Given that we are a little more than half way through the fantasy season, I thought this would be a good time to take stock on some first half performances. There have been several surprises this year (as there are every year). Players coming out of nowhere and on pace for an MVP season while others were slow out of the gate and haven’t quite figured things out yet. What’s an owner to do? Do you stick with that hot guy and hope he continues to produce the rest of the year? Do you hold on to the slumping star in hopes that he turns things around? Make the right decision and you could cruise into the playoffs, but make the wrong choice and that slumper could be breaking out on someone else’s team.
Below are several players you might want to consider trading away. They may not be bad in the second half, but they will not come close to their first half production. Also there are several players who haven’t done much, but could be on the verge of breaking out and could give your team that extra push. I know trading away a stud is hard as we all fall in love with those players that have gotten us to where we are now. Trading for a slumping player isn’t easy as there are risks involved. Bottom line is, if you don’t do anything and remain stagnant, there is a chance that several other shrewd owners could make some moves and pass you in the standings. Don’t get left holding the bag. Even if you are sitting comfortably in first, there still might be changes you can make.
SELL: Their value is never going to be any higher
Charlie Blackmon: More than likely if you did draft Blackmon he was a late pick, to most he was a waiver wire darling to start the year. Blackmon batted .389 in the moth of April with 5 home runs and 7 steals. For May and June he has hit under .270 and his strikeouts have doubled from April. His final line still looks tasty as he’s still hitting home runs and stealing bases, but he’s not the man we all fell in love with. His value is slowly slipping as his average declines, but it’s still high enough that you should be able to find an owner that is willing to pay for him. Trade him now while you can still get an elite player in return.
Dee Gordon: Speaking of waiver wire treasures, Gordon is the poster child with 40 steals and an average close to .300 for the first 3 months. His average hit a snag in May falling below .250, but he made up for it by stealing 21 bases. We know Gordon has the wheels to steal, but do you really see him finishing with 75-80 stolen bases? And while it is possible at age 26 that he has figured out how to hit at the major league level, do you envision him finishing the year with a .300 average? Gordon may still be useful in the second half and he will still steal bases, but you have gotten the bulk of his production already. Holding him will not hurt you, but trading him for a lesser shortstop and a pitcher or outfielder might help you more (depending on your teams needs).
Troy Tulowitzki: Troy is healthy and on pace to surpass the 150 games played plateau, something we haven’t seen since 2009. With a batting average close to .350 and on pace for a career year in home runs, I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall. The first words I spoke were Troy is healthy. Think about this for a second and ask yourself, how confident am I that Tulowitzki will not land on the DL? Last year when we made our bold predictions, one of mine was that Tulowitzki would play in at least 150 games. While I believed that in my heart, the odds are not in my favor. He’s already had a few ouchies, it’s only a matter of time before the big one hits and you’re left with a hole up the middle. If you’re not going to trade Tulowitzki for a small fortune, you should at the very least invest in a suitable backup for when the inevitable happens. Tulowitzki can carry your team into the playoffs, but he can also single-handedly sink your playoff hopes.
Johnny Cueto: Speaking of playing over your head and staying healthy, come on down Johnny Cueto. He finished the first half of the season with an ERA below 2, but his FIP, xFIP and SIERA all suggest that should be a full point higher. Conventional wisdom suggests that a correction is coming, but not a large one. Trading Cueto before that correction could do more for your team than holding on to him. Acquiring someone like Zack Greinke or Madison Bumgarner along with a hitter would be perfectly acceptable. Their ERA’s will finish right around where Cueto’s is expected to end up, so there is not much loss in pitching and that hitter could fill a position with someone better than your current option. No one will fault you for sticking with Cueto, but his value will Never be higher.
Nelson Cruz: Did ANYONE see this one coming? After 3 months he’s 2 home runs away from passing last years total and 8 away from his career best of 33. He’s also on pace for career runs, RBIs and walks, not to mention play the entire year without a DL trip (something he’s only done once in his entire career). Either Cruz was due for a healthy year or there’s an injury out there with his name on it. Even if he does stay healthy, how many more home runs do you think you will get out of Cruz? The gambler will ride this out enamored with the numbers Cruz has delivered to date. The smart play would be to cash out your chips now while you’re ahead. There will be some skeptics in your league that will not pay for Cruz and his injury riddled past, but I’m sure there are a few who will be willing to deal. Think big, don’t get too greedy but don’t give him away either.
Other potential sell high names:
Jose Abreu: May or may not continue HR pace, his name value is at an all time high just like Puig last season
Jose Altuve: Numbers look very pretty after 11 stolen base week.
Huston Street: With the Padres out of it he could be traded, plus the ERA and WHIP are not going to stay below 1.0.
Julio Teheran: Everyone loves young hyped pitchers and Teheran’s value is at its peak.
BUY: A Big second half could be in the cards for these men.
Corey Dickerson: He was supposed to start the year with the Rockies, but Charlie Blackmon bumped him back to AAA. Blackmon is now fading and it’s Dickerson’s time to shine. Michael Cuddyer won’t be back for several months, and even when he does return I don’t see Dickerson being taken out of the lineup. He could easily match his current home run and stolen base totals in the second half, so you’re looking at a minimum of 10 home runs and 5 stolen bases as his floor. His average will also finish right around .300 and his RBI production could go up hitting in the top half of the order. With his current average well above .300, it might be hard to pry him away from his current owner, but it’s worth a try. Maybe wait until Dickerson put up a few o’fers in a row, let the average come down a few ticks and then make your move.
Jay Bruce: Three straight years of 30+ home runs. Through the first three months this year, Bruce has 7. A batting average in the .240 range is below the norm, but not far off what he’s averaged over the course of his career. It also masks the fact that Bruce hit .300 in the month of June. He’s starting to feel comfortable at the plate, and sooner or later the balls are going to start leaving the park. I don’t know if Bruce can reach that 30 HR plateau for a fourth year in a row, but he should be able to double his first half power production. You might not be able to get him at a discount, but paying full price for this man isn’t a deal breaker and could be a wise investment.
Kenley Jansen: Sure he has 25 saves, but an ERA close to 4.0 and a 1.3 WHIP is not what owners envisioned when they drafted Jansen. Close to half of those earned runs were given up in just two days, 3 runs in May against SF and 3 runs in June at SD. Mike Petriello over at Fangraphs wrote an article last month about Jansen’s increased velocity being linked to his control issues. This could very well be the case. If you remember last year, Jansen went through some early struggles with a higher velocity. As the season wore on, the velocity came down a few ticks and all was golden. He’s also been incredibly unlucky in the BABIP department and I don’t see him finishing the season with a .397 (over 100 points higher than any other year in the majors). His owners may be wary on trading him due to his save total so you may have to offer up one of your closers in return. Giving someone like Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon or Steve Cishek with another useful player could be enough.
Ryan Zimmerman: Every year it’s the same thing. You draft Zimmerman as he’s the best option on the board at the time. You cross your fingers and hope he can stay healthy…but he doesn’t. He disappoints you and you trade him away only to watch him blow up for a month on someone else’s team. Yup, every Zimmerman owner in the past has experienced this and can sympathize with the current crop of owners. Last year Zimmerman went off in September hitting 11 home runs and carried several teams through the playoffs. In 2012, Zimmerman hit .366 with 10 home runs in the month of July. In 2010 & 2011 he had several months where he hit .300 with decent home run totals. This year…well, we’re still waiting. There is either one big month ahead or several very good ones. Zimmerman has already got his DL trip out-of-the-way, so other than an off day here and there, it should be smooth sailing.
Chris Davis: We were all expecting Crush when the year started, but here we are at the half point and only Crash has shown up. With all those strikeouts we knew the average would come down, but DAMN! He’s not even hitting his weight. Davis is walking more which is why he’s still on pace to score at least 75 runs. The power is still there, his average fly ball distance is 304.63 feet (7th place). His FB% is down, but 40% is still higher than what he had in 2012 when he hit 33 home runs. Z-Swing% and Contact% are both in line with last year and his O-Swing% is actually down 4.5%. His F-Strike% is the only thing that has really changed and is up 6.5%, but his K/9 hasn’t moved. A .259 BABIP suggests some bad luck on his part and is due for a correction. When that happens, you want him on your team and not the opposing team you’re facing. His name and power potential will still cost you, but probably not as much as it would have in April.
Other Potential Buy Low Candidates:
Matt Holliday: 20+ home runs a year since 2006, his bat could heat up over the final months.
Bryce Harper: 20+ home runs in his first two season and he has his injury out-of-the-way. All systems go.
Shane Victorino: Double digit home runs & 19 steals a season since 2007, could be a second half sleeper.
HOLD: Their trade value is low so just stick it out.
Joey Votto: You probably spent a second round pick on Votto; while you knew the elite power wouldn’t return, you expected the average to be there. Votto’s slump started before his trip to the DL, and while he’s back he’s not 100% (despite what Votto says). His left leg is obviously bothering him. He’s hit over .300 since coming into the league (.297 in 2008), but this year he’s struggling to get above .270. There will be no stolen base attempts for the rest of the year, and at times it will be hard for him to leg out a double. Being moved up in the lineup isn’t going to help his RBI opportunities, and with Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips underachieving he’ll be lucky to score more than 75 runs. All these things scream sell, but for what? You may get lucky and have an owner in your league that will give you a player close to the value you paid for him. More than likely though, if you want to get rid of Votto you’ll have to take a discount. I would recommend holding on to Votto, but if a good enough deal comes along, happy trails.
Jean Segura: Most owners pictured a .260 average with 10 home runs and 40 steals as his floor. Close, but no cigar. He got owners excited hitting .288 in May but couldn’t crack .200 for the month of June. He’s been caught stealing 8 times this year in 22 attempts, last year it was 13 times in 57 tries. He might still match his run and RBI totals from last year, but we were hoping he would exceed those numbers. Was Serura overhyped or is it just a sophomore slump? Probably a little of both. I don’t know if things will get better for Segura, but I’m confident they won’t get any worse. His best days could be just ahead, but worse case you’ve got the best shortstop in the league once the top 12 are gone. You’ve stuck it out with Segura this far, what’s a little while longer. Besides, considering his value is right there with Asdrubal Cabrera, how much would you really get back in a trade?
Justin Verlander: Whatever water fountain Verlander & Joe Nathan have been drinking out of, the Tigers should find it and quickly destroy it. What the hell has happened to Verlander. If there was an injury like Votto it would be easy to point and say “there’s the reason”. I’m not going to discuss velocity as that’s been done. I’m not going to talk about his mechanics as I’m no expert in this field. What I will address here is value. On average, Verlander was taken anywhere from the end of round 3 to the early part of round 4. If you attempted to trade Verlander now, you have a slim chance of getting a player of this kind of value for him in return. I can’t in good conscience recommend trading for Verlander; while I believe he will come around, it’s just too big of a risk (unless the asking price is right). Some owners have dropped him outright, but this is not something I can’t condone (nor condemn) as his upside is too high (the exception would be for 10 team leagues with shallow benches). You invested one of your first five picks in Verlander, so you might as well stick it out and hold him on your bench. If he can turn things around like he did in the second half last year, you’ll be happy come playoff time.
Jason Kipnis: The past two years Kipnis has been a rock in the first half and a hard place in the second. This was supposed to be his breakout season, but all he broke was the hearts of thousands of fantasy owners. For a comparison, his numbers are almost a mirror image of Brain Roberts…yuck. Not what you expected from your third round draft pick. Kipnis is in Verlander territory, your chances of getting anything close to full value are slim and none. You know if you drop him, all those people who turned down your trade offers will put in a waiver claim. Also there is still a chance he turns things around and his power/speed combination could be an asset in the second half. If you are a Kipnis owner, hold on and cross your fingers (unless a good trade offer rolls your way). If you’ve been playing him all this time, why stop now.
Mike Minor: Tommy Landseadel discussed Mike Minor in detail several weeks ago. If you’re looking for an analysis on what to expect, you may want to give it a read. Right now Minor is at a crossroads for fantasy. He was inconsistent until the middle of 2012, turned things around for the next year and a half and now looks as bad as he did when he was called up in 2010. He doesn’t have the track record that owners will trust so trading him will get you less than what he could be worth. His SIERA says that better times are ahead, but there is no guarantee so owners will shy away from trading for him. Just like all the players above, unless you give him away in a trade you’re basically stuck with him. That’s an appropriate term as you’ve stuck with him this long, stick it out and see if he can salvage some of the value you paid for him.
Other potential hold candidates:
Shin-Soo Choo: His trade value is slightly above the replacement level players you’d find on waivers.
Dustin Pedroia: You’re not going to get back what you paid for him unless someone pays just for his name.
Scott Kazmir: Nobody is going to give a big name for a mediocre pitcher having a career year, just like Liriano last year and Colon in 2012.
Note: All of these are for re-draft leagues.
Those in keeper/dynasty leagues or leagues that use contracts and salaries adjust your plans accordingly.