Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 6'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 regard 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: Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats: .250 BA, 14 R, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB (94 PA)
This might be your last chance to get after Chris Davis' owner and try to pry away the reigning home run champ at a price well below his first-round draft-day value.
Davis remains on the disabled list due to a strained left oblique, and while he's eligible to return over the weekend, that scenario appears to be a long shot at the moment, according to what manager Buck Showalter told Eduardo Encina of the The Baltimore Sun.
Add in a gentle reminder to Davis' owner that the slugger wasn't exactly off to the hottest of starts in the power department (2 HR, .382 SLG) and might be slow to get back in the swing of things given the nature of his injury, and that could make it possible to land him for, say, 80 cents on the dollar.
While Davis won't be matching last year's 53 long balls, that doesn't mean his easy power can't still be counted on for 30-plus once he's back over the final four-and-a-half months.
Sell High: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats: .266 BA, 24 R, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 0 SB (158 PA)
Uh oh. Suggest trading the player coming off a historic first month in the majors for which he won both Player and Rookie of the Month awards? Sacrilege!
Except it's not. Because this is exactly when Jose Abreu's owners should be open to moving him—if the price is right. Certainly, the 27-year-old Cuban sensation has proved he's a more-than-legitimate big leaguer and a genuine threat to mash more than 30 homers.
But don't ignore that Abreu will face an adjustment period once big league pitchers get a better idea of how to approach him, or that almost all of Abreu's fantasy value comes from his MLB-best 12 homers and AL-best 35 RBI. Sure, his runs scored total is good, too, but his batting average is merely, well, average, and he offers no speed.
Then there's this bombshell: Abreu is currently sporting a ludicrously high 34.3 percent home run-to-fly-ball rate, which is not only the highest in baseball in 2014—by, like, a lot—it's also the highest the sport has seen since 2006, when Ryan Howard posted a 39.5 percent HR/FB rate on his way to 58 homers.
Abreu is for real, but he's likely not this for real. Given the hype and buzz surrounding him, though, you could get just about any player out there for him, and that's something his owners might want to take advantage of.
Buy Low: Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: .227 BA, 17 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 11 SB (151 PA)
After a hot start to the season, Elvis Andrus' fortunes have taken a turn for the worse, presenting a nice opportunity to buy a quality player at a premium fantasy position for a discounted price.
Because of his struggles over the past 15 games, during which he's hitting just .143 (8-for-56), the 25-year-old was recently dropped out of the precious No. 2 spot in the Rangers order, as reported by Evan Grant of the The Dallas Morning News. That obviously hurts Andrus' value, primarily because it limits the number of runs he'll score, but also because it means he'll get a few less at-bats, too.
While that's just the sort of thing that might have Andrus owners concerned and willing to trade him, this is unlikely to be anything more than a temporary move to get him right. Plus, a big reason Andrus hasn't been hitting has to do with luck—his .252 BABIP is well below his career rate (.314)—and his walk and strikeout numbers are right in line with where they usually are.
The other good news is that Andrus already has 11 stolen bases, which puts him on pace for another 40-plus-steal campaign, especially once some more hits start falling in. This is still a borderline top-five fantasy shortstop in the end.
Sell High: Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats: .227 BA, 32 R, 8 HR, 14 RBI, 11 SB (161 PA)
This one might be divisive. No doubt, Brian Dozier's owners recognize just how incredibly valuable he's been to their cause in three different categories, as he's leading the AL with 32 runs scored and is simultaneously on pace for nearly 40 homers and 50 steals. Uh, wow.
Then again, Dozier's owners likely landed him very late in their drafts—or perhaps even off the waiver wire early in the season—so the potential return on investment by cashing in on his success so far would be huge.
This isn't to say Dozier is going to fall apart or turn back into a pumpkin. After all, he was a useful middle infield option last year, when he scored 72 runs and notched 18 homers and 14 steals (albeit with a .244 average). Rather, it's a matter of recognizing that Dozier simply won't keep up a pace this crazy all year long, so trading up while he's one of the best players in fantasy baseball is a smart play.
Remember, this isn't some super-young former top prospect who's breaking out. Dozier is a 26-year-old who checks in at all of 5'11" and 190 pounds, and who had never hit more than nine homers or stole more than 24 bases in a season prior to 2013.
While some underlying numbers, like his 16.1 percent walk rate, indicate he's for real, that's only the plate-discipline aspect of his game. Other metrics, like his elevated 18.6 percent HR/FB rate, are out of line from his career norms. Also? The guy has only—count 'em—two doubles.
If you can get a proven top-50 player who's slumping for him, which isn't all that unreasonable of an ask right now, do it.
Sell High: Mark Buehrle, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: 6 W, 1.91 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 29 K (47.0 IP)
Trying to peddle Mark Buehrle as a sell-high guy might be difficult, given that every fantasy owner under the sun knows that the 35-year-old is what he is by now. Still, in deeper leagues or AL-only formats, a consistent, innings-eater type like Buehrle certainly presents an appealing option right about now.
After all, the southpaw is one of only two pitchers to reach six wins, and his 1.91 ERA is in the top 10.
Buehrle, you probably don't need to be told, isn't going to keep it up. His ground-ball rate (40.4 percent) is a career-low and his 80.9 LOB percentage is a career high—that's a bad combo. Then there's the fact that Buehrle has surrendered only one home run in 47 frames so far, which also won't last.
Owners in 12- or 14-team leagues or AL-only play should be able to find suitors for a stable arm like Buehrle. In shallower formats, he makes for a nice secondary piece to help pull off a trade. Ultimately, you won't miss him after he's gone.
Buy Low: Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats: .444 BA, 7 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB (33 PA)
Remember when Josh Hamilton was the hottest hitter in baseball back during the first week of the season? Seems like a year ago now, eh?
It was while the 32-year-old was at his best that a torn thumb ligament from sliding head first put the injury-prone Hamilton on the shelf yet again. Chances are, he's simply sitting in his owner's DL spot, not getting a second thought at the moment.
Well, give said owner something to think about with an offer of a hot-but-over-performing healthy hitter or pitcher (think: Alexei Ramirez, Charlie Blackmon, Alex Wood or Yovani Gallardo) while Hamilton is still out for another two-plus weeks.
With Hamilton claiming he'll be back around May 25, per Pedro Moura of The Orange County Register, now is when you'll want to swoop in and make your play. Even if Hamilton doesn't make it back until the first week of June, he still possesses—and was showing—the upside to be a second outfielder in fantasy once he's healthy.
Buy Low: Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: .209 BA, 12 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB (115 PA)
To put it plainly, the beginning of Brian McCann's Yankees career has not been good. For those who saw him as a sure-fire top-five fantasy backstop—or even better than that—given his new lefty-hitter-friendly digs, this is not what was expected.
The diagnosis here is that McCann appears to be pressing just a bit early on. Plus, McCann is experiencing playing in the AL for the first time in his 10-year career, which can lead to initial struggles for players who cross over and is something many overlooked in valuing him back in March.
While he's not whiffing much (11.3 percent), McCann's plate discipline is out of whack, as indicated by his scary-low 3.5 percent walk rate (9.4 percent career). Taking that further, the 30-year-old is also swinging at a career-high 35.1 percent of pitches outside the zone (27.8 percent career).
Essentially, he just needs to be more patient.
Of course, McCann's batting average on balls in play is also obnoxiously low at .204, one of the 10 lowest marks in the majors. That will turn around. Although he remains a buy-low target, McCann may not bounce all the way back to top-five catcher level that some projected for him prior to the season. But surely he still can finish solidly in the top eight to 10 at the position overall and perhaps even near the top five from this point forward.
Sell High: Jesse Chavez, SP, Oakland Athletics
2014 Stats: 2 W, 2.47 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 44 K (43.2 IP)
Admittedly, yours truly turned out to be incorrect when it was written back in early April that Jesse Chavez's hot start wasn't for real, and that his first two outings were likely to be as good as it gets. A month later, Chavez has been surprisingly great, as his numbers show.
But everything mentioned four weeks ago remains true:
...this is a 30-year-old right-hander who's been not only a journeyman but also a reliever for most of his career. To wit, his two starts with the A's so far have doubled his career total in that category in the majors, and while he has made 54 starts in the minors, he's also made nearly five times as many relief appearances (251).
So, sure, you could choose to believe that Chavez, whose underlying stats also are impressive (2.72 FIP), is going to continue throwing well. But the fact is, career journeymen relievers don't often up and morph into starting pitchers, much less ones who are fantastic in fantasy to the extent Chavez has been so far.
At some point sooner or later, this run will slow, if not stop altogether.
In fact, the latter already may be happening. Although Chavez had what is probably going to wind up being the best start of his career—seven innings of one-hit ball with eight strikeouts at Texas—in his penultimate outing, he sandwiched that with a pair of mediocre turns.
The problem is that because he's an out-of-nowhere performer, once the bloom starts to come off Chavez, other owners will want little to do with him. In other words, move him before that happens.
Buy Low: Mike Minor, SP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: 0 W, 6.97 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 10 K (10.1 IP)
Pretend, for a moment, that you're a Mike Minor owner. You drafted him somewhere in the middle rounds (say, Round 11), figuring you'd just snagged a very reliable, very quality third starting pitcher...only to watch him start the season on the DL, miss the first month and then return to put up those numbers up top in his first two outings. Frustrated yet?
Certainly, the start of 2014 hasn't been kind to Minor—or you know, his owners—but it will get better. This is still the same 26-year-old southpaw who came into his own in the second half of 2012 and then established himself as an underrated fantasy arm with an even better 2013 (3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.0 K/9).
Plus, if you examined Minor's two turns this year individually, you'd notice that while his outing on Wednesday was ugly (4.1 IP, 11 H, 6 ER, 6-2 K-BB), his first was actually pretty Minor-esque (6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 4-0 K-BB).
This was a borderline top-25 fantasy starter before the setback this spring, and now that Minor is healthy again, he should be considered as such from here on out. Maybe his current owner, having experienced all the problems and none of the prize, no longer feels the same way.
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