Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 7'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: Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Stats: .234 BA, 12 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 4 SB (113 PA)
A second-round selection in March, Jason Kipnis got off to another slow start and then got hurt. That's the recipe for acquiring a player on the cheap in a trade.
While the 27-year-old has missed the past two weeks and still has a ways to go in his return from a strained oblique, he has started taking swings and hitting off a tee, per Zack Meisel of The Plain Dealer. Kipnis will need a rehab assignment before he rejoins the Indians, but that could happen in late May or early June, barring any setbacks.
Especially if Kipnis' owner is getting impatient and needs help or healthy bodies at other positions, now is the time to act if you want a second baseman who should have a shot at hitting 12 to 15 homers and steal as many bases once he's back.
Sell High: Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees
Fantasy Stats:: 6 W, 2.17 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 66 K (58.0 IP)
Before you freak out, this isn't a recommendation that you better go and deal Masahiro Tanaka today. Not at all. Rather, it's a soft suggestion that you could get just about anything you wanted should you choose to go that route.
Look, the 25-year-old has been as good as anyone could have possibly imagined—he's top-five in the AL in ERA and strikeouts and is leading in WHIP—and he just hurled his first-ever complete game (and shutout) against the New York Mets on Wednesday (see video above).
With all the hype, buzz, success, praise and you-name-it that Tanaka has built up to this point, if you're an owner with him on your roster but multiple major holes elsewhere, particularly on offense, you could leverage him to replenish and reload. Just make sure you get exactly what you need and want, because there aren't any signs that Tanaka is going to drop off much.
Buy Low: Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Fantasy Stats: 1 W, 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 14 K (19.0 IP)
Like Kipnis, Alex Cobb falls under the player-with-an-injured-oblique-to-target category. Only in Cobb's case, you'll have to act faster to get in while the gettin's good.
The 26-year-old righty threw both a simulated game and then a bullpen session this week, according to Bill Chastain of MLB.com, and is set to make a rehab start in the minors over the weekend.
If Cobb, who's been out since mid-April after making only three starts (two of which were seven-inning shutouts), makes it through the outing in fine form, the Rays are hoping he can be activated by May 22. That's next Thursday, folks, so put in your trade proposal today and hope his owner hasn't been paying close enough attention to realize a No. 4 fantasy starter may be less than a week away.
Sell High: Tim Hudson, SP, San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Stats: 4 W, 2.09 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 38 K (60.1 IP)
Think about it: Tim Hudson just may be the most consistent, dependable starting pitcher in Major League Baseball over the past 15 seasons. Every year he's been healthy, the 38-year-old has thrown quality innings and gotten it done.
But let's face it: When we're talking about pitchers for fantasy, words like "dependable" and "quality" aren't often ones that get us going, right? This isn't a knock on Hudson, who's a perfectly capable fantasy pitcher, but again, most owners want more than "capable."
Between his lack of strikeouts (5.7 K/9), a batting average on balls in play that's low even for him (.228 compared to .278 career), and the fact that he's faced the Indians and Pirates once each and the Padres and Diamondbacks twice apiece in his eight starts so far, it's only a matter of time before Hudson's ERA and WHIP go from a little too good to be true to merely good.
Buy Low: Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Stats: .244 BA, 15 R, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 0 SB (143 PA)
Earlier in May, Brett Lawrie was fighting a balky hamstring that cost him a handful of games, which only compounded what had been a pretty crappy beginning to 2014 for him.
To wit, at the end of April, the 24-year-old was still hitting under .200 (.192, to be exact). The thing is, that was driven by a ridiculously low .176 BABIP, which has since spiked to a ridiculously high .462 in May, during which Lawrie has hit .406 and raised his average to .244.
See how that occasionally balances out?
Obviously, his actual performance level is somewhere in between those incredibly disparate outliers. However, given the power Lawrie has shown despite his early struggles, it'd be wise to bet on a still-young former top prospect who is a part of one of baseball's very best offenses—one that is currently operating at full strength for the first time in, like, forever.
Throw in that Lawrie has it in him to approach double digits in stolen bases and is on his way toward gaining eligibility at second base (eight games), and this could be your last chance to reel in a breakout in the making.
Sell High: Scott Kazmir, SP, Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 2.28 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 42 K (51.1 IP)
Fantasy owners have fallen back in love with Scott Kazmir—about eight years after they first did, when he was a hard-hurling left-hander in his early 20s with the Rays. Now a 30-year-old with the Athletics who throws noticeably less hard, Kazmir is off to a beautiful beginning to the season as the stats above show.
But c'mon, do you really think this is going to last?
We're talking about guy with an injury history that's longer than George Clooney's soon-to-be-over bachelorhood (OK, almost), and who was more or less out of baseball two years ago. Plus, there is reason to worry on the velocity front: In Kazmir's second-to-last outing on May 5 against the Mariners, his worst start so far, he was barely breaking 90 mph out of nowhere, per Brooks Baseball.
Maybe Kazmir will remain effective enough to help owners all year long, but you'd be wise to consider cashing in while he's in the top five in the AL in ERA and WHIP and healthy—for now.
Buy Low: Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy Stats: .247 BA, 18 R, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB (176 PA)
Listing Martin Prado as a buy-low option is nothing more than presenting those of you in deeper leagues with the possibility of snagging a proven player at a dirt-cheap price.
Yes, the numbers are ugly. No, the underlying numbers aren't any prettier: .297 BABIP, career-low 4.5 percent walk rate, career-high 16.5 percent strikeout mark.
So call it a hunch that Prado isn't done as a useful, versatile fantasy piece. Maybe it's because he's still only 30 years old. Or perhaps it's that he plays in a historically hitter-friendly park. Or mayhaps it has something to do with Prado's stats as of this point in the 2013 season (last May 15): .235 batting average, 20 runs, four home runs, nine RBI and one stolen base (180 PA).
In other words, Prado was just as bad this time last year, and yet he wound up hitting .282 with 70 runs, 14 homers and 82 RBI for the season. Considering you practically could land him for a quality middle reliever right about now, isn't it worth finding out if Prado has another run in him?
Sell High: Seth Smith, OF, San Diego Padres
Fantasy Stats: .336 BA, 15 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 0 SB (133 PA)
Few hitters have been hotter than Seth Smith. The eight-year veteran is 20-for-43 in May, which translates to a .465 batting average. Not only that, but the 31-year-old has walloped a whopping 12 extra-base hits over those 12 games, with a homer, eight doubles and—get this—three triples!
All of that has propelled Smith to a .336 average for the year that currently ranks third in baseball, tied with Victor Martinez entering play Friday. Gee, ya think his .393 BABIP (sixth best in MLB) has something to do with that?
Unless you play in a league with a bunch of first-timers, though, this isn't about trying to pull the wool over a fellow owner's eyes by unloading the lefty-swinging Smith—a career platoon hitter who only does damage against right-handers—for some slumping superstar.
That's not to say, though, that you can't include Smith as a secondary piece in a swap in order to swing a two-for-one trade while he's hotter than Kate Upton. On a beach. In summer.
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