Fantasy Baseball: Revealing the Top Buy-Low/Sell-High Candidates

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: Revealing the Top Buy-Low/Sell-High Candidates

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 20:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 20, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The first month of baseball is coming to an end.

    Breakout teams, key injuries and hot hitting has culminated into the exciting product that the MLB has to offer.

    However, while we sit back and watch these natural occurrences take place, what does that do for our fantasy teams?

    Many owners have been biting their fingernails through the first month of fantasy leagues, anticipating their early round draft picks to breakout and earn their keep.

    Fast starts by Ryan Braun, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Matt Kemp and Joey Votto, have allowed owners to sit back, take a deep breath, and be thankful that their elite starters have taken over where they left off in 2010.

    With that said, ugly production through the first month from usually elite options like Derek Jeter, Carl Crawford, Mat Latos, Francisco Liriano, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ryan Dempster have done the exact opposite.

    These players along with many other fantasy scoundrels have created a dark cloud of regret over the heads of fantasy owners, making them wonder, what should I do?

    By looking through the early production, or the lack there of, we are able to figure out who's for real and who isn't.

    Being patient is key in fantasy baseball, allowing owners to reap the benefits of other managers jumping the gun on trading for a guy or wanting to get rid of a stud.

    With that said, here are the top candidates to either buy low or sell high.

Buy-Low #5: Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on April 25, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: .258, 2 Doubles, 5 RBI, and 13 R in 89 AB

    While some may look at Jeter's slow start as the evidence of his imminent decline, I look at it as a chance to buy one of the best hitting shortstops in the game for a low price.

    Jeter has yet to hit a home run this year, but his power is still there and is still capable of hitting 15-20 HR from now until the end of the season.

    His offensive support is one of the best in the MLB and his lack of RBI production can be directly related to Brett Gardner's slow start at the lead off spot.  Once the Yankees get some top-of-the-lineup hitting, Jeter will be able to reap the benefits and bust out of this ugly April slump.

    Some people continue to argue that Jeter has reached a point in which a comeback is almost impossible.  However, after any year in which he's underperformed or proved to be a fantasy disappointment, he's always been able to successfully rebound and reclaim his status as a top hitting middle infielder.

    Take a shot on Jeter.  If the first month has taught us anything about the Yankee captain, it's that things can't get worse.

Sell-High #5: Michael Pineda, SP, Seattle Mariners

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    DETROIT - APRIL 28:  Michael Pineda #36 of the Seattle Mariners warms up prior to the start of the fifth inning during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 28, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The Mariners defeated the tigers 7-2.  (Pho
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: 4-1, 2.01 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 30 K in 31 1/3 IP

    Don't get me wrong, I love Pineda.

    The 22-year-old rookie has posted good enough fantasy numbers to rank just outside of the top 10 starting pitchers.

    His control has been great, only walking 12 batters through 31 1/3 innings, while striking out 30.

    The major issue with Pineda is his longevity throughout 2011.

    Seattle has already stated that they intend to limit and restrict the innings that their prized prospect will endure this season, taking away from his fantasy potential down the stretch.

    While his innings will ultimately be limited to under 175, it's also hard to think that he'll continue to shut down good hitting teams the second time around.

    You have to consider what teams might figure out after facing him two or three more times during the season.

    Also, considering he has posted a 4-1 record through his first five starts, behind a lineup like the Mariners', it's suspect to project he'll continue to win games at this pace in the AL West.

    The talent is there, no doubt.  His 6'7" frame is intimidating and his mid-90's fastball has looked unhittable.

    For now though, Pineda's limitations heading into the later stages of the 2011 fantasy baseball season has him clocked in as the No. 5 sell-high candidate.

Buy-Low #4: Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox

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    BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 26:  Pitcher Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox delivers to a Baltimore Orioles batter during the fourth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 26, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: 1-3, 5.33 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 16 BB:15 K

    What in the name of the baseball Gods has happened to Clay Buchholz?

    After ranking second in the AL with a 2.33 ERA in 2010, the 26-year-old has considerably declined, giving doubt to his all-around talent.

    The problem right now for Buchholz comes down to mechanics.  His velocity is intact, run production is starting to come around and he's maintained the same strikeout success that he posted last year.

    However, Buchholz has given up way too many hits, which has resulted with the Red Sox starter walking more batters at a career pace.

    While he doesn't fall into the disappointment tier with starting pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ryan Dempster, and Francisco Liriano, owners are starting to get worried about Clay's potential down the stretch of the season.

    This is where good ownership and managing plays a role in winning fantasy leagues.

    Buchholz is by far one of the best young pitchers in the game, showcasing his talents not only in 2010, but in prior seasons where he's been downright dominant.

    He continues to pitch for one of the best teams in the MLB and hasn't imploded to the point of no return.

    Owners have even gone as far as dropping Buchholz, while swapping him for free agent starters like Dice-K, Jason Marquis, Wade Davis and R.A. Dickey.

    Taking into account his shear talent and ability to limit runs, Buchholz has to be considered one of the most sought after buy-low candidates around.

    If owners are dropping him for weekly two-starters, others will more than likely trade him for little to nothing.

Sell-High #4: Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 13:  Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays rounds the bases after hitting a three run homer in the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 13, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: .371, 9 HR, 15 RBI, 28 BB to 16 SO in 78 AB

    I might catch some heat for this, but I can't get past the fact that Jose Bautista, the former 15 HR guy for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is consistently being called the best fantasy hitter around.

    Obviously, by looking at his home run success from 2010 into the first month of this year, his big hit power potential may be the most feared throughout baseball.

    Bautista is continuously proving critics wrong, posting a .371 average through his first 80 at-bats of the 2011 season.

    This is one of the main reasons why he needs to be considered a serious sell-high candidate.

    His career high in batting is .260, which came last year when he hit 56 home runs.

    Bautista is not a "hit for average" type of player.  Never has been, never will be.  His value is strictly based on power potential.

    Taking that into consideration, once he comes back down to earth and falls below the .300 mark, his value and week-to-week points potential will take a significant hit for the worse.

    This is why owners have the chance now, early in the season, to sell-high on Bautista and try to deal him to a manager who thinks the 30-year-old Blue Jay can repeat his 50 home run season from 2010.

    I'm just saying.  Who really thinks he's capable of hitting 50 home runs in back-to-back MLB seasons?

Buy-Low #3: Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles

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    BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 10:  Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles at the plate against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 10, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: .204, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R in 93 AB

    There is one thing you can count on from Nick Markakis in 2011, he'll hit at least .290.

    Every year that Cake has been in the MLB, he's been able to post a highly respectable .290 average. 

    His power potential has been a seesaw over the past few seasons, being estimated from anywhere between 15 and 30 home runs.

    The problem for the 27-year-old so far in 2011 has been his extra base hitting.  Markakis is a type of guy that gets things going from a doubles perspective.  When he's hitting for doubles and triples, he's more than likely hitting home runs, too.

    While many fantasy owners strictly look at average and home runs as a means of measuring the current and future production of one of their players, they fail to recognize whether or not a hitter is showing consistent plate discipline.

    Markakis has done just that.

    With only 10 strikeouts to nine walks, the Orioles' outfielder has been able to see the ball well and keep the action in play.

    So to think that Markakis will continue to hit with this low of an average, considering his past production and lineup protection behind him, is crazy. It would be smart to buy low on one of the best all-around outfielders in today's game.

Sell-High #3: Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Colorado Rockies

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    DENVER, CO - APRIL 20:  Starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa #29 of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field on April 20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: 4-0, 2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 29 K in 31 IP

    Is Jorge De La Rosa this good?

    No.

    There's really nothing more to be said about his "elite ace" potential.  De La Rosa just doesn't possess that type of consistently to be considered one of the best fantasy pitchers around.

    His numbers thus far in 2011 have been deceiving.  The 30-year-old has really only had one impressive start through his first five.

    De La Rosa has thrown seven innings in only two games.  One of them showcased him giving up six base runners and two earned runs, while only striking out six.

    So to say that he's been down-right dominant is far from the truth.

    His past inabilities to keep runners out of scoring position is another reason why he's going to be unable to maintain his sub four ERA.

    The Rockies are hot.  De Le Rosa is hot.  It happens, get over it.

    Make a trade for someone of higher quality before De La Rosa returns from his skydiving lessons.

Buy-Low #2: Carl Crawford, OF, Boston Red Sox

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 20:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 20, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: .160, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB, 17 K in 94 AB

    Not only are fantasy owners questioning why they've invested so much time, money and effort in Carl Crawford for 2011, so are the Red Sox.

    The 29-year-old five tool All-Star has gotten off to the worst start of his career.

    Will it last?

    Don't count on it.

    Crawford is too good of a hitter to continue his spiral into fantasy depths.  He's been moved up and down Boston's lineup, looking for a way to rejuvenate his production and get things cooking for nervous fantasy owners.

    Over the past week or so, Crawford has shown some glimpses of eluding a complete meltdown, starting to hit for power and record multi-hit games.

    Crawford has been the focal point of fantasy lineups for almost a decade.  His power and speed combination has been one of the best assets for fantasy owners every year they draft him.

    While his production was supposed to go up when he joined the Red Sox, he's still going to be able to produce like the elite talent he is, even if he doesn't blow away the competition in the stat columns.

    I just traded Roy Oswalt and Nick Markakis for Crawford in my CBS fantasy league.  If you look at each player's fantasy draft positions and projections for 2011, this was a steal.

    This just goes to show you that owners are starting to give up on Crawford and have looked elsewhere for immediate and short-lasting production.

    If you're thinking of winning games through solid hitting, as well as working deep into your league's playoffs, trading a solid pitcher and a good hitter for Crawford is clearly the right buy-low fantasy scenario.

Sell-High #2: Adam Lind, OF, Tornoto Bue Jays

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    TORONTO - APRIL 12:  Adam Lind #26 of the Toronto Blue Jays swings at the pitch against the Chicago White Sox during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre April 12, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: .262, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 5 Doubles in 103 AB

    Lind has absolutely exploded over his past 30 at-bats, hitting three home runs with nine RBI.

    If you were to take away his one solid week in the spotlight, Lind's average would still be in the .230 range.

    While he does possess serious hitting ability, evident in his first full season in 2009, the Adam Lind from 2010 will more than likely show his ugly face sometime this year.

    His 20 RBI rank fifth among AL hitters, proving that his hot start has become significant around the league.

    Lind is the perfect sell-high candidate.

    He's coming off a down year after posting huge numbers in 2009, and his early production in 2011 can be seen as a sign of him regaining his hitting prowess from two years ago.

    It may be safe to wait another week or two, just to make sure Lind doesn't start to hit for extra bases and record multi-hit games.

    However, if Lind's only contribution to your team continues to be home runs, it could become evident that his average and overall hitting potential will start to fizzle back down to his 2010 numbers.

    Sell-high now because once Lind's hitting starts to drop back down to the .240 range, it may be too late.

Buy-Low #1: Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 13: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins looks as his hand as he walks to the Twins' dugout during their game against the Kansas City Royals on April 13, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Royals defeated the T
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: 1-4, 9.13 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 18K:18BB

    Liriano has gone bad like sour milk.

    After fully rebounding from his Tommy John surgery a few years back, the 27-year-old was able to bolster down the Twins rotation in 2010 and reclaim his status as an elite starting pitcher.

    There's really no defense for Liriano and the lack of success he's had thus far, but he still has to be considered one of the biggest buy-low candidates.

    Owners are not only trading Liriano for scraps, but they're unloading him into free agency for low-tier starting pitching.

    His status as a fantasy pitcher might even be lower than a No. 4 SP, but it's only the first month of baseball and he's only started five games, one of which he went six innings and gave up two runs for the win.

    If Liriano decides to change his fortune, along with the pitching staffs of numerous fantasy rotations, he'll have to do it on his own.

    The Twins have already said they are thinking of replacing him in the lineup when Kevin Slowey comes back, but that's more or less a threat to force a change in Liriano's pitching production.

    Before the season, Francisco was linked to trade rumors involving the Yankees, which could come up later in the season.  While a trade to the Bronx could prove fatal for Liriano because of the competition within the AL East and the big stage that is New York, a change in scenery may be exactly what the former strikeout artist needs.

    Liriano is worth trading for in any and all leagues. 

Sell-High #1: Ben Zobrist, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays takes a swing against the Chicago White Sox during the home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Rays 5-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/G
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2011 Stats: .260, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 5 SB, 7 Doubles and 2 Triples

    The last seven days have been the "Week of Zobrist," featuring four home runs, 18 RBI, and 12 hits for the 29-year-old.

    Zobrist's immediate explosion for 10 RBI on Thursday has targeted the Rays' multi-positional talent on any and all fantasy radars.

    With the fact that 18 of his 25 total RBI have come in the past seven days, you have to wonder what kind of streaky performances he has in store for owners for the rest of the 2011 season.

    His .297 average in 2009 is a career high that will more than likely stay a career high. Zobrist's near .500 batting average during the last week has only improved his average to .260, showing how bad he was producing before his stellar outbreak.

    For 2011, it's more than likely that he'll be able to rebound for the Rays and fantasy owners alike. 

    However, to think that he's even close to being this good over the past six games is lucid dreaming.  Zobrist could be in line for a productive May, but his average and home run totals will take a hit going forward. 

    So, by dealing him to another team as a power hitting second baseman, his sell-high status will hold up against time.