What good is talent to a fantasy owner who lacks timing?
Fantasy baseball, just like the real thing, is a game of skill, luck and timing. That last trait, in particular, comes in handy with regard to trading.
Knowing which player to trade away and which to deal for—and knowing just the right time to do so—can make all the difference.
It doesn't get much better than making a move to unload a hot flavor-of-the-month type who's about to cool off in exchange for a slumping stud about to take off.
Now, speaking of timing, let's get to a batch of players to sell high and a group to buy low.
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
The 23-year-old is not only off to a fast start in his first full season, he's off to the best start in all of fantasy baseball. That's right: Segura is No. 1 overall on ESPN's Player Rater.
At the moment, he's being buoyed most by his MLB-high 14 steals after swiping another bag on Thursday. Segura, though, is getting it done across the board, as he also has seven homers, 22 runs scored, 18 RBI and a .353 average. Oh, and he happens to play a position that is arguably the shallowest in fantasy.
So what exactly is the problem? Well, it's not so much a problem as it is an opportunity. You see, Segura is in the rarest of nexuses—he literally can't be any better than he is right now, and yet, because he's a young, exciting and still relatively unknown player, Segura possesses the pull of limitless potential, too.
That makes him the perfect candidate for floating what would have seemed like a silly offer a month ago to see if you can get another owner to bite on trading a true fantasy star—and then some.
Since Segura's basically a breakout-of-nowhere, it's important to realize that while he was once a top shortstop prospect, he also has a long history of nagging injury issues and has never hit more than 10 homers in a season.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
Speaking of former top prospects, Marte fit into that category, too, before he graduated to the majors last year.
Similar to Segura, the 24-year-old Marte has taken the league by storm to start 2013, with a dynamite all-around showing so far, including a .315 average, five homers, 17 RBI, 10 steals and 33 runs (second-most in baseball).
That performance has Marte among fantasy's best right now. While this makes him extremely difficult to give up, especially if you drafted him late or grabbed him off the waiver wire and are basking in "discoverer's pride," it also makes Segura insanely valuable if you want to cash him in for someone whose production is a little more proven.
Marte's biggest flaw has always been his plate discipline (or lack thereof), as he sported a five percent walk rate in the minors. That hasn't gotten any better in the majors, and Marte is striking out 25 percent of the time through what amounts to about half a season between 2012 and the start of 2013.
In other words, that .315 average ain't gonna last. Of course, Marte also has 10 homers and 22 steals to this point in his MLB career, so if you're gonna sell, aim really high while he's this hot.
Jason Grilli, RHP, Pirates
Grilli has been flat-out great in his first year as a closer, so listing him as a sell-high guy isn't about not believing in him.
Rather, it's about figuring that you probably picked him up relatively cheap on draft day (again, he entered 2013 with five career saves) and also might have a couple other closers on your roster.
If Grilli's MLB-best 16 saves to this point have you swimming in saves, there's a good chance that what he can bring back in trade is worth a lot more to you than what Grilli is currently doing for your team.
Are you going to miss the 1.02 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 14.8 K/9? Sure, but it's pretty much guaranteed that what Grilli has done through the first month-and-a-half will be his best work for the entire season.
Patrick Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks
For all the hype that fellow young starters like the Mets' Matt Harvey and the Cardinals' Shelby Miller have rightfully received, Corbin has managed to fly quite a bit under the radar.
Normally, that doesn't make for an ideal sell-high candidate, but a little mystery is often an enticing elixir that many a fantasy owner will guzzle—especially when said mystery is a 23-year-old left-hander with a sparkling 6-0 record, 1.52 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
Leaguemates are likely to be entranced by those numbers, causing them to overlook Corbin's pedestrian 6.9 K/9 rate and 3.91 xFIP, per FanGraphs, which is due in large part to his too-good-to-be-true 4.2 percent home run-to-fly ball percentage.
Corbin's good, maybe even very good—just not this good.
Vernon Wells, OF, Yankees
Before you do a spit-take for seeing Wells as a sell-high candidate—appropriate reactions would also be, "Sure, but nobody is dumb enough to trade for him!" or "Doy!"—let's consider a few things.
First, while you might not want to believe it, Wells has always been at least somewhat productive when given playing time. He's hit 20-plus homers eight times in his career and has driven in at least 80 runs six times.
Second, despite the fact that he's been around for, oh, forever, Wells is still only 34.
Third, Wells' stats, both the surface ones (.295 BA, 10 HRs, 23 RBI) and the underlying kind (8.3 percent walk rate, 12.7 percent strikeout rate and .289 BABIP), actually line up.
And finally, never overlook the possibility that other owners will be smitten by any player wearing pinstripes (i.e., the "Yankees factor").
Which sell-high candidate would you look to trade?
The big problem here—and it may just be enough to wash away all of the above—is that Wells will start seeing his playing time cut.
With Curtis Granderson fresh off the DL and Mark Teixeira expected to be back within a few weeks, there's going to be a glut of players to rotate in at the outfield corners (Ichiro), first base (Lyle Overbay) and DH (Travis Hafner). Wells does have an advantage, given that he's a right-handed batter, but his PT is going to drop—and with it, so will his production.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
Owners who drafted Kemp are still waiting for that welcome-to-the-2013-fantasy-baseball-season moment from their first-round pick.
Sure, Kemp hasn't been terrible, as his .282 average, 18 runs, 15 RBI and six steals show, but dude has only one long ball in just about 150 at-bats.
It's possible that Kemp's surgically-repaired shoulder still isn't quite right when it comes to putting the usual force behind his swing, and that could be a way to convince a worried owner to get what he can for Kemp sooner rather than later.
That shoulder issue does make going after Kemp a bit of a risk—what if he does hit only, say, 15 homers?—but what's promising is that since his awful start, Kemp has picked it up.
Since going 8-for-46 (.174) with a 28 percent strikeout rate and zero steals in his first 12 games, the 28-year-old is hitting .330 with a 22 percent whiff rate and all six of his stolen bases.
The power simply could be the final thing to kick in, and if you act now, you can reap the rewards.
Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies
Ummm, have you seen Hamels' numbers? If you don't own him—and you're lucky you haven't up to this point—then you might not realize that he's currently sporting a 1-6 record, a 4.61 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP, no thanks to an NL-worst 24 walks.
That's the sort of subpar production from an early-round draft pick that drives owners nuts—and makes Hamels much easier to obtain via trade.
While the walks are somewhat troubling, we're talking about a 29-year-old whose career 2.3 BB/9 rate is well below his current 3.8 mark. For what it's worth, almost half of his free passes (11) came in two starts, so it doesn't appear to be an every-time-out issue.
What's more, there's no real evidence in Hamels' underlying numbers that he's suddenly lost it or become a different pitcher. If there are two aspects worth mentioning, it's simply that he's throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone and fewer first-pitch strikes, per FanGraphs, but neither is a dramatic difference.
This appears to be a case of a good pitcher with the same stuff who just hasn't found himself yet through a still-small sample size of nine starts.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
If it seems like Heyward hasn't done anything this season, well, that's because he hasn't.
The 23-year-old outfielder has been on the shelf since undergoing an appendectomy on April 22, and prior to his nearly month-long DL stint, Heyward—due back Friday—had been hitting just .121 through his first 17 games.
Obviously, those with Heyward on their fantasy roster are looking forward to getting their early-round pick back, but there still might be a chance to put in an offer that could intrigue an owner, especially if Heyward struggles in his first handful games upon returning.
Once the J-Hey Kid gets his timing back, he'll fit in nicely in that powerful Braves offense—and on your fantasy team, if you can land him.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
Zimmerman is a similar case to Heyward, in that the third baseman also missed a chunk of action—in Zimmerman's case, it was a hamstring problem during April—so his stats aren't yet up to expectations.
While Zimmerman hasn't been as bad as Heyward in his time on the field, the 28-year-old has but one homer, which certainly must have his owner frustrated and wanting more, particularly at the third base position that's so often tied to power production.
If you can try to play up Zimmerman's lack of pop so far, along with his DL stint and his much-ballyhooed throwing issues this year, well, any negatives you can bring up in trade talks might help sway an owner into giving up on a guy who was hitting just .222 with only one homer at this point last season, too.
In case you forgot, Zimmerman went on to finish with a .282 average, 25 homers, 95 RBI and 93 runs scored.
Kenley Jansen, RHP, Dodgers
This one is more about opportunity than performance, as Jansen has been pitching extremely well all year long, but we're still waiting (...and waiting) for him to supplant Brandon League as the Dodgers closer.
Jansen has a 2.11 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 12.2 K/9, but he's only registered two saves. League's stats in the same categories, meanwhile, are 5.37, 1.37 and 4.1, respectively. But League has a huge edge on Jansen in the all-important saves category with nine.
Which buy-low player would you try to trade for?
Manager Don Mattingly continues to say that League is the closer, at least for now, and League did get the club's most recent save opportunity on Wednesday, albeit after Jansen shut the door the night before.
This situation could switch at any moment, it seems, but if the savvy owner can get in just before Jansen takes over ninth-inning duties, the payoff could be a top-five closer.
Here, maybe more than with any of the above, timing is everything.