Fantasy Baseball: Chase Utley, Wil Myers and 10 Ways to Get out of the Cellar
This is a list of hail marys. Your team is in last place and you're looking for the boom-or-bust, high-risk high-reward kind of transactions that, if they pan out, could resurrect your lost season.
Before taking any of this advice, acknowledge the "high-risk" aspect of that last sentence. These are not moves for the faint of heart. Thou shalt not come back to this article in September and complain about how you still finished last after making all of these moves.
But for those of you fed up with the chuckles from your friends and league mates and want to shake things up, with the chance of taking the league by storm, these are some moves that could be game-changers for the rest of the season.
No. 1: Trade for Chase Utley
A career .290 hitter, during Chase Utley's last healthy season in 2009, when he was 30 years old, his line was .282, 31 HR, 93 RBI, 23 SB and 112 R. He had an OPS over .900. Then the knees went bad and the Phillies repeatedly tried to manage his playing time, denying him the extended DL stint needed to rehabilitate the knees.
Utley has not played yet this season, but according to league rules, he must be reinstated by July 3 (20 days after the start of his minor league rehab assignment). The window is closing to buy low or add him if unowned. Utley may not be the 30/20 guy anymore, but in three months, Utley is capable of producing as a top-5 second baseman, providing power and average at a position not known for run production.
Long story short, Utley gives you an advantage at a weak position, where some of the preseason favorites (Rickie Weeks, Dustin Pedroia) have struggled.
No. 2: Trade for Tim Lincecum
Let me make something clear. I'm not buying low on Tim Lincecum. I owned him in two leagues on opening day and have since traded him in both, but as far as hail mary passes go, Lincecum is as explosion-prone as anyone.
Despite the obvious terrible-ness, Lincecum's stuff is strangely excellent, striking out 9.7 per nine innings thus far in 2012. His location has been atrocious, evidenced by his 4.8 BB/9 and 9.4 H/9. But those who have watched Timmy pitch know he can still be devastating in stretches.
This is, after all, a pitcher who had a career 9.9 K/9, 2.98 ERA and 1.188 WHIP between his debut in 2007 and the end of 2011. Considering he is being dropped in many leagues or traded for the likes of AJ Burnett in others, he still COULD be one of the best in the game if he regains control (and perhaps gets his head right).
No. 3: Dump Saves
Closers are the most overvalued commodity in baseball (not just fantasy, but real life as well). Unless you have Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, who are aiding your strikeouts as well, trade your closers, and the way to do it is to pair them with an underperforming player for an upgrade at that position.
Case in point, if you own Ryan Zimmerman, who many thought could be a top-5 third baseman, shop Zimmerman, along with Jim Johnson, Addison Reed or any closer you own. Someone might consider saves equal to the difference between Zimmerman and David Wright.
This strategy might kill your saves, but might also be enough to give you boosts in multiple offensive categories, which could get you out of the cellar in a hurry.
No. 4: Trade Away Bryce Harper
Keeper league owners, ignore this advice please.
The rest of you, few names excite owners like that of Bryce Harper because of what "could be." He could hit 40 home runs a year for the next decade. He could steal 30 bases in the process. He could leap tall buildings in a single bound and maybe throw a few no-hitters in the process.
The fact of the matter is, as good as Harper has been, there will be ups and downs. Meanwhile, you might find you can deal him for an established star, and seasonal league owners should jump at the chance. Considering Matt Kemp's injury situation, one might even consider starting there and working your way down.
No. 5: Quantity over Quality
Ignore batting average. If you can fill your lineup with starters every single day of the week, the counting numbers will accumulate. This is especially easy in standard leagues, where waiver wires are stacked with everyday players.
The key here is to be honest with who you can live without. You may like Brennan Boesch, but at the end of the day, there will always be another name out there who can give you the same numbers. If Boesch isn't starting, drop him for Dexter Fowler or Michael Brantley or someone else who is starting.
This process is obviously time-consuming and requires one to be obsessive about major league starting lineups, but having a full lineup everyday will pay immediate dividends.
No. 6: Chase Strikeouts
Max Scherzer's ERA is over 5.00. But his 11.5 K/9 leads the league. Felix Doubront has a WHIP of 1.349, but his 9.6 K/9 is superb. Coincidentally, both of these pitchers will benefit from fun support and will likely accumulate wins, but the point is the strikeouts.
In 2011, the top 20 pitchers in strikeouts had an average WHIP of 1.203. Their average ERA was 3.41. For perspective, Felix Hernandez's 2011 ERA was 3.47, and his WHIP was 1.220. It seems the best pitchers in baseball strike a lot of people out. Of course, this sounds like common sense until you realize how high someone drafted Jeremy Hellickson in your league. Go get the strikeouts, and the ERA and WHIP are likely to be competitive.
No. 7: Stream Starters
This goes along with No. 5 about quantity over quality, but slightly less "all in" to it. Just because Charlie Morton is starting, doesn't mean you plug him in there, but the more innings, the more strikeouts and the more chances for wins.
Consider pitchers in San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, Minnesota... but go deeper. Consider pitchers facing the Charlie Mortons of the world. The odds of grabbing a win goes up exponentially. Obviously, there is a chance of the ERA or WHIP taking a hit on one bad start, but enough starts can minimize the effects of one bad one while still benefiting from the strikeouts and win potential.
Even if you manage to improve your team only in the counting stats, that's HR, RBI, R, SB, K and W, possibly saves if you ignore my prior advice. Improvements in all those spots will get you out of the cellar, which is the point.
No. 8: Chase Strikeouts, Part 2
With this quantity over quality approach, you are likely to lose batting average anyway, so why not go all in and get the guys who are criminally undervalued because of their 200-plus strikeouts?
Drew Stubbs had 15 HR, 40 SB and 92 R last year, 22/30/91 the year before with 77 RBI as well. In 53 games of 2012, he has 7 HR, 13 SB and 34 R. Those are paces of 22/40/100. He will come at a discount due to the incredulous strikeout totals.
Mark Reynolds has had 28-plus HR, 85-plus RBI and 79-plus runs scored in each of the last four seasons. If you don't mind the average pain, he's a joy to own.
No. 9: Add Danny Hultzen
In 75.1 innings, Danny Hultzen has a 1.19 ERA, 0.929 WHIP and 9.4 K/9. With Seattle struggling in so many places, and likely to be sellers at the trade deadline, there's no reason for it to keep Hultzen in the minors long after the Super-Two deadline.
Seattle could still wait until September to call up Hultzen, but if he continues at his current pace, the trajectory may suggest an earlier arrival and more than a cup of coffee. Don't add this guy expecting wins, but pitching in SafeCo is never a bad thing, and the ERA, WHIP and strikeouts could be welcome boost, especially in deeper leagues where the waiver wire is unappetizing.
No. 10: Add Wil Myers
In 68 games, Wil Myers is batting .336 with 24 HR, 62 RBI, 60 runs scored and has an 1.127 OPS. The Royals have Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur in the outfield corners, but have not settled on a full-time centerfielder.
The stage seems set for the newest arrival in the long train of Royals elite prospects. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moutstakas and Danny Duffy kicked things off. Myers appears to be next in line, followed by others, including Mike Montgomery and Bubba Starling, but Myers looks like the kind of mature bat who can make an impact immediately at the highest level.
For those in deeper leagues looking for someone likely unowned who could burst onto the scene and hit for power, with a respectable average and score runs, this is your guy,