Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 10'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: Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Stats: .330 BA, 26 R, 2 HR, 31 RBI, 4 SB (239 PA)
Say it with me now: Hey, Robinson Cano, where'd the power go?
Some might see the 31-year-old as a sell-high guy because his average is way up there (second in the AL), but just about everything else isn't. Still, the case here is that he's a buy-low option because, frankly, the owner in your league who drafted him wasn't expecting to use a first-round pick on Marco Scutaro-like production.
Here's a crazy way to pitch this deal to the person with Cano rostered: More than two months into his first year with Seattle, the 31-year-old has yet to hit a home run at Safeco as a Mariner! Think that'll cause some can't-trade-him-away-fast-enough concern?
And yet, as much as Safeco is a pitcher's park, it's been middle-of-the-pack in terms of home runs in 2014, according to ESPN's park factors. And it's historically been easier for lefties like Cano to hit 'em out there, per Stat Corner.
Yes, Cano's fly ball distance this year of 271 feet on average is way down from 2013 (292 feet) and 2012 (297 feet), according to Baseball Heat Maps, and he's hitting more grounders than ever. That's more of a problem than the home park.
Then again, his 4.3 HR/FB rate is crazy-low when you take into account it wasn't south of 17.0 percent from 2011 through 2013. And it's not like Cano left his power in New York. Or at least, not all of it. Actual video evidence (see above) does exist that proves he has, in fact, hit a ball over a wall this year (albeit even that one barely made it over).
Maybe Cano actually is a sell-high guy, given all of the above. But the thought here is that, given the lack of power production—not to mention, he's just coming off a hand injury—the cost of acquisition here should be down enough to makes Cano attainable. And a worthwhile gamble to see if he still has 15-20 homers in him from here on out.
Sell High: Nelson Cruz, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Fantasy Stats: .313 BA, 42 R, 21 HR, 55 RBI, 1 SB (242 PA)
Nelson Cruz leads all of baseball with 21 home runs and 55 RBI. And you drafted him in, what, Round 15? Well done.
If you own Cruz you have to ask yourself: Just how much am I willing to press my luck with a guy who turns 34 in July and has a rather lengthy injury history?
Now, maybe the fact that he's on a one-year deal will push him to play as many games as possible, and hey, he didn't even miss a single contest after getting hit by a pitch on the hand last weekend. But admit it: At least a part of you immediately thought, "Well, there goes my window to move him" when he left Sunday's game early.
There's also this: While it's not completely outlandish by Cruz's standards (17.5 percent career), his 2014 home run-to-fly ball ratio of 28.8 is the second-highest in the majors and would be his best ever by quite a bit.
Sure, you could believe in Cruz and actually call him a "buy high" right now given the performance to date, hitter-friendly ball park and surrounding lineup. But how confident are you that Cruz, whose career high is 33 homers, will reach even, say, 40? That total would mean he has about 20 more left in his bat.
Is Cruz going to set new career bests in just about every offensive category? More than likely, yes. But it's also more than likely that he's already given his owners his best stretch of the season with his monster May (.339 BA, 13 HR, 27 RBI). Considering you should be able to get just about anything you want for him right now, well, the possibilities are endless.
Buy Low: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
Fantasy Stats: .238 BA, 18 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB (138 PA)
When going after Manny Machado in a trade, there are ready-made talking points to hit on.
You should point out that Machado's fantasy skill set, particularly his lack of over-the-fence power in his career so far, isn't quite as valuable as his tools make him in real life (where defense matters).
Second, you might suggest that he's just not the same after offseason surgery on his knee.
There's plenty of risk in targeting Machado, who turns 22 a month from now (July 6), in large part because of said surgery. But that also could be an explanation for his slow go to this point. He came back on May 1, but maybe Machado simply wasn't fully recovered enough to have hit his stride and found his rhythm.
So take note: Machado stolen his second base of the season and the month—that's two in four games!—and while he's not a real threat for many more, that is at least some evidence that his knee could be feeling better.
Machado is better than he's been so far, and he gets to hit in that beefy Orioles lineup (with sluggers like the guy on the previous slide), which can only boost Machado's numbers. Get him before that happens while his current owner is still frustrated about "wasting" a draft pick on an injured-turned-slumping breakout candidate.
Sell High: Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Stats: 6 W, 2.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 65 K (80.2 IP)
Much like selling high on Mr. Cruz, trading Sonny Gray isn't something you do because the bottom is about to fall out. It is, however, about getting just about whatever you want in return, given that we're talking about at 24-year-old who is just brimming with potential and ranks in the top five in the AL in ERA. Pitching in Oakland doesn't hurt, either.
Of course, the cash-in-sooner-than-later argument goes something like this: Gray is in his first full year in the big leagues, so we don't know yet how he'll hold up over a full season in the majors. Plus, his 3.33 FIP is still mighty good, but it's also nearly a full run higher than his 2.45 ERA, while his .264 BABIP is among the 20 lowest. If that bumps up a bit, so will Gray's ERA, and then the rest of his line won't look quite so sexy. Especially once you realize that his 7.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 are actually right around league average.
Gray is perfectly capable of being a No. 4 starter in fantasy (maybe a No. 3), but his surface stats paint him as a borderline SP1. He's not.
Buy Low: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
Fantasy Stats: .289 BA, 8 R, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB (91 PA)
If you're in the middle of the pack (or worse) in your league's standings and looking for a miracle, getting Bryce Harper—who's been out since late April with a torn ligament in his left thumb—is the equivalent of throwing a Hail Mary.
At this point in the season, his owner probably has contemplated just dropping Harper more than once, especially if there are other injured players on the roster. And Harper himself just told reporters the following:
If it takes me till after the All-Star break or a month after the All-Star break, then it's going to take me that long. I'm not going to rush back. I'm not going to do anything stupid. I'm just going to see how I feel and go from there.
You should simply cut and paste that exact quote into your trade proposal, because it will only help your cause when it comes to landing Harper for little more than a healthy body.
The Nationals, meanwhile, indicated that they're hopeful Harper can be back by the first week of July, according to James Wagner of the Washington Post. That might be optimistic, and even then, his thumb injury could sap his ability to hit well initially. But even if Harper makes it back around the All-Star break, that gives him a full second half to help your floundering club.
This isn't to say Harper is going to save your season—it's only suggesting that he might be able to provide a push.
Sell High: Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Stats: .308 BA, 39 R, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 8 SB (248 PA)
How 'bout Michael Brantley this year, huh? He's been pretty darn fantastic for fantasy, particularly for a guy who's never topped a .288 average, 66 runs, 10 homers, 73 RBI or 17 steals in any season.
To be fair, all of those bests, save for the batting average, came just last year, so there is something good trending here. And this certainly looks like a legitimate player-coming-into-his-own campaign during his age-27 season.
That said, right now Brantley is on pace for the following fantasy numbers: .308 BA, 105 R, 24 HR, 113 RBI, 22 SB.
Those numbers would make Brantley a top-10 hitter. Is Michael Brantley, breakout season and all, really a top-10 fantasy hitter? The guess here is that he comes up shy of those projections in all five categories, some by quite a bit. Especially the power ones, given that his 16.7 HR/FB rate is a career high—and more than double his previous best (6.8 percent in 2013).
Is Brantley a starting fantasy outfielder? Heck yes he is. Is he a top-10 hitter or a top-10 outfielder or even a top-20 outfielder? Not so sure.
Buy Low: Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
Fantasy Stats: 2 W, 3.89 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 69 K (69.1 IP)
The window to buy low on Zack Wheeler is already closing, so if you want in, you'll have to act quickly before it shuts.
There's a good chance your leaguemate who drafted Wheeler amid high expectations has been thinking 2014 just might not be the right-hander's breakout year after all. If so, that's because his owner probably got so turned off when Wheeler's ERA hit a low (er, high) point of 4.89 after his ninth start of the year on May 18.
That just might have resulted in said owner not paying much attention to what Wheeler, who just had his 24th birthday (May 30), has done over his last few outings.
In starts No. 10, 11 and 12, here are Wheeler's digits: 19.2 IP, 3 ER (1.37 ERA), 12 H and a check-this-out 23:3 K-BB ratio.
Yes, it's a small sample size, but that strikeout-to-walk number is particularly promising. Wheeler is still going to be prone to bumps in the road while he figures it out, but he's starting to do so. Plus, his 69.7 percent left on-base percentage is among the 20 lowest in the league, meaning he's been getting a little unlucky in that regard.
That breakout season just might be coming after all.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11