This column is a bit different than your weekly waiver wire piece. Here we’ll examine widely owned batters 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, BABIP is the metric that measures a players Batting Average on Balls In Play – league average is generally between .290 and .300. We can use this simply metric to help forecast regression or upside in a batting line moving forward. Let’s do this!
BULLS (Players whose stock has trended up)
So I was holding Puig in all my deep leagues for the entire season, and finally gave up on him ever being called up… about 10 days before he was called up. Nice drop, Bro. Since that day, Puig has owned both National and American league pitching on his way to a .407 average, 8 homers, 4 steals, and 24 runs scored. He has become the Mike Trout of 2013, and if you managed to pick him up, my congratulations. However, I’m here to tell you that Puig is the ultimate sell-high right now. His BABIP sits at .483, which is so far beyond unsustainable that I’m not certain how to classify it. He’s striking out 22% of the time, and his BB/K ration is .17/1, meaning he isn’t walking either. His second time around the league is going to be a wakeup call, and while I still think he will be an elite talent, he’s due for some regression. For some perspective, the last player to hit .400 was Ted Williams. Sell Puig super high, and fill all your team’s need at once.
Recommendation: Sell High – He’s not going to hit .400 for the season. Pitchers are going to adjust – regression is on the way.
When you have 33 homers and 85 RBI before the All-Star break, there isn’t a hell of a lot left to say about statistical regression. Davis’s surge is well beyond a hot streak, and can’t really be questioned at this point. He almost seems to homer on a daily basis, and he’s protected by the very deep and potent Baltimore lineup. It was widely predicted that his average would come down based on his BABIP, and it has slightly, but not to the detriment of his counting stats. And it’s only getting warmer, meaning more balls will be flying out of the already homer-friendly Camden Yards. Whenever I have a player that is this super hot, I’m always dangling him in trade talks to see what I can get, but it would take quite a bit to get me to move Davis. I can’t imagine you can really buy him low, so if someone offers you a kings ransom, sell him super high. Otherwise, sit tight and enjoy the ride.
Recommendation: Hold – Davis is having one of those magical seasons, and I just can’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
Domonic Brown simply owned the month of May, homering 12 times in 109 at-bats, to go along with a .303 average and 25 RBI. By most accounts, this placed him in the top 5 players in fantasy baseball at the time, and that moment was the exact right time to sell him high. He followed that insane May up with a good June, but regression struck back, and he homered only 6 times while batting .278. If you still own Domonic Brown, this is your last call. If you want to get excellent value for what was most likely a waiver pickup or last round pick, put a deal together and trade Brown now. He’s never hit more than 22 homers in any minor league season. His isolated power numbers are up about 100 points from last year, and 60+ above his career (including minors) averages. And he’s striking out 20% of the time. Show prospective owners his 22 HR and 60 RBI, and win the trade.
Recommendation: Sell high – He’s been amazing, but the track record isn’t there. The correction has already begun.
During April and May, owners surveying the top fantasy players were probably like “Who the hell is this Donaldson character?”. After four months of strong fantasy production, however, Donaldson has become much more the household name, and has become the cornerstone of many first place teams. How has he managed this? He’s seeing more pitches, and walking more as a result. He’s being more selective, and striking out less as a result. When he’s hitting the ball, he’s getting better pitches to hit and squaring them up, resulting in more line drives. His BABIP is a little high, but not insane, and he hasn’t had that one signature Domonic Brown month where he just goes bonkers. Instead, he’s hit over .300 every month, with strong contributions in HR, RBI, and R. Hitting in the middle of what has become a potent A’s offense, I like his success to translate in to the second half. Unless someone knocks your socks off, I say hold the Donald the rest of the year.
Recommendation: Hold – Donaldson has been very consistent for his owners and I can’t see anyone getting back better value in trade than he has and will provide rest-of-season.
BEARS (Players whose stock has trended down)
Cespedes had a massive rookie year in 2012, but hasn’t matched high expectations in his 2013 campaign. Currently stuck on a .223 batting average, he’s slumped so badly that the A’s moved him down to 6th in the order for a few games so he could get his head right. Owners have to be frustrated by the seemingly endless string of 0-4’s they see in their daily stats. Now is the time to strike. Despite his .223 average, Cespedes still has 15 HR, 42 runs, and 45 RBI, putting him roughly on pace for a 30 – 90 – 90 campaign minimum. And there’s definite room for upside – his BABIP is.249, so even if it only averages back out to about .270, that’s still a ton of improvement. Final note: As good as his first half was in 2012, his second half was even better: 14 HR, 51 Runs, 46 RBI, and 10 SB. Buy him now, and buy him low.
Recommendation: Buy low – Cespedes is a superior talent, has had some bad luck, and is due for a massive correction in the near future.
Bryce went on the DL with knee tendonitis on May 26th, and a visit to Dr. Andrews loomed large. Everyone in Washington, DC, collectively exhaled when he was cleared of any major damage. In all, Harper was out more than a month, not returning until July 1, and the rust has been apparent. He’s gone 2-21 in July, although one of the two was a homer run in his first at-bat upon returning. Owners that invested a high pick in Harper must be getting anxious, especially owners who are lower in the standings at the halfway point. Find that vulnerable owner, and fleece him. Bryce’s BABIP is .258, he’s walking almost 18% of the time, and he’s finally healthy and locked into a potent (when healthy) Nationals lineup. I’m predicting him as a top 15 player rest of season. Buy if you can.
Recommendation: Buy low – Harper is finally healthy, and has the lineup around him and the tools to dominate in the second half.
Hill has been hurt for the vast majority of 2013, leading many owners to forget just how good he really is. In 2012, Hill batted .302 with 26 HR, 85 RBI, and 93 runs scored, placing him squarely inside the top echelon of 2B. 2013 has not been so kind to Hill – he was hit by a pitch, fractured his left hand, and was placed on the DL on April 16th. He didn’t return until June 25th, a disabled-list stay of more than two months. How has he fared since his return? He’s begun just where he left off: .309 average, .380+ OBP, 8 runs and 5 RBI in about 40 AB’s. Hill hits in a great park and lineup, and the power will return as he finds his stroke again – Buy him low while you still can.
Recommendation: Buy low – Hill should return to his prior status as a top 10, and possibly top 5, 2B before long.
I’m hoping you rolled with FST and snagged Everth in the later rounds of your draft. He’s turned out to be one of the best calls (and steals) of the season, so far, stealing 31 bases and scoring 37 runs while batting .295. If you didn’y, you just might have one final chance to grab some shares of eCab. He went down on June 16th with a hamstring injury, was placed on the DL, and didn’t return until July 5th. The nature of his injury suggests that he will work the running back into his game as he gains confidence, but he’s been more than rusty so far: Including Sundays action, eCab has gone 0-13 with 0 walks and 0 steals since his return. He looks tentative at the plate, and owners that were forced to wait 2+ weeks to regain his services may be getting itchy. If you need speed, consider proposing a solid buy-low offer for Cabrera.
Recommendation: Buy low – If you can buy Cabrera for 75-85 cents on the dollar, I’d strongly suggest doing so. San Diego runs like crazy, and he should put up video-game steals numbers the remainder of the season.