During the first month of the season, fantasy owners tend to be hesitant to part with players they believed in during the draft. But with about one-fifth of the campaign in the books, it’s time to start wheeling and dealing.
In fantasy baseball — as in real baseball — getting the better end of a trade essentially means acquiring more value than you gave up. That part is obvious, and there are two ways to accomplish it. You can "sell high" on players that have outperformed their abilities thus far, or you can “buy low” on players who have endured slumps this spring but are primed to rebound once the summer starts.
This week’s "3 Up, 3 Down" segment will highlight players who fall on either end of that spectrum. Depending on your team’s needs, you might consider "buying low" on the "3 Up" players, or "selling high" on the "3 Down" players.
As always, the "Pickups" segment will explain why three players who are currently sitting on most fantasy waiver wires might be worth owning. And finally, you'll find my suggestions for owners who are streaming pitchers in "Down the Stream."
Chone Figgins, second base/third base, Mariners
Figgins is tied for third in the majors with 25 walks this season, but that’s little consolation to owners in standard 5×5 leagues, where he has contributed nothing other than 14 runs and eight steals. But Figgins has hit at least .276 and stolen no fewer than 34 bases annually over the past three years. There is no obvious reason why Figgins should have gone from producing line drives on 23-plus percent of his balls in play to doing so only 15 percent of the time, and as that number improves, his BABIP – and consequently, his batting average – are sure to rise.
Adam Lind, outfielder, Blue Jays
The 26-year-old designated hitter broke out for 81 extra-base hits, including 35 homers, and a .305 batting average last season, emerging as a stud despite being picked in the late rounds of most drafts. This year, Lind was a top-50 pick in many leagues, but is batting only .215 with five homers. It’s possible that Lind may have played over his head in 2009, but he’s far too talented to struggle for much longer, and is well worth a flier if your team needs some thump from its outfield slots.
Wandy Rodriguez, starting pitcher, Astros
Wandy has been one of the most underrated starting pitchers in baseball over the past couple of seasons, in part because he was a late-bloomer, and in part because he pitches for the scuffling Astros. But the only blemish on his 2010 resume is that he’s allowed 49 hits in 39 1/3 innings, and that’s largely the product of a bloated .351 BABIP. As that number regresses back toward the mean of .290-.300, Rodriguez’s 4.81 ERA and 1.55 WHIP also will decrease significantly. You might want to wait a bit, because Wandy’s next two starts are projected to come against the powerful Dodgers and Rays, but he’s worth targeting shortly thereafter.
Barry Zito, starting pitcher, Giants
Zito took his first loss of the season on Tuesday, and seemed to re-encounter the command troubles that plagued him over the past three years, walking seven Padres in just five innings of work. But as of right now, the 32-year-old southpaw is still 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and his .240 BABIP and 4.49 xFIP strongly suggest that some inflation is in store. Considering that Zito’s strikeout rate (5.70 per nine innings) is also lower than it has been since 2003, there’s little reason to believe that he has truly rediscovered the magic he had in Oakland.
Austin Jackson, outfielder, Tigers
If the season ended today, you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that Jackson — who ranks third in the AL with a .349 batting average — shouldn’t be the league’s Rookie of the Year. The youngster has gotten off to an incredibly torrid start, and has been nothing short of a line-drive machine (37.4 percent LD rate). But that rate is unsustainable for any hitter and is sure to tumble once opposing pitchers begin throwing Jackson more fastballs. When it does, Jackson’s bloated strikeout rate (42 in 144 at-bats) will cause his average to plunge, and that’s not something you want to witness firsthand.
Casey McGehee, third base, Brewers
McGehee has done nothing but produce since the Brewers claimed him away from their division rival Cubs in 2008, but he does not have the pop to maintain a 30-plus homer pace. The 27-year-old is also likely to see his batting average decline, once his lowly 10.4 percent line-drive rate catches up to his .333 BABIP. McGehee has been a draft-day steal to date, and you might as well cash out on his value before it’s too late.
Daniel Bard, relief pitcher, Red Sox
Setup men don’t have obvious value in standard 5×5 fantasy leagues, because they rarely get save opportunities. But the flame-throwing Bard has 22 strikeouts and just six walks in 18 innings on the mound, which means that he is fully capable of producing a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, to go with 90 or so strikeouts by season’s end. That’s a boost to any fantasy pitching staff, and Bard is a must-have insurance policy for owners who employ Jonathan Papelbon.
Angel Pagan, outfielder, Mets
Pagan stands to lose significant playing time once Carlos Beltran is ready to return to the Mets’ lineup, but he’s worth riding as long as his bat stays as hot as it has been of late. The switch-hitting outfielder is 8-for-18 (.444 average) over his past four games, and with 18 runs scored and four stolen bases, he’s been valuable during the first month of the season, despite lackluster power numbers.
Miguel Olivo, catcher, Rockies
With Chris Iannetta banished to the minors, Olivo is at least temporarily the Rockies’ full-time catcher, and Coors Field is a perfect fit for his hitting style. He’s batting .274 with six homers — good for third in the league among catchers — and as long as Olivo is playing regularly and swinging for the fences, he’ll be worthwhile fantasy starter.
If you are playing in a head-to-head league, a potentially useful — if controversial — strategy is streaming pitchers. The key is to get as many wins and strikeouts as possible during the week, without entirely conceding the ERA and WHIP categories. Below, are pitchers that you’re likely to find on your league’s waiver wire, who have optimal matchups for streaming on each day of the coming week.
Saturday, May 15: Ervin Santana, Angels – vs. Athletics
Sunday, May 16: Colby Lewis, Rangers – at Blue Jays
Monday, May 17: John Ely, Dodgers – vs. Astros
Tuesday, May 18: Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies – at Cubs
Wednesday, May 19: Justin Masterson, Indians – vs. Royals
Thursday, May 20: Jason Vargas, Mariners – vs. Blue Jays
Friday, May 21: Aaron Cook, Rockies – at Royals