This article was originally posted on Baseball Reflections.
In last week's Fantasy Focus, I outlined three pitchers whose slow starts made them prime buy-low candidates. This week I’m going to nominate three players whose hot starts make them excellent sell-high targets.
Keep in mind that obvious choices, such as Kevin Millwood, will be left off the list. I would like to think that my readers are smart enough to turn a profit on the 34-year-old’s incredible start, without my approval.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the top three sell-high candidates, as of Saturday, June 20.
If you were lucky enough to land Kinsler in the middle rounds of your draft because of his skewed 2008 totals, there’s a good chance your fantasy team is off to a great start.
Through 121 games in 2008, Kinsler was on pace for an earth-shattering season:
Through 67 games in 2009, Kinsler has set himself on an even more ridiculous pace:
Notching 44 HR and 34 SB would put him in a class that not even Chase Utley could attend. Like Utley, the fact that he plays second base makes his numbers even more valuable.
Of course, the question is "Can he keep it up?"
Kinsler’s .257 BABIP suggests he’s actually endured some bad luck this season, which shows in his .267 average.
Kinsler’s current HR/FB rate of 14.4 percent is unusually high for him, judging by his totals of 9.2, 11.0, and 8.8 percent each of the last three years. This number will likely drop, and so too will his HR pace.
Kinsler’s stolen base pace is one that I cannot argue with. As long as he stays healthy, 30 steals is well within reach.
But wait a minute; can he stay healthy?
Last season, Kinsler missed the last two weeks of August and all of September (when fantasy owners needed him the most), with a groin injury. In 2007, a foot injury forced him to miss all but one game in July.
Do you see a pattern here?
A closer look at Kinsler’s career pre- and post-All-Star totals suggests that injuries do not account for all of his ineffectiveness in the second half.
If Kinsler historically hits for a lesser average in the second half, just think of where his current .267 mark may end up.
Even if Kinsler avoids the injury bug this summer, his recent history suggests a decrease in production is right around the corner.
If you own Kinsler, I would suggest shopping him for a cheaper second basemen, who has encouraging post-All-Star splits, (Robinson Cano, anyone?) and another valuable player who could fill a hole or need on your team’s roster.
PACE represents Kinsler’s 162-game pace based on his current stats. PROJ represents what I project Kinsler’s stat line to be at the end of the season. These numbers are based on games played before Monday, June 22.
Through two months, Joe Mauer is on pace to shatter his previous career-highs in every offensive statistical category. While this may finally be the year that Mauer taps into the potential we all believed he had, I think right now is the best time to sell high on the former No. 1 overall pick. Here’s why...
In my May 25 edition of Fantasy Focus, I mentioned Mauer’s then current HR/FB rate of a whopping 36.4 percent. His career mark of 10 percent led me to believe that would soon drop.
Well, what do you know? Here we are, nearly a month later, and Mauer’s HR/FB rate has dropped 10 percent, from 36.4 to 26.9. I expect the plummet to continue.
What’s surprised me most over the past month is Mauer’s ability to maintain his .400+ batting average. When I last wrote about Mauer on May 25, his average was a stellar .417. As I’m writing this, on June 22, it’s a robust .407.
We already know Mauer’s HR pace won’t continue, but can he actually hit .400 for an entire season?
Mauer currently owns an astronomical BABIP of .412. While it’s important to note that Mauer’s career BABIP of .348 is well above the league average, his .412 mark simply isn’t sustainable.
Let me drop a lesser-known stat on you: weighted on-base average (wOBA). This combines OBP and OPS with a formula that I won’t confuse you with. Bottom line: Joe Mauer’s wOBA is an unheard-of .500, a number that Albert Pujols can’t even hold a candle to.
My point? Mauer’s batting average is also unsustainable, just like his HR pace.
Think about it; in order to bat .400, Mauer would need two hits every five at-bats, it simply isn’t possible anymore. I mean, there’s a reason it hasn’t been done in nearly 70 years.
Still not enough evidence for you?
Let’s look at Mauer’s pre- and post-All-Star splits:
Using his career average of 488 at-bats per year as a reference, Mauer would have to hit .319 over the course of his next 316 at-bats, just to finish the season with a .350 batting clip. That seems reasonable to me, and is the only thing I would change from my May 25 projection.
Much like Kinsler, Mauer has historically been at his best in the first half of the season. Expect his production in the second half to decrease.
I would suggest dealing Mauer now, in exchange for one of the many great buy-low options at the catcher position, (McCann, Soto, or Iannetta) along with another impact player that fills your team’s needs.
PACE represents Mauer’s current pace based on his career average of 488 at-bats per season. PROJ represents what I project his stat line will be at the end of the season. These numbers are based on games played before Monday, June 22.
Randy Wolf is an extremely underrated pitcher. When he’s on, he’s very good, as made evident by his totals in 2001, 2002 and 2003; which was the last time he topped 140 innings in a season.
Since then, Wolf has battled through countless injuries, while showing flashes of a return to his glory days.
His peripherals are solid: career 2.25 K/BB ratio to go along with a .255 batting average against.
He’s actually topped those totals through 15 starts in 2009, with a 2.46 K/BB ratio and a .232 batting average against, not to mention a stellar 3.29 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
A closer look, however, suggests disaster is right around the corner.
Wolf’s FIP, (Fielder Independent Pitching on an ERA scale) which measures only factors that the pitcher can control, is 4.02. When you compare this total to his ERA, which is more than a run and a half lower, it’s safe to say Wolf has experienced a great deal of good luck.
This is also supported by Wolf’s .260 BABIP, compared to his totals of .312, .338 and .302 each of the last three years.
A close look at Wolf’s career monthly splits reveal that July and August have been his worst months historically. A 4.58 ERA in July, followed up by a 5.25 ERA in August, in addition to the previous stated facts, leads me to believe Wolf is a great sell-high option.
Try dealing Wolf for another pitcher, such as Ricky Nolasco, Jair Jurrjens, or even teammate Hiroki Kuroda.
PACE represents Wolf’s 32-start pace based on his current stats. PROJ represents what I project his stat line will be at the end of the season. These numbers are based on games played before Saturday, June 20.
What do you guys think? Are Kinsler, Mauer, and Wolf good sell-high candidates? Who else should we be turning a profit on before all goes wrong? Discuss...