts for LA, even though the team doesn't seem convinced he's ready. Nab him now and leave him on your bench for a start or two, because if he is ready, he's probably still the above-average pitcher he used to be. If he isn't that guy, it will probably be apparent quickly and you can cut him loose.

I was looking over the list of pitchers by Yahoo! Rank (not the most scientific thing to do in the world, I know), and one guy stood out by ownership rates. Everyone around was in the 80's or 90's by percent owned. And then there was Carlos Villanueva, sitting right there at 17%. When someone on the waiver wire is ranked exclusively with the pitchers owned in nearly every league, it's time to take notice. Sure enough, Villanueva has pitched very well. If his next start weren't against the Reds, he'd be on two or three of my teams already. Monitor him for his next start and grab him up afterwards.

By the way, Villanueva's teammate Travis Wood looks pretty good so far too. Jeremy Guthrie and Zach McAllister are both pitching well also. Guthrie actually has some good history to back him up (though no history of help in strikeouts), but McAllister has more upside. If you need strikeouts, Felix Doubront is always great for those. He isn't much good for other things, though, like ERA and WHIP. Pitching for Boston and striking people out makes him a great choice for streaming.

As for hitters to pick up, Didi Gregorius is a great choice, as the prospect will be filling in for the injured Aaron Hill, as Cliff Pennington will move over to second base. He's already hit a home run, and any pop you can get midseason out of your SS or MI slot is great. Another interesting option is Nolan Arenado is lighting up the minor leagues, to the tune of a .417 average with three homers and 11 doubles. Chris Nelson and Josh Rutledge aren't exactly off to amazing starts, so Arenado might be able to force the Rockies to bring him up. If your league has a minors slot, pick him up. Even if not, he makes a very strong stash option right now.

Sell! Sell! Sell!

Well, it's not quite so urgent as that, but we've gotten to the point of the season where it might be possible to capitalize on some hot starts. Second basemen Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips are both tearing the cover off the ball, with five and four homers, respectively, BA's over .300 and double digits in runs and RBI. The only knock so far is that they have but one steal between them. Probably they're scoring before they even get the chance to steal. These starts aren't sustainable of course, unless they both post career years. Having the depth to deal either of these players away is unlikely, but if you do, now is a great time to reap extra value and let them settle back down to earth with a new owner.

Speaking of playing over your head, check out Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller. I like both for the rest of the season, but not nearly at the level they're doing now. Both are among the league's best pitchers so far, with miniscule ERA's, sub 1.00 WHIP's, and at least a strikeout per inning. As flamethrowing youngsters, you can expect enthusiasm for their season and careers to be high. As young pitchers, you can expect them to hit the occasional rough patch over the course of the season. Trade 'em now, enjoy the production of the steadier veterans you can get in return, and don't feel bad when they end up with good-but-not-ace numbers over the course of the season, probably with low IP totals.

Paul Maholm isn't exactly a top prospect, but he's having the best couple weeks of his life. He's been a pretty average pitcher for the better part of the last decade, and I don't think that's likely to chance in 2013. If you can find someone who does, deal Maholm away. If you can't, ride the wave while it lasts. 

Finally, we've got Jarrod Parker. I wasn't incredibly excited about Parker going into the year (I can't stand pitchers with low strikeout rates), but he was quite useful last year. Well, he's been horrible this year and I'm losing patience and the A's have Dan Straily waiting in the minors. If you can ship Parker off to an owner that buys into his youth and upside, do it. If you can't, don't be surprised if the A's cut him faster than you do.


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Stock Watch: Impulse Buying

The first week of the season is always the worst for me. Someone always gets injured (Ryan Ludwick owner here), an ace always gets pounded in his first start (mine was Adam Wainwright), and some closer is always ready to lose his job (John Axford on several teams). When you write expert analysis, it's even worse: might have publicly counseled against drafting Justin Upton, didn't say a word about Chris Davis.

You see, the first week is the worst for me, not just because my teams never fail to have a bad week, but also because you can't trust anything that happened in just one week. Why is Davis tearing the cover off the ball? I don't know. (But I wish he were on any of my teams.) Is Upton's week a sign that he puts it all together into superstardom this year? Maybe. Is Axford doomed to return from whence he came? (I sure hope not.) I can't say any of these things for sure, or even close, but seasons ride on early moves. Every year it seems like an impact player has a killer first week and never lets up, on the way to joining the elite at his position the next year. Think of the fantasy debuts of Dan Uggla, Ben Zobrist, and Jose Bautista. What if you could have snagged Chase Headley off the waiver wire last year. You have to make an impulse buy or three, even if it's just a wild stab in the dark.

Given this--that we're on the lookout for high-upside players at this point--here are some worthwhile buys going into Week 2. I'm not big on trading players this early in the season, so I'll focus on waiver wire pickups here.

Impulse Buys

Gerardo Parra, OF, ARI
Parra is owned in just 32% of Yahoo! leagues and 34% of ESPN leagues, but I'll wager that's about to change. He's running with his chance to impress in Arizona, hitting .458 while two of the outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart (Cody Ross and Adam Eaton) languish on the DL. If he can keep up the hitting, I don't see how they'll keep him out of the lineup.

Jean Segura, SS, MIL
Segura's batting an even .500 for the week, but is only owned in 30% of Y! leagues and a paltry 15% of ESPN leagues. As a prospect with a job, he started the year as a semi-interesting sleeper. Well, he's done about all he can to justify that interest. Any chance to get a shortstop with a live bat is a good idea.

Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA
RotoAuthority's own Peter Karinen wrote Fernandez up last week, so I won't do much more than echo his sentiments here. Fernandez is young and talented, but far from a sure thing, or even a solid bet. He's the sort of guy who is very likely to be dropped off a lot of teams after just a couple weeks...but he's also got the raw stuff to have a real chance of being an impact pitcher. He's worth a try, but don't drop anyone good to get him.

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, SEA
It's been a long time since we've seen him, but a healthy Gutierrez is a pretty decent player. Hitting nearly .400 with a pair of homers, it looks like the guy that gave the Mariners 18 HR's and 16 SB's in 2009 might have returned. He could be better than plenty of drafted fifth OF's.

Bargain Bin

Bartolo Colon, SP, OAK
Colon has finished his suspension and returned to Oakland. Will he be an impact guy? Obviously not. But he does stand a pretty good chance of being decent. In deep leagues, he's actually a pretty safe choice to add. He beat Houston in his debut (not that that tells us anything), and he walked just 23 batters in 152.2 IP last year.

Travis Wood, SP, CHC
Wood pitched extremely well against the anemic Pirates, and he's got just enough history of success to think that he might be useful if you're looking for a pitcher. Perhaps more to the point, he's slated for two starts next week, so owners in weekly changes leagues may be interested.

Luis Mendoza, SP, KCR
Mendoza whiffed seven Phillies in his debut, and that counts for something. Not terribly much, as his track record is nothing to speak of.

Chris Iannetta, C, LAA
Tyler Flowers, C, CHW
Wilson Ramos, C, WAS

These three catchers are all owned in fewer than 20% of Y! leagues, but all have a pair of homers and lofty batting averages. Making things more interesting is that all of them have shown just enough in previous seasons to register as possibly useful going forward. Flowers probably has the best combination of upside and team trust at this point.

Vernon Wells, OF, NYY
The Yankees already found Wells in the bargain bin (well, sort of) and he's off to a hot start. New York has little reason not to play the hot hand right now, so if Wells keeps hitting, he'll find the playing time. Who knows, maybe the Yanks really did like what they saw in Spring Training.

Sell...No One

Sorry, but it's way too early to start giving up on anyone. I'm not going to put anyone on this week's list to shuffle away from your team. Everyone will be too scared to trade for obvious overperformers like Chris Davis, and a single week's worth of data isn't nearly worth giving up on your top sleepers or shipping off struggling stars. Wait till next week for that.


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Stock Watch: 2012 Season in Review (Misses)

Last week's Stock Watch reviewed many of the best "Buy" / "Sell" recommendations of the year, and this week will review many of the worst "Buy" / "Sell" recommendations:

  • On April 13, Stock Watch recommended selling Fernando Rodney - "Closer injuries have been widespread early this season, and some owners are left short in saves. See if an owner is desparate enough to give you good value on Rodney before the inevitable blowups occur."  Rodney of course proceeded to have the lowest ERA ever by a qualifying reliever at .60 with 48 saves, a 0.78 WHIP and a 76/15 K/BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings.  Unbelievable.
  • On April 20, Stock Watch recommended buying Francisco Liriano - "He has shown improved velocity between starts (max velocity increasing from 92.7 to 93.3 to 95 in his three starts) despite horrible results this year - 11.91 ERA compared to 5.70 SIERA. If Liriano was cut by an impatient owner in your league, he is worth picking up and taking a chance on in a favorable home ballpark for pitchers."  Liriano was up and down, but mostly down, the rest of the season with a 4.83 ERA and awful 4.8 BB/9 rate (but an excellent 9.8 K/9 rate).  
  • On April 20, Stock Watch also recommended selling Jake Peavy - "Has been dominant this season in two of three starts, and avoided a bombing in his start at Texas. But he carries a massive injury risk and pitches in a park that balls will start flying out of when the Chicago heat sets in. I would inquire to see what you can get in trade for Peavy if you have an abundance of starting pitching, and see if you can turn the 235.0 ADP pick into a top-150 player. But, do not give Peavy away, as his average fastball velocity is up from 91.27 in 2011 to 92.12 in 2012."  Peavy kept rolling after April 20 with a 3.43 ERA and 9 wins.  Peavy proved an excellent late round draft pick in 12-team mixed leagues and enjoyed an unexpectedly healthy season.
  • On April 27, Stock Watch recommended buying Javy Guerra - "When other owners are zigging, you should be zagging. Following Guerra's blown save on Wednesday, many owners are looking to dump. But, Don Mattingly reaffirmed Guerra as the closer on Thursday. Also, Guerra's loss on Tuesday was caused by Matt Kemp not making a catchable play in center field, and on Wednesday, Guerra was singled to death by a very good Braves lineup. I like Guerra to have a decent amount of leash still as the closer given his success last year and excellent pitching before the Braves series, and I would be looking to get him when his value is far down. Guerra also showed the moxie of a closer by taking a wicked line drive off his chin on Wednesday and staying in the save situation."  Guerra lost the closer role almost immediately after this recommendation, and had no value the remainder of the season.  Lesson here is to draft talent and not roles where the back end of a bullpen is unsettled.
  • On May 4, Stock Watch recommended buying Jonathan Broxton - "Although widely doubted (including in this column), Broxton has been impressive in converting four straight saves and has a long leash as closer, with setup man Greg Holland on the DL. Owners should feel confident in Broxton's job security if targeting lower-tier closers in trade."  Broxton was traded to a set-up role with the Reds later in the season, and the lesson here is to be careful in targeting impending free agent closers for losing teams that may look to dump at the trading deadline.
  • On June 8, Stock Watch recommended selling Kyle Lohse - "A 5.08 ERA in May is likely a sign of things to come for Lohse, whose career ERAs for July, August and September are 5.02, 4.67 and 4.60 respectively.  Lohse's overall 2012 numbers still look good so see if you can include him in a larger deal to upgrade elsewhere on your roster."  Lohse kept on rolling after June 8 with a 2.67 ERA and 11 wins.
  • On June 15, Stock Watch recommended buying Ivan Nova - "His strikeout rate per nine innings has skyrocketed this season from 5.33 to 8.00, and he has collected eight wins pitching for the Yankees' powerhouse lineup.  A 3.53 SIERA gives hope that his 4.64 ERA will come down when his 16% HR per flyball ratio evens out closer to the 8.4% he had last season."  After June 15, Nova struggled with a 5.34 ERA and only 4 wins in 16 starts.  Lesson here is to be very hesitant in relying on AL East starters, particularly those pitching in the Yankees home park.
  • On July 27, Stock Watch recommended selling Matt Harvey - "After dominating the Diamondbacks Thursday night, Harvey is going to a popular name in fantasy circles this week.  Those owners in re-draft leagues that are fortunate enough to have claimed Harvey off waivers should be looking to sell to an owner that will overpay for rookie hype.  Harvey showed typical control issues for a young starter this year in Triple-A, as he walked nearly four batters per nine innings, and may initially struggle in the majors as he learns command.  Stock Watch also recommended selling Trevor Bauer in re-draft leagues for many of the same reasons. RotoAuthority's Mike Axisa recently warned about the Mets' poor defense potentially inflating Harvey's WHIP and ERA, as well."  Harvey dominated down the stretch with a 3.00 ERA and 9.8 K/9 rate after July 27.  Although relying on rookie pitchers is usually problematic, Harvey proved an exception with a strong rookie season.


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