Last week I spoke about the milestone of June 1st for fantasy baseball owners while covering the AL East. Though it is now June 7th, there is still time to right the ship and we can still consider the baseball season 1/3 finished. I finished all my planting this week, dropping in the pickling cucumbers, five varieties of hot peppers, squash, and a ton of herbs for my wife Megan. Now I can turn my attention to the pool and my fantasy teams before it is too late for either. I think it is now or never to make some big changes if you are in the bottom half of the standings in your league.
Unless you have a loaded disabled list with several vets starting rehab assignments, there are only a few ways to change your team in areas it is weak. Scouring the waiver wire for those last few diamonds in the rough or players the rest of the world is overlooking is one way. You may find that guy or two who are just about to break out, and they may be the missing pieces for you to be relevant again. The only other way to improve is through trades. That impact can be quick, be it good or bad. If you are in an active league, I’ll bet there have been at least a few trades recently, and more to come. In a week or so you’ll have trouble getting the pieces you need, as the sellers will have sold out and the buyers may be the ones splitting the winners pot in October. If you are a member of MLFS or reading one of my articles, I can assume I don’t need to explain the concept of ‘buying low’ and ‘selling high’ at this time of year. You also likely play in a league with veteran fantasy owners who tend not to make emotional trades, so the traditional buy low/sell high concept is quite a bit narrower than one might expect to run into when planning a trade target strategy. We can still talk about players worth pursuing whose value may have dropped, or players coming off a great first two months that may be worth cashing in, if the return makes you a better team.
I’ll throw some names out there that would fall in either category, and what I’d be trying to do with them. Remember, some categories are hard to move the needle on. Saves are hard to accumulate since only a few guys at a time are contributing. So, if you are going to trade for a closer, or trade one away, the time is now if you expect him to help you this season. In a Head-to-Head league you have some more time as long as saves are not going to keep you from making the playoffs. But, the hardest cats to move the needle on as the season wears on in a roto league are the ratios. The more AB’s and Innings your players accumulate, the larger the base of data that makes up your ratios is. After July 1st it is next to impossible to greatly move the ratios in a short period of time. If you are in a H-to-H league, but still in contention, then you have more time to make moves that will improve your ratios going forward. If you need a big boost you’d best be looking now. By now you know where your team is strong and where it is weak, and where you may be able to trade a surplus to get a bargain. Here are some ideas. There were not a lot of players in the Central that I considered strong sell high candidates, so please think of the few I mention as “possible” sells.
Chicago White Sox:
Chris Sale, SP, CHI – What? A Sale sale? I understand he may be your best SP and in a H-to-H league that might prevent you from moving him, but what if your staff is in pretty good shape? If your ratios are top 5 (Roto) or you have another Ace to rely on (H-to-H), why not shop Sale? No one will give up more for an Ace than they will right now, especially if Adam Wainwright was the only one they drafted.
Carlos Rodon, SP, CHI – This is what I said last week about Eduardo Rodriguez. The same words apply here: “His value quite possibly is the highest it will ever be. You know you were smart to have picked him up when you did. I think he is going to be a good pitcher, but right now he is a big buzz in the (Midwest). With so much pitching available, why not see what you can get for this guy. Don’t wait until next week though, he might give up 6 runs in 2 innings. He is a kid remember.” Rodon has given up one run in each of his last 3 GS, striking out 10 in the most recent one. Find that guy in your league who loves hyped rookies.
Value Targets: There are a bunch on this underachieving team.
Adam Eaton, OF, CHI – This guy got off to such a slow start and with no proven track record to fall back on, most teams who drafted him dropped him, myself included. He is starting to come around though, and if no one in your league has noticed yet he may be sitting there for you to snag. In the last two weeks he has 12 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, and 2 SB. His BA is still low, but you drafted him for the runs and steals, and they are starting to come. If he is not on the wire try to get him as a trade “throw in”. BUY
Alexai Ramirez, SS, CHI – A notorious slow starter, Alexai has hit .250 for his career in April and about .280 the rest of the season. This season the slow start has carried through May and into June, but all we care about is today and going forward. The first two months are in the book. If you have a big hole at SS and don’t want to pay the king’s ransom that the Reyes owner wants, why not see if you can get Alexai on the cheap, especially if he is on someone’s bench. Let’s play a game, shall we? These are the batting lines of 2 MLB shortstops in 2014. One is the 33 year old Alexai, the other is a player who will be 32 years old in a few days, but is going to cost you five times Alexai. BUY
Alexai: 82 R, 170 H, 35 2B, 15 HR, 74 RBI, 21 SB, .273/.305/.408
Mystery: 94 R, 175 H, 33 2B, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 30SB, .287/.328/.398
Answer Below. (Hint, he has already been mentioned in this article.)
Melky Cabrera, OF, CHI – His owner is ready to give him away if he hasn’t dropped him already. We know what he can do, peds or not, so he is worth a bench spot if you have it. BUY
Jeff Samardzija, SP, CHI – He’s only 30 years old, pitching to a winning record for the first time since 2011, weathering a .326 Babip against (41 points higher than 2014), and walking fewer than ever, albeit with a slightly lower K rate. This while pitching for his 3rd team in two years. He is also a trade target in MLB, so he could find himself on a contender in the 2nd half. BUY.
Jose Quintana, SP, CHI – I’m a believer. If you can get him cheap, I would do it. He is durable and tallies K’s even though he won’t win you an ERA title. A good guy to own come September. BUY
Zack Duke, RP, CHI – He was the top lefty specialist in MLB in 2014. He’s had a rough patch recently and gave up a few runs causing some owners to drop him. He’s got 24 IRS + Holds, (IRS = Inherited runners stranded) tied for 7th in MLB, and has poached a save and 2 W so far in 2015. If he is on the wire, I’d find a spot for him if your league counts IRS and/or Holds.
Answer to Mystery SS above: Jose Reyes, who else. Interesting comp though considering value.
Joakim Soria, RP, DET – I list him here because you probably did not spend much to get him. In fact, you probably lead the league in saves by now, so why do you need them all? You will not get more for a quality closer than you will right now.
Jose Iglesias, SS, DET – If you took a flyer on him this Spring you were rewarded with a batting average over .300 and a handful of steals. I used him while waiting for JJ Hardy, and I’m still waiting. If you only get token offers, then keep him. But if an owner is hurting at SS and low on SB, he might give you some value if he is on your bench.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, DET – He’s doing everything he always does, but without the HR’s. His ground ball/fly ball ratios and ground out/air out rates are near career norms, but he does have the highest line drive percentage of his career at 28%. The homers will come. Trade for him if you can. Maybe you could get him for the injured Devon Travis. BUY
Victor Martinez, DH/1B, DET – He was arguably the best Tigers hitter not named Miguel in 2014. There is risk not knowing how soon he’ll be back, but I just picked him up off waivers in a 10 team league. He will probably be a good trade add if you can get away with it. As long as you don’t pay too much, you have nothing to lose. BUY
Justin Verlander, SP, DET – This has been a long and painful wait. He gave up one run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts Saturday in his rehab start with Triple-A Toledo and will likely join the Tiger’s rotation next week. No, I’m not expecting the pre Kate Upton version of Verlander, but even at less than full strength he is a good 2nd or 3rd SP if he is healthy. If you are in the camp that believes he is all done, then forget him. I don’t think pitchers like that forget how to pitch. Roger Clemens was “all done” a couple times in his career and took three more Cy Young Awards after that. BUY
Nick Castellanos, 3B, DET – I’m not saying he will save your season, but if you need a stop gap at 3B and Juan Uribe is already taken, you could do a lot worse than the steady Castellanos. He is only 23 and his power has not developed yet. He also strikes out too much and walks too little, but he should get you a .260 average and some RBI in that Tiger lineup.
Kansas City Royals:
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Mike Moustakas, 3b, & Kendry Morales, DH/1B, KC – All three of these guys have exceeded expectations this season. That is curious to me as I was high on all three this Spring. They are probably helping you, but if you have the spot covered or they are on your bench, I bet they could net you a good pitcher or middle infielder. There are surely guys out there who are at least one corner infielder short. Note – I’d rather see Moustakas hit for BA instead of HR right now. He needed to learn how to hit, the HR will come back. I’d be more worried about his .339 Babip if his K rate and line drive rate were not the best of his career. They are. Oh, and he turns 27 in September.
Alex Rios, OF, KC – I thought this was a great signing in the off-season, and that he would hit well in that stadium and lineup. Now we’ll get to see. I’m all in on Rios and expect a good average with double digit HR and SB the rest of the way.BUY
Alex Gordon, OF, KC – If you are in a league that has a lot of varied hitting categories, you already know what Gordon can do for you. In a 5 X 5, not so much. If you are weak in the OF, you may find Gordon on someone’s bench. BUY
Ryan Madson, RP, KC – Remember this guy? He saved 32 games as the Phillies closer in 2011, then disappeared for three years with a multitude of injuries and setbacks. Here he is sporting an ERA under 2.0 and a WHIP under 1.0, and striking out a batter per inning (24 of each). He’s only given up 2 HR and 8 BB. Sure, he is buried behind Holland, Davis, and Herrera, but he is starting to accumulate some holds and IRS, and getting into more high leverage situations. Good relievers find a way to the late innings. Madson could be a sneaky good pickup if your league rewards middle relievers and set up men.
Glen Perkins, RP, MIN – Perkins is one of the most underrated closers in baseball. He is reliable and has much higher K rates than he is given credit for, averaging 10 per 9 IP for the past four seasons. He has 20 saves, so he should end up with his 3rd straight 30 save season. So, why trade him? If you can afford to spare one, you will not get more for a quality closer than you will right now. If your league underrates Perkins, then trade one of the other ones.
Torii Hunter, OF, MIN – Pre-season would you have expected Hunter to lead the Twins in BA and RBI, and tie for 2nd in HR in mid June? This is one of the most steady outfielders one can own in fantasy. In the last 15 years, Hunter has driven in less than 80 runs only twice and hit less than 20 HR only three times, all the while sporting a .270 to .300 average. His career totals are approaching Jim Rice territory. Do you know how valuable it is to have a 3rd or 4th OF that you can pencil in every year for 20/80/.280? I think I just talked myself out of shopping him. In fact, you may not even get a good enough offer considering he is 39, but don’t sell him short as people may try to get him on the cheap considering his age.
Kyle Gibson, SP, MIN – This guy has pitched seemingly way over his head for two months now. Hopefully my article is not two days late though, as he coughed up 5 R two days ago, giving up more than 3 R for the first time all season, other than his first start where he gave up 6 R. The odd thing about Friday’s game is that he had 9 K and 0 BB. 3 HR did him in. This was his 3rd start in his last five where he fanned at least six and walked none. He must be watching Phil Hughes pitch. If no one will give you value for him, then ride the wave till it crests.
Trevor Plouffe, 3B, MIN – 3B is shallow this season. I doubt I need to tell you that. Plouffe has 8 HR and 30 RBI with a slash of .250/.321/.434, and he plays every day now. If you have a hole at 3B or CI and can get him on the cheap, do it. BUY
Mike Pelfrey, SP, MIN – If you picked him up recently, you are happy you did. The good news: He is 4-2 and has a crazy 2.59 ERA in 10 GS. Met fans remember that he was 15-9 with a 3.60 ERA in 2010. The Bad news: He still does not strike anyone out, is hittable, and is pitching to a FIP of 4.13, a WHIP of 1.237, and a BABIP of .274(his lowest ever during a career with a lifetime .314 BABIP). Ride the wave, but don’t be under it when it crashes. This guy is a 7 R, 3rd inning waiting to happen. He is clearly better at home and against a predominantly lefty hitting lineup.
Oswaldo Arcia, OF, MIN – Que pasa Oswaldo? How many of us planted him on our bench or DL waiting for him to slot into that hole in our OF only to have him optioned to AAA? The word is he did not hit on his re-hab assignment, but maybe they just didn’t have a readily available roster spot they wanted to commit to him. Either way, I can’t imagine a guy with 30 HR power will be down for long. The question is do you have room for him. He is one of the most widely dropped players in ESPN last week.
Cody Allen, RP, CLE – Allen has 13 saves and 36 K in 24 IP. But, he also has a 4.81 ERA and several recent blown saves, sparking rumors of his imminent removal from the 9th. The team insists Allen is the closer, but we know how that goes. He is the closer until he blows another one, and then the axe will fall. There are many guys searching for saves this time of year and if they can’t find much, they may give you plus value for Allen. Extra bonus points if you already own Bryan Shaw. SELL
Trevor Bauer, SP, CLE – Who doesn’t like the quartet of Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, and Bauer? The least sustainable of the bunch though is Bauer. He still walks too many and has a BABIP 30 points lower than his career number. If you are shopping your excess pitching, Bauer is 5-2, 2.94 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 70 K in 70 IP. That makes for a good advertisement. I’m not saying he won’t be good the rest of the way, and he has plenty of talent, but some regression is on the way. SELL
Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE – Kipnis is on pace to match or better his breakout 2013 season. If you own him I don’t need to tell you that. But, even if the counting stats hold up, his .332 average has to come way down, closer to the .270 range to match his career, or even the .284 he hit in 2013. It will be quite the slump that gets him there. His .367 BABIP is nearly 100 points higher than last season, and higher than it was in 2013. Look, if you are relying on him for runs, steals, and BA then ride the wave. If not, he is at the highest value he will be all season, right now. SELL
Carlos Santana, C/INF, CLE – He is still taking his walks and has a low BABIP. His positional eligibility may hurt or help depending on your league set up, but if you need HR and can afford the BA hit, I would try to get this guy. A power surge has to be coming. BUY Ooops, wrong Carlos Santana, let me try again. That’s better.
Michael Brantley, OF, CLE – He’s been in a slump for nearly a month and some of his owners may still be disappointed from his slow start. Other than HR, his numbers are matching up to last season quite well. This might be the time to try and steal him. BUY
Yan Gomes, C, CLE – The seemingly invisible Yan Gomes is back from injury and gradually increasing his playing time. Roberto Perez .185 average does not stand in Gomes way. If you are struggling at catcher, and who isn’t, why not take a shot with Gomes? BUY
Bryan Shaw, RP, CLE – Shaw has always been a good reliever and useful in H and H+IRS leagues that reward set up men. Because of the aforementioned Cody Allen’s struggles, Shaw stands next in line for save chances should things get worse for Allen. Pick him up now. Don’t wait until an announcement, as you will be five minutes too late.
Michael Bourn, OF, David Murphy, OF, Ryan Rayburn, OF, Mike Aviles, UTIL, CLE – This group will give you a good batting average, some steals, and maybe a HR now and then, mainly because the Indians know how to deploy these guys. If you want to take the time to follow how these guys are used, they are worth owning and versatile.
Pitching grabs for next week: Bolded pitchers are two start pitchers for the week.
Mon: Chris Sale, CHI vs HOU , Phil Hughes, MIN vs KC.
Tue: Corey Kluber, CLE vs SEA, Anibal Sanchez, DET vs CUBS, Carlos Rodon, CHI vs HOU.
Wed: Trevor Bauer, CLE vs SEA, Edinson Volquez, KC @ MIN, Jose Quintana, CHI vs HOU, Kyle Gibson, MIN, vs KC.
Thu: Shawn Marcum, CLE vs SEA.
Fri: David Price DET vs CLE, Danny Salazar, CLE @ DET, Mike Pelfrey, MIN @ TEX.
Sat: Randall Simon, DET vs CLE, Carlos Carrasco CLE @ DET, Jeff Samardzija, CHI @ TB, Phil Hughes, MIN @ TEX.
Sun: Chris Sale, CHI @ TB, Corey Kluber, CLE @ DET, Anibal Sanchez, DET vs CLE.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday June 14th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week’s topics will be the MLB draft and which players need to be monitored by fantasy owners as well as the N.L. East and N.L. Central divisions and everything fantasy relevant within.