I have three rules when it comes to running a fantasy sports team:
1- Sell high, find players who are performing way over their head and then trade them to some crazy owner who thinks they will keep it up. These guys are usually easy to spot in your leagues and half of the time they are the ones proposing their Ryan Braun for your Emilio Bonafacio.. so in that sense, they make it easy for you.
2- Buy low, find All-Star players who are struggling when a month ago you had them rated much higher. Sure the owner may need some convincing via email but it will be well worth it when you end up convincing him that Mark Buerhle has more value than Clayton Kershaw.
3- Probably the most important rule of all, never and I repeat NEVER make any roster decisions on an empty stomach. You know what, grab a beer from the fridge while you are in there. The best trades I have ever made in my life were while I was drunk with a nice plate of chicken wings at my disposal.
So why buy low and sell high? Maybe you are right, maybe a 30 year old career minor leaguer Chris Colabello will keep up his 200 rbi a year pace and be a finalist for the American League batting title. Maybe Aaron Harang does finish the season with 23 wins, an ERA under 1.00 and 255 strikeouts, picking up his first ever Cy Young award. It is quite possible you are right and all these years Miguel Cabrera has been fooling us into thinking he was some kind of good player. Or maybe you are wrong. Well no, if you think any of those things you are definitely wrong.
Fantasy baseball players are creatures of habit and they tend to be a bit’ streaky from time to time. Hot hitters go cold, and cold hitters get hot, it happens every year, and every year fantasy owners tend to overreact to small sample sizes. But the truth is that over the course of the 162 games players will generally put up the numbers expected of them. Now injuries are a whole different article all together and some players do battle injuries from time to time. These injuries certainly can hinder their performance. But, unless it is a pretty significant injury that causes that player to miss time you should expect the player to perform up to his previous proved potential. Case in point with Ryan Braun, all the talk about his thumb injury a week ago and he is still on pace to set career highs in batting average, home runs, runs and rbi’s.
The cream always rises to the top and the dead weights will always sink to the bottom, you can count on it. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule but let someone else take that chance and make that mistake. As a fantasy owner you should strive for consistency and take advantage of every opportunity you have to buy low or sell high on any player. Below I will discuss three hitters to buy low and sell high on as the early season progresses, as well as three pitchers to buy low and sell high on. Who knows maybe this article will end up leading you to a nice cold beer, a box of fresh chicken wings and a new player for your fantasy team. One can hope at least right?
Buy Low Hitters
Edwin Encarnacion – An easy preseason first round selection in any fantasy league he has only 1 home run through the first 21 games of the season and is hitting a mere .226. This coming from a guy who was amongst the league leaders in home runs and rbis the previous two seasons while not doing any damage to your team batting average and even chipping in 20 stolen bases the past couple of seasons. He also walks as much as he strikes out which is a rare sight for anyone who can approach 40 home runs and 100 runs/rbis annually. Did Edwin forget how to hit during the off-season? Are his 78 home runs and 214 RBIs the previous two seasons a poor representation of who he is? I say we give him a pass just this once as he has proven that he can put up monster numbers over the course of an entire season. Sure he is striking out more than ever but we just cannot overreact to such a small sample size. Its not even May yet.. Edwin has picked it up lately getting back to his normal levels and is hitting .289 with 9 RBIs and 4 extra base hits including a home run in his last 9 games. Great buy low opportunity here.
Jason Heyward- A frustrating player to own who has unfairly been labeled injury prone recently when his injuries have been more of the fluke variety and not because of nagging muscles or bad joints. He is hitting under .200 but his BABIP total of .246 is almost 60 points below his career average so that should correct itself in time. What I like to pay attention to is that he is still hitting the ball very hard, it is just going right at people. Heyward is never going to win you a batting title but you should see his average progress back to his career norm and settle in the .260-.270 range with the potential to be even higher. Let’s take a step back and remember that this is the same hitter who hit 27 home runs and stole 21 bases as a 22 yr old back in just two years ago. He has as much talent as anyone in baseball and over the course of 162 games things will even themselves out. Since getting his first day off to clear his head last Friday, Heyward is hitting a robust .363. So have patience, as much as he struggled to start the year he is showing signs of life and is still on pace to hit 15 home runs and steal 30 bases, with the potential to do much more. I am guessing you would probably take that wouldn’t you? Don’t worry, he will be fine.
Bryce Harper – Another major over reaction here. He is not hitting for power or stealing bases and his manager keeps screwing with his head, either benching him or batting him so low in the lineup he thinks he is Jose Lobaton. But let’s face it, it doesn’t matter where Bryce Harper bats in the lineup he is going to hit, and he is going to hit for a lot of power. He will steal bases, he will score runs and he may even run into a few walls while he is at it. Similar to Heyward, Harper is just way too talented to finish the season at this kind of pace (7 home runs, 7 steals and 36 rbis). In fact, those may be his numbers next month in May alone. He is that talented and if you can get him for anything outside of a top 25 overall player you should do it now because he is a top 10 talent in all of baseball.
Buy Low Pitchers
Danny Salazar – You will notice a theme with all of these pitchers, they all have an absolute lethal arsenal of pitches and have shown spurts of dominating hitters this season, Salazar is no different as he cruised through three hitless innings against the Royals this past Tuesday striking out 4 batters in the process. He was absolutely filthy as his fastball touched 97 mph a few times. Fantasy fans need to remember Salazar got a late start to spring training as Cleveland looked to monitor his work load this season in hopes of having him strong and healthy for a playoff run in September. So far that decision has looked foolish but if he finishes the second half of this season looking as strong and as dominate as he did during last year’s second half (52 IP, 65 Ks with a 3.12 ERA) then the Cleveland Indians will be more than happy with their decision and so will fantasy owners who bought low or held on to him during his early season struggles. Always buy low on talent and few pitchers have this much talent at their disposal.
Stephen Strasburg – Oh what to do with baseballs former Golden Boy pitcher, the same guy who came up as a rookie and took major league baseball by storm back in 2010 and 2011 is struggling mightily in 2014 with an ERA of 5.44 and giving up more hits than innings pitched. But one thing I like to pay attention to with pitchers is strike outs. We obviously know how talented these guys are so what has changed? The answer is nothing, Strasburg is actually on pace to eclipse 300 strikeouts this season which would be incredible considered that rarely happens. Now, it probably wont happen but it could. Strasburg is that talented so if you can buy low on him and give up someone like a Jeff Samardzija or even an Andrew Cashner then you need to hit the trade accept button as soon as possible.
Homer Bailey – Another former number 1 pitching prospect, Homer Bailey never reached that potential fully until 2013 when he finally started to cut down on his ERA, WHIP and started striking out more batters. He was a top 15 starting pitcher heading into the season and a lot of people probably over drafted him banking on a career year and living up to all that potential he had back in 2007 and 2008 when he was regarded by many as the number one pitching prospect in baseball. So what does Homer Bailey do to reward all those high expectations? He starts out the year pitching more like how Aaron Harang "should be" pitching rather than a former #1 prospect. His 5.75 ERA and 1.87 WHIP are enough to make fantasy owners wake up in their sleep and slap themselves. But good things are coming as he pitched 6 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts during his last start against the Cubs. I know, I know it was the Cubs.. But that is the kind of pitcher Homer Bailey is and you should invest in him now. Those who do will be rewarded with plenty of strikeouts a low ERA and low WHIP numbers for the rest of the season, and if the Reds offense ever clicks like it can he could be an 17-20 game winner as soon as this year.
Sell High Hitters
Charlie Blackmon – Wow, fantasy baseballs number 1 player and its April 24th… SELL!! SELL!! SELL!! Sure, Blackmon could be a decent contributors but if you can flip him for anyone ranked in the top 100 or even 150 overall players then im taking that a running to the bank. This is the same Charlie Blackmon who could not crack most sites top 350 overall player rankings heading into the season. Now a lot of that had to do with presumed playing time but he is by no means an elite hitter. Could he bat .290 and chip in 15HR/15 steals in a pretty good lineup? Sure he could. But as the number one rated player in fantasy baseball im betting you can find someone to buy in on the hype and over pay for his services. If you can, make the deal and don’t look back.
Michael Brantley – Another rather boring player for fantasy baseball off to another ridiculous hot start hitting near .300 and on pace to be one of baseballs rare 30/30 players. Seeing as he has never hit more than 10 home runs in a season or stolen more than 17 bases in a season it is fair to say he will fall well short of both of those numbers. But put on your car salesman sunglasses and cheap suit and start offering him up for guys like Starling Marte or Shin-Soo Choo and see if anyone bites. If they do, you win and they lose. Don’t you like winning? Of course you do.
Brian Dozier – Don’t get me wrong, Brian Dozier is a good player and he can help your fantasy team. But if someone offers you Robinson Cano for him you just do it and you don’t ask any questions. Brian Dozier is on pace to hit 46 home runs and steal 46 bases, I am not going to look it up but im going to guess that no one has ever done that and no one ever will, certainly not Brian Dozier…What he can do is give you 15-20 home runs, around a dozen steals and be a nightmare for your batting average. So if you can swap him to an over excited league mate you should hand deliver Dozier yourself and walk away with whatever top 100 player you can get. Politely thank that owner and get out of town quickly!
Sell High Pitchers
Ervin Santana – Ok so I admit to trading for him this week in my main fantasy baseball league… but hear me out.. I gave up BJ Upton for him and I did so for the sole reason of trying to turn around and flip Santana to another owner who loves to over pay for players. Ervin Santana is a decent pitcher, pitching in a great home ball park in a very weak division for hitters. Yeah, yeah I keep reading that too. But let’s be honest here, he has an ERA under 1, a WHIP under 1 and he is striking out over a batter per inning (something he has never done in his 10 year MLB career). He is also come off a career year in 2013 so you have more leverage to use as trade bait for prospective owners. But in 2012 he had a 5.16 ERA and gave up 39 home runs!! In fact, three of his last seven full seasons he has had an ERA over 5.00. He is just way too inconsistent for me so I would get out while I can. If I could sell high and bring back any top 100 overall player in return for him I would. If you can’t he probably won’t hurt you in any categories but the potential to flip him for pitching or any other need is way too much at this point and I myself am looking to sell high on Ervin Santana.
Kyle Lohse – I hate to call any person a loser so I won’t do that here but Kyle Lohse is a very boring and below average contributor for fantasy baseball owners. If you drafted him for your team you should probably quit playing fantasy sports. I would rather pick up spot starters off of free agency all year long than own this guy. I mean sure, sometimes he posts a decent to average ERA and WHIP totals, yeah he won 16 games two years ago. But he doesn’t strike anyone out and is one of the most inconsistent pitchers I have ever seen. One month he looks decent, the next he looks like complete garbage. Pitchers like that should not be owned in any 10 or 12 team league. Last April Kyle Lohse did this same exact thing, he came out on fire to the tune of a 2.53 ERA but in May he was back to his normal self sporting a cool 6.51 ERA for the month. You just can’t risk owning guys like this in shallow fantasy leagues, even more so in head to head leagues. So consider the start of to this season as a favor from Kyle Lohse by once again pitching way over his head in the month of April. He is giving you a "get out of jail free card" and I suggest you use it. Flip him now for any top 30-35 pitcher and thank him later.
Scott Kazmir – Finally a guy I want to root for….. but I just can’t. Maybe it is because he has burned me in the past or maybe it is because he has a career ERA north of 4.00 and only once in nine years has he ever eclipsed the 200 innings mark. Like Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir probably won’t hurt you in any statistical categories this year. He actually brings a decent arsenal of pitches to the mound with him. But…. He is pitching way over his head with an ERA of 1.65 and a WHIP of .77, those are astronomically elite numbers that no pitcher can keep up for an entire season, much less a guy like Scott Kazmir. He will come crashing back to earth soon and it will not be pretty. So deal him while you can and sell your potential trade partner on the old glory days of Kazmir, Tim Beckham and Devil Rays gang. You can probably bring back a top 20-25 starter in return for him and that person (a guy like Homer Bailey from above) will be much more consistent for your team and help you in your quest to win your fantasy baseball championship.
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