Twisting Oliver: Buy-low, sell-high batters

Assessing the value of a given player is not a science. You can never really account for one owner placing an inordinate amount of faith in a player. That doesn’t stop us from trying, of course.

What I’ll be doing today is going through five players who I think are currently undervalued and five more who are overvalued based mostly on their Oliver projections. I’ll also attempt to assess what kind of value they may draw. You’ll probably disagree with some of my assessments. (I know some of you definitely did with last week’s column regarding pitchers.) So, bear with me. The main thing I would hope you take away from it isn’t so much my attempts at assessing trade value, but Oliver’s projections as run through the Tom Tango ranking system.

I’m not going to waste your time by telling you that Jose Guillen is bound to fall off—I’m willing to bet players like him have very little trade value. In some cases, I’m going to suggest going after players who are not going to keep up their current pace but who I think may still be undervalued. In other cases, I’m going to talk about players who will still be good but not quite as good as I think the hype would have you believe.

Selling lemons

Austin Jackson: I’m in one league where half of the owners are convinced the Tigers outfielder is the second coming. They see his prospect status, his .337 average, 31 runs and six stolen bases and they have visions of Ichiro Suzuki running through their heads. If you own him, capitalize on those perceptions. He’s currently the 34th-best offensive player, but Oliver projects him to finish as the 184th-best. His .265 batting average, nearly 1:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio, nine stolen bases and 53 runs that Oliver projects are hardly the stats of a fantasy starter and may not even make him worthy of a roster spot. I’m sure you could get Nyjer Morgan (31 SBs, .287 average and 63 runs) and could probably do considerably better.

Colby Rasmus: Sense a theme? Another young guy who’s off to a good start who Oliver thinks could be due for a considerable fall-off is a great trade candidate. He’s already hit seven homers and driven in 25. Plus, he plays on a great offense; what’s not to like? Well, Oliver is not impressed. We’re projecting 473 more at-bats and still Oliver sees just 55 more runs and 56 more RBIs. Right now, he’s rated as the 68th-best player, but Oliver projects him finishing out as the 174th. Could you swap him for Michael Young (currently 79th, but slated to finish out as the 46th-best)? I bet you could.

Elvis Andrus: OK, OK, I promise this will be the last young player on whom I’m harshing your buzz. If you own Andrus, as I do in one league, you know that he’s been great, especially lately. You know, as well as Oliver does, that he’s not going to continue being the 17th-best player. Probably the most remarkable thing about his start is the nearly 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio he’s currently rocking. That .312 average, 17 steals and 30 runs aren’t bad either. It’s now time to cash in those chips, though. Oliver foresees his BB:K ratio reverting to a much more expected 37:85, and the rest of his numbers (other than steals) will likely drop along with it. That .262 average, 27 steals and 57 runs aren’t useless from your shortstop, but they are way off what you’re currently getting. If you can get someone like Jason Bartlett (currently 129th, but projected to finish out as No. 83) you’ll be much better off.

Vladimir Guerrero: See! No one can accuse me of picking just on young’ins. Guerrero has been proving his critics wrong all year, bashing 10 homers and 37 RBIs while posting a .341 batting average (making him the fourth-best player). Well, Oliver is not impressed. Oliver foresees just 15 more homers and 58 more RBIs and a ranking of 80th. Those aren’t bad numbers, but why not try to upgrade?. Combined with the not-so-distant memories of his glory days, I’m willing to bet he would fetch a decent return.Torii Hunter has a very similar rough profile, is off to a decent start (currently ranked 30th), but projects to be much more stable (finishing out as No. 31), mainly on the strength of similar power numbers but more steals (14-3) and more runs (63-49).

Carlos Gonzalez: I guess there’s a middle ground between the two types of players I’ve been talking about, and CarGo represents that pretty well. He’s off to a strong start (28 RBIs, .303 batting average and 25 runs for a ranking of 40th) that seems to suggest he’s well on his way to fulfilling the promise he’s been showing for several years. Well, Oliver has a different vision. Oliver projects significant fall-off in all those areas (just 59 more runs, 55 RBIs and a .269 batting average for a ranking of 100th). Adam Dunn would seem to be a solid exchange (currently 100th, but trending toward 41st).

Buying bargains

Adrian Gonzalez: The Padres first baseman is not playing poorly (nine homers and 26 RBIs for a ranking of 70th), which likely means his price is still pretty high. Almost whatever you have to pay, though, Oliver projects that you’ll be happy. Oliver is usually pretty conservative, but it’s projecting MVP-like numbers from here on out—94 RBIs, 33 homers and a .298 average. I’m not going to try to figure out what it would take to get him, but do whatever you have to.

Pablo Sandoval: I think the Kung Fu Panda probably fits the more classic profile of a buy-low candidate. After a breakout season, he’s off to a slow start (just three homers and 14 RBIs, good for a ranking of 114th) and owners are probably getting a little antsy. No one is just going to give up on him, but if you offer something that seems like fair value (maybe someone like Josh Hamilton, current rank 37th but projected to finish out as No. 86, maybe). Sandoval is projected to finish up strong with 16 homers, 72 RBIs and a .318 batting average, and a ranking of 29th.

Alex Rios: The White Sox outfielder was one of our draft-day bargains at the beginning of the season. So far, he’s making those who got him early look pretty smart with eight homers, 21 RBIs and 13 steals for a ranking of ninth. This is one of those guys who many owners believe is a sell-high candidate. No, he’s not going to keep up that pace, but he’s probably going to be a lot better than many people think. He’s projected to hit 12 homers and steal 19 more bases while sporting a batting average of .281 the rest of the way. If you can get him without having to spend too much, maybe someone like Brett Gardner, who’s projected to finish as the 106th best player but is currently the 14th, he’s still a great buy.

Nick Markakis: The Orioles outfielder was supposed to continue his recent play, but has instead gotten off to a slow start (just two homers and 14 RBIs, despite a .305 batting average and a ranking of 104th). Well, Oliver isn’t ready to give up on him and neither should you. Despite predicting a slight decline in batting average (.297), Oliver projects that he’ll finish the season as the 41st-best batter (12 homers, 62 RBIs and 63 runs the rest of the way). Has Chase Headley (currently ranked 55th) shown enough to fetch Markakis? Maybe not, but Alfonso Soriano (currently ranked 28th but projected to finish out as 89th) surely has.

Gordon Beckham: Big things were expected out of the White Sox infielder this year. His slow start (one homer, nine RBIs and a .187 batting average good for a ranking of 180 among batters) has many owners dropping him (he’s down to about 50 percent ownership in ESPN leagues). If he’s available, pick him up. Assuming he can show enough to stay with the big club, Oliver likes his chances to finish strong (11 homers, 57 RBIs, 59 runs, eight steals and a .275 batting average would make him the 67th-best batter the rest of the way). I wouldn’t give up much, but maybe someone like Ryan Theriot would do the trick.

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  1. starkweather said...

    I’m not sold on the projections for Andrus going forward. He’s probably due for some correction but maybe not very much. Of course, I always think of things in terms of keeper leagues and thus have much more faith in Elvis than Jason Bartlett for the long haul. Alex Rios strikes me as a bizarro buy-low since I can’t remember when his value has been higher. I’m trying to steal Manny as much as possible while his power numbers are down.

  2. Jeremiah Oshan said...

    I should always point out, I’m not talking about keeper leagues in these things. Too many variables…

    As for Rios, I get the sense there aren’t a lot of believers out there. Obviously, you can’t pay for his current performance, but if you can get him from someone whois expecting a sharp fall off, he’s a solid bet.

  3. Steve said...

    Hmm. I just (this morning) traded Beckham for Rasmus. It wasn’t out of frustration, as I’d already convinced myself to just bench Beckham til he came around. And I do like Rasmus. What is the justification for his ROS projections being so conservative?

  4. Jeremiah Oshan said...

    I don’t know that you made a bad trade, you essentially got something for nothing. I honestly don’t know what it is, specifically, about those two players that have their projections criss-crossing. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to been schooled on the inner-workings of Oliver.

  5. DonCoburleone said...

    I get what you’re saying on Elvis, but the guy is by far my best stolen base threat, so I just can’t justify trading him…

    Also a couple of excellent buy lows you missed:

    Troy Tulowitzki’s batting .300 but only 4HR’s so far? This is about the time Tulo went on a tear last year.  I mean he is capable of being a Top 10 fantasy player isn’t he?  The other guy who should be on the Buy Low is Matt Holliday. Only 5HR’s and 18 RBI for him so far… He’s capable of going 20HR/90RBI/12Steal the rest of the way isn’t he?

  6. Jeremiah Oshan said...

    Oliver likes Holliday (it has him slated as the 13th best player from here on out), but I’m skeptical that someone with his track record can ever be classified as “buy low.” Everyone expects him to get better, I think.

    As for Tulowitzki, I tend to restrict myself to commenting on Oliver projections, and while not down on Tulo it has him projected EXACTLY where he currently is, as the 59th best offensive player. That’s not bad, especially considering he plays a shallow position, but not really the makings of a buy-low candidate, IMO. It has him upping his power (16 homers), falling back a little in average (.275) and otherwise plodding along at his current pace. Again, those are good numbers, just not numbers that scream ‘buy low.’

  7. batpig said...

    I have to agree with I don’t know many fantasy leagues where you would be “much better off” with Jason Bartlett over Elvis Andrus! 

    Forget about keeper leagues, even with regression I would much rather have Elvis than Bartlett for the rest of the year.  Stolen bases are fantasy gold!  And Elvis has the coin of the realm…

    The only way this makes sense is if you assume Bartlett will recapture his career-year-fluke magic from 2009…

    But what happens if Elvis regresses a bit?  He is, what, a 275/340/380 guy?  That is Jason Bartlett!  But with more steals.

    Jason Bartlett career – 283/348/390
    Elvis Andrus career – 277/349/368

    Neither guy is a HR threat, and they should post similar R/RBI totals (remember that Elvis has locked down the leadoff spot in the Texas lineup, he should easily beat that projection of 57 runs!).  But Elvis will steal at least 10-15 extra bags…

  8. batpig said...

    … and let’s not forget that Elvis is in his age-21 season and skipped to the majors from AA, so you can toss a lot of statistical projections out the window.  He won’t retain a .380 BABIP but there’s no reason that he can’t retain a good chunk of his bump in performance if he has truly stepped up to another plateau.

    Barlett is 30-years-old and has plenty of data with which to regress to…. we know who Bartlett is.

  9. Jeremiah Oshan said...

    Hey, feel free to draw your own conclusions. I’m just reporting on the numbers Oliver spits out.

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