Take Advantage of the Panic Button

Every April, you read the usual articles reminding you about a very important fantasy baseball strategy: DON’T PANIC! Keep your calm, make smart moves, and don’t rock the boat too much until May. You spent months preparing for drafts and building up a strategy, so don’t throw it out in the first two weeks just because of a little bad luck. Sound familiar? I’ve heard it all too often myself. But here’s the thing: some managers WILL panic, no matter what the experts say.

Is someone complaining because Trout only has 1 HR so far? Has a guy dropped a valuable SP like Wacha because he wants the hot-topic waiver wire pickup Hellickson? Has a team already been saddled with 7 DL players and so needs to sell low on decent players in order to field an active roster? Don’t get complacent in the early weeks. Yes, it pays to keep track of hot starts from the FA pool, but realistically, those players aren’t likely to keep it up. The real value lies in letting other teams push the panic button and taking advantage of them. Now’s the time to make trade offers for underperforming players who have shown strong value in the past. With that said, here are some of my picks for players you can target in your trade offers.

Mitch Moreland

He may sit against lefties from time to time, especially given that he’s struggling early this season with 10 strikeouts. His early contact rate shows he’s not squaring up. Maybe he’s pushing a bit hard out of the gate as he finally tries for full-time AB. Whatever the cause, I have faith Moreland can turn things around as time goes on. Remember, two weeks is a tiny sample size no matter when it is during the season. A 20 HR season with a .260 BA is still possible for him as long as he can keep his playing time.

Adam Jones

He used to be a consensus top-10 pick. Recently he’s been criticized for not posting a high walk rate, thanks to the metrics-heavy media. Now he’s dealing with a rib cage issue (that’s hopefully not an oblique strain). I’m okay with fantasy managers knocking Jones out of the top-20. However, his four-year consistency pre-2015 (.280+ BA, 25+ HR) requires that you still give him decent value. The drop in BA from 2015 was due to a career low BABIP, and even if he starts hitting a few more ground balls than in his prime, I have no problems with expecting a .270, 25 HR season when all is said and done.

Kolten Wong

It’s true that second basemen are easier to find right now than they used to be. However, the Cardinals aren’t done as competitors, and Wong’s early struggles will have some managers itching to move him. Wong is suffering from a dropped contact rate, lower LD% and FB%, and a spike in GB%. However, what’s the theme of this article? It’s early. His walk rate isn’t suffering, and neither is his BABIP. He’s swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone, which is always a good thing. He’ll come around to bring top-12 value at the position.

Ian Desmond

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Desmond will get back to being a top-5 shortstop in 2016. His dropping contact rate makes that impossible. That contact rate is still abysmal, but the tale of his woes lies mostly on BABIP right now, which is exceedingly unlucky. He’s not making much hard contact right now either, but given how much less he cost to start 2016, it seems likely you could target him in a trade for very little in return, and then you’d have a reasonable risk for your MI slot. Even if you assume continued fade from his peak years, it’s possible that he could put up a 15/15 season, though with a poor BA. In deep leagues that still has value at the right price.

Khris Davis

It’s not the start any of us expected. Even if you projected a small drop in production after he was traded to a less favorable home park, I’m sure no one labeled him a complete bust for 2016. So far his batted ball data looks okay, but plate discipline is the problem. Whether Davis is pressing after the trade, or seeing a lot of new pitchers, he’s swinging at a lot of balls out of the zone and he’s not making contact. If he can settle down and get past these early season woes, I still believe he can hit 25 home runs and put up a league average BA.

Collin McHugh

I was obviously high on the Astros starters before the season started, and I’m still optimistic they’ll have a strong season. At least McCullers has an excuse with being on the DL. What about McHugh? His command isn’t quite there yet, but many starters have a bit of rust in the early part of the season, or the cold April weather affects them. His walk and strikeout rates are trending the wrong direction from last year, but as I’ll keep saying, it’s early. His BABIP is also unluckily high right now, so with a bit of regression his ratios won’t look so bad. I still maintain he’ll improve upon his 2015 ERA and WHIP this season, as long as he rights his K/9 by the end of the month.

Shelby Miller

All those prospects Arizona gave up, and for what? I’m on the record as not loving Miller anyway, but his early results may lead to a buy-low opportunity. His BABIP is league average, he’s only lost a little in K/9, and his walk rate has actually improved. What’s the problem? Gopheritis. Granted that he’s in a more hitter friendly home park, and his first two games were at home, so maybe he’s not the safest bet, as I’ve been saying for years. However, he sports a decent GB% to help mitigate future homers, and if you’re able to get him for cents on the dollar, he’s probably worth the risk.

Andrew Cashner

Here’s another starter whom I’ve passed on more than most. He’s suffering from a horrible BABIP due to a very high LD%. Hitters are squaring up right now, and because he’s a fireballer, that makes for hard contact and lots of hits. So far, batters are not swinging at his pitches out of the zone, and so he’s throwing more in the zone. However, the good news is that his early walk and strikeout rates are better than last year. He’s also throwing more first pitch strikes, and his swinging strike rate is up. He’s backed off of his slider, which means more fastballs for hitters to feast on. If he increases his offspeed pitches again and avoids a HR/FB above the major league average, he’ll be able to put up #3 SP value.

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.
Kevin Jebens

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