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 trading.
Knowing which player to trade away and which to deal for—and knowing just the right time to do so—can make all the difference. It doesn't get much better than making a move to unload a hot flavor-of-the-month type who's about to cool off in exchange for a slumping stud about to take off.
If you want to check out last week's suggestions, look no further.
Now, speaking of timing, let's get to a batch of players to sell high and a group to buy low.
Mariano Rivera, RHP, Yankees
Fantasy Stats: 1 W, 30 SV, 1.83 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.4 K/9
Including Rivera as a player to sell might be considered sacrilege in some corners. But fantasy baseball is about numbers and categories, not hearts and minds.
Coming off his All-Star Game MVP award—not to mention, that great moment during his warmups—there might not be a better time to move Mo.
If you can detach yourself from the tingly feelings for a sec, you should realize that Rivera also has a whopping 30 saves, which may wind up being twice as many as he gets from here on out, especially with a foundering Yankees offense that could continue to struggle to give him leads to close out.
Plus, despite that typically microscopic ERA (1.83), the 43-year-old Rivera's 1.25 WHIP is actually the highest it's ever been since he took over the closer role in 1997.
Provided you don't absolutely need the saves, you could get a top-30 hitter or starting pitcher for Rivera based on name value and all the recent feel-goodness.
Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
Fantasy Stats: .281 BA, 43 R, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 10 SB
Whether you can sell Desmond depends on your replacement for him at shortstop.
If you don't have one, you probably should hang on to the guy who currently ranks third overall on ESPN Fantasy's Player Rater, behind only Jean Segura and Everth Cabrera. (Yes, Desmond is even ahead of Troy Tulowitzki, who missed a few weeks with injury.)
If you happen to have a Jhonny Peralta or a J.J. Hardy or an Asdrubal Cabrera hanging around, though, you could do very well to part with Desmond, given how few really good shortstops there are in fantasy.
This isn't to say Desmond is going to fall off a cliff or anything, but his discipline at the dish remains somewhat flawed, as he's striking out a career-high 22.6 percent of the time and still only walks 6.4 percent.
He did go 20-20 last year, so you should be asking for as much as possible, but it's likely that his monster June (.306/.355/.633, 9 HR, 28 RBI) was the best month he'll have all season.
Ervin Santana, RHP, Royals
Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 3.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
Big Erv's stats still look pretty great. Well, except for the measly five double-yoos, which isn't really his fault.
But doesn't it just feel like the 30-year-old has pitched above his head all year?
Santana does have a few very strong fantasy campaigns on his ledger, but he's always a risk to get blown up because of his propensity to give up the long ball (1.2 career HR/9).
A few more poor outings like his most recent one against the Yankees (10 H, 8 ER in 5 IP), and Santana's 3.37 ERA will start looking more like his 3.89 FIP. If that happens, he won't be that different from any old streaming starter.
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics
Fantasy Stats: .263 BA, 48 R, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 14 SB
The time to sell high on Crisp may have already passed, but it's worth a shot anyway.
Back in early April, the 33-year-old went on a surprising homer binge, hitting five in his first 14 games. That's helped prop up his pace for what is still a possible career-high tally in that category (16 back in 2005), but Crisp has only hit one out since June 13, which is more like the rate we're used to.
Beyond that, Crisp has swiped 30-plus bases each of the past three seasons, including a league-high 49 in 2011, which is another selling point. This year? He's projected to pilfer only 24 in total, which would be 10 more.
And there's always the injury issue that could crop up at any time for a guy who hasn't played more than 136 games since 2007.
If a league-mate remembers either Crisp's homer-happy April or his former speed-demon ways, it should be only that much easier to get a solid piece back.
Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles
Fantasy Stats: .275 BA, 53 R, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 24 SB
If you own McLouth, you're already playing with the house's money.
Be honest: You picked him up out of the free-agent pool within the first few weeks, but you didn't really expect to hang onto him, right? Then he just...kept...stealing...bases.
McLouth, 31, has 24 steals, which ranks him No. 5 in the sport. That's made him a very valuable fantasy commodity, too, as has the solid runs total of 53.
But McLouth has slowed down in recent weeks, hitting just .248 with seven swipes and 17 runs over his past 38 games, dating back to June 1. Those aren't terrible stats, but if anything, that's helped him remain attractive for just long enough to allow you to deal him.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
Fantasy Stats: .249 BA, 46 R, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 1 SB
At age 33, Pujols' decline has continued to the point where many owners view him as "just another first baseman."
Between the chronic plantar fasciitis problem and the poor first half and the ridiculous contract, that may be true, but he's as good a guy as any to take a low-risk/high-reward gamble on while you can.
Don't go targeting him if you need to give up more than, say, 60 cents on the dollar, but Pujols would be a guy to go after if you're wallowing in the middle of your league standings and looking to get a little lucky.
For one thing, that .248 BABIP should rise some, even with Pujols' foot issues. And the Angels lineup still has tons of run production potential, so if Pujols and fellow first-half disappointment Josh Hamilton can get hot, well, there's still a possible .290-15-50 second half in Pujols' bat.
Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
Fantasy Stats: .268 BA, 64 R, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 3 SB
In case you haven't noticed, the normally uber-consistent Holliday is having arguably the worst season of his career.
His .268 average would be a career low by more than 20 points, while the 23 homers and 82 RBI he's on pace for are well below what was expected on draft day. To make matters worse, the 33-year-old is also dealing with a hamstring injury.
Smells like a buy low.
Despite the above, Holliday is also on target to notch 111 runs scored, thanks to the potent Cardinals lineup surrounding him. He's also the owner of a .282 BABIP, which doesn't seem terribly out of whack, until you realize that Holliday's career number is—wait for it—.341.
He is hitting more grounders and fewer fly balls than usual, so the homer upside may be limited a tad, but the BABIP almost has to come up, and with it, so will that average as well as the RBI total.
Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers
Fantasy Stats: 6 W, 4.80 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
Yes, Rick Porcello as a buy low.
Still only 24 (seriously, does this guy actually age?), Porcello's career path has gone from promising prospect to intriguing rookie to impending breakout to been-there-done-that-already to no-thanks-not-for-me.
Well, it's time to take another look. No, not at that 4.80 ERA, which is bloated because of two awful starts against the Angels in which he surrendered 16 earned runs in just five frames.
Instead, check out that 3.52 FIP or that 3.07 xFIP over at FanGraphs.
Porcello is walking a career-low 1.7 per nine while also whiffing a career-best 7.2 per. He's also getting grounders at a career-high 57.3 rate.
That's the kind of profile that makes a fantasy star. Of course, Porcello isn't there quite yet, but his owner probably doesn't realize that. Now, though, maybe you do.
Edwin Jackson, RHP, Cubs
Fantasy Stats: 6 W, 5.11 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
Jackson isn't amazing or anything, but he's pitched way, way better than his numbers indicate.
Exhibit A: 3.74 xFIP
Exhibit B: 3.72 FIP
Exhibit C: 52.4 groundball percentage.
In fact, Jackson's buy-low candidacy is eerily similar to Porcello's. Things have been turning around for the 29-year-old, too, as he is 5-2 with a 3.46 ERA over his past seven starts, which includes a dud against the Brewers (6 ER in 4.2 IP) back on June 25.
Jackson's still only a streaming option in mixed leagues, but if you're in an NL-only format and need some rotation depth, you could do worse.
John Axford, RHP, Brewers
Fantasy Stats: 3 W, 0 SV, 3.72 ERA, 1.5 WHIP, 9.3 K/9
This one's based on both statistics and a hunch.
First, the stats. Since getting blown up and losing the closer job in early April—you know, when he gave up nine earned runs in his first four appearances—Axford has more or less calmed down. In his last 33 games dating back to May 3, the 30-year-old has allowed all of three earned runs over 27.1 innings, good for a 0.99 ERA.
Now, the WHIP is still shaky (1.40), but Axford also is striking out a man per inning, so there are more good signs than bad.
As for the hunch, well, that's simply that Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee's current closer, gets traded some time in the next week to 10 days, opening up the ninth inning job once again.
Sure, the Brewers could give it back to Jim Henderson, who took over for Axford initially and pitched well until suffering a hamstring injury, but—and here's another hunch—the gig could just as easily be Axford's again by the end of July.