Fantasy Baseball: 10 Latest 'Sell High' Fantasy Trade Options

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IMay 14, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Latest 'Sell High' Fantasy Trade Options

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    Players like Josh Hamilton and Stephen Strasburg are terrific assets in fantasy baseball, but based on their production so far, they might be most valuable to you if they end up on somebody else's team.

    Especially in roto leagues, it's important to remember that in fantasy baseball, we pay for stats, not players. All we're trying to do is accumulate production across select statistical categories.

    No player paces his production perfectly over the season; a shrewd owner will take advantage of this rhythm.

    We're roughly one-fifth of the way through the baseball season. If a player on your team has already delivered half of the production you expected him to contribute for the season as a whole, there's no reason not to trade him.

    Over the time that you've had that player, you've already gotten more than you paid for. It only makes sense to flip that asset for someone with greater upside the rest of the way.

Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers OF

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    For most of the players on this list, there's a strong statistical argument to be made that they will not maintain their current rate of production.

    This is also the case for Josh Hamilton, but his numbers so far have been so astronomical, it's impossible to think that anyone would believe he can continue at this rate. The fact that he won't continue at this pace won't come as a surprise to anyone.

    Still, his immense talent makes me question even the surest statistical logic. I know he won't hit 100 home runs, but I believe that he absolutely has the capability to maintain his status as the most valuable player in fantasy baseball.

    But we all knew that going into the season. We knew that Hamilton we supremely talented. We knew that he had this in him.

    He lands on this list because of everything else we already knew about Josh Hamilton.

    It pains me to say it, but Hamilton's history precedes him. He's one relapse, alcohol, injury, or otherwise, away from contributing absolutely nothing to your fantasy team.

    It's always a risk to trade a player with his talent, but Josh Hamilton's value is never going to be higher than it is right now.

Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs SS

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    Starlin Castro was well-regarded in fantasy baseball heading into this season because of his excellent batting average and run-scoring ability. He's always had good speed, but it never translated into much of anything useful to his fantasy owners.

    Yet in this season, out of nowhere, Starlin Castro has turned himself into Willie Mays Hayes. He's logged 142 plate appearances this season and already attempted 17 steals.

    Castro stole a total of 22 bases last season, a season in which he strode to the plate 715 times. In his minor league career, he's never swiped more than 28 bags in a single year.

    Yes, Castro is young, and yes, these sorts of skills can mature over time, but a player jumping from 20 stolen bases to 40 stolen bases is extremely unlikely.

    In terms of speed, you've already gotten the best out of Castro. Especially in roto leagues, I suggest you happily swap him to a speed-needy owner, knowing that you've already banked a third of his stolen base production in only a fifth of his season.

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles OF

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    Much to the delight of his fantasy owners, Adam Jones' power production has exploded this season.

    He's cranked 10 home runs in only 146 plate appearances, but the underlying numbers are even more incredible.

    Prior to his year, his career high for isolated power (ISO) was .185. This season, his ISO sits at .287.

    For his career, 13.5 percent of Jones' fly balls have left the yard. This season, nearly 23 percent of his fly balls have ended up as souvenirs.

    In each of his previous four big league seasons, Jones' slugging percentage landed between .400 and .466. His slugging percentage this season is .581.

    Sensing a pattern here?

    These massive jumps in production are completely unsustainable.

    Jones is young, but he's not that young. This is his fifth full season in the big leagues. By that point in a hitter's career, he has pretty well established who he is.

    With 10 homers already in the bank, Jones will absolutely set a new career high this year, but he hasn't suddenly turned into an elite power source.

    Now that you've already banked at least a third of his home run production, there's no better time to move him.

Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox SP

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    After we'd all written him off as a casualty of a seemingly unending stream of injuries, Jake Peavy is looking like his old self, posting his best strikeout rate since 2009 and the best walk rate of his career.

    That's all well and good, but clearly his most impressive accomplishment is the feat of meteorological sorcery that he's pulled off, turning homer-happy U.S. Cellular Field into Petco East on the days that he pitches.

    Just shy of half of the batted balls that Peavy has allowed this season have been fly balls, but somehow, less than three percent of those hits have cleared the fence.

    Unless Peavy really has been studying wizardry in all of his injury-related downtime, his HR/FB rate is going to regress, driving his sparking 1.89 ERA much closer to his 3.58 xFIP.

    If he's somehow able to stave off that particular regression, unfriendly adjustments to his 79.6 percent strand rate and .234 BABIP will do the job.

    If a wistful owner in your league is buying Peavy's renaissance, make the move.

Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds SP

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    Some of the signs of Johnny Cueto's impending regression are exceedingly easy to spot. His .253 BABIP and 91.5 percent strand rate are the first to come to mind.

    Of course, we expect that these numbers will move closer to league averages over the course of a full season, but with Cueto, there are even more specific factors at play.

    Cueto posted elite strikeout numbers at every stop on his journey to the big leagues, but his strikeout rate has declined in every single season since taking over as a full-time starter for the Cincinnati Reds.

    That trend hasn't been without benefit, as Cueto's control has improved markedly along the way. However, his waning whiff ability has left him more vulnerable to the cruel randomness of balls in play.

    Cueto has been incredibly lucky over his last 200 innings or so, but with a line-drive rate hovering near 23 percent, his BABIP is going to find its way up near .300 sooner rather than later.

    And with more batters reaching base, Cueto's lack of put-away stuff will come back to hurt him again. More balls put in play means his strand rate will certainly plummet.

    It's going to get ugly, get off the ride now.

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals SP

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    Even as he's carved up nearly every offense he's encountered, the Washington Nationals have remained adamant that Stephen Strasburg will be shut down.

    Even as he's whiffed more than a batter per inning and averaged 96 mph on his fastball, the Nationals haven't flinched.

    No matter how much we want Strasburg's team to cut him loose, it's not going to happen. Accepting that fact isn't easy, but it's the first step to making sure that you derive as much value from your asset as possible.

    If you play in a matchups league, Strasburg's value takes a major hit.

    By the time your playoffs roll around, he'll be warming a bench, not helping your team.

    Of course, it's far too early in the season to assume that your team will make the playoffs, but it's certainly not too early to set your team up for success.

    Trading Strasburg for a slightly less accomplished pitcher might hurt you a bit in the short term, but in the event that you do reach the playoffs (and if you've been reading my columns, of course you will), you'll want to have as many assets in your arsenal as possible.

    If you play in a roto league, feel free to disregard this slide. You knew about this innings limit when you drafted Strasburg; hang on to him and get what you paid for.

Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays SP

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    Jeremy Hellickson, in partnership with the excellent Tampa Bay Rays defense, has seemingly reset the norms of BABIP. Through his 268-inning major league career, Hellickson has limited opposing hitters to a .230 batting average on balls in play.

    While there's certainly something to that trend, Hellickson's BABIP isn't going to stay at .230 forever, especially now that his ground-ball rate has jumped over 40 percent for the first time in his career. An increase in ground-ball rate is generally a good thing for pitchers, but in Hellickson's case, fewer fly balls will mean a higher BABIP and more baserunners.

    Hellickson doesn't miss bats at an elite rate, and although his career strand rate sits at a logic-defying 82.8 percent, those baserunners are going to score more often than Hellickson's fantasy owners would like.

    For two seasons in a row, his ERA has been at least a run and a half lower than his FIP. FIP isn't a perfect stat, but his tERA and SIERA (other defense-independent ERA equivalents) are both also upwards of 4.50.

    Hellickson can't continue to beat the odds forever.

Brett Myers, Houston Astros RP

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    Aside from his slip-up on Sunday afternoon, Brett Myers has been sparkling as the Houston Astros' closer. Even after that unfortunate incident, his ERA sits at 1.42.

    His team has only won 15 games, but Myers has saved nine of those games.

    That rate (and frankly, the Astros' current winning percentage) is not going to continue. Myers will get his share of save chances, but even if he stays in the role for the balance of the season, it's likely that he's already contributed about a third of his production in that category.

    If Myers could contribute to your team in other ways, there might be a case to be made for keeping him around, but neither his 5.40 K/9, nor his .152 BABIP inspire much confidence for greatness in any non-save category the rest of the way.

    If you can afford to give up a little bit of upside in saves, Myers could bring in solid value from an owner in need of relief help.

Ted Lilly, Los Angeles Dodgers SP

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    Even after giving up four runs on Sunday afternoon, Ted Lilly's ERA remains parked at an impressive 2.11.

    On the surface, Sunday's performance doesn't seem too alarming, but it's a tiny snowball sitting atop a towering hill.

    Lilly has not been a very good pitcher this season. He's been successful because of incredibly favorable luck.

    His .182 BABIP is the definition of unsustainable, and his 2.8 percent HR/FB rate will inevitably climb closer to his career mark of 10.7 percent.

    Lilly isn't finding the strike zone often enough, and the pitches that do make it into the range of opposing hitters are finding bat barrels far too often. His K/BB ratio has plummeted to 1.91, his worst mark since 2005, a year when his ERA closed at 5.56.

    Do whatever you can to trade Lilly now. If you can't get it done quickly, you'll be forced to drop him in a couple of weeks.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals OF

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    Bryce Harper hasn't spent enough time in the big leagues to really get a good read on his numbers, but the early returns have actually been excellent.

    Harper is walking more than 10 percent of the time, striking out just over 15 percent of the time, and making solid contact. He hasn't reached the seats yet, but Harper has already clubbed six doubles in 60 plate appearances.

    Normally, this is the time when I'd start talking about small sample sizes, but with Harper, the numbers really don't have much connection to his fantasy value.

    His value is tied up in a very dangerous word.

    Potential.

    Potential is a tantalizing thing for fantasy owners, and something that is difficult to estimate over just one season.

    I can confidently say that Bryce Harper will eventually hit 40 home runs in a season. It's not going to happen this season, but without having a full year of major league stats to form a base for an unbiased evaluation, it's hard not to be distracted by Harper's future.

    In a redraft league, that future doesn't matter at all.

    If you can get a reliable, proven player for Harper, go ahead and trade potential for production.

The “Should Bes”

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    Unfortunately, selling high isn't always possible.

    With that in mind, I present a list of 10 players who should be sold high, but for some reason or another are unlikely to draw much attention or garner much confidence from the other owners in your league.

    Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals OF
    Bryan LaHair, Chicago Cubs 1B/OF
    Drew Smyly, Detroit Tigers SP
    Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays RP
    Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles SP
    Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals SS
    Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves 3B
    Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners SP
    Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers SP
    Jake Westbrook, St. Louis Cardinals SP

    These guys will most likely tail off, but unless you can somehow swing a lopsided deal, the best approach is to just ride it out and revel in whatever unexpected production you pick up along the way.