Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 4'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: Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: .200 BA, 10 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB (96 PA)
Everything about Prince Fielder's numbers above is ugly. The fact that such a horrible start is following the 29-year-old's worst season in several years cannot have inspired much confidence in owners who spent a first- or second-round draft pick on the "slugger."
And yet, there are reasons to believe that things will take a turn for the (much) better soon enough. For one, Fielder's .212 BABIP is among the 20 lowest in baseball and nearly 100 points south of his .302 career mark. For another, both his walk rate (15.6 percent) and strikeout rate (12.5 percent) are flirting with career highs.
Throw in one of the most hitter-happy ballparks around, as well as the return of Adrian Beltre (and perhaps Shin-Soo Choo soon enough, too), and Fielder still has the skills, means and circumstances to get really hot and stay really productive. Considering you could probably acquire him for a player drafted several rounds lower than he was selected, now's the time to do so.
Sell High: Ervin Santana, SP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: 2 W 0.86 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 24 K (21.0 IP)
Sure, it's possible that Ervin Santana, who was a very useful fantasy arm in 2013, could be in line for a magical season while pitching in the National League for the first time in his career. One might ponder that possibility based on the 31-year-old's first three starts so far.
But then, one should also remember that this is a pitcher who has been wildly inconsistent throughout his 10 years in the bigs. Beyond that, the homer-prone Santana has surrendered but one long ball so far, while he's also been enjoying the fruits of a .245 BABP and 96.2 percent left on-base percentage—one of the three highest in MLB.
To be clear, Santana should benefit from pitching in the NL, and particularly against the weak offenses and pitcher-friendly parks of the NL East—he's faced the Mets twice and the Phillies once—but there's just no way he's going to continue putting up SP1/2 stats. That doesn't mean you can't try to peddle him as something just below that range and take advantage of his early-season magic.
Buy Low: Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: .240 BA, 16 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 4 SB (91 PA)
When it comes to Jay Bruce, sometimes his owners' best option is to just close their eyes. The lefty masher is as streaky as they come, and while his numbers aren't that bad, they don't exactly stick out, either.
If you can help his current owner see the 27-year-old's .240 average and meager three home runs while trying to deal for him at, say, 80 cents on the dollar, you should walk away with a hitter who's bound to get hot sooner or later and reach 30 homers and 90 RBI for the fourth straight season. Just have a blindfold nearby for when Bruce goes cold.
Sell High: Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats: .410 BA, 19 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 6 SB (86 PA)
The no-name dude leading the majors in batting—over .400(!)—is a sell-high candidate? Ya don't say? Thing is, Charlie Blackmon actually has some strong underlying digits, too, including a remarkable five-to-six strikeout-to-walk ratio. On top of all the hitting exploits, he's swiped six bases, to boot.
Here comes the but: Blackmon, 27, has taken all kinds of advantage of his home park, to the tune of a .478 average as well as 14 of his 16 RBI and all five of his homers. Away from hitter-haven Coors Field? Try .313 with only two extra-base knocks.
The lefty swinger can hit and run a bit, which was always the case when he was coming up in the Rockies' system, but he's going to cool off—probably on a road trip (.655 career OPS vs. .943 at Coors)—so do yourself a favor and sell him (mile) high.
Buy Low: Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: .200 BA, 12 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB (96 PA)
It's been a brutal few weeks for Ian Desmond, who is hitting for some power and doing nothing else at all, including make much contact, as his 33.3 percent strikeout rate would be a career worst by a wide margin.
And not that it matters for fantasy purposes, but Desmond's defense also has been disastrous: His eight errors are the most in the majors. Clearly, the overall picture here isn't pretty. Think his owner hasn't noticed?
The 28-year-old, though, has never been a perfect player, thanks to his aggressive approach, but he's gotten the job done before in spite of that—or perhaps because of it. Desmond, after all, has gone 20-20 with 30-plus doubles and 70-plus runs and RBI while hitting .280 or better each of the past two seasons. If the contact problem remains this egregious, his average might not crack .250-.260, but the power-speed combo makes him a good guy to go get.
Sell High: Chris Colabello, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats: .325 BA, 10 R, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB (88 PA)
It's only late April, and already Chris Colabello is baseball's feel-good story of the year, from his several seasons spent in the independent Can-Am League all the way to the movie-script moment when he homered while his mother was being interviewed on television...on her birthday. (Seriously, that actually happened.)
Oh, and we should probably mention that Colabello also is leading the AL with 26 RBI in 21 games. All of which makes the 30-year-old the sell-highiest of sell-highs. If this righty-hitting platoon player winds up being a starter for your fantasy squad all season long, then you've made a huge mistake not only by continuing to count on him, but also by failing to extract value while he's in the middle of the month of his life.
Buy Low: Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .198 BA, 9 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB (94 PA)
Jason Heyward, it seems, does this slow-start thing a lot, no? Last year, the 24-year-old actually was worse in April, hitting just .121/.261/.259. Oh, and he wasn't that much better in May, either (.178/.327/.222). Eventually, though, Heyward turned it around and proved to be a solid OF3/4 when healthy.
Aside from pointing out Heyward's blah numbers so far, you should remind his owners that he's never really been a great fantasy asset outside of his 27-homer, 21-steal, 93-run, 82-RBI season in 2012. Heyward has been entrenched atop the Braves' lineup, which could keep his RBI total low, but should push his runs scored way up once he gets going. It's also promising that he's already been successful on four of five steal attempts, which could indicate a 15-20-steal campaign is on the way.
The lefty hitter simply is too talented not to take a shot on, even more so when he might be had for a hot-starting never-heard-of-before—like, say, one Charlie Blackmon?—with the anticipation that Heyward will turn it around again.
Sell High: Aaron Harang, SP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: 3 W 0.85 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 33 K (31.2 IP)
This Braves-heavy installment of buy-low/sell-high continues with easily the biggest where'd-this-come-from performer over the first month of 2014: Aaron Michael Harang.
Honestly, what Harang, now nearly 36 years old, is doing is both amazing and inexplicable. After all, this is a guy who was released by the pitching-starved Cleveland Indians during spring and who posted a 4.41 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over his previous six seasons for cripe's sake. Trying to wrap one's head around how Harang currently is leading the NL with an 0.85 ERA is like trying to understand what went into Matthew McConaughey's acting transformation over the past year.
Question is: Can Harang make his Dallas Buyers Club/True Detective-like turnaround last? Unlikely, considering he's shown shaky control at times and has done a lot of his damage against the Miami Marlins and New York Mets (twice), who represent two of the more strikeout-prone offenses in baseball.
It might not be much, but get what you can while you can for Harang, because after just one bad outing, everyone will realize he's just Fool's Gold.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11