Twisting Oliver: Gettin’ while the gettin’s good

I was planning to do a piece about figuring out a way to value position scarcity. Thing is, that’s really a discussion for pre-draft. And even then, I was pointed to this great site that seems to do a lot of the heaving lifting for you. So, after much consternation (I actually wrote a column and scrapped it), I decided to use that information instead to draw up a list of players worth targeting in trades.

If Oliver is right, these players will probably be largely off limits within a few weeks. For all the players I list, I’ll give the Average Draft Position in ESPN Live Drafts and their ranking in Last Player Picked based on Oliver’s “Rest of Year” projections. The league setting I used was based on a 12-team, both-league format with three starting middle infielders, three corner infielders, five outfielders, two catchers, a utility and nine pitchers.

Matt Wieters (ADP: 87.5; Ranking: 19th)

I’m not going to try to convince you that Wieters is going to, in fact, be the 19th-most-valuable player. What I can tell you with much more confidence is that Oliver is projecting him to essentially perform at the same level as Victor Martinez (ADP 47.2) and better than Brian McCann (ADP 42.4). If you offered one of those two players straight up for Wieters, I’m guessing the other owner would jump at it. Chances are, you could probably even get a little something extra in return. Either way, you’d end up with a switch-hitting catcher who’s still just 23 and trending in the right direction. He’s not ripping the cover off the ball yet, but he’s posting a .402 on-base percentage. I wouldn’t bat an eye at trading either of those guys for Wieters.

Tommy Hanson (ADP: 77.8; Ranking: 28th)

Another young stud who could be ripe for the picking. Unlike Wieters, I don’t know that the ranking is that far off. We’re projecting a 3.54 ERA (30th) to go along with a robust 192 strikeouts (12th). Yovani Gallardo (ranked 54th) went, on average, about 10 picks earlier. Adam Wainwright (59) went almost 30 picks earlier. Neither project numbers as good as Hanson, plus Gallardo has battled injuries and Wainwright is about five years older. I’d definitely support trading either of those straight up for Hanson.

Ben Zobrist (ADP: 64.5; Ranking: 33)

The Rays’ Jack of all trades is off to a bit of a slow start, which makes him a little more attainable. I’m not suggesting that you try to steal him from an owner who’s already on the lookout for those kinds of offers, though. Rather, offer up someone like Dustin Pedroia (ADP: 30.8; Rank: 52). Pedroia projects a better batting average (.299 to .263), but Zobrist has the better run-production numbers (26 homers to 13, 89 RBIs to 75 and 93 runs to 83). I’d say this is another good candidate to get a little extra something thrown in, too.

Cole Hamels (ADP: 95.3; Ranking: 37)

I own Hamels in several leagues and have been a longtime supporter, so I understand how tough his slow start has been on owners. I’m willing to bet most owners aren’t as patient as me. Josh Johnson went, on average, about 20 picks earlier but projects about 35 spots lower. They actually project numbers that are very similar across the board, with one exception being Hamels’ better walk rate (2.20 BB/9 to 2.65 BB/9). We project very similar win totals (13 for Hamels, as compared to 12 for Johnson), but as we’ve already seen this season, Hamels is probably going to get bailed out by his offense much more frequently.

Nelson Cruz (ADP: 62.7; Ranking: 38)

He’s off to one of the best starts in baseball, so maybe he’s not as attainable as some of the other guys on this list. Still, he doesn’t exactly have a long track record and some owners will be convinced they’re selling high. Don’t be afraid to be the guy who they think they’re ripping off. Grady Sizemore, to pick one name, went about 30 picks earlier but ranks about 15 spots lower. Oliver projects Cruz to out-homer Sizemore 35-26 and out-RBI him 100-83, while staying competitive in runs (90-86) and even keeping it close in stolen bases (23-13). They even project nearly identical batting averages (.264 for Cruz, .263 for Sizemore).

Colby Lewis (ADP: 260; Ranking: 8th)

I know this is probably starting to sound like I’m beating a dead horse here, but after Lewis’ start (2-0, 2.19 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 12.1 innings) I have to believe that time is running out if you want to get him on the cheap. Chances are you don’t have to give up anything other than the last guy on your roster right now. Even if he’s owned, you can probably have him for your fifth outfielder or sixth starter. I still have some serious doubts about him performing at the level Oliver projects, but he really doesn’t have to come that close for him to have serious value.

Cody Ross (ADP: 204.7; Ranking: 65th)

If there’s a hitter’s equivalent to Lewis in Oliver’s eyes, it’s probably Ross. He’s off to a a decent start, but certainly not one that will make anyone clutch him in the face of a fair offer. I honestly don’t know what to say in terms of a fair offer, maybe Hunter Pence (ADP: 106, Ranking: 129). But you could probably get him for a lot less. Ross projects 30 homers and 103 RBIs. Those aren’t the kind of numbers you can usually find on the waiver wire.

Stephen Strasburg (ADP: 203.3; Ranking: 81st)

They hype is building and it’s only going to get worse. Your best chance is probably that whoever owns him will get antsy waiting another few weeks until he gets his call-up. I’d try throwing out a solid closer, maybe someone like David Aardsma (ADP: 181). I’m not saying sell the farm, but any player you don’t absolutely need immediately should be a worthy candidate.

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