Trading


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

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

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

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

Not a Zero-Sum Game Anymore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Plays: Pitchers

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

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

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

Safe Choices: Pitchers

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

Upside Plays: Hitters

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

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

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

Safe Choices: Hitters

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

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



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Trade Deadline Rundown

The next couple days are always some of my favorite in baseball. Maybe it’s just my short attention span, but I love it when players are changing teams and rumors are flying around like crazy. No wonder I became an MLBTradeRumors.com addict...during the Trade Deadline and the Winter Meetings I refresh RA’s parent site several times an hour if I’m sitting in front of a computer. 

And you should too.

No, not just because I’ve been tasked with driving up MLBTR’s traffic (I’m pretty sure they don’t need my help with that this time of year), but because you can be out there making deadline trades of your own. When a player is about to change value, that can be the best time to get him on your team…or off of it. And if you’re the one making the better guess than your opposing managers, you’ll find yourself getting tidy little value deals along the way.

Just think what would have happened if you’d offered peanuts for Jake Peavy last week. Well, you’d have endured a mediocre first start, but still, it’s easy to see how Peavy goes from sitting on deep league benches to being an interesting pitcher, just by changing uniform. Presumably, his cost will be a little higher now that he’s officially a Giant. (Or he might still be on your waiver wire, if your league isn’t that deep.)

So regardless of whether or not Peavy was a big enough fish for your fantasy league to fry, your team might be ready to benefit from some other subject of trade deadline rumors. 

David Price

Price is by far the biggest name getting floated in trade rumors this deadline, but is he even on the move? With the Rays winning ballgames, it’s looking more and more like he’s staying in Tampa Bay. That’s fine with me, though, because he’s in a good park with a better-than-their-record-so-far team. So not getting traded is good news for Price owners (or future owners), but so are his top trade destinations: the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Mariners. I see this as pretty much a no-lose situation.

Of course, his current owner might think so too and he may not come at a discount, but the uncertainty surrounding his situation might knock his price down a little. (For once, pun unintended.) Trade for Price.

Ben Zobrist

Zobrist is likely to follow Price out of town or stay with him (see the link above). As a Swiss-Army player, he comes in pretty handy, but he hasn’t been awesome with the bat. I haven’t seen many specific rumors about Zobrist, but the Giants have come up

I see this as a good time to trade away Zobrist. Though other owners might be getting interested in the idea of Zobrist going to a friendlier park, there remains a good chance he stays with the Rays. With the Giants the only known suitor, I’m not sure Zobrist will really gain value on the 31st

Jon Lester

I'll admit, in the first draft of this article, I overlooked Lester--I just didn't really believe the Red Sox would put their ace on the market. But the rumors are picking up and it's time to face the reality: Boston believes in logic. With a mediocre supporting cast and a tough ballpark, most other teams would be good news for Lester. Watch the rumors, but since the Mariners are in play, the could be a great trade for candidate. The only real downside is that he stays where he is.

John Lackey

Like Lester, the Sox are getting calls on Lackey (see the link above). Same situation, different player: almost any trade would probably be a ballpark upgrade, so go ahead and trade for Lackey too.

Cole Hamels

The Phillies kept saying they won’t trade Hamels. Given their history, I believed them. Now we hear that he is available, but with a huge asking price. With the Dodgers interested, I'm intrigued, and I think that the mere possibility of Hamels getting to play for a good team will intrigue the other owners in your league too...but the Phillies' history makes me think they won't find a buyer. Hamels is plenty good enough to trade for, but if you really want value, trade him away to someone willing to pay like he already plays for the Dodgers, or Mariners, or whomever. But keep an eye on him--he'd have a ton of value as a Dodger....

Cliff Lee

Having just returned unimpressively from the disabled list, most commentators are expecting Lee, who has a significant no-trade clause, to be traded sometime in August. Lee is already a great buy-low candidate, so the chance that he suddenly gets better run support, better defense, or a friendlier ballpark is icing on the cake. It is well worth noting, though, that Lee is a very risky option at this point, making him a great fit if your team needs a huge shot in the arm—but not so much if you’re just looking to shore up a good spot in the standings.

A.J. Burnett

Burnett has been a pretty marginal fantasy starter this season (hopefully you ignored my advice at draft time—I wish I had), but the Trade Deadline offers the hope that he’ll get dealt to a good situation. Too bad San Diego isn’t interested. Check out the Hamels link for the latest Burnett rumor I could find—which doesn’t get very specific. Watch the veteran righty's rumors closely. If there’s talk of him going to Los Angeles (either one) or Seattle, he becomes very interesting—a good home park can do wonders for a pitcher. But with the Giants and A’s probably not in the market for Burnett, most of the possible suitors won’t do much to help Burnett’s ERA and WHIP. I’d trade him away while the rumors are flying. If he does move into a favorable situation, you probably won’t have lost out on that much.

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy was just sidelined with an injury, so we’ll have to see how that shakes out. While the Padres would need to be overwhelmed to deal the bounce-back pitcher (who they control through next season) his injury probably makes that less likely. That’s actually good new for Kennedy owners, since there’s really no better place for him than San Diego. I’d probably hold Kennedy, but I don’t think I’d trade for him until we know more about his injury (which appears to be minor). 

Bartolo Colon

Colon isn’t the most exciting name in fantasy, but I would try to sneak him into a trade offer while the real-baseball coverage makes him sound better than he is. New York is a nice ballpark to pitch in, and I don’t suspect he’ll end up in a better place—even if he gets more run support. If Colon is dealt it will likely be after the market for better pitchers shakes itself out.

Matt Kemp

Kemp’s name has come up in talks with the Mariners, which is never good news for a hitter. Unless he’s coming from Dodger Stadium. Parks aside, trading the Dodgers’ supporting cast for the Mariners’ isn’t so good. These talks seem like kind of longshots, given Kemp’s contract, but it could happen.  I’d consider trading Kemp away if you get someone who thinks he might end up as a Yankee or an Oriole or something.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera’s name has come up in connection with the Blue Jays, which would be a nice situation for the current Indians’ shortstop. I would wait for that one to gain a little more traction, but he could expect a bump in production in Canada. Tentatively, I’d trade for him. Also, I’d get ready to pull the waiver wire trigger on Francisco Lindor.

Troy Tulowitzki

Tulowtizki is showing up in trade rumors, abetted by an appearance at a Yankees game. Given his injury and his face-of-the-franchise status in Colorado (and his very friendly contract), I suspect there’s more smoke than fire to these rumors. Certainly any trade outside of Colorado is bad fantasy news for Tulo owners, so I’d consider offering a trade for the injured shortstop…but I’d wait a little longer on the medicals before offering it.

There are plenty more players who could be on the trading block in the next few days—especially relievers on losing teams. You know where to keep up with the action for trades (MLBTR obviously), and don’t forget @CloserNews on Twitter for everything relating to the many relievers who’ll probably be changing uniforms in the upcoming days.



RotoAuthority League Update: One Man's Midseason Trade Advice (Part 2)

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

To continue last week's theme, let's take a look at hitters and pitchers whom I view as Buy Low and Sell Low candidates going forward.

Buy Low

Jed Lowrie

The Coliseum still ranks in the bottom half of the game in runs. Accordingly, it's not surprising that several Athletics can be found among the list of hitters with the lowest BABIPs. Given Lowrie's high hard-hit ball rate, however, we can safely say that the Oakland shortstop has been unlucky in the batted ball department this season. In terms of power, he's actually increased his flyball rate, but his HR/FB% has cut in half. Lowrie hasn't ever hit even 20 HR, but he'd certainly emerged as a legitimate source of power relative to other middle infielders. If you're looking to acquire a SS or a 2B, Lowrie makes for a good target, as he qualifies at both slots. Depending on the size of your league, he might even be available on the waiver wire. If not, the good news is he certainly won't cost much given his lack of production this year. In short, send out a feeler offer to the Lowrie owner in your league; I'm quite bullish on the A's shortstop for the stretch run.

Alex Cobb

A popular target in the middle rounds, Cobb has failed to live up to the expectations of fantasy owners who drafted him this spring. After missing a month with an oblique injury, the young Rays right-hander has been decent but not exceptional in 76 innings this season. With a 4.14 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, Cobb has surface statistics that are rather mediocre in today's game. At this point, he's unowned in about a quarter of ESPN leagues, so he shouldn't cost a ton to acquire via trade. I still view this as a highly talented arm, and he still hardly ever induces hard contact. There's a reason he's posted an ERA right around 3.50 with over 400 MLB innings under his belt. Upon closer examination, his peripherals aren't all that different from those he posted in his breakout campaign last season. Overall then, I'd expect a performance more in line with his 3.38 SIERA.

Sell Low

Shin-Soo Choo

I viewed Choo as undervalued this preseason, so I guess I'm lucky to only own him in one league. After all, the Rangers outfielder has been one of this year's greatest disappointments, fantasy or otherwise. Given that he'd gone 20/20 three of the past five seasons, I viewed Choo as a relatively safe option to contribute in four categories. The power isn't down all that much, as he's still on pace for 16 HR; however, he's also on pace for just 5 SB. Meanwhile, the career .285 hitter is hovering around .250 this season. The runs are still there, but I honestly thought he could challenge among the league leaders in that category. Going forward, I really don't expect things to get much better. For one, Choo could see more and more days off as the Rangers give more playing time to the kids. In addition, the veteran outfielder just isn't hitting the ball hard very often these days.  I expected big things for Choo in Arlington, but now I'm rather bearish on his outlook in the future.

Shelby Miller

Miller entered this season as one of the fantasy arms many thought could take the leap to borderline elite status. Well, the young Cardinals right-hander has certainly struggled in his sophomore campaign. The strikeout rate is significantly down while the walk rate has noticeably spiked. Oddly enough, one can make the case that things will only get worse for Miller in the second half. After all, only Chris Young had a worse SIERA among qualified starters entering the weekend. It's premature to give up on this former top prospect in dynasty leagues, but I'd sell this arm for anything of value in the short term. At this point, Miller is all name and no value in redraft leagues. Try to shop him to the owner in your league who overvalues the upside of young players.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Getting Ahead of the Next Trade

Let’s be honest, you hadn’t gotten to work following my advice and trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. I sure hadn’t, and yeah, I’m kinda kicking myself. Because their value just went way up. With improved defense around them, a great park, and a good bullpen, I’d say both pitchers have gotten a chance to hang on to the good luck that helped them start the season. And that’s despite the trip to the AL and the fun they’ll have pitching to real hitters instead of their fellow pitchers. But it doesn’t include the (hopefully) better run support they’ll get from their new team. But hey, don’t take my word for it….

So yeah, it’s probably too late to get value on Samardzija and Hammel. I mean, you can give it a try, but you’ll probably have to pay a fair price. Who wants to do that?

So, we’re going to do something a little different and try to get you (and me) out ahead of the next trade of this All-Star trading month. To do that, we’ll turn our attention to big-sibling site MLB Trade Rumors’ recent polls: Which Starter Will Be Dealt First and Which Position Player Will Be Dealt First.

David Price has been scheduled to get shipped out of Tampa Bay for years now, and this may finally be it. The time seemed right…and then the Rays started to do some winning, which may complicate things. While the Dodgers and Mariners have been mentioned, we’ve also heard that Tampa Bay would be willing to trade him within the division. Considering what Oakland had to give for Samardzija and Hammel, you have to think the Rays will be looking for a huge return, including ready-now or nearly ready prospects. My gut (note: not a very reliable source) tells me that the Rays hang onto their star. With possibilities on the West Coast in the mix, I’d try to play up fears that he goes to, say, Toronto, and trade for Price.

Jon Lester is next on the list, and rumor has it that extension talks aren’t going all that well. My first thought was that this was a bit of a red herring as far as trades go; the Red Sox are surely thinking of themselves as 2015 contenders, even if they’re willing to pull the plug on this year…but remember that time they traded their entire team to the Dodgers? They certainly could deal Lester, and pretty much any contender would put him in a better situation, at least as far as the park goes. Go ahead and trade for Lester.

Cliff Lee is the third marquee pitcher on the list, but he’s hurt and the Phillies have the tendency to be delusional about their near-term playoff chances. The more I think about it, the more I think Lee stays put and the Phils try to build around him and Cole Hamels. So don’t give up the farm for Lee thinking he’ll soon be pitching in LA or Seattle. Consider him even—not much change in his value.

Alex Rios may be on the trading block and out of Texas. This can’t be good news for a guy who’s already lost a lot of power, as I don’t see the Rockies swinging a deal for him. If I had Rios, I would trade him away. The good news is that there’s a good chance the Rangers just hold on to him until next year, but the downside of almost any trade could be serious for Rios owners.

Josh Willingham (is he really the next most interesting guy on this list? Ouch.) has flashed a little power for the Twins. Fortunately, he’s on the trading block, and almost any other place will be better for his homer power than Minnesota. Unfortunately, the Mariners have come up the most often in connection to him. I’d still trade for Willingham and hold out hope for the proverbial mystery team. Even in Seattle, his value shouldn’t really go down.

Daniel Murphy actually beats Willingham as an interesting trade piece, especially for those of us looking for speed, batting average, and runs scored. I don’t think they’ve come up in Murphy rumors, but the Blue Jays could probably use a second baseman. Almost anywhere would probably help Murphy cross the plate more often, and getting out of CitiField is always nice. As an added bonus, Murphy is one guy the Mariners probably won’t be stealing into their run-killing park. Trade for Murphy.

Ian Kennedy was such a good bounce-back target before the season because he would be pitching in San Diego. Now he might be getting traded out of Petco Park. (Insert animals running loose joke, I suppose.) That isn’t ideal, except for in the wins category. I would deal him away before he ends up pitching for the Brewers or the Orioles or something. 

Bartolo Colon’s ability to never walk anyone will play in any home park…but I’m still leery of seeing what happens to this very hittable pitcher in a higher-scoring environment than the one he’s currently in. Sure, the prospect of more wins is enticing, but I’d still deal him away just like Kennedy. If your league is even deep enough to own him….

Ben Zobrist is on your team because he plays every position. Probably not because he can hit…because he isn’t doing much of that. While someone as versatile as Zobrist is as hard to trade away in real baseball as fantasy, he could find himself on the move. My first reaction to that (at least, after disbelief that the platoon-and-matchup loving Rays could ever trade him away) was that that would be good news: a friendlier park and a better offense might help him out. And then I had a horrifying thought: Zobrist could get traded into a utility role on a contender. Even dropping his playing time to the large half of a platoon is serious trouble for Zobrist’s fantasy value. I would trade him away just in case.

Marlon Byrd is slugging nearly .500. Credit the Phillies for believing in him, I suppose. Well, credit them when they turn him into a prospect. The upside of a Byrd trade is the chance to move into a better lineup for more counting stats. The downside is missing out on summer in a small park. I’d call this one about even—unless he gets traded to another hitters’ haven, his value will probably remain more or less the same.

Chase Headley seems to be drawing interest. I guess memories of one great season speak louder than a sub-.300 OBP. With teams like the Blue Jays and Yankees reportedly making calls, Headley could be facing one of the biggest possible park factor shifts. I’ll take a flyer on that. Keep an eye on him if he’s on the waiver wire, and think about trading for Headley. It feels really weird writing that.

Bonus: Stay away from Brandon McCarthy in New York. Sure, he’ll get better run support, but his flyballing ways were trouble in Arizona; they won’t get much better in New York and he’ll have to face tougher offenses and DH’s. Not for me.

Things change quickly in the month of July, so keep refreshing MLBTraderumors.com to see who you should be trading for and away. Good luck out there.



RotoAuthority League Update: One Man's Midseason Trade Advice (Part 1)

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

It's around this time each season that many fantasy writers across the Interwebs write articles about their midseason trade targets. I know this column is intended to update you, the reader, on the goings-on of the RotoAuthority League. Given that the standings in that league have stagnated over the past couple weeks, though, please allow me to endulge myself this week with my own personal trade advice as we approach the All-Star Break.

When you break it down, fantasy baseball really comes down to two variables. On the one hand, there's a generally accepted market value for a player at any given time. Sure, this can vary widely across leagues, but there usually exists some relatively established value for a player across the countless fantasy websites. On the other hand, there's the expected fantasy worth of a player going forward. Once again, this can vary dramatically among fantasy players. Some fantasy owners place far greater emphasis on the in-season statistics while others care more about the rest-of-season projections. The tricky part, of course, is that this involves forecasting the future.

Ultimately, this hobby that we play really comes down to the variance between market value and actual value. Naturally, we seek to acquire players whom the market is undervaluing and trade away the ones the market is overvaluing. For as long as I've played this game, I've always been among the most active owners in my leagues, and it's precisely this gap between market value and actual value that makes this game so fascinating to me.

Now through the years, sabermetrics have become so mainstream that you can't simply rely on the secondary statistics alone anymore. Still, that just makes this game even more appealing to me. Similar to poker, there are pure numbers guys in every fantasy baseball league, there are owners who make decisions strictly based on gut feelings, and there are other fantasy owners who fit somewhere along the spectrum between these two extremes.

With that in mind, players really fall within one of four quadrants at any given time. There are Buy High, Buy Low, Sell High, and Sell Low candidates. Let's take a look at a hitter and a pitcher who fit each of these descriptions based on what I expect going forward. This week we'll examine the Buy High and Sell High candidates, and next week we'll take a look at some Buy Low and Sell Low options.

Buy High

Jose Abreu

I actually really liked Abreu in the preseason, but I somehow only ended up with him on one team. At this point, I think we can all agree that this is one of the top power hitters in the game. Even so, I still think there's a buying opportunity here. After all, for me personally, there are only six hitters I'd prefer going forward: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, and Paul Goldschmidt. That's it. Rotoworld, on the other hand, recently ranked Abreu just 27th overall for the rest of the season. With the continued decline in power in today's game, Abreu is truly a fantasy monster. He hits the ball hard, and he hits the ball incredibly far. If you can acquire him for anything short of the equivalent of a superstar, get the deal done before your league's trade deadline.

David Price

Ideally you would have already dealt for Price a couple of weeks ago. After all, the Rays ace has been dominant lately with at least nine strikeouts in each of his past six outings. Still, there's an argument to be made that things will only get better for Price down the stretch. As we all know by now, the Rays southpaw is clearly on the trade block. While some may argue that the environment around him is likely to worsen if he leaves Tampa Bay, I'm willing to gamble that the Rays deal him to a team in the NL. If that proves to be the case, this is a top-five starting pitcher going forward. It seems that K-BB% is the new pitching sabermetric du jour, and Price just happens to rank first in all of baseball in the category. With a move to the NL, one would only expect even better results. Given the pristine peripherals he's currently posting in the AL East, it's downright scary to contemplate what he might do in the NL West, for instance.

Sell High

Alex Rios

Like the Rays, the Rangers are in the midst of a miserable season and likely to be sellers at the deadline. From a fantasy perspective, Rios is having a decent campaign, thanks in large part to his SB total. A move out of Texas, though, could be potentially damaging to his fantasy value. More importantly, though, it's worth noting that the Rangers outfielder simply isn't hitting the ball with the same kind of force anymore. In fact, he ranks in the bottom third in the game in hard contact. Meanwhile, the low HR output isn't a fluke, either. Rios is currently outside the top 200 in batted ball distance. The Rangers right fielder does have a good line drive rate, but I'd still expect some regression in his high BABIP. Overall then, I'd cash in on Rios to a team looking for a reliable source of speed.

LaTroy Hawkins

I have to give some credit to Hawkins; I sure didn't think he'd last this long in the closer role. Remarkably, the forty-one-year-old journeyman has only one blown save all season, so he should have a relatively long leash at this point. From a real baseball perspective, I guess it's possible that Hawkins could be sufficiently adequate in the second half that he maintains the closer job, although I doubt it. From a fantasy viewpoint, however, I can just about guarantee that he won't be helpful to his owners in the standings. Let's start with the fact that the Colorado closer ranks dead last in all of baseball in K%. In fact, Hawkins is on pace for just 24 strikeouts this season; that's downright laughable in today's game. Even with good surface statistics, the veteran ranks outside the top 40 among relievers on the ESPN Player Rater. With an ERA two runs below his SIERA, a correction is likely to come at some point for Hawkins. At that point, he'll only contribute in the saves category. In short, I'd take just about anything of value for this closer.


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

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

Trade For 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick Up

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Stock Watch: Great Players and Early Disappointments

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

Trade For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Away 

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

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

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

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

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

Pick Up

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

Shallow Leagues (30-50%)

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

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

Medium Leagues (20-30%)

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

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

Deep Leagues (Under 20%) 

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

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

Hey, for me, this counts as really brief!



Stock Watch: Short-Term Gains

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

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

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

Trade For 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Away 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick Up
Shallow Leagues (30-50% Ownership)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medium Leagues (20-30% Ownership)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Leagues (Less than 20% Ownership)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



RotoAuthority League Update: A Lesson in Fantasy Remorse

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he isn't one of them.

Let's be honest. There's nothing more annoying than hearing someone talk about his or her fantasy team, but you'll have to excuse me this week, readers. With all due respect to the other owners in the league, I'm going to be selfish this week and focus on my squad, A Century of Misery. Don't worry; I do think there's a larger point here.

First, though, I need to present a little backstory. In January I provided my own personal top 12 as I analyzed how I'd approach drafting in the first round of a fantasy draft this spring. One of the rankings that stood out to some readers was placing Edwin Encarnacion at tenth overall. It was certainly a bullish ranking, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any other website that had the Blue Jays star any higher. Heck, I'll admit it; even I was worried I was getting carried with my Man Crush when I saw other sites had him outside the top 25. When I removed the names and focused simply on the skills, however, I just couldn't get past the rosy outlook for Edwin heading into this season.

Now flash forward to the RotoAuthority League Draft in March. Once I found out I had the twelfth pick, I knew I'd be taking Encarnacion at the turn, and I even wrote about it in my draft preview. Sure enough, I ended up grabbing Edwin along with Chris Davis with my first couple picks in the draft. I was quite satisfied with a foundation built around power at the corners, as the Blue Jays star is eligibile at third base in Yahoo! leagues.

Well, that brings us to mid-April. In my first deal of the season, I traded Encarnacion along with Cody Allen to Pulling Brzenk in exchange for Stephen Strasburg and Martin Prado. You can read my rationale behind the move here, but it boils down to a couple of things. For one, Encarnacion was striking out a ton early on this season. One of the first statistics to stabilize each season is strikeout rate, and he had one of the most significant spikes after a couple weeks. I'll admit it: I was worried he wasn't fully healthy coming off offseason surgery. Meanwhile, Strasburg was flashing elite skills despite getting poor results. He made for a sabermetrician's ideal Buy Low target at the time, and I felt compulsed to get relatively fair value for Encarnacion if by chance he was indeed hurt and his early season struggles continued.

Well, if you've been paying to baseball in May at all, you know how this story ends. Edwin Encarnacion just tied Mickey Mantle for most HR in May in the history of the American League. The Blue Jays first baseman is completely locked in and now ranks as a truly elite commodity in fantasy baseball. Going forward, I'd take Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, and Giancarlo Stanton over him. That might be the full list, though. I should say it's not as if I've been disappointed by Strasburg. He's been great and should be one the best pitchers going forward. In today's game, you have to take the elite hitters over the top pitchers.

The lesson in all of this is that if I clearly preferred Encarnacion to Strasburg at the outset of the season, I really shouldn't have let two weeks of games change my valuations all that much. We hear it all the time, but the fantasy baseball season is a grind. More often than not, the best action in April is no action at all. This trade will certainly sting for awhile, especially given that I actually loved E5 going into the season. My team has risen out of the bottom four of the standings, but I'm not sure my roster has what it takes to take home the title. If I never would have made this trade, though, I'd be right in the thick of things. Excuse me while I go get drunk...



Stock Watch: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

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

Trade For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick Up
Shallow Leagues (30-50% Ownership)
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medium Leagues (20-30% Ownership)

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

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

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

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

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Ownership)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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