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Fantasy Baseball: Madison Bumgarner, Bryce Harper Go Under the Trade Microscope

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Fantasy Baseball: Madison Bumgarner, Bryce Harper Go Under the Trade Microscope
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Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner (5-3, 2.85 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 40 strikeouts) hasn't surrendered more than two walks in any of his nine starts.

For the last few weeks, I've been monitoring AccuScore's projections for category leaders.

But today, we'll use the AccuScore system to gauge the following two apples-to-oranges trades—one-for-one deals involving a hitter and pitcher—from the Sports Illustrated & Friends league (12 teams, roto style):



Trade No. 1: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) for Bryce Harper (Nationals)

Projections from May 24 to Sept. 30

Team A

Harper: 12.2 HR, 39.2 RBI, 56.8 runs, 8.3 steals, .239 batting

Team B

Bumgarner: 12.8 wins, 3.04 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 120.8 strikeouts



Breakdown

1. Bumgarner (5-3, 2.85 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 40/12 K-BB ratio) has made great strides in his third season in the bigs, and the best may yet to come from June to September.

The first sign of future greatness: Bumgarner tallied a season-high 10 strikeouts against the Brewers on May 21. It may have been the breakthrough fantasy owners have been clamoring for with Bumgarner, whose previous seasonal best was six strikeouts; or it may have been a one-time occurrence against a free-swinging club, like Milwaukee. Only time will tell.

Looking at the bigger picture, it's easy to look past Bumgarner's strikeout rate when he's allowed just four or less runs in all nine starts and hasn't yielded more than two walks in any appearance.

2. Harper (two HRs, nine RBI, six runs, two steals, .267 batting through May 23) has certainly shown flashes of his limitless potential in a few short weeks, stealing home against the Phillies, baiting pitcher Cole Hamels into a beanball-related suspension and homering on back-to-back days (May 14 and 15).

But let's remember two things here: ESPN loves to trumpet Harper's triumphs. And history tells us that Harper, despite his many physical gifts, will struggle mightily for sustained stretches. Beneath all that war paint and upper-deck power still lies the heart of a 19-year-old kid.



Verdict

With keeper leagues, I could understand the rationale in surrendering a top-20 pitcher for one of the best hitting prospects of the last 30 years. But Bumgarner is heads-and-shoulders ahead of Harper on the development curve, so much that I cannot guarantee Harper will be at Bumgarner's level for his own age-22 season.

Bottom line: Bumgarner is the rare long-term dynamo with current polish. As a result, this trade should be a considerable victory for Bumgarner's new owner.




Trade No. 2: Edwin Jackson (Nationals) for Bryan LaHair (Cubs)

Projections From May 24 to Sept. 30

Team A

LaHair: 18.9 HR, 42.1 RBI, 45.6 runs, 1.9 steals, .294 batting

Team B

Jackson: 10.6 wins, 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 126.6 strikeouts



Breakdown

1. While it's true Jackson has been with six different clubs since 2008 (Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals), that's no reason to forget about his real-world and fantasy acumen of the last five seasons. With Washington, Jackson (1-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 50/12 K-BB) is the rare hurler who's a No. 4 or 5 starter with an MLB club, but a No. 2 or 3 asset in fantasy circles.

Remember how the old Jackson struggled with walks, even on days when a no-hitter was in the cards? Well, you couldn't ask for a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than 50/12, or a lower ERA from a guy who often flies below the sub-4.00 radar.

In other words, Jackson might be having his finest season in the bigs—even if he's getting little recognition for the effort.

2. LaHair has enjoyed a magical start to the season (10 HRs, 21 RBI, 18 runs, one steal, .310 batting), prompting some fantasy owners to acquire him by any means. But let's remember that he also spent the better part of the last five years at Triple-A ball, with only Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee (the declining years) blocking his path at first base for the Cubs.

There's also this: Since May 9, LaHair is hitting only .196 with two home runs.



Verdict

With one-for-one trades involving a pitcher and hitter of commensurate talents and value, I side with the batter approximately 95 percent of the time. But to approve the LaHair end of this mini-blockbuster, two factors would have to be realized:

  • I had a surplus of starting pitching and could absorb the loss of Jackson without much consternation. And keep in mind that Jackson might have increased value in August and September, if Nationals star Stephen Strasburg goes on a restricted diet of innings and starts, as a means of preserving him for the playoffs.
  • I was in great need of a starting corner infielder (1B, 1B/3B or UTIL slots). In other words, if LaHair was being acquired as a bench stash, in hopes that his recent mini-slump would subside in a few weeks, I'd rather take my chances with Jackson in Washington. To be frank, this trade has more of a win-win feel than the Harper and Bumgarner swap.

 

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.

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