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 in 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.
If you want to check out last week's suggestions, look no further.
Now, speaking of timing, let's get to a batch of players to sell high and a group to buy low.
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Washington Nationals
Fantasy Stats: 8 W, 2.37 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 5.5 K/9
Even before his Wednesday blowup against the Orioles (7 ER, 10 H in 6 IP), Zimmermann was going to lead off this sell-high section.
The right-hander has been nothing short of spectacular all year long, but fact of the matter is Zimmermann's been getting at least a little lucky, and he'll never be a true fantasy No. 1 because that strikeout rate is just too low at 5.5 K/9.
Just because you see Zimmermann's name here, don't go trading him away immediately—that's not the point. It would be a good idea, though, to see what kind of a return you can earn by putting him on the table.
For a guy who's been a top-10 fantasy SP (per ESPN Fantasy's Player Rater), it should be a haul.
Lance Lynn, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy Stats: 7 W, 2.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.3 K/9
Lynn broke out in a big way last year, but it came with a caveat.
The 26-year-old righty was among baseball's best out of the gate, compiling an 8-1 record, 2.54 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 8.5 K/9 through May (per Baseball Reference).
Those numbers, you should have noticed by now, are almost identical to Lynn's digits at the same point this year.
Over Lynn's next 15 starts a year ago, though, he would put up a 5.02 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, before eventually being sent to the bullpen to straighten him out and conserve his innings during his first full season.
Will such a drastic drop in performance happen again? Probably not, as Lynn has more experience under his belt and should be able to better pace himself for the long haul.
But it's hard to believe Lynn could pitch much better than he is now—he's a top-20 SP per ESPN Fantasy's Player Rater—and 2012's midseason slump has to have put at least a little doubt in the back of your mind, right? Sell him now before other owners start digging deeper.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas Rangers
Fantasy Stats: .257 BA, 21 R, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB
Cruz is a per-gamer in fantasy.
That means, his production is usually among the best, with the qualifier that said production comes on a per-game basis because the veteran is known for missing large portions of action.
Healthy so far in 2013, Cruz has played in 50 of the Rangers' 52 games. To the smart owner, that should mean a guy who is turning 33 on July 1 and has topped 475 at-bats just once (last season) is long overdue for a nagging this or a lingering that to pop up and result in a DL stint or three.
You might be screaming, "But Cruz played in 159 games a year ago!" Sure, you can choose to hang your hopes on that, but couldn't it also just mean Cruz has even more wear and tear to worry about?
The risk of injury—not to mention, Cruz's declining production in some aspects, even on a per-game basis—outweighs the reward here.
Derek Holland, LHP, Rangers
Fantasy Stats: 4 W, 2.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.6 K/9
For Holland, it's a matter of trust.
The 26-year-old left-hander has teased us by flashing his potential every year since breaking in as a rookie in 2009. And this season, he looks to have finally turned the corner, rounded into form, come into his own—whichever cliché you prefer.
Holland is doing just about everything right, including striking out a career-high percentage of hitters while also walking a career-low percentage. He's appeared to shake the pesky home/road splits he showed early in his career, and he's even handling righty hitters better than he used to (alert: super small sample size).
Credit goes to Holland's decision to cut back on his fastball usage and rely more heavily on an improved slider (see video) and changeup.
And yet, it's still asking a lot to fully buy into a pitcher who is known for more-than-occasional blowups, frequent so-so starts and struggles at a home ballpark that gets extra hitter-friendly in the scalding summer months.
It shouldn't be hard to sell Holland's improved stats for someone who's just a little more consistent.
Huston Street, RHP, San Diego Padres
Fantasy Stats: 0 W, 11 SV, 4.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 5.8 K/9
This is less a case of selling high and more a matter of selling while you still can.
Normally consistent and good when healthy (that's a big "when"), the 29-year-old Street has seen a marked drop in many of his numbers this year.
Most damning? That ugly 5.8 K/9 rate from a guy who's been over 9.0 for his career. Also, Street's seven homers allowed in just 20.1 innings is downright alarming, even for a pitcher who's always struggled with gopheritis.
The fact remains, though, that the righty is still the Padres closer and still getting saves, which means some owner will find him worth acquiring.
Find said owner and unload Street soon, because he's another huge injury risk and has been mentioned as a trade candidate in an otherwise weak reliever market. Leaving pitcher-friendly Petco won't only be bad for Street's ERA and WHIP; it might also mean he's no longer working the ninth inning.
Zack Greinke, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Stats: 2 W, 4.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 6.2 K/9
Greinke's overall stats are depressed by his missing a month with a fractured left collarbone from that early-season brawl with Carlos Quentin and the Padres.
Compounding problems for fantasy owners, the 29-year-old has struggled mightily in his two most recent outings after a quality effort in his initial start upon returning on May 15.
Whoever owns Greinke in your league has to be worried over how much the righty's shoulder is affecting him, as well as how much the stuck-in-last-place Dodgers may be dragging him down.
This is when you should peddle an overperforming arm, like say Lynn or Holland from above, in a package deal to get back Greinke and something extra in return. Greinke might not be the top-10 starter many hoped for (and paid for) on draft day, but he could be close enough to that going forward—at a bargain bin price.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
Fantasy Stats: .263 BA, 29 R, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 9 SB
Gardner's been fine so far. In fantasy, fine usually gets overlooked or ignored altogether.
The biggest letdown is that the speedster has only nine swipes to this point, after tallying 47 and 49 over his last two full seasons.
Steals can come in bunches, though, and as one of the fastest runners in the game, Gardner is more than capable of a double-digit-steal month. Even though he's not exactly a slugger, he's still going to contribute some homers and RBI, unlike the speed-only types.
Plus, now that Gardner is the primary leadoff hitter for a Yankees team that is starting to get healthy—Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are due back Friday—he should continue to score plenty of runs.
If you're hunting for thievery and/or runs scored, Gardner shouldn't cost much and makes for, well, a fine target.
Doug Fister, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.3 K/9
Have you heard Fister's name even once this season?
The veteran righty has been overshadowed by the trio of fantasy stars he shares a rotation with.
While the 29-year-old doesn't have the stud-SP appeal of a Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer or Anibal Sanchez, Fister is about as solid—and unspectacular—as they come.
That's why he should be easier to acquire than hurlers who have a sub-2.00 ERA, a WHIP around 1.00 or a crazy-high K rate.
As to his own performance, Fister's .338 BABIP is a tad elevated from his career norm (.292), while his 68.5 percent LOB rate is lower than usual (71.2). Also, his 57.1 ground ball percentage and 1.5 BB/9 are both career highs, so we could see him go from solid to very good or even great in short order.
Nick Swisher, OF/1B, Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Stats: .278 BA, 28 R, 7 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB
Swisher is the charter member for the fantasy "under appreciati."
At 32 and a veteran of 10 seasons, Swisher almost never gets his due for his quality production year in and year out.
To wit, the switch-hitting Swisher has hit at least 20 homers each year since 2005, his first full campaign, and every time you look up at season's end, he's tallied 80 or more runs and RBI.
Oh, and he's eligible at both outfield and first base, which adds to his value.
We're at the point in the season where if a player doesn't stand out in any one category, like Swisher, who's just back from the paternity list (congrats!), he tends to get stuck with the uninteresting label.
Deal for Swisher, and he'll continue to be consistently uninteresting for you.
Martin Prado, 2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy Stats: .257 BA, 22 R, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB
Think the D-backs want a re-do on the Justin Upton deal?
Maybe, but then who knows if Arizona would still be atop the NL West with Upton instead of Prado.
Still, any way you slice it, Prado hasn't been what his team—or fantasy owners—were expecting, to the point where even his all-around eligibility hasn't saved him from being benched or released in many leagues.
In deeper formats, like 12- or 14-team or NL-only play, Prado is still rostered, and his owner is stuck with what seems like dead weight.
There are reasons why you should reach out to that owner: Prado's .272 BABIP is 40 points below his career norm, he's still making contact at his usual high rate (10.4 K%) and his batted ball profile looks right in line.
Prado won't come close to last year's outlier-ish 17 steals, but the rest of his numbers should make him worth owning and even starting, especially in deeper leagues, as a shortstop or second baseman.
All statistics come from FanGraphs, unless otherwise indicated.
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