I wanted to share with you an article written by Ryan Courtney of Hot Fantasy Picks (www.hotfantasypicks.com) where he breaks down some options to either buy low or sell high in fantasy baseball leagues. Going forward, we will likely continue this collaborative effort to share material with each other’s audience. Be sure to check out his website and find him on Facebook and Twitter (as if I needed to remind you – wink, wink). Without further adieu, here is Mr. Courtney’s debut post with some insightful fantasy baseball advice.
This week we are recapping the first couple months of the season, checking in on my reliability, and of course bringing you some new Buy Low, Sell High candidates. I mean, that’s why you read after all, isn’t it? While this column is a tricky one to write, I think others have a tendency to over-complicate their analysis due to the absurd amount of statistical information at our disposal. However, many picks are rather cut and dry and don’t require the many peripheral stats available to get a clear look into the future. One of the biggest pitfalls for fantasy owners is getting caught up in the moment. When someone is playing good it’s natural to think that they’ll always play this well. The opposite is true as well. I challenge you to remain objective in your fantasy baseball analysis and to “think twice, act once” as a fantasy baseball manager.
It seems hard to believe that we’ve wrapped up two months of the 2011 Fantasy Baseball season. As always, there have been some huge disappointments and also some pleasant surprises. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year has been Hanley Ramirez although his numbers slightly improved through the month of May. It will take a couple months of monster output in order to get him back on track and seeing as he’s dealing with a back injury and bruised right foot, it doesn’t look like a sure thing that it will happen anytime soon. However, HanRam owners are beyond sick of staring at his name on their team. He’s a deal to be had cheaply as many are losing faith in him entirely and feel he’s simply forgotten how to hit the ball. You’ll be able to get him for a pack of peanuts right now.
One of the biggest surprises of the year has been Kyle Lohse. As his ERA continues to hover around 2.00, he also continues to perplex me. In a situation like this you tend to turn to peripherals. A few stand out including his walk rate and HR rate each being approximately 2% lower than his career average. He also hasn’t had a runner steal a base yet while on the mound this year which helps a little bit and double play percentage which is slightly higher than his career average. Overall, it seems Lohse is getting the advantage everywhere he needs it. With a career ERA of 4.66 and WHIP of 1.41 over the previous decade, I find it hard to believe that he’ll maintain a 2.13 ERA and 0.92 WHIP or anywhere near that throughout the remainder of the season. The law of averages will come into play and you’ll see a serious drop off in his production.
Now, for a little analysis of my picks year-to-date. I’ve included players that have been recommended in any of my BuyLow, SellHigh articles. Looking back, it’s funny to think that some of these players ever made the lists considering some of their season stat lines are now either so laughable or so unbelievably good. However, that’s the entire point of these articles in that you want to be able to look back and think man I’m glad I moved that guy when I did. Baseball is such a long season and there are so many high’s and low’s. It’s important to get on the good side of all of those decisions from the beginning to the end of the season.
SPOT ON HITS
Fellas that I feel I nailed with my assessment.
Buy Low’s: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Mike Stanton, Corey Hart, Evan Longoria, Clay Bucholz
Sell High’s: Sam Fuld, Johnny Gomes, Aaron Harang, Carlos Gomez, Ben Zobrist, Tom Gorzelanny, Placido Polanco, Alfonso Soriano
FLAT OUT MISSES
Guys that I completely whiffed on.
Buy Low’s: Justin Morneau, Ryan Zimmerman
Sell High’s: Justin Masterson, Johnny Damon, Josh Beckett
ON THE FRINGE
These guys are just barely qualifying as a Buy Low or Sell High.
Buy Low’s: Mat Latos, Matt Cain, Josh Hamilton, Dustin Pedroia, Nelson Cruz
Sell High’s: Ryan Roberts, Alex Gordon
STICKING TO MY GUNS
I still strongly believe that these guys are accurate picks. Perhaps, the timing is a little off to buy or sell, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel.
Buy Low’s: Adam Dunn, Ubaldo Jimenez, Hanley Ramirez, Shin Soo Choo, Chris Carpenter
Sell High’s: Kyle Lohse, Lance Berkman, Matt Joyce, Jeff Francouer
Bonus Buy Low, Sell High Picks
- Ryan Howard — While hitting for average has never been Howard’s strong suit, his 30-day .208 batting average is well below par even for the big slugger. With a career average of .277 and a large body of work to back that up, you can bet that he’ll rebound in a quick way. May has historically been his worst performing month, while he performs his best after the All-Star break and typically hits 30 points higher. While you won’t be able to pull a fast one on any owner, right now Howard is a solid investment for the remainder of the year.
- Ichiro Suzuki — One of the league’s most consistent players. He’s never had under 200 hits in a season. However, he’s currently on pace to finish under 200 hits unless he picks up his pace. He is currently batting 50 points below his career batting average. Although he’s definitely aging and regression is unavoidable, one of the league’s most professional players isn’t someone you should pass by. He’s striking out less, walking slightly more, and stealing just about as many bases as he always has. If you look deeper, you’ll see that his BABIP rests at .290 which is 65 points lower than his career average while his line drive rate is also significantly lower. These numbers suggest a rebound is eminent. Right now is the time to buy Ichiro for a bargain.
- Jon Lester — As one of the top pitchers in the American League for the last three years, a slump like is exactly what savvy fantasy baseball owners should be looking for. The most notable statistic that has contributed to his current rough patch are the number of home runs he’s given up. On the year, 3.1% of plate appearances against him result in a home run. His career average is 2.1%. That is roughly 50% more home runs than normal. You can expect this number to regress to norm. Count on Lester to rebound as he’s a workhorse who seems to always throw over 200 innings, has recorded an average of 16.6 wins/season the last three years and has struck out over 9/game the last 2+ years. Even the best pitchers go through rough patches and Lester has never recieved the credit he’s deserved for the accomplishments he’s amassed pitching in baseball’s toughest division. Historically, two of his best performing months are June and July, so act quickly to get him on your team. I drafted him on three of my teams and I’m confident that he’ll finish the season once again in the top ten pitchers in the league.
- Anibal Sanchez — If it weren’t for his inability to stay off of the disabled list, I wouldn’t place Sanchez on this list. However, I don’t feel that he has the physical makeup to throw a full season’s workload. Last year was his highest professional innings total at 195 innings pitched. That is more than his previous three years combined. Yes, when Anibal is healthy he is a solid starter and he has pitched incredibly well this year. However, why wouldn’t you want to trade him for someone such as Jon Lester (above) who is down in the dumps right now, but has been one of the best pitchers in the American League for the last couple of years? You need to have pitchers who will be around all year and keeping Sanchez in your lineup is a risk you shouldn’t need to take.
- Erik Bedard — Don’t get me wrong. I’m on the band wagon right now with everyone else. Bedard is pitching lights out over the last month or so. Here’s the problem I have with him. He’s never thrown over 200 innings and he hasn’t thrown over 100 innings since 2007. He’s already at 58 innings on the year meaning that waiting too much longer to move him is like playing Russian Roulette. His value will never be higher this year as he’s given up 3 or fewer runs for 7 straight starts while lowering his season ERA to 3.41. He was a marquis free agent a few years back and his name alone will raise his value when you put him in an offer. Feel free to run with him for another start or two, but don’t push your luck. Start sorting through your trade options.
- Corey Patterson — It’s always funny to watch such a bonified role player get hyped up. Corey Patterson is your latest such candidate. And rightly so. Over the last 30 days, Patterson is batting .297, slugging .458 with 2 HR, 13 extra base hits, and 4 steals. About the only thing certain with Patterson is that he will fall right back down to earth. It will happen soon folks. For years, Patterson has tugged at my heart strings with his streaky play. However, each time he fades away into baseball oblivion. As a former 3rd overall pick, you expect a lot out of him, but he just can’t sustain his production which can be verified by a decade of futility. My best advice is that you pick him up only to trade him away.
Tuesday Night Top Ten – May 3, 2011
According to reliable sources such as the internet and high school students, Tuesday is the least popular day of the week. In an effort to bring some respect, credibility and entertainment back to Tuesdays, I will be paying homage to David Letterman and provide a weekly Top 10 list for newsworthy fantasy baseball events that take place. Each event will have a brief description including what, if any, impact it has on fantasy baseball. The ranking is completely subjective so do not even think of challenging my authority. In fact, in the words of Eric Cartman, you will respect my authority! Without further adieu, here is the debut of the new Tuesday Top Ten List (as of 10:15 PM EST):
10. Phil is ill, but with what? – Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes apparently doesn’t have thoracic outlet syndrome, which is good news, but it also leaves many questions unanswered. Doctors and experts are still trying to figure out what is ailing the Yankees’ young hurler. Regardless, it doesn’t look like Hughes is going to contribute much to the Yankees or fantasy owners this year. His velocity is down and his stuff is flat. There is very likely a physical reason why, but thus far no one can provide an answer. For now, stash him on the DL if you have the room. But don’t expect anything from him in 2011. On a side note, going back to all of the trade discussions between the Mets, Yankees and Twins for Johan Santana in 2008, it is sadly bizarre and ironic that former Mets prospect and current White Sox starter Philip Humber is likely to be the best pitcher of them all this season.
9. D-Choo-I – Yet another major league baseball player has been arrested for driving while under the influence. Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo is the most recent drunk driver pulled over in what seems like a weekly occurrence. Choo had one too many Cheongju before he got behind the wheel. No one ever accused baseball players of being smart, but come on…this is getting a little ridonculous. Assuming his situation is like every other offender, he shouldn’t miss any time so there will not likely be any effect on his fantasy status. That is, unless, he shows up drunk at a game and starts referring to himself as Kim Jong Il.
8. Oh Jenrry – Mets prospect Jenrry Mejia will likely need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair an injured ligament in his elbow. Mejia was being groomed to become a starter in the Mets rotation of the future, but this will have to be put on hold for at least a year assuming he goes under the knife soon. Mejia has electric stuff and is a popular keeper in roto fantasy leagues due to his potential to either start or relieve. If recent history is any indication, there is no reason Mejia can’t come back and be an effective pitcher within 18 months of the operation. He is only 22 so there is still plenty of time for him to make an impact. But those of you who are stashing him in keepe leagues, you might as well clear the roster space.
7. Not Werth the Money – Jayson Werth made his long awaited return to Philadelphia in a Nationals’ uniform and was met with a mixture of ovations and boos. This is not surprising because Werth’s decision to sign with Washington is understandable, but his comments after he left were unnecessary. No one could argue with Werth agreeing to that ludacris contract, because let’s be honest, any one of us would take the money and run. But when Werth later came out and made some disparaging remarks about the Phillies and their lack of attempts to bring him back, it soured the fans’ feelings towards him. Werth should thank the Phillies for giving him the opportunity to put up great numbers as the team’s fourth offensive weapon. Now he is the focal point of the Nationals’ lineup and will soon realize Adam LaRoche is not Ryan Howard and Danny Espinosa is not Chase Utley.
6. Goose Eggs and Hamels – It is common knowledge at this point that the Phillies have the greatest starting pitching in baseball, and arguably one of the greatest staffs in the history of baseball (the 2005 Mets are in that conversation as well with Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson). Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee seem to get most of the attention, and deservingly so. But Cole Hamels is on the brink of becoming truly an elite pitcher in real and fantasy baseball. There has never been an issue with his talent. The biggest question mark with Hamels has always been his maturity and mental strength. After what he pulled in the 2009 World Series, he has clearly grown up and emerged as a potential Cy Young candidate. He threw a complete game gem against the Washington Nationals and continues to make people vomit at the thought he is the Phillies number three or four starter.
5. Pain in the Neck – Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista will miss some time this week with an injured neck. He must have strained it from looking up at all the homeruns he has hit since the beginning of 2010. I will admit that I was wrong about him being a fluke. He will probably not come close to hitting 54 homeruns again, but he is clearly an established slugger who knows how to hit. It seems as though he is consistently befelled by nagging injuries. I recently had a nagging injury. My wife wouldn’t stop nagging me, so I hit my head against the wall and sustained a laceration to my forehead. I looked like Ric Flair in a steel cage match.
4. Bay-bee Daddy – Mets outfielder Jason Bay is on paternity leave for a couple days to be with his wife who is expected to give birth to the couple’s third child. Bay sustained a concussion in July 2010 and missed the rest of the season. Then, just days before Opening Day, he sustained a strain to his oblique muscle requiring him to miss the first three weeks of the 2011 season. After playing in 10 games, it was clear he needed some time off. Oh calm down, I am kidding. It is great the MLB has implemented a new paternity leave program for players so they can be with their wives when children are born. Given the baby is due in the beginning of May, that means it was likely conceived in July or August 2010. Hmmm, didn’t Bay sustain his concussion around that time? I guess he wasn’t injured enough to knock up his wife when he clearly couldn’t knock any balls over the fence.
3. Celebrity Rehab – American League MVP Josh Hamilton is in rehab once again. No silly, not for smoking crack or building meth labs. Hamilton is recovering from a fractured arm when he inexplicably was sent home to score on a foul popup and dove into home plate. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to swing a bat for the first time since the injury which means he is at least one week ahead of schedule in his recovery. It was originally anticipated that Hamilton would miss 6-8 weeks and not swing a bat for the first four weeks. He was injured three weeks ago, so do the math. What? You were told there would be no math? Just use a calculator. In fact, type the number 55378008 and turn your calculator upside down. The result answers the question “How would you describe Gwyneth Paltrow?”
2. Battle of Wounded Knee – Chase Utley may not be far from returning to the Phillies. The all star second baseman has been bothered by an ailing knee for months and has yet to see any game time in spring training, the minor leagues, or the major leagues. Reports out of Philadelphia are that Utley may be sent to Clearwater to play in some extended spring training games which would enable him to face live pitching for the first time since 2010. This bodes well for fantasy owners who drafted Utley and have stashed him on the DL in the hopes he would return sooner than later. If he is healthy, the Phillies should look into possibly trading him because they clearly can win with the “talented” duo of Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr playing second base. Just FYI, the quotation marks were meant to indicate sarcasm font.
1. LIRIANOOOOOO! - Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox in Chicago tonight. There is no debating Liriano’s talent, but he has been atrocious thus far in 2011 and his starting job was in jeopardy with Kevin Slowey being considered to take his place in the Twins’ rotation. That debate has been quelled for now as Liriano threw his first career complete game in the no-hit effort. He walked six and only struck out two which indicates he relied on his defense instead of trying to strike every batter out. Perhaps this is a sign that he has turned the corner and is on his way to reclaiming his status as a top tier fantasy pitcher. Or it could just be a fluke and he will get bombed in three innings next time out. That is the problem with Liriano – he is so inconsistent and almost impossible to predict. Those of you in points leagues where no-hitters are credited had a good night if Liriano was in your lineup.