Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 14'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 more than 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.
Buy Low: Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Fantasy Stats: .234 BA, 41 R, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 9 SB (275 PA)
After injuries up and down their 25-man roster, the Cincinnati Reds are finally healthy—and that includes Jay Bruce.
The 27-year-old missed only two weeks in May after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee, which helps explain why his numbers look so depressed.
In addition to having the hitters around Bruce back healthy (Joey Votto) and producing (Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton), there are two other good signs. One is that Bruce has continued to run, already having tied a career high with nine steals, which shows his knee is feeling OK.
The other? He's been hitting more like his usual self, posting a .280 average with 19 runs, 17 RBI and 16 extra-base hits (four homers) in his 29 games since June 1. Bruce's best in 2014 is still yet to come.
Sell High: Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
Fantasy Stats: .343 BA, 42 R, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 37 SB (371 PA)
Folks, that picture you see above is of the player who currently ranks No. 1 overall on ESPN's Player Rater. Seriously.
As fantastic as he was at the start of the season, Jose Altuve turned things up a few notches in June, hitting .411—best in baseball—to go with an MLB-high 17 stolen bases. All of which garnered serious consideration for AL Player of the Month honors that ultimately went to Mike Trout.
So why would you even think about trading the 24-year-old breakout star? The answer is that you really only can if he isn't your only source of steals or if he's helped you build a sizable lead on the competition in that category.
The .343 batting average is elite and No. 2 in the majors, but that does come with a .363 BABIP that checks in at No. 12. And frankly, beyond those two categories, the 5'6" righty hitter doesn't actually do a whole heck of a lot in the other three fantasy categories, including, surprisingly, runs scored.
Buy Low: Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals
Fantasy Stats: .272 BA, 45 R, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 5 SB (353 PA)
The case for Jayson Werth is very similar to that of Bruce in that his surrounding lineup is entirely healthy at long last.
What with the return of Ryan Zimmerman and, more recently, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos, the Washington Nationals are whole again. That has to boost everyone's production, including that of Werth, who hits in the middle of that one-through-nine.
And while first-half/second-half splits aren't exactly predictive year to year, it's comforting in some way to recall what Werth, 35, did after the break in 2013: .339 BA, 46 R, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 7 SB. He won't do that again, but he can be a comfortable third outfielder, at least, for fantasy purposes.
Sell High: Alex Rios, OF, Texas Rangers
Fantasy Stats: .305 BA, 35 R, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 13 SB (339 PA)
Alex Rios is having a fine fantasy season. Fine—not great or even really all that good. If you disagree, you should take a good look at those digits and then explain in the comments section below why, exactly, you're still buying into Rios.
Granted, he's been hurt by all the hurt his Texas Rangers teammates have endured this season, which is at least part of the reason for his underwhelming counting numbers. And the 33-year-old has also been caught an AL-high eight times on his 21 stolen base attempts.
Sure, his .305 average is nice, but that's about all Rios has been good for, and even that is dropping, as he's hitting just .200 over his last 15 games.
The reason Rios even qualifies as a sell-high guy with such so-so stats is because of his name value. So shop him around, and if you uncover an owner who is still willing to pay for Rios as if he's a clear top-20 (or better) fantasy outfielder, make the move.
Buy Low: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Stats: 7 W, 4.71 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 89 K (116.2 IP)
Just six weeks ago, Justin Verlander was in this column but on the opposite side of the spectrum as a sell-high while some of his fantasy stats were still relatively respectable. That worked out well for those who took the advice, and there's a chance the same thing could happen again—but in reverse.
While he hasn't been vintage Verlander since making mechanical adjustments recently, the 31-year-old has been at least startable over his past three turns, even if his outing Wednesday wasn't particularly promising, as Jason Beck of MLB.com writes. He's allowed 20 hits in 19.0 innings over that time, but only seven runs, and most importantly, his 20-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio is an indication that things could be turning around.
The alterations—which include raising his arm slot to improve his command, according to Beck—might not return Verlander to top-10 or even top-20 fantasy starter status, but he could once again be a use-him-every-time-out pitcher if the changes work.
Given how bad Verlander looked a month ago and what that did to his digits, his price of acquisition should be low enough to gamble on a bounce-back if you're looking for a high-risk/high-reward target.
Sell High: Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
Fantasy Stats: .295 BA, 47 R, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 15 SB (343 PA)
Depending on how savvy the other owners in your league are, the ship may have sailed—or at least left the dock—when it comes to trading Charlie Blackmon for peak value.
Since his torrid April (.374 BA, 23 R, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 7 SB), the just-turned-28-year-old has come back down to Earth. That said, Blackmon has continued to chip in enough across the board to remain a useful third or fourth fantasy outfielder. That's why he still checks in as a top-20 performer on ESPN's Player Rater.
Where it gets tricky, though, is just how much his declining production (.259 BA, 24 R, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 8 SB since May 1) will impact his playing time, especially once (if?) Carlos Gonzalez and/or Michael Cuddyer make it back. And let's not forget, this is Blackmon's first year as a full-timer, so he may struggle and/or tire down the stretch, just when your team is fighting for a title.
The smart move is to trade Blackmon while his stats still look pretty thanks to that monster first month.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11