Fantasy Baseball 2014: MLB Midseason'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 with 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. And now that we're halfway through the season, repeat names are fair game going forward.
Speaking of timing, let's get to some players to sell high and buy low.
Sell High: Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Stats: 9 W, 2.89 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 101 K, 96.2 IP
Zack Greinke is still a stud, so don't take his inclusion here to mean that you should be selling him off. But, hey, if another owner comes calling about him, you might as well try to take advantage.
The 30-year-old right-hander has been pretty incredible in his season-and-a-half with the Los Angeles Dodgers, as his 2.72 ERA in 44 starts shows. Plus, his strikeout rate has bumped up from 7.5 per nine last year to 9.4 in 2014.
What you might not have noticed, however, is that Greinke's performance in June has been worse than you realized until coming across the numbers right here: one win, 4.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.3 K/9.
Is that a sign Greinke's about to tank?
No, because just about every pitcher—even the great ones—go through slumps. But there's a good chance other owners haven't noticed any such slippage, which means you might be able to get someone to fork over something crazy.
Buy Low: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/OF, Washington Nationals
Fantasy Stats: .246 BA, 13 R, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 0 SB, 136 PA
So far this has been a mostly lost season for Ryan Zimmerman, whose stats you see above aren't all that hot, in part because he also missed 44 games after breaking his thumb on a head-first slide into second base. (Hint: He's not the only buy-low candidate this week who suffered the same fate this year.)
It's hard to imagine that Zimmerman's owner is holding out much hope that the 29-year-old is going to turn things around any time soon, which should make him a cheap get. And you can always suggest that the former third baseman might be struggling in part because he's now trying to figure out left field on the fly.
Here's the thing: There's still a whole lot of season left, and Zimmerman has shown a propensity for going crazy in the second half. Back in 2012, he hit .319 with 51 runs, 17 homers and 55 RBI in 56 games after the break. And last year, those numbers were .280, 43 runs, 15 home runs and 28 RBI in 66 games, and Zimmerman went particularly bonkers with 11 homers in September.
In other words, no matter how rough a go he's had to this point, Zimmerman is capable of making up for lost time with a hot streak or two.
Sell High: James Shields, SP, Kansas City Royals
Fantasy Stats: 8 W, 3.79 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 87 K, 111.2 IP
If you really look at James Shields' statistics—which you can do by peeking just north of this sentence—you might notice that they're actually rather unimpressive.
In fact, the leaguewide averages for a starting pitcher look like so: 3.91 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and a 7.4 K/9. While Shields' eight wins certainly help his value, the 32-year-old is almost the embodiment of league average across the board with a 3.79 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 7.0 K/9.
Here's where name, reputation and perceived value can really work in an owner's favor, because Shields has all three in his corner.
Go swap him for an underrated starter who gets less recognition (Tyson Ross? Chris Archer?), or one who's still underperforming (Homer Bailey?) or another veteran who's surprisingly been better (Josh Beckett?), but be sure to ask for another quality player to be included, too.
Because, hey, this is James Shields you're talking about.
Buy Low: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
Fantasy Stats: .305 BA, 27 R, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB, 204 PA
Now that the fantasy baseball season is just about halfway over—yes, really—owners who are still in the hunt but not necessarily in the lead should be up for taking some risks. Like, say, making a play for an injured player who could return and flourish.
Nolan Arenado is one such example (and there's another to come). The 23-year-old was in the middle of what looked to be a true breakout campaign when he went down after—this might sound familiar—breaking his finger while sliding head-first into second in late May. Funny, but that's about the time the Colorado Rockies started to drop in the standings, too.
The latest? Arenado could embark upon a minor league rehab assignment next week, as Patrick Saunders of the The Denver Post writes. That means he should make it back to Colorado about a week before the end of the first half, which gives you just enough time to go bother Arenado's owner about a trade.
Sell High: Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Stats: .294 BA, 39 R, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 13 SB, 329 PA
Alexei Ramirez had perhaps the best start to a season in his seven-year career this year. He was doing a lot of everything—hitting for average, hitting for power, stealing bases, you name it—and that made you a very happy owner.
In case you haven't been paying attention, though, here are the 32-year-old's digits in June (warning: Shield your eyes): .209 batting average, eight runs, zero home runs, zero RBI and two stolen bases. That's right, Ramirez has not homered nor (get this) driven in a run this month, despite playing every day. June, by the way, has all of four days left.
The last time he notched an RBI? Try May 26. His last home run? Would you believe May 23?
And yet, here's guessing you can still get a pretty penny in exchange for Ramirez because his season stats look quite nice, especially for a shortstop. Heck, he still ranks No. 3 on ESPN's Player Rater at the position.
Buy Low: Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy Stats: .210 BA, 12 R, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB, 87 PA
Hey, remember this dude? Big power hitter who was going to smash 40 home runs at his new hitter-friendly park after joining the Arizona Diamondbacks following his offseason trade from the Los Angeles Angels?
Well, Mark Trumbo actually did get off to a strong start in the power department with seven bombs and 19 RBI in his first 21 games in the desert. Then he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and hasn't played since April 22. Yeesh.
The 28-year-old, though, has been facing live pitching in batting practice sessions and is slated to run the bases in the next few days, according to Steve Gilbert and Adam Lichtenstein of MLB.com. His return could happen right around the All-Star break.
If you're looking for a potential power play in the second half—say, a slugger who might slug 15 to 20 home runs—Trumbo could do that. And he'll cost you just about nothing right now.
Sell High: Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Stats: .342 BA, 30 R, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB, 175 PA
Adam Lind is having a great season, isn't he? Just check out that .342 batting average! And that, well...uh, that's about it.
You see, Lind is pretty much doing one thing extremely well this year—and it's one thing he has a history of not doing well. This is, after all, a guy whose average from 2010 through 2013 was just .257.
The 30-year-old still tends to live off that great 2009 when he went .305-35-114. Folks, it was five years ago. Yes, Lind's performance in 2014 has been starter-worthy at utility in some formats, and his counting numbers are down a bit because he missed 20 games with injury early on.
Of course, the reason Lind's average is as high as it is has a lot to do with his insane—and unsustainable—.395 BABIP, which checks in at No. 5 among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. And let's not forget that the lefty swinger remains a platoon hitter because he still can't touch same-side pitching, which is another part of why his totals are low.
C'mon, just trade him for something nice while other owners will buy in because he's hot. You'll be happy you did.
Buy Low: Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
Fantasy Stats: .259 BA, 41 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 10 SB, 286 PA
Despite being a former top prospect, Christian Yelich seems to get next to no love from fantasy owners.
It's especially odd because the 22-year-old actually was playing rather well across the board in his first full season before going down with a back strain that's kept him on the disabled list the past two weeks.
Yelich is finishing up his rehab assignment at Triple-A and is aiming to come back this weekend, per Erik Bacharach of MLB.com. Manager Mike Redmond has indicated he'll go right back to hitting in the leadoff spot. Given his standing in the fantasy community, you should be able to score him for a low price even with his return only hours away.
It wouldn't be all that surprising if Yelich then goes right back to contributing in all five fantasy categories, especially runs scored and stolen bases. Is he going to win any one category for you? No. But Yelich will pitch in in every one of 'em. That makes him worth starting as a fourth or fifth outfielder in mixed leagues, and he's even more valuable in NL-only formats.
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