This column is a bit different than your weekly waiver wire piece. Here we’ll examine widely owned fantasy baseball players who are hot and cold, with the goal of identifying sell high/buy low trading opportunities heading into Week 16 of the MLB season. Your comments, contributions, and criticisms are welcome, both in the comments and in the forums. Let’s do this!

BULLS (Players whose stock is trending up):

Steve Pearce BAL | OF

Pearce has 11 total HR on the year, and 7 of them have come in the last 30 days. Along the way he’s batted .330 while scoring 19 runs and driving in another 19. This rates him as the #11 player during the time period. He’s even thrown in 3 steals! You have to like the situation, as he’s batting third in a powerful Orioles lineup that still has yet to really hit its stride. And, yeah, I’m about to tell you to deal him. Why? Precedent. He’s a career .297 BABIP guy, and he’s at .356 right now. He’s a career .160 Isolated Power guy, and he’s at .261 this year. Finally, he owns a .255 career batting average, and he’s currently sitting at .322 (mostly supported by the inflated BABIP). This is a former 8th round pick in the Pirates organization that is just blowing the doors off his previous ceiling. I think he will remain useful, but is going to seriously regress. I’d package him with a closer-of-the-moment to grab an underachieving stud from a 9th place team.
Recommendation: Sell high – The numbers and previous showing simply don’t support this hot streak continuing.

Eric Hosmer KC | 1B

Hosmer has been more myth than reality so far in 2014, leaving his draft day investors high and dry for the most part. At various points he’s been a Free Agent in many of my leagues, but he’s become a hot pickup over the last few weeks. Why, you ask? He’s coming to life, and smart fantasy owners will buy in while the stock is low. Hosmer has batted .429 and gotten on base at a .529 clip in July, which wouldn’t be remarkable except that he did almost this exact same dance in 2013 – started off cold, and warmed up with the weather, batting .323 / .379 / .473 after the All-Star Break. He has 20 HR / 20 SB potential, so grab him with your final bench spot if you still can, or include him as a throw-in if you’re dealing during the ASB. I’m feeling a strong stretch run for Hoz.
Recommendation: Buy / Hold – Hosmer still isn’t worth much in trade, so hold him if you can, and buy him low otherwise.

J.D. Martinez DET | OF

Martinez has always been one of those power / speed guys that seems to have limitless potential but never the ability to really put it all together. Well, whatever he was missing, he’s found it. J.D. has absolutely destroyed MLB pitching for the last 30 days: 9 HR, 27 RBI, and a .387 average say so. He’s the #3 player overall for that period, which isn’t shocking. As with any player that comes out of absolutely nowhere and rakes, his career numbers don’t support what he’s been doing in any way. His AVG, BABIP, ISO, and HR/FB% are drastically above anything he’s ever posted before, which would lead one to believe that regression is certainly in order. The question is, how much? If I owned Martinez, I’d definitely be shopping him, but I don’t think I’d take anything less than a king’s ransom at the moment. He’s hitting in the middle of a Tigers lineup that put up 34 runs in their last three games, and once Victor Martinez comes back he’ll have even more fastballs to mash. He’s worth an awful lot to your team; don’t sell him low just to do it
Recommendation: Sell high / Hold – I think Martinez has gained skills, not just gotten lucky. He’s a great OF3, if not better, for the rest of the year

Chase Utley PHI | 2B

It’s not that Utley has been bad – he’s actually ranked as the 8th best overall 2B on the year, far outpacing what I (and most, I’d say) expected from him as a 35-year-old second baseman on a bad team. What actually prompted me to feature Utley here is how solid he’s been lately. Over the last 14 days, he’s batting almost .290 with 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 runs scored, and a steal. He’s ranked out as the #70 player overall, and I think this hot streak coupled with his solid season and name recognition opens up a sell-high window. The Phillies are going to have a fire sale before the trading deadline, and if Utley isn’t moved he’s going to be on a ghost ship of a team with no lineup protection or RBI chances. His age also makes him a constant injury risk. With great, cheap upcoming options like Danny Santana and Kolten Wong at 2B, it’s time to make moves.
Recommendation: Sell – Utley is near the peak of his value right now – Find an owner who needs a 2B and sell him the consistency and recent surge.

Jake Arrieta CHC | SP

Whatever, formerly crappy Orioles pitcher turned Chicago Cubs ace. This feel-good story, while heartwarming, irritates me because once the Arrieta cat was out of the box, I couldn’t continue streaming him in on all my teams every 5 days. Ah well, it was good while it lasted. Enough about me, back to Jake. He’s been ridiculous. Like 4 wins, 48 K, 1.40 ERA, 0.59 WHIP ridiculous over the last 30 days. #7 overall player ridiculous. He’s been better than names like Felix, Sale, Cueto, Price, and Lester over that span. I’m gonna tell you something you already know – there’s zippy chance he’s this good for the rest of the year. He doesn’t have the name recognition outside of fantasy circles as yet, so it’s doubtful that you can sell him for a top 50 type player at this point. I’d recommend targeting a team that needs SP, near the bottom of the standings, and offer them Arrieta for their underperforming ‘stud’ (I’m looking at you Harper, Hosmer, Craig, Segura, Carpenter, etc). There’s bound to be a guy that fits this description in your league.
Recommendation: Sell high – Arrieta obviously won’t continue at this pace, and the Cubs aren’t going to score enough for him to get too many wins from here on out either.

BEARS (Players whose stock is trending down):

Jean Segura MIL | SS

On 2014 fantasy draft day, most owners slapped the wallet to the tune of a 4th round pick for the mighty Jean Segura, upside SS extraordinaire. It hasn’t really worked out that way, however. The best part of Segura’s line is his 15 SB’s, but the rest is pretty awful for a guy playing in Miller Park whilst hitting in a strong lineup: 41 runs, 4 HR, 23 RBI, .232 avg. Allow me to summarize his splits so far in 2014: He can’t hit righties or lefties, he can’t hit during the day or at night, and he can’t hit at home, or on the road. He’s been a complete disaster of a fourth round pick, and his owners are fed up – and we’re going to help them out by buying Segura super, super low. I think he’s hit rock bottom, and can only go up from here. Even if he’s hitting 8th, the Brewers lineup rolls at home, and has enough staying power to hit on the road. His BABIP is down 70 points from last year, and his owners probably can’t wait to be rid of him at this point. I’m offering guys like Brandon Belt, Mark Melancon, Khris Davis, and Steve Pearce for Segura in multiple leagues, and these deals aren’t being rejected (yet. We’ll see.) I think Segura is a tremendous buy low candidate in a down year at the SS position.
Recommendation: Buy low – The price is right, and Segura could turn in the type of second half that wins leagues for daring owners.

Bryce Harper WAS | OF

Harper is currently in the midst of a 1-20 streak in his return from the DL. He’s been striking out a ton, and has looked more or less lost at the plate. But as a loyal Nats fan, I’ve been watching his AB’s, and he’s getting it back. Harp has been squaring the ball up more and more often over the past week, and on multiple occasions has blistered the ball right at someone. He’s starting to look dangerous again, and teams have noticed – he’s starting to be intentionally walked again in key situations. Wow. Literally as I was writing that sentence, Harper just took A.J. Burnett right out of the yard for a line-drive HR to right. The Nats lineup, with Harper doing his Harper thing, is going to be downright scary, so I’d get your buy-low offers out there while you can.
Recommendation: Buy low – Bryce is ready to explode at any moment.

Nolan Arenado COL | 3B

Arenado has been the better part of a dog-doo sandwich since returning from the DL. Entering Friday night’s games, he’s gone 3-26 with 0 runs, 1 RBI, and 1 steal. And, most notable, 0 HR. Nolan was hitting a robust .305 with 6 HR through 49 games before going down with a fractured finger in May. It’s going to take some AB’s for his timing to come back, so we’re going to want to take advantage of this cold streak and make a solid offer if a 3B is on your want list.
Recommendation: Recommendation: Buy low – Arenado was a top 10.

Matt Cain SF | SP

Remember when Matt Cain was a marquee SP name, owned in all fantasy leagues as a legit #1 or #2 starter? It wasn’t really all that long ago, but times have really changed. I picked Cain up a few days ago in a $ league….for free. He cleared waivers. While I believe this to be more of an oversight / outlier than anything else, I think it is indicative of the value that Cain has right now, which would be almost none. I think you can buy him for a song, and I think it would be a well-spent song. Since a disastrous three-start run, Cain has pitched 19.1 innings, struck out 18, and allowed only 4 earned runs. His season ERA is still above 4, and his WHIP is still a far-from-elite 1.25, but it looks like Cain is on the rebound. While I’m not certain you can get him for free, I’d certain buy him low if I was Abel.
Recommendation: Buy low – Cain isn’t the dominant force of old, but he’s still a strong SP3 in most leagues that you can buy super cheap right now. Love his prospects the rest of the way.

Danny Santana MIN | 2B / SS / OF

Does anyone but me remember this guy? You might remember him as the guy that was the catalyst for the Twins offensive breakout in late May / early June. He came out of nowhere to bat leadoff for Minnesota, posting a .328 average, 6 steals, 19 RBI, 12 runs, and 2 HR in only 134 AB’s. Santanaman was one of the hottest hitters (and pickups) in fantasy baseball before sustaining a knee bruise that finally brought him down for the count on June 25th. He’s one of those fantasy players that every championship team seems to have – a guy with a little pop, a little speed, and a decent average that comes out of the blue and can play a couple of positions. A true ‘glue guy’ that seems to do something useful every single game. Problem is, Santana won’t be back before the ASB, which has left many owners no choice but to cut him – he’s only about 25% owned. He’s beginning a rehab assignment this weekend, however, and should be back just after the break. There will never be a better chance to buy low (or free) on a guy that was a top 50 play just 30 days ago. I’m holding him in virtually all my leagues and eagerly anticipating his return.
Recommendation: Buy very low – I think in 2.5 weeks time this will be the most added player in fantasy baseball .