Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 8'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: Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Stats: .225 BA, 19 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB (182 PA)
Pablo Sandoval has been one unlucky Panda. The 27-year-old's .258 BABIP is one of the 20 lowest in the majors and well south of his .312 career mark. All that despite little to no change in his batted-ball profile or plate discipline.
The video up top, in which Sandoval came this close to hitting what would have been his third homer in four games on Thursday, is a pretty good example of his misfortune. (After the review correctly determined the ball to be barely foul, he would fly out.)
But very slowly, Sandoval is turning things around. In May, he's hitting a respectable .288, and he's had at least one knock in 13 of his past 15 games.
Is he guaranteed to be a no-doubt starting fantasy third baseman the way he's been in years past? No. But Sandoval could get there again, or at least, he could be a capable injury or off-day fill-in at third and useful starter at utility.
Sell High: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 3.55 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 49 K (66.0 IP)
If you own Justin Verlander, you're probably aware that he once again hasn't seemed quite himself this year. The fact that the 31-year-old right-hander's 3.20 FIP is below his 3.55 ERA indicates he's actually been pitching a bit better than his above line shows, but it's hard to feel that way.
Then there's the plummeting strikeout rate (6.7 K/9) and climbing walk rate (3.7 BB/9), which are his worst marks since 2006 and 2008, respectively. Certainly, that can be corrected over two or three starts with boffo strikeout-to-walk numbers, but it's yet another nugget to make you think.
By no means should you be giving Verlander away as if he's some sort of ticking time bomb. Maybe he just needs some more time to recover from last winter's core muscle surgery. But if you can find an owner who is caught up in the Tigers' hot start and is intrigued by the possibility that this is the Verlander of old, then the return could be enticing.
Buy Low: Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Fantasy Stats: 3 W, 4.59 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 41 K (51.0 IP)
Don't go rushing to send out must-have-him-at-any-cost trade proposals for Chris Archer, but if nothing else, he's at least a cautionary buy-low candidate.
The 25-year-old's surface stats are so yucky at this point that Archer's owner may not even be starting him in his lineup for fear of a meltdown. In other words, a low-ball offer might be all it takes.
Realize: There are red flags, particularly the elevated walk rate (3.5 BB/9), which is something the right-hander struggled with when he was coming up as a prospect (5.0 BB/9 in the minors).
Then again, Archer's FIP is 3.46, which is more than a full run lower than his ERA. His BABIP (.327) and left-on-base percentage (69.2 percent) both have some room for improvement, which might help bring his fantasy-relevant numbers to respectability.
This isn't a screaming go-out-and-get-him endorsement of Archer, but he's a talented, young arm who may be going through an adjustment period before hitting the stride he showed as a rookie last year. That's the kind of pitcher worth taking a gamble on, especially when it comes at little to no cost.
Sell High: Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs
Fantasy Stats: 0 W, 1.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 54 K (68.0 IP)
This is only partly about the wins. Yes, Jeff Samardzija—somehow—remains without one, despite the fact that he's thrown a quality start in eight of his 10 outings so far and currently leads the majors with a 1.46 ERA. That would be pretty much impossible to explain, if Samardzija weren't a Cub.
What's funny, though, is that this historic stretch sans a "W" actually might be making the 29-year-old a hotter fantasy commodity than ever, simply because he's getting so much attention for it. Use that to your advantage, Samardzija owners.
His underlying metrics—like the .264 BABIP, 82.0 LOB percentage, 3.9 HR/FB rate or even that dip to 7.1 K/9—reveal that the right-hander has been very good but not quite best-ERA-in-baseball good.
When you peddle Samardzija, don't forget to remind owners that he's very likely to be traded by July, which means he's bound to go to a good team that actually might net him some W's. As if fantasy owners should be relying on such a fickle category.
Buy Low: J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore Orioles
Fantasy Stats: .285 BA, 13 R, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB (154 PA)
When you own a player because you're banking on 20-plus homers from the shallow shortstop position—a plateau Hardy has reached each of the past three seasons—and he's yet to hit even a single homer heading into Memorial Day weekend, well, psssh.
While The 31-year-old Hardy actually is hitting for a solid average, that's not what his owners were expecting or even wanting. It's power they crave, and Hardy's not giving it to 'em.
What's odd here is that he's actually hitting more fly balls than he has in recent years. Aside from his 43.4 percent fly-ball rate in 2011, Hardy's 40.3 percent mark this year is his highest since 2007. And he's usually good for a home run-to-fly ball rate in the 10-15 percent range.
Hardy's batted-ball distance of 274 feet isn't down all that much from previous years (2013: 283 feet; 2012: 280 feet), according to Baseball Heat Maps. Perhaps he's simply not yet able to put his usual oomph and leverage into his swing after being hampered by back and hamstring injuries, as Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun noted in April.
At this stage, Hardy may have trouble making it four straight 20-homer campaigns, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him knock 15 or more from here on out. If you're searching for some power from your shortstop, he's still a good guy to target.
Sell High: Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Stats: .309 BA, 29 R, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 9 SB (201 PA)
Howie Kendrick does this every year. He gets owners all hot and bothered with a big beginning, and everyone starts yelling about how "THIS IS THE YEAR!!!"
Take his numbers through the end of May each of the past four seasons...
2010: .261 BA, 22 R, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 5 SB
2011: .322 BA, 30 R, 7 HR, 18 RBi, 4 SB
2012: .257 BA, 20 R, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB
2013: .299 BA, 24 R, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 5 SB
A couple of times, the batting average was low, but Kendrick does a pretty good job of covering all five fantasy categories across April and May. This year is no different.
And yet, here are his career highs in each stat in a season in which he's played at least 100 games: .297 BA, 86 R, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 14 SB. If he did all that in the same year, he'd be a top-five fantasy second basemen (or close to it), but that's never been the case.
So far in 2014, Kendrick's primary value comes from his nine stolen bases, but do you really think a guy who's never topped 14 is suddenly going to swipe the 30-plus he's currently on pace for as he approaches his 31st birthday? Frankly, if Kendrick gets to 20, that would be surprising.
Kendrick is plenty good and a worthy starting second baseman, but let someone else fall into the trap of buying him high from you.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11