Justin Verlander hasn't been himself this year, but he may have what it takes to finish strong.
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 regards 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 who is 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.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Fantasy Stats: .297 BA, 58 R, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 9 SB
In many fantasy leagues, the trade deadline is approaching—that is, if it hasn't passed already—so the time is now to make any final moves for the stretch run.
Like dealing Hosmer. The 23-year-old has come on strong since June 1, hitting .324 with 11 homers and 37 RBI. He's even thrown in six steals, which gives him sneaky value in that category for a first baseman.
But how much do you really trust Hosmer? And are you willing to totally forget about his brutal start, when he hit just .261 with only one home run through May?
His BABIP in July was .353, and it's at .407 through to begin August. Plus, Hosmer is still hitting grounders like they're going out of style: His 55.1 percent ground-ball rate is higher than last year's and ranks 11th-highest in baseball, per FanGraphs, which places him among a bunch of slap-hitting middle-infield types like Elvis Andrus and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Cardinals
Fantasy Stats: .304 BA, 83 R, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 1 SB
Carpenter, 27, was a preseason hidden gem to target in drafts, and he's more than lived up to expectations in his first season as a regular.
That's earned a lot of publicity and respect in fantasy circles—hey, that crazy multi-position eligibility goes a long way—which makes him all the more coveted by other owners.
Don't sell off just because here. We're still talking about a guy who fits in at four fantasy positions, is hitting north of .300 and leads the entire sport in runs scored.
But as the stats above show, Carpenter doesn't bring much in the way of homers and steals, and he's hitting only .239 and has scored only 13 runs since his last four-bagger. That came on July 10, nearly a month ago, by the way.
Assuming you can afford to lose the lineup coverage and you've already built up a solid tally in the runs scored category, Carpenter could be used to bring back top-notch help in other areas.
Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Mariners
Fantasy Stats: .247 BA, 24 R, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 5 SB
The top prospect's major league career started off like gangbusters, so there's plenty of hype surrounding Franklin.
Time to strike while the trading iron's still hot, because the 22-year-old has gone cold.
Since the start of July, Franklin does have six homers and 18 RBI in 28 games, which is quality output from a fantasy middle infielder.
But he's also hitting just .200 without a steal while striking out 35 percent of the time.
Nick Franklin is now 0 for his last 26. Experiencing rookie growing pains. #Mariners— Quintus Verrucosus (@FabianStrategy9) August 7, 2013
The rookie's overall stats still hold up pretty well, but they might not much longer.
Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, Braves
Fantasy Stats: .339 BA, 42 R, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB
Which of these sell-high candidates would you most want to move?
In case you haven't noticed, Johnson is second overall in batting average behind only Miguel Cabrera.
Yet, the fact that the 28-year-old is leading the National League in that department—thanks to an incredible .366 average since July—doesn't make much sense.
Johnson has always had subpar plate discipline, and he hasn't improved at all this year. He's still walking in less than 6 percent of his plate appearances while whiffing in more than 20 percent.
A check under the BABIP hood reveals the reason: Johnson's .419 BABIP is not only tops this season, it's also the highest in any season this century, according to FanGraphs.
Jarred Cosart, RHP, Astros
Fantasy Stats: 1 W, 1.36 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 3.8 K/9
A one-time top pitching prospect, Cosart has kicked off his career with an eye-catching ERA and WHIP through his first handful of starts for Houston.
But if ever there was a disaster waiting to happen on the mound, it's Cosart.
The 23-year-old has a big arm, but he's always had issues getting strikeouts, which is coming to fruition at the highest level, as his 3.8 K/9 shows. On top of that, Cosart is walking 4.6 per nine so far.
A pitcher putting hitters on first base for free more often than he's turning them back to the dugout after a whiff is a scary situation indeed. No wonder his FIP is an unwieldy 4.75—more than three runs higher than his ERA.
Plus, he's an Astro.
Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers
Fantasy Stats: 12 W, 3.74 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 8.6 K/9
Whatever happened to Justin Verlander?
The numbers above just don't seem to belong to a guy who was the AL MVP in 2011 and was just as good last year.
There are various reasons for the 30-year-old's mediocre 2013, including a decrease in velocity and a hike in walk rate.
But Wednesday's gem against the division rival Cleveland Indians was vintage Verlander in, as John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes, "...[T]his time, he had the velocity all the way cranked up to 99-100, had the curveball crackling and left no doubt who was in charge."
Indeed, Verlander's velo in the outing ticked up noticeably, according to BrooksBaseball.net's PITCHf/x tool, so that's another good sign.
If you're looking for a go-big-or-go-home trade, Verlander would be a good target.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals
Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 3.01 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
There hasn't been much vintage Strasburg in 2013, either, huh?
The 25-year-old has had a trying season, what with time missed to injury and a serious problem with run support. To wit, Strasburg has been backed by just 2.73 runs per game of support—second-worst in baseball.
No wonder the dude has all of five wins. He's also been so-so (or worse) in half of his past six outings, so it's not as if Strasburg is fault-free.
But if all of the above makes him a little cheaper to acquire, all the better.
Remember, there's no "Strasburg Shutdown" this season, and if there's one starter who could make a major impact in your ERA, WHIP and K categories with 10 or so dominating final outings, he could be the guy.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
Fantasy Stats: .226 BA, 51 R, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB
To this point, the highlight of this Cuban sensation's second season in the bigs was that explosive showing in the Home Run Derby.
For those owners who used the hype that night to sell high at the time, well done. Cespedes has done little since—.231, two homers, nine RBI—while dealing with a wrist injury.
But the 27-year-old has been unlucky for much of the season, sporting a BABIP of .255, and it says here that there's still a good chance Cespedes tops his rookie totals in runs scored (70) and home runs (23) while coming close to matching the 82 RBI from a year ago, too.
If you're swinging for the fences in a deal, why not get a guy who has shown what he's capable of when he does just that?
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
Fantasy Stats: .260 BA, 59 R, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 16 SB
Which of these buy-low options would you target most in a deal?
Fowler was a beast in April, hitting .305 with 20 runs, four steals and a surprising eight homers and 15 RBI.
In the three-plus months since? Try a .243 average with half as many homers and only one more run driven in. Think that's making his owners go bonkers?
The 27-year-old just isn't the power hitter some thought he was after the first four weeks, but that's OK, because he's streaky enough to help your fantasy team.
Just make sure your focus is on getting a guy who can hit for a solid average, swipe some bases and score a bunch of runs in short order.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays
Fantasy Stats: .240 BA, 23 R, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 3 SB
Injuries have derailed what looked to be a promising start to Lawrie's career, and he missed 41 games from late May to mid-July this year.
Since returning, though, Lawrie is batting .295 with four homers, 12 runs and 12 RBI in 22 games.
That's the kind of production the 23-year-old has in him—when he's healthy. That appears to be the case, at least for now, so if you're feeling lucky, go for Lawrie.