Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 5 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: Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats: 2 W, 3.74 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 37 K (33.2 IP)
On one hand, Madison Bumgarner's owners are happy enough with his 3.74 ERA and certainly are enjoying his career-high 9.9 strikeouts-per-nine rate. On the other hand? Well, his 1.72 WHIP might have them more than a little concerned.
The 24-year-old's WHIP is that high because he's walked a few more than normal (3.5 BB/9) and given up quite a few base knocks. In fact, his 45 total hits allowed—in 33.2 innings—is among the most in the majors.
And yet, this isn't much to fret about, as Bumgarner's .390 BABIP, which is third-highest, is an indication that his balls-in-play luck is about to take a turn for the better. As for his elevated walk rate, well, this is a guy whose career mark coming into 2014 was just 2.3 walks per nine.
In short, there's room for improvement on two fronts for Bumgarner—the hit and walk rates—and if anything, his improved strikeout numbers mean he just might have a little more in him than he's shown in that regard, too. This is still a top-20 fantasy starter. Get him if his owner has doubts.
Sell High: Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .323 BA, 17 R, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 3 SB (105 PA)
Justin Upton, April 2013: .298 BA, 22 R, 12 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB, 14.3 BB percentage, 26.8 strikeout percentage
Justin Upton, April 2014: .326 BA, 17 R, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 3 SB, 10.5 BB percentage, 31.4 strikeout percentage
As you can see from the stats above, the 26-year-old has developed a habit of being pretty badass in the first month this season and last. Thing is, as great as Upton has been so far in 2014, his showing last year actually was better. And those last two numbers—the walk and strikeout rates—are the key figures to focus on as far as predicting his future performance.
There's just no way Upton can maintain this type of production, particularly in the batting average department, when he's whiffing more than 30 percent of the time. To wit, he's joined in that 30 percent K club this year by eight other players—including the likes of Chris Carter, Abraham Almonte and Khris Davis—and the only one of that bunch who is hitting north of .250 at the moment has the initials "J. U."
Is Upton capable of being an OF2 in most fantasy lineups? Sure is, especially when he's on one of his hot streaks. But if you can trade him in for a less volatile model while he's hitting this well—and with this high an average—you might want to consider it.
Buy Low: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: .299 BA, 11 R, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB (113 PA)
You can bet whoever drafted Eric Hosmer in your league wasn't expecting to use a pick in Round 4-6 to grab on Adeiny Hechavarria, right? Because that's the level of production Hosmer has provided to this point. Seriously, Hoz, we're a month into the season and you've yet to homer and have only nine RBI?
In what many (including yours truly) thought would be the year of Hosmer's real breakout, it appears that he's once again making plenty of contact but struggling with how he puts the ball in play. The average is fine, yes, but the 24-year-old continues to pound the ball into the ground (55.6 percent grounders), and while his fly-ball rate is up, his line-drive rate is down to a career-low 12.2 percent.
Call it a hunch—or at this point, a hope—but Hosmer is making too much contact (career-best 12.0 strikeout rate) and is too good a hitter not to start impacting the ball with more authority and putting it on a line or in the air more often. Once he starts doing that, he should still approach 20 home runs and 80 RBI in the end.
Maybe not a monster breakout, but considering you'll be getting almost all of that from here on out, that's not bad. And hey, since he's a first baseman hitting like a defensive-oriented middle infielder, Hosmer should be a pretty cheap get these days.
Sell High: Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: .321 BA, 9 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB (112 PA)
Could be wrong, but doesn't it just feel like Matt Adams has been having a much better fantasy season than Hosmer has? Sure, the Cardinals first baseman has a slightly higher average and a couple more homers, but otherwise, it's been about the same, really.
Except, in Adams' case, the 25-year-old lefty hitter isn't walking at all—just three bases on balls—and has struck out 21.4 percent of the time. Neither of those is particularly promising when it comes to Adams' future performance. Also discouraging? A .398 BABIP, one of the 10 highest in MLB, is simply unsustainable, even more so for a fella who checks in at 6'3", 260.
This isn't to say you could get Hosmer in exchange for Adams, but don't be all that sure that you couldn't, either (maybe just by throwing in a little something else to sweeten the pot). Chances are, unless Adams' approach changes, his average is about to drop, and with it, so will his trade value.
Buy Low: Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats: .264 BA, 12 R, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB (103 PA)
Buster Posey entered the draft season still ranked as a consensus top-three fantasy catcher, if not the top one. In that regard, while his numbers haven't been terrible, he has been somewhat disappointing.
Coming off a rough end to the 2013 campaign, in which he hit just .244 to depress his overall line, the possibility exists that the 27-year-old's current owner sees Posey as little more than a barely-above-average backstop and could be looking to move him while he's on a mini hot streak: 8-for-18 with two homers over his past five games.
If so, buy. Everything in Posey's underlying metrics, including BABIP (.257), plate discipline, walk and strikeout rates and batted ball data, either is in line with or better than his career marks. That means it's not outrageous to expect he still could finish the year where many thought he started it—as the No. 1 catcher.
Sell High: Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: 3 W, 3.15 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 26 K (34.1 IP)
This one is almost too easy, which is a shame because Shelby Miller looked so good and so full of potential for most of 2013, his first full season in the majors.
It's unclear if he's still fighting through arm problems that plagued him down the stretch last year and caused him to be virtually shut down and all but ignored in the postseason, or if he's just not going to hold up as a starter with only a fastball-curveball combo. Whatever the reason, though, Miller has been smoke-and-mirrors-ing it to start 2014.
Owners need to peddle the 23-year-old, like, now, while he's won his last three decisions and still sports a respectable 3.15 ERA. Other than those two stats, everything else is a mess, including a scary 5.5 BB/9 rate, a terrifying seven homers allowed in 34.1 frames and a downright ghastly 6.19 FIP—worst in baseball.
Buy Low: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats: .196 BA, 13 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB (107 PA)
You just know Pedro Alvarez's owner already has given up on the lefty slugger posting a batting average anywhere close to something that might not drag down the rest of his team. After all, this is a career .233 hitter who currently is under .200.
Granted, the 27-year-old wasn't drafted for his average—he was picked for his power, and he's provided enough of that to stay rosterable. But get a load of this: Alvarez is BABIPing just .204, which puts him on the fringe of the lowest 10 marks in the league, and he's also walking (11.2 percent) and whiffing (23.3 percent) at career-best rates.
While Alvarez probably still won't be helping the batting average of the fantasy team he's on, those are all signs that he might not hurt it as much as you'd think based on his awful April. Should his owner not want to deal with what looks like a batting average anchor, go ahead and swoop in to take what could very well be a slugger who smacks 25 more homers and hits, say, .250-.260 from here on out.
Sell High: Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats: .351 BA, 17 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 4 SB (121 PA)
Alexei Ramirez is off to the kind of start that has him checked in at No. 2 on ESPN Fantasy Baseball's Player Rater among all shortstops. Yep, only that Tulowitzki guy is ahead of him.
Ramirez, 32, is doing quite a bit of everything, which has made him extremely valuable in fantasy to this point—and extremely attractive as a trade chip. But why would you want to dangle such a productive player at such a premium position? Glad you asked.
You see, Ramirez's batted-ball profile is very odd. Let's start with his .360 BABIP, which is rather high for a hitter who's never posted one above .309. Then let's examine the breakdown of his balls in play a little further: That reveals a career-low line-drive rate (15.5 percent); a fly-ball rate of 35.9 percent, well above his past two seasons; and to top it off, he's hitting more infield flies than ever (21.6 percent). There's no way that formula should result in such a high BABIP and, in turn, such a high average.
Almost assuredly, after knocking just nine then six home runs the past two years, Ramirez will hit the most four-baggers he has since 2011's 15, but that's a good over/under. And while he did swipe a career-best 30 bags in 2013, Ramirez remains more of a 15-20-steal type.
When that kind of player is hitting .300 or higher, it's a stud. But Ramirez never has topped .290—his batting average all the way back when he was a rookie in 2008—and he's unlikely to do so at this stage of his career and with the pattern in which he's hitting baseballs.
Buy Low: Trevor Rosenthal, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: 0 W 4.73 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 18 K, 7 SV (13.1 IP)
This might be your last shot to acquire a reliever who actually could wind up as the No. 1 closer in fantasy. Not that Trevor Rosenthal will do that in his first year as a closer, especially with other elites out there (i.e., Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland), but he could.
The 23-year-old has not only an upper-90s fastball but also a starter's repertoire, because he was developed in that role before the Cardinals broke him in via the bullpen a few years ago and wound up keeping him there (for now). Rosenthal—7-for-7 in save opps so far—also is very athletic and fluid, which allows him to repeat his delivery well, so his so-so control so far (7 BB in 13.1 IP) appears to be merely a small sample-size problem.
Despite the mediocre 4.73 ERA, by no means has Rosenthal been bad, so this isn't so much a buy-low recommendation as it is a buy-middle—and then enjoy as he approaches 40 saves and 100 strikeouts.
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