Ricescapades: Five Keeper League Sell-High Candidates

Adam Jones's red-hot first half might make him the perfect sell-high player in keeper leagues. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's fantasy baseball horror story time. I find few things in life more entertaining than having a good, sick laugh at someone else's fantasy league misery, so let me return the favor and regale you with a bit of my own idiocy from a few years back. Well, maybe not idiocy, but just a missed opportunity.

See, back in 2005 I had Derrek Lee on my keeper league team, and many of you may remember Lee's 2005 season as being a big ball of amazing wrapped up in a bag of awesomeness. He hit .335/.418/.662, with 46 home runs and a league-leading 199 hits. His 174 OPS+ also led the league. For his whole career, pundits had been insistent that Lee was due for a 40-homer season one of these years, and in 2005 it finally happened, and it helped lead me to a fantasy title.

Now, had I been a little more prudent, I would have realized that this year was waaaay out of line with anything that Lee had ever done, and so he might regress to his more typical (though still solid) numbers the following season. At age 29, coming off of the superstar year he just had, I could have traded him for a massive haul of prospects or other solid fantasy producers.

Instead, I fell victim to "My Guy Syndrome". As in, Lee was my guy when he broke out finally and the only way to get him from me would be to wrest him from my dying clutches. Of course, Lee never matched his amazing 2005 ever again. In 2006, he got hurt, wasn't that good even when healthy, and my team sank into also-ran status. I eventually traded Lee a year later for a fraction of what I could have had for him following 2005. Cue mopey-faced Paul with arms crossed.

In order to successfully manage a keeper league dynasty, you have to be able to figure out which of your players are having career years, and when to sell them high. Failing to recognize a fluke year or a statistical anomaly, or simply succumbing to "My Guy Syndrome", as I did, can set your fantasy empire dreams back a few years. After the jump, here are five of my top candidates to sell high on this offseason (or even now) in keeper leagues.

Adam Jones

I had been one of Jones's big believers since the day the Mariners ill-advisedly traded him to the Orioles for Eric Bedard. He'd put up some decent power numbers at a very young age, and it seemed inevitable that he'd end up with a 30-homer season or two before all was said and done. This season, he blasted twenty home runs in the first half and looked to be skyrocketing past even the most wide-eyed optimist's projection for him and into full blown fantasy star territory.

2012 might still end up as his first 30-homer year...or not. Since the break, his power has completely dried up (he's hit four homers in the second half and none in August). He's still hitting the ball reasonably well over that span; it's simply not going over the fence. Jones is a productive fantasy player, but I think his keeper league owners could get a very good deal on him this offseason, as other managers might be fooled by his torrid first three months. He's good, but he's not a star, and you should take advantage of that if other owners are willing to shell out big time thinking that he's about to take another big step forward.

Edwin Encarnacion

Encarnacion would seemingly be the ultimate sell-high player going into 2013. Coming off of a cluster of good-not-great seasons, he's suddenly turned into one of the most fearsome sluggers in the league, and has even (inexplicably) thrown in thirteen stolen bases for good measure. For a player in his age-29 season, this would normally scream fluke, but apparently Encarnacion worked out a lot with Robinson Cano's offseason hitting coach last winter, and that led to significant improvements in his swing. Fair enough. I guess it's a better excuse than the ol' offseason LASIK eye surgery.

Count me as still a bit skeptical, even though I do realize this would be the second Blue Jay in three years to turn from fantasy afterthought to upper tier star. Jose Bautista is still the exception to the rule, though, so we've got to at least assume Encarnacion will regress a little. He may fetch a healthy bounty if you can deal him before that happens.

Josh Willingham

Willingham's career season has been a joy for me to behold, since I've been a big fan of his for years. He's already obliterated his previous career-high home run total and he has an outside shot at 40 bombs. He's been one of the more surprising fantasy stars this season, after years of being a second-tier power option.

That history of non-stardom is all the reason you need to look to sell, however. Willingham is 33, and odds are that this is the best year he's ever going to have. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see him regress back into 25-homer territory. That's useful, of course, but it's not as drool-inducing as that big 40 in the dinger category. Even at his age, you can probably swing him to a team that needs power, and his value will be elevated because of his monster year.

Matt Wieters

I spent pretty much the entire first half leading the Matt Wieters-is-the-next fantasy-god bandwagon, so some might find it odd to see me retracing my footsteps a bit. Don't get me wrong, I still think Wieters is good. He'll break through the 20-homer barrier this year and will likely set a new career high. A catcher who can hit 20-25 home runs is nothing to sneeze at, even in this season of beefed-up catcher offense.

That said, if you own him and put him on the market right now, you'll still likely get good haul for him, because there are still those (like my former self) who cling to the belief that Wieters still has a few all-time great, Joe Mauer 2009-esque seasons in him, based solely on his minor league numbers and all the hype he rode on his way to the majors. I guess that could still happen, but Wieters has had four seasons to show us that player, and the evidence is mounting that he just might be a .260/.320/.420 guy. That would generally make him a major disappointment, especially for those who nabbed him as the number one pick in keeper drafts a few years back, but there still might be time to cash in on his supposedly still-untapped potential and get something more worthwhile in return.

Josh Reddick

Like Jones, Reddick's season has been a tale of two halves. Or, more precisely, a tale of one month. Reddick clubbed ten home runs in May, and that power binge might give him enough trade value to bring a good return. He hit the snot out of the ball in the first half, but has been awful ever since (.211/.248/.391 since the break). You probably won't be able to swing him for a great haul, not with that low batting average, but the fact that he's likely to eclipse 30 homers will give him some solid offseason trade value.

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