Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 17'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.
Sell High: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Stats: .288 BA, 52 R, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 4 SB (428 PA)
Most fantasy owners out there love them some Chase Utley for one reason or another. Maybe it's because his name is so cool. Perhaps it's because he's been on the hysterical It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Or possibly it actually has something to do with his baseballing skills.
Regardless, Utley's reputation—not to mention, recent All-Star appearance—helps to inflate his value on the trade market. Remember how jacked up everyone got when he was killing it in April with a .355 average, 14 runs, three homers and 14 RBI in 23 games?
Well, the 35-year-old has hit just .267 with 38 runs, five homers and 34 RBI in 75 games since then. His overall line, however, is still being propped up enough by that torrid first month.
Beyond that, there's the possibility that Utley could be traded. That could help if, say, he goes to a better team and better lineup. But it also could hurt if, say, he winds up at a less hitter-friendly ballpark than Citizens Bank, which has been one of the most homerrific homes in baseball, with lefties hitting 'em out there at a rate of 21 percent higher than league average, according to Stat Corner.
Use Utley for his name and hot start to land a player who's been better lately and who doesn't have so much in flux.
Buy Low: George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
Fantasy Stats: .231 BA, 45 R, 20 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB (345 PA)
If you look at George Springer's monthly splits, you'll notice that a huge chunk of his production came in May, which was his first full calendar month in the majors. He hit .294 with a whopping 10 homers and 25 RBI while also scoring 22 times in 26 games.
Other than that, though, the 24-year-old's batting average hasn't been higher than .227 in any month, and now he's on the disabled list with a strained left quad, as Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports.
The injury isn't likely to keep Springer out beyond the required 15 days, however, so he should be back in early August. If anything, this makes Springer more gettable than he's been since he went bonkers in May.
While there's a risk that Springer's strikeouts continue to pile up—his 33.0 percent rate is the highest in MLB—and there's a certainty you'll have to wait a bit before getting him into your active lineup, any player who can get as hot as Springer has shown he can in such a short span is one to target for the final two months.
After all, even in June, Springer mashed six homers and 14 RBI, and he followed that up with four and eight in half of July before hitting the DL. The average won't be high, but the power will be there.
Sell High: J.D. Martinez, OF, Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Stats: .327 BA, 28 R, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 2 SB (226 PA)
Look, what J.D. Martinez is doing does actually happen every once in a while. Other random, less-known players have had breakouts after (parts of) multiple seasons in the majors before. Think of Ryan Ludwick in 2008 or Jose Bautista in 2010 or Josh Donaldson and Tyson Ross last year.
Could Martinez have morphed into a legitimate performer to be taken 100 percent seriously? Sure, the guy has made some major changes to his swing and approach, as documented by Ryan Parker over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). And those have worked so far.
But there's also a good chance that Martinez could turn back into a pumpkin. Part of that could just be because he's a tad old to be having his first real success in the bigs (27 in August). Part of it could be that he's done this for not even two months, so it's still a pretty small sample size.
There's also the likelihood that Martinez can't be counted on to maintain a .382 BABIP that is fifth-highest in the sport or his 21.0 home run-to-fly ball rate that is 10th-highest (both among players with 200-plus plate appearances).
Has this been a great story to this point? For sure. Will it continue? Let's just say, there should be some doubts. If you find an owner who's buying Martinez, then you should be selling.
Buy Low: Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Stats: .243 BA, 49 R, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 0 SB (410 PA)
If you're an owner in a deep league looking for a gamble at middle infield or even shortstop—hey, maybe you just lost Troy Tulowitzki?—then Jed Lowrie probably doesn't look all that appealing at first blush, does he?
After his breakout 2013, the 30-year-old's numbers are way down across the board. But if you focus on just the 49 runs and 40 RBI, he actually ranks in the top six in the former among shortstops and in the top 10 (at No. 10) in the latter. Not quite so bad then, huh?
Plus, Lowrie has been pretty unlucky for most of the year. His .269 BABIP is one of the 25 lowest in the sport, and that's factoring in a recent rise to .354 in July; whereas his BABIPs in May and June were just .200 and .225.
His batting average in July so far, as you might imagine, looks a heck of a lot better at .329, and there's a strong possibility Lowrie will be better in that stat than he had been in the first half. It's doubtful he'll match last year's 80 runs, 15 homers and 75 RBI, but he actually could come close, especially in the runs and RBI categories, because he's a part of the Oakland Athletics' top-scoring offense.
Sell High: Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres
Fantasy Stats: 8 W, 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 143 K (135.1 IP)
As the trade deadline nears, it's no secret the San Diego Padres are sellers. Heck, they've already traded closer Huston Street and third baseman Chase Headley in the past week. It's looking like Ian Kennedy could be next.
There are rumors galore that the 29-year-old who is a year-and-a-half from free agency could be moved, and one of the most recent reports, via George King of the New York Post, has the New York Yankees as a possible destination.
While that would reunite Kennedy with the team that drafted him and give the Yankees' injury-depleted five-man another arm, it just wouldn't be a good fit for fantasy purposes. Yankee Stadium has the second-highest home run factor, according to ESPN's Park Factors, and Kennedy is still more of a fly-ball pitcher. (This is part of why Kennedy didn't work out with the Yankees back in 2007-09.)
Even if Kennedy doesn't wind up going back to New York, you probably should try to get something decent for him now, before he leaves the hurler haven that is Petco Park. Granted, Kennedy actually has been better on the road (3.18 ERA) than at home (4.18 ERA) this year, but any pitcher leaving Petco is going to see his stats dip: It ranks as one of the five best parks for pitchers in each of runs, homers, hits and doubles, according to those same park factors mentioned earlier.
Kennedy has been a very solid third or fourth fantasy starter so far, but his best for 2014 is probably behind him, especially if he's leaving San Diego.
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