This column is a bit different than your weekly waiver wire piece. Here we’ll examine widely owned pitchers who have trended up and down thusfar this season, with the goal of identifying sell high/buy low opportunities. Your comments, contributions, and criticisms are welcome, both in the comments and in the forums. One thing to keep in mind: These recommendations are for redraft leagues only (IE, not for keeper leagues). For reference purposes, xFIP is the metic that measures what a pitchers ERA would be if he allowed home runs at the league average rate as opposed to his actual rate (for better or worse). Let’s do this!
BULLS (Players whose stock has trended up):
So if you were part of the ones of folks who read the stock watch column during weeks 1 and 2, you’ll remember I recommended you sell Harvey high. Well…oops. He’s turned in one of the most dominant inaugural pitching seasons that I’ve ever seen, and he’s been immortal for fantasy purposes. If you sold him, I hope you sold him high. For what it’s worth, I did sell him high, for Kemp and another player, who I then traded in a deal to get Trout and Segura. So that worked out. The only thing to be aware of rest-of-season for Harvey is his innings pitched. He threw 169 1/3 innings last year, and is currently on pace to throw about 230 this year. The Mets won’t let him do that, and should be mathematically out of contention in about a month (they’re 11.5 games back already) so odds are he’ll be shut down at some point. Sharp Harvey owners should look to get another dominant month out of him and then look to sell him, asking the world back in return.
Recommendation: Hold – Enjoy the awesome ride of Harvey ownership, but keep one eye on his innings.
As a Fernandez owner in multiple leagues, I can’t say enough about how impressive this kid has been. For a 20-year-old kid on a (potentially) historically terrible team, he has pitched completely out of his mind. The numbers looks like this: 77K in 79 IP, 1.15 WHIP, 3.05 ERA, and an insane .68 HR/9. Before this year, he’s never played above A ball. He isn’t getting lucky either, with a FIP and xFIP of 3.16 and 3.38, respectively. He’s put up 4 wins on a Marlins team that has a total of 25. His team isn’t getting any better, but Fernandez sure is. However, there will also be an innings limit cap on Fernandez, expected to be in the 150-170 range. Like the Mets, the Marlins are practically eliminated already, so there will be very little incentive to risk their future ace in a lost season. Fernandez currently sits at 79.2 IP, so the shutdown is not imminent, but remains a consideration.
Recommendation: Hold – Fernandez isn’t as highly regarded as Harvey and probably serves the most value in your rotation.
If you were smart / fortunate / lucky enough to grab Iwakuma before his run of dominance began this year, props to you. The view from first place must be quite nice. However, with midseason approaching, and two subpar outings in a row under his belt, you have to be wondering if you should be making a move on ‘ol Hisashi, and the answer, from this columnist is yes. He doesn’t have the established MLB track record of an ace, especially one with his sparkling 2.26 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. The track record we can use is from Japan, where he had about a 3.15 ERA over 1000 innings against far inferior competition. A look at the peripheral stats suggests the same: His FIP is 3.33, more than a full run higher than his ERA, and his LOB% is an insane and unsustainable 84.8%. None of this suggests that Iwakuma is going to be bad at any point, only that his ERA and WHIP are definitely due for a correction. Don’t wait for that to happen – sell him as the ace he is right now, and get a Kingly ransom back in return.
Recommendation: Sell high – He’s been amazing, but the track record isn’t there. A correction looms.
When you’re 9-0 with a 2.19 ERA over 102.2 innings, the world is your oyster. Patrick Corbin has defied all expectations, then doubled those previous expectations, and then defied those as well. He’s been out-and-out brilliant, and would have been at 10-0 if Heath Bell weren’t so bad at baseball. And this, my friends, is why I’m saying that now is the time to sell Mr. Corbin. His record can’t get any better, and pitching in Arizona, I doubt his ERA or WHIP can either. And there’s more: His peripheral stats are almost all unsustainable. Apologies – we’re going to stat-geek out for a minute here. HR / 9 rate of .52, HR/FB % way below league average, LOB % of 82.3% , and xFIP of 3.75. As always, none of this suggests the Corbin is going to simply fall off a cliff – the data only suggest that it is unlikely that he will be able to continue this pace all year. Sell high, make your team unstoppable, and win your league.
Recommendation: Sell high – Corbin has been insanely good for owners, and now is the time to take your profits and bank them.
BEARS (Players whose stock has trended down):
How can a pitcher with the stuff and track record of Hamels be 2 – 11 after 16 starts? I mean, the Phillies are bad, but are they THAT bad? And has Cole really been 11-losses-bad? Let’s have a look. He’s struck out 94 batters in 100 innings, so his stuff is fine. His strikeout to walk ratio is more than 3:1. Pitchers with 11 losses don’t generally have WHIP’s of 1.29. His LOB% is 68.9% (way below league average, and his career % is 76.4) and his xFIP is 3.66, well below his actual ERA of 4.50. That’s quite a bit of saber mumbo-jumbo, but it suggests that Hamels has been the victim of some bad luck, and that better days for his owners are around the corner. Throw out a lowball offer and add a potential second half staff ace on the cheap.
Recommendation: Buy low – Hamels has a superior track record, can’t control how bad his team is, and will turn things around soon.
Every year CC the LandWhale is inside the top 20 starting pitchers taken on draft day, and every year I avoid him like the plague. I’m always worried that this will be the year that his body finally quits on him, that he loses his stuff and falls off the cliff. But now that he’s finally experiencing his first slow start in forever, I can’t seem to shake the idea that he’s a huge buy low. Here’s why: He’s already registered 8 wins for a Yankees team that has started the milkman, the paperboy, and the beer man for the first half of the season. That situation certainly can’t get any worse. His K/BB ratio is still an absurd 3.95:1, leading to a still strong WHIP of 1.23. His velocity has been down this year, and it seems that is a possible indicator as to why his HR / FB % is a career high 13.8%, well above league average and his career average of 9%. I believe the Yanks, and Sabathia, begin a second half surge soon as their key players begin to come back. Buy CC now while he’s super cheap.
Recommendation: Buy low – CC has the track record of a winner, his ratios are still excellent, and Yankee reinforcements are on the way.
Price has run the full gamut of a buy-low player so far this year: He was drafted high, started out terribly, got hurt, hit the DL, and has yet to return. Owners that invested a top 2-3 round pick in his must be close to tearing their hair out. Price has always been such a solid draft day investment, but this just hasn’t been his year so far. Sharp fantasy owners pounce on these situations and take advantage. The Rays expect Price to make his next rehab outing on Wednesday, and he should return to the major sometime around the All-Star break. Sporting an ERA of 5.24 and WHIP of 1.44 to date, David has certainly underperformed based on his career averages (3.29 and 1.19, respectively). I feel he is still the same rock-solid value he was on draft day once healthy, so make sure to extend an appropriate lowball offer for Price in all leagues during this coming week.
Recommendation: Buy low – Price had a run of bad luck and got hurt. He’s fine, and his rest-of-season numbers should revert to his former elite status.
Looking at Cain’s numbers for the purposes of writing this column is just odd. It’s like looking at two completely different pitchers, one of whom has pitched the last three years, and the other who has just begun pitching in 2013. Instead of my usual analysis, I’m going to let the numbers speak for themselves for Mr. Cain (2103 in bold):
ERA: 4.55, 2.79, 2.88, 3.14
HR/FB%: 14.0, 8.4, 3.7, 7.4
xFIP: 3.82, 3.82, 3.78, 4.00
K/9 IP: 8.34, 7.92, 7.27, 7.13
Lets summarize here: His strikeouts are up, his xFIP is in line with his career average, and his home runs allowed are WAY up, thus leading to his ERA being much higher than usual. Cain is already improving drastically – four consecutive quality starts with a 2.03 ERA with 25 strikeouts and five walks during that span. Get your buy low offers in while you can, because Cain is going to shine in the second half.
Recommendation: Buy low – Cain has shaken his slow start, and is poised to dominate in the second half.