Fantasy Baseball 2015: Week 4's Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterMay 1, 2015

Fantasy Baseball 2015: Week 4's Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice

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    The start of Jon Lester's Chicago Cubs career hasn't been great, but it should get a whole lot better soon.
    The start of Jon Lester's Chicago Cubs career hasn't been great, but it should get a whole lot better soon.Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

    What good is a fantasy owner who lacks a sense of timing?

    Fantasy baseballjust like the real thingis 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: Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    2015 Stats: .205 BA, 10 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB (90 PA)

    Right now, Adrian Beltre's owner is freaking out over the fact that his second-round selection has been really bad so far this year. Like, so bad that maybe even you, dear fantasy reader, are cringing at his numbers above and wondering if it's actually worth targeting him as a buy-low candidate.

    If that's the case, ask yourself this: Is Beltre just completely toast as an impact fantasy performer? Uh, no.

    Granted, the Texas Rangers third baseman is 36 years old, so age is something of a concern, especially because older players can have a without-warning cliff season in which their production just falls off, well, a cliff.

    But Beltre was 35 last year (duh), and he was pretty great then, hitting .324 with 79 runs, 19 homers and 77 RBI. Heck, that's why he was a second-round pick in the first place. Well, that and a track record that includes him hitting .316 and averaging 29 homers from 2010 through 2014.

    Maybe those digits are a bit out of reach given the circumstances and slow start, but Beltre has an egregiously low .203 BABIP that ranks just outside the 10-lowest in MLB. And yet, aside from a dip in line-drive rate early on, nothing else in Beltre's plate discipline or batted ball profile sticks out.

    The Rangers, by the way, are sporting a worst-in-baseball .248 BABIP as a team, which helps explain why Beltre's runs and RBI numbers are so low thus far. Expect a turnaround for Beltre, who should still finish as a top-10 fantasy third baseman.

Sell High: Dallas Keuchel, SP, Houston Astros

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    2015 Stats: 3 W, 0.73 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 22 K, 0 SV (37.0 IP)

    If you own Dallas Keuchel right now, you're reading this and thinking, "Dude, no way I'm trading this guy!"

    We hear ya, bruh. Except there are so many highlights to sell other owners on the 27-year-old Houston Astros left-hander right now that you really don't even have to try. In fact, your league mates probably have inquired already.

    To wit, Keuchel is tied with Johnny Cueto for the MLB lead in innings pitched (37.0), and his sparkling ERA and WHIP—both 0.73—rank second and tied for first, respectively.

    The reason you sell Keuchel now isn't because he's going to completely crumble or anything—this is a legitimately good pitcher. It's because he's practically in the name-your-price territory with this kind of insane start.

    You could choose to A) ignore that opportunity and instead bank on Keuchel's performance continuing to the point where he remains a top-10 fantasy starter all year long...or B) take advantage of all the buzz around Keuchel and the Astros at the moment and make some owner pay through the nose to land him.

    Before you choose option A, though, recognize that Keuchel is not a strikeout pitcher—his 5.4 K/9 rate is well below the league average of 7.6 per nine—which limits his value in traditional five-by-five formats and points leagues where whiffs are so, so important.

    If you can swap Keuchel while he's this coveted in a deal for a proven top-20 starter with 200-strikeout upside—like, say, Stephen Strasburg or Cole Hamels—do it.

Buy Low: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    2015 Stats: .200 BA, 6 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB (81 PA)

    This is the perfect time to target Carlos Gonzalez. He's not hitting much of anything and not running at all. Oh, and it can't hurt to remind his owner that, well, he gets hurt, like, all the time.

    Coming off a 2014 that was interrupted by hand surgery and ended early when he needed to have his knee operated on, there already were all kinds of questions surrounding the 29-year-old. The sluggish start is only reinforcing those doubts for the person who now hates seeing "Gonzalez, Carlos" plugged into the "OF" lineup slot and going oh-fer almost every day.

    So why do you want Gonzalez? Because his .224 BABIP is bound to get better. Not only is his career mark more than a hundred points higher at .341, he also is hitting the ball hard fairly regularly, as his 23.3 percent line-drive rate is one-tenth of a point off his career high.

    What's more, as Steve Adams of MLB.com noted recently, using Statcast technology:

    Only two players in baseball -- Hanley Ramirez and Mark Trumbo -- are generating a greater average exit velocity than Gonzalez's 94.34 mph. But despite the fact that he's making harder contact than nearly any of his peers, Gonzalez sports a mere .197/.229/.364 slash line.

    Hitting the ball with authority while playing half your games at Coors Field is generally a combination that turns out rather well in the end. Go get Gonzalez while he's this cheap—and before he gets going.

Sell High: Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    2015 Stats: .325 BA, 17 R, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB (84 PA)

    Devon Travis owners are dancing every time they check their lineup. That's what happens when you pick up a player out of the free-agent pool in the first week, and he proceeds to produce like a top-10 overall fantasy performer for a month.

    To top it all off, Travis is lined up to open his second month in the majors by hitting out of the leadoff spot of the Toronto Blue Jays' highest-scoring offense in MLB while Jose Reyes is on the disabled list.

    Kuh-ching! Travis owners have hit the fantasy jackpot. Which is exactly why they should trade him—and sooner than later.

    While the 24-year-old always hit in the minors (.323/.388/.487), he never showed this kind of power, and his 24.0 HR/FB ratio places him among the top 20 in the sport so far. That's not exactly where most 5'9" second basemen reside, is it?

    When it comes to hot-shot rookies, most other owners just can't help themselves—they want 'em, they need 'em. So let that rival have Travis, but make sure you play hard to get to milk a wild overpay for a player who is going to face the inevitable slump and adjustment period.

    Once that happens, you'll be glad you found some top-50 player who's way more proven for a first-year player who had never played above Double-A prior to the start of the regular season.

Buy Low: Jon Lester, SP, Chicago Cubs

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    Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

    2015 Stats: 0 W, 6.23 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 24 K, 0 SV (21.2 IP)

    After inking for $155 million amid sky-high expectations, Jon Lester hasn't gotten off to the greatest of starts with the Chicago Cubs.

    The 31-year-old left-hander has been shaky in all four of his outings so far, which explains why he has an ERA north of 6.00 and a WHIP more than a buck fifty. One imagines the dead-arm period Lester battled in March hindered his ability to fully prepare during spring training. But he has been healthy since, and there are promising signs under the hood.

    Lester's most recent turn was easily his best, as he held the Cincinnati Reds to three runs on five hits in six frames in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park to register his first quality start of 2015. He also struck out 10 against a lone walk.

    Which brings us to Lester's strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season: 24-to-5 in 21.2 innings. That's, uh, really good, folks. He also has given up only one homer.

    So what gives? Well, he has allowed a .424 BABIP, which is not only ludicrously high, but is the highest in all of MLB. Hence, an FIP that is a gloriously low 2.27—top 10 in the sport—and nearly four full runs better than his ERA. In fact, the 2.27 mark is better than Lester's 2.80 FIP from his career year in 2014.

    Add in the move to the NL and all, and you need to make a play for Lester. Now.

Sell High: Nick Martinez, SP, Texas Rangers

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    2015 Stats: 2 W, 0.35 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 11 K, 0 SV (26.0 IP)

    Nick Martinez isn't a big name, so he's not likely to net a big return, especially on his own. But his first-month numbers—including an MLB-best 0.35 ERA that is so small you have to squint to see it—are strong enough to make him a quality sell-high guy.

    Plus, because Martinez is just 24 years old and something of an unknown, some owners might actually be fooled into thinking he's a young up-and-comer who is better than he really is.

    The best way to handle Martinez is to use him as a secondary piece in an enticing two-for-one type of proposal, where you target one player who would be a nice upgrade at a certain position or category of need and offer a slightly lesser player along with Martinez.

    As an example, if you want a better second baseman, try going to Brian Dozier's owner and presenting your Neil Walker and Martinez as bait.

    As for why you should be looking to unload the current ERA leader, well, check out Martinez's strikeout rate, which is a measly 3.8 per nine. Then remember that he pitches in hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington for a team that might not provide the potential for more than low double digits in the win category.

    You'll want out on Martinez at the first sign of trouble, because once the ERA jumps, his value to you—and other owners—will be shot.

Buy Low: Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2015 Stats: .200 BA, 4 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB (49 PA)

    Christian Yelich is this week's injured-player-you-should-go-after-while-he's-still-out-and-his-stats-still-stink.

    The 23-year-old rising star is on the disabled list with a slight bulging disk in his lower back, but the expectation is that he'll be able to come back once eligible in early May, if not soon thereafter, per Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.

    Even if Yelich and the Miami Marlins go more conservatively and give him until the middle of the month, this is a player you'll want to own for the long haul. Because of the injury combined with the awful stats—which almost certainly can be attributed in part to said injury—his cost of acquisition is probably in the range of 50 cents on the dollar right now.

    For what it's worth, Yelich endured a similar injury last year and went on the DL in mid-June. Upon returning two weeks later, he hit .302 with 53 runs and 11 stolen bases in exactly half a season (81 games).

     

    Statistics are accurate through Thursday, April 30, and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

    Need more fantasy baseball help? Come pepper me with your questions on Twitter today at 11 a.m. ET @JayCat11.