Timing the market is everything. Finding diamonds in the rough can help your team, but trading for big-name studs is just as important in making major splashes to your roster. Trading for big names is often worrisome, because there is always the fear of regression. That is why this week, we look at some big names you can buy safely, and sell off at their apex, before the Yahoo standard trade deadline (Sunday).
David Wright | Mets | 3B | 98 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .299/.373/.503
David Wright is a great fantasy baseball player. Yet for some reason, he’s been the source of worry for many fantasy owners over the past two seasons. Wright will probably not come cheap, but he can be had at a substantial discount relative to his production. In recent one-for-one trades, Wright has been swapped for Mike Stanton, Lance Berkman, Michael Young and Ben Zobrist.
If you can find someone in your league willing to part with a perennial .280/25/15 player with upside, steal Wright this weekend. Since returning from the DL, Wright has hit .355/.390/.553, raising his batting average from .226 to .270.
Recommendation: Wright is amazing, but you probably knew that already.
Daniel Hudson | Diamondbacks | SP | 86 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.86 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.92 K/9, 3.56 K/BB, 42.4% GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.83 K/BB
Daniel Hudson has varied in results as a pitcher month to month. In April, his ERA was 5.64. In May, it dropped substantially to 3.02, and then in June, it again dropped to 2.45. His ERA spiked to 5.04 in July, and through two starts in August, his monthly ERA sits at 4.09. Hudson’s xFIP over that period, however, has remained relatively stable: 3.61 April, 3.48 May, 3.65 June, 3.67 July, 3.50 August. His BABIP, on the other hand, has fluctuated wildly.
Of course, Hudson’s declining strikeout percentage by month is concerning, but his walk rate has also plummeted each month. As a result, his K/BB by month has gone from 2.67 in April to 4.00 in June to 6.00 in August. This has all happened while Hudson’s groundball percentage has spiked from 35.7 percent in April to 45.5 percent in May, 43.4 percent in June, and 45.1 percent in July. Hudson is still getting a good number of swings and misses on the season (9.9 percent SwStr%), so there is clearly plenty of strikeout upside for the young Diamondback starter. who has seen his K/9 fall by a full batter this season.
Hudson and the Diamondbacks have a very favorable schedule down the stretch, so expect Hudson’s surface numbers and already solid win total to get a boost over the season’s final month and a half.
Recommendation: Hudson should be a top 36 pitcher down the stretch (a No. 3 starting pitcher). Trade accordingly.
Ryan Dempster | Cubs | SP | 68 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.87 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 8.59 K/9, 2.63 K/BB, 45.8% GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.89 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 2.65 K/BB
On the surface, Ryan Dempster has had an ugly season. His 4.87 ERA is his highest mark as a Cub, and his 1.43 WHIP is his highest mark since last closing in his awful 2006 (27.2 blown save percentage). Below the surface, however, is the same effective pitcher he’s been repeatedly since 2007. From 2007 to 2010, Dempster struck out 21.5 percent of total batters faced (8.13 K/9) and walked a league average 8.9 percent (3.36 BB/9). His xFIP- over this period was 90. In 2011, Dempster has struck out 22 percent of total batters faced and walked only 8.4 percent of them. His xFIP- on the season is 90, and if not for one epically awful start at the end of April against the Diamondbacks, his numbers would look similar to what he’s done the past four seasons.
In fact, since May 1, Dempster’s been a completely reliable starter, albeit inconsistently start-to-start. In his 116.1 innings pitched since May began, Dempster has struck out 111 batters (8.59 K/9) and posted a 3.40 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with nine wins to boot. Not every start has been equally effective—compare his July 20 start to his July 15 start—but he’s been great overall.
I routinely caution about playing the match-ups, and Dempster is a great example of the benefits a patient owner can reap. If you owned Dempster in April, the damage is already done; there’s no point in spilling milk over the past. Since May, however, he’s been strong. There’s no reason to worry, but certainly reason to exploit others’ panic (e.g., he was dropped last week in The Hardball Times Fantasy League).
Anibal Sanchez | Marlins | SP | 68 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9.41 K/9, 3.64 K/BB, 44.2% GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.50 K/BB
Anibal Sanchez has been nothing short of awful in the second half, second in disappointment only to Tommy Hanson. After quietly posting a strong 3.58 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, more than a strikeout per nine, and a 3.25 K/BB ratio in the first half, Sanchez’s ERA and WHIP have sat at 5.40 and 1.53, respectively, since the All-Star Game. Moreover, to fantasy owners’ dismay, he has not won a game since June 10.
But it is not for a lack of talent or some form of regression. In the first half, Sanchez struck out 117 batters (9.3 K/9) and walked 36 (2.87 BB/9), good for a 3.23 FIP despite a relatively high 11 home runs surrendered. In the second half, Sanchez is giving up home runs at essentially the same rate, but his strikeouts per nine rate has risen to 9.7, while his BB/9 has fallen to 1.62, for a 6.00 K/BB. That puts his second half FIP at 3.02.
The real difference between Sanchez’s first and second half has been his BABIP. It was .311 in the first half, and has been .414 in the second half. Sanchez’s peripheral pitching splits by month essentially confirm that he’s been the same breakout pitcher all year.
Make no mistake. If you liked Anibal Sanchez in the first half, there is no reason to avoid him now. Bad luck can last for only so long. Right?
Recommendation: Sanchez could easily be a top 30, borderline top 25, starting pitcher down the stretch. Go get him.
Brandon Beachy | Braves | SP | 57 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.43 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 9.74 K/9, 3.39 K/BB, 32.5% GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 3.15 K/BB
Beachy’s second half has been up and down, but mostly down. While really only one bad start separates his first half ERA (3.21) from his second half ERA (3.94), his strikeout rate has tumbled a bit (28.2 percent in first half, 21.1 percent in second half) and his walk rate has spiked. Beachy unintentionally walked 15 batters in the first half (67.1 IP, 276 batters faced), but 13 (16 total walks) in the second half (29.2 IP, 128 batters).
Maybe it is a lingering injury, maybe it is fatigue, but something is not quite right about Beachy. I love the guy’s long term potential, but if he cannot cut down on the walks, he will only be average at best down the stretch. Use his most recent start against Florida (6.2 IP, 10 K, 3 BB, 2 ER) as leverage. He will not likely get shut down with the Braves in a playoff push, and his innings already have been limited by an injury earlier this season. He’s a solid pitcher, but he’s not going to repeat his first half unless he slashes those walks. That is to say that if you are in one of the 43 percent of the leagues where Beachy is available, he is definitely worth a waiver claim.
Recommendation: Sell Beachy while his value is likely at its apex, and thank him for all the good he did for you for $1.
Andrew McCutchen | Pirates | OF | 98 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .279/.354/.459
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Andrew McCutchen is unlikely the hitter he was in the first half. He’s a great hitter, to be sure, but a glance at his month splits shows that he is more likely the hitter his seasonal numbers to date (.274/.379/.473) indicate (maybe with a tad less power), than his first half numbers (.291/.390/.505) that were floated by a red hot June (.347 batting average).
Of course, that is not to say that McCutchen is bad player or a player you must trade. He is still quite elite, and capable of double digit home runs and stolen bases down the stretch. This entry is merely pointing out that McCutchen’s trade value apex has come and gone, and if you get can first half value in return for him, I’d highly consider accepting.
Recommendation: Hold, or sell high.
Traditional waiver wire guys
Dontrelle Willis | Reds | SP | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.41 ERA, 1.27, 6.57 K/9, 2.25K/BB, 53.2% GB%
Oliver ROS: 5.45 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 1.10 K/BB
The X-Files tagline was “I want to believe.” Agents Mulder and Scully routinely investigated inexplicable phenomena. If they were still around today, they might be investigating Dontrelle Willis’ 2011 campaign. To put it bluntly, Willis has not been a good, useful or even “employable” pitcher since 2006, his fourth year in the big leagues, and even back then there were signs that the wheel on the D-Train were falling off.
After two consecutive seasons with walks-per-nine rates below 3.0, Willis’ BB/9 spiked to 3.34 in 2006 and it’s never looked back. Some blame his huge innings load and jump at such a young age. Willis pitched 160.2 innings in his age 21 season (2003), then 197 in 2004, and then 236.1 in 2005. That was the first year that Willis appeared in the top 25 (as No. 23) on pitchers abuse points charts, but he was only 24 at the time.
His usage in 2006 made him the No. 5 most abused pitcher that year. The rest of D-Train’s career is, of course, history. His lowest ERA from 2007 to 2010 was 5.17, and he’s been either physically, emotionally, or mentally injured in every subsequent season. Of some consolation, perhaps, was the fact that Willis’ strikeouts per nine rate (career 6.59), which was never elite, remained relative stable from 2004 to 2010. (5.57)
In 2011, Willis’ K/9 is again in the mid-6′s (6.57), but his walk rate has returned to its early career rate. Willis is walking only 2.92 batters per nine. His fastball velocity, at 87.6 mph, is way down from his early career rate of 90, and represents a career low, but his groundball rate is also at a career-high 53.2 percent (45.6 percent career rate). Willius is throwing fewer fastballs and more sliders this year, which of course creates not only injury concerns, but effectiveness concerns; his slider has never really been a “plus” pitch (this year, it’s been worth a career second-worst -2.20 runs per 100 times thrown).
I am not buying the new Willis—particularly not at homer-happy Great American Ballpark—but deeper and NL-only formats might do well to take notice. It is a situation certainly worth monitoring, and “I want to believe,” but realism always trumps optimism.
Recommendation: Most mixed leagues can probably ignore Willis, but NL only and very deep formats (16+ teams) should monitor his next few outings and might stream him in favorable match-ups.
Mike Minor | Braves | SP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (composite MLE): 4.33 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.26 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.94 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.33 K/BB
He’s been up and down all season, but Mike Minor is back in the Braves rotation, filling in for some combination of the semi-injured Tommy Hanson and completely injured Jair Jurrjens. I will not retread old ground, as my stance on Minor is probably clear by now. I will point out, however, that although his most recent outing was ugly, and although the results and peripherals have not been there at the major league level consistently just yet, Minor is an electric-armed lefty with low 90s gas and lots of strikeout potential to go with control.
Minor has been up and down his past 10 minor league starts, allowing a total of 27 earned runs over his past 61 innings (3.98 ERA) in the “pitcher friendly” International League. He nonetheless struck out a good number of batters (56), while keeping the walks (14) in check (4.00 K/BB ratio). He’s also kept the ball on the ground well, inducing more ground outs than air outs. The real problem has been the hits-allowed (64), with a BABIP-inflated .270 batting average against.
Three of Minor’s past four outings were brilliant, however, with Minor striking out 26 batters over 25 innings and walking only five. Minor is about as ready as he’ll ever be, and with Jurrjens out for the near future and rosters about to expand in 20 days, Minor is likely to stick with the Braves down the stretch.
Alrodys Vizcaino has also been called up, but he’s been groomed for the bullpen for 2011. With Kris Medlen likely back in 2012, the Braves will have a rotation that can compete with the “Phils’ phour” at a fraction of the cost. Minor is available in enough leagues that you can trade off an enticing starting arm (say Beachy) for a big bat, and replace him relatively pain free. Minor starts versus the Cubs this weekend, all the more reason to get him ASAP.
Recommendation: Minor should be about as good as Beachy’s been all year (3.5s or 3.6s ERA, mid-1.2s WHIP), with a strikeout rate no lower than 8.0 per nine. My advice is to ignore the composite MLE here.