Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 2's Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice
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 getting value in the trading game.
Knowing which player(s) to trade away and which to deal for—and knowing just the right time to do so—can make all the difference.
After all, it doesn't get much better than making a move to unload a hot flavor-of-the-week type who's about to cool off in exchange for a slumping stud who's ready to take off.
Now, speaking of timing, let's get to some players to sell high and buy low.
Buy Low: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
2014 Stats: 1 W, 1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 7 K (6.2 IP)
If you didn't draft him in the first round—maybe you shy away from taking pitchers that early—but want to own Clayton Kershaw this year, now might be your only chance to strike.
With the 26-year-old on the disabled list while recovering from a strained left teres major muscle behind his left shoulder, he will be on a limited throwing program for the next couple weeks and is unlikely to make his return for the Dodgers until May, per the team's official Twitter account.
The owner who did spend that first-rounder to obtain Kershaw is, no doubt, frustrated and perhaps even a little desperate, especially if said owner doesn't have much pitching depth behind the southpaw.
There's a lot of risk in acquiring Kershaw, because a lot could go wrong (setback, dip in performance, etc.). But if your rotation has the depth to handle, say, a month sans Kershaw, acquiring him at a reduced rate now could pay off handsomely once he's back.
Sell High: Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers
2014 Stats: .385 BA, 2 R, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB (35 PA)
Aramis Ramirez isn't killing the ball (yet?), but he is putting it in play plenty and hitting for a healthy batting average. That and his reputation are bound to carry some weight among your leaguemates who may be seeking a proven offensive force at third base.
The thing is, Ramirez is in his age-36 season and coming off a year where he spent almost as much time on the DL as he did on the field (only 92 games played). While he was mostly good when he did play in 2013 (.283 BA, 12 HR, 49 RBI), he also underwent offseason colon surgery, and his combination of age and injury history makes him more risky than reliable at this stage of his career.
At some point, Ramirez will have a cliff season. That might not happen in 2014, but if it starts to look like it's happening soon, you'll want to get out early.
Buy Low: Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals
2014 Stats: 0 W, 8.10 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 10 K (6.2 IP)
After pitching well in his first start (5.0 IP, 1 ER, 9 K), which was pushed back due to a bout with the flu, Jordan Zimmermann's second outing on Wednesday was the kind that takes a week or two of good pitching performances to recover from: 1.2 IP, 7 H and 5 ER. Yoiks.
If his owner happens to be the volatile, impatient type who now dislikes what Zimmermann did to blow the ERA and WHIP categories out of whack, then you should jump at the opportunity to snatch up a 27-year-old pitcher whose 3.25 ERA last season was his highest since 2010 (when he returned from Tommy John surgery). Play up the fact that Zimmermann has never been much help in the strikeout category—his 161 in 2013 were a career high—and it might help your cause.
Zimmermann, admittedly, isn't a true SP1 in fantasy, partly because of his below-average strikeout numbers, but he's a darn good SP2 because of his consistency. (Well, aside from that second start, that is.)
Sell High: Justin Smoak, 1B, Mariners
2014 Stats: .300 BA, 6 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB (35 PA)
Ever the fantasy tease, Justin Smoak might wind up doing well enough this year to be a borderline starting corner infielder in most leagues, but don't dare start to expect more just because he's hitting well out of the gate.
Just about every league has that one owner who hears Journey's "Don't Stop Believin''" whenever Smoak's name is mentioned, so you should be able to pawn off the switch-hitter, especially while the 2008 first-round pick is off to a big beginning.
Smoak is in his peak years (27) and isn't altogether untalented—he did hit 20 homers with a decent .334 OBP last year, which were both career bests—but when the name of the game at first base and corner infield is upside, Smoak is once again likely to leave a lot to be desired.
Buy Low: Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Cardinals
2014 Stats: .097 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB (33 PA)
Allen Craig is 3-for-33 through his first eight games entering play on Friday. It doesn't get much buy-lower than that, does it?
The 29-year-old had a similarly poor start in 2013, when he went 8-for-35 (.229) with a mere two runs and five RBI through his initial eight contests—but in the end, Craig wound up with a .315 average and 97 RBI, which were both career highs.
Craig's power, though, did dip last year—his 13 homers and 29 doubles were down from 22 and 35, respectively, in 2012—so there's a chance his owner is worried that a player he invested in on draft day to be a starting first baseman or outfielder won't be up to the task.
The fact is that Craig is at the very center of the Cardinals' deep order, which carries more weight than a dozen or so blah games to open April. Remind his panicky owner of Craig's injury history, and you might get even better value in return.
Sell High: Grady Sizemore, OF, Red Sox
2014 Stats: .308 BA, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB (29 PA)
With Grady Sizemore, it's really a matter of not pushing your luck, because it seems like the injury-prone outfielder is always pushing his. Don't get me wrong; Sizemore's always-all-out style of play is commendable. But given his laundry list of injuries and surgeries, it can't be all that safe for him—or his fantasy owners.
If you can cash in on what has been one of the best stories of the spring and early regular season while Sizemore is still, you know, active, you'll almost certainly have turned a profit. Hey, people are suckers for a comeback story.
Here's how you sell Sizemore: a former 30-30 player and fantasy first-rounder who's currently healthy, still in his prime years (31), gets to hit in the Red Sox lineup and plays at hitter-friendly Fenway Park half of the time.
Buy Low: Homer Bailey, SP, Reds
2014 Stats: 0 W, 7.71 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 8 K (9.1 IP)
On the surface, both of Homer Bailey's first two outings have been really, really bad. Look a layer beneath, though, and you'll find out why.
The 27-year-old actually has induced the right kind of contact—his 60.6 percent ground-ball rate is in the top 10 among qualified starters—but the results haven't been in his favor, as that .432 BABIP also is one of the 10 highest in the sport. Then there's the fact that Bailey's surrendered only two fly balls, both of which have gone over the wall—seriously.
That's just dumb—and bad—luck. Of course, facing the St. Louis Cardinals each time out so far isn't an easy assignment, either, but that's not going to happen 30 more times.
It will get better for Bailey, who has posted a combined 3.58 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 7.9 K/9 over the past two years, so go be the owner who enjoys his return to center while his current owner is searching for a return-to-sender option.
Sell High: Tommy Hunter, RP, Orioles
2014 Stats: 0 W, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3 K, 3 SV (3.0 IP)
Despite the fact that he was in line to be the Orioles' closer to start the season, Tommy Hunter was far from a popular pick on draft day in every league.
The 27-year-old has been rather good in the super small sample size that is four appearances, which has presented his owners who took a flier on him with an opportunity to sell. Another factor? Through two weeks, approximately 39 closers have struggled, lost their job or suffered an injury (and that's only a slight exaggeration), so owners are seeking saves left and right.
Hunter has that in his corner at the moment, but certainly, he's far from a proven option in that regard—his four saves in 2013 were the first of the former starter's career—and it's hard to buy into such a homer-prone pitcher (1.5 HR/9 career) remaining in the ninth inning all year long. That's why you should try to move him while he is there and has the allure of a potential 30-save closer.
Buy Low: Joe Nathan, RP, Tigers
2014 Stats: 2 W, 12.27 ERA, 2.73 WHIP, 2 K, 1 SV (3.2 IP)
Joe Nathan might have done his non-owners a big favor this week by coming out and saying he's going through the dreaded "dead arm," via Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press. Because that is just what his actual owners want to hear, especially after they've been tearing their hair out over his early season performance with his new club.
Now with the Tigers, the 39-year-old closer has blown two of his three save opportunities and allowed five runs on six hits with a somewhat alarming four walks in only 3.2 innings this season. On the plus side? Hey, he does have a pair of wins, one of which came on Wednesday, when his new club's offense bailed him out of a brutal outing.
Look, the risk is pretty clear: if Nathan's arm is, in fact, injured and not merely "dead," then he's not worth targeting. But if he can fight through this awful stretch to regain the form that has made him one of the best relievers of his generation and the active saves leader (342), then he and his 35-40 saves from here on out could be had for a significantly reduced price.
Chances are you wouldn't be able to swap the guy on the previous slide (Hunter) for the guy on this one straight up, but the fact that it's even an option at all proves how much—and how fast—things can change. And it also shows how important timing is when it comes to trades.
Sell High: Scott Feldman, SP, Astros
2014 Stats: 2 W, 0.66 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 4 K (13.2 IP)
Let's get this out of the way up front: you're not going to get a ton for Scott Feldman.
He could be considered, however, an enticing secondary piece tacked onto a package deal. Or, frankly, he could be an addition-by-subtraction starter; that is, a pitcher who could hurt you more than help you when he's on your roster, so you should move him to someone else's.
For now, though, Feldman, 31, is the man with the matching—and minuscule—ERA and WHIP (0.66). Also? He's an Astros pitcher with two wins in two starts, which just might make him eligible for some sort of medal. He's done all this, by the way, while having whiffed all four batters, the same number he's walked (and only one more than he's hit!).
Feldman's early success despite such a microscopic strikeout rate is reminiscent of what Jake Westbrook somehow pulled off last April-May, when he went 2-1 with a 1.07 ERA despite striking out just 4.8 per nine innings (Feldman's has a 2.6 K/9 through two starts). After that came the reckoning, as Westbrook's ERA was 6.07 throughout the rest of the year.
This is not to say that Feldman is going to go through the same drastic dropoff, because he actually was fine—even useful—in 2013 (3.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP split between the Cubs and Orioles). But expecting more than 10-12 wins in total or more than 125 strikeouts overall is wishful thinking. Wins are still a category in most fantasy formats, and strikeouts are a must given how many there are in the game today. You're better off taking a gamble on a higher-risk/higher-reward player.
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