July 1st may signify the halfway mark, but the all-star break is the benchmark that most people use. If you have not so do yet, take the next few days to evaluate your team, identify the problem areas, dig through the waiver wire, and make a trade or two to shore up your team for the second half.
As I stated in the last edition, it’s not just about who you trade for. Who you trade away can have just as big of an impact. Look to sell-high on those over achievers while also targeting struggling or injured stars that could make an impact in the second half.
Robbie Ray – Diamondbacks
Ray is someone I discussed several weeks ago. I think the evolution of Ray’s market value bears us revisiting some of what’s behind this breakout. His numbers have elevated him to top-10 status in most formats, and I have routinely heard Ray referred to as an ace by league mates and fellow analysts alike. I have seen and heard some insane offers and refusals for him as well. Let’s go back and take a look at his stats again to see if much has changed.
His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all suggest that his ERA should be a high 3.00s. Each of those sit at 3.77, 3.74, and 3.75 respectively. That’s a tight enough grouping to make a dart player jealous. Maybe the addition of his new curveball has somehow limited his hard contact? Nope! His hard contact is still sitting at an absurd 41.6%. That is paired with a meager 39.2% ground ball rate.
Compare that to an 18.6% line drive rate and a 42.2% fly ball rate in the Coors Field Jr. that is Chase Field and no thank you. If we saw this profile on a hitter you would assume it was Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, or some other fantasy stud. His walk rate is also way up at a Kilimanjaro-esque 11.9%. That number makes me feel sick enough to want to take a dump in my own living room – almost.
Ray does face a lot of easy competition within the division, though. He frequently squares off against the Padres and Giants. Additionally, the Dodgers are brutal against lefties, and the Rockies aren’t the same team away from Coors. He is also a strikeout gold mine. All of the stats I referenced above are not to say that Ray is a scrub and holds no value. It is to say that he is outpitching his peripherals by almost a full run, and his current perceived value far outweighs his actual value.
Here are some offers I’ve seen and heard in my leagues for Ray:
- Ray for McCullers: Ray owner declined because he was getting easily the worst pitcher and needed something additional.
- Ray and Yander Alonso for deGrom and Edwin Encarnacion: Ray owner declined because Ray is “better” than deGrom and Edwin has been kind of disappointing to this point.
You can also go to any of the major fantasy site rankings and you will see Ray inside the top-20, and sometimes even the top-10. That’s a joke. He’s the exact same pitcher he was last year, but he has had some better luck. I see nothing in the numbers or even watching him live to suggests he has put it all together. He is a top 30-40 pitcher with one elite skill. If you can turn him into an actual ace or something of equivalent value, do it! Do it now!!! That last one was in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, so you know I really mean it.
Joey Votto – Reds
Let me preface this with the fact that Joey Votto is an absolute stud. I was lucky enough to get him cheap in many keeper and dynasty leagues following his lone disappointing year. I love that he has the best plate approach in baseball. I love that he never pops up to the infield, and I love the frequency with which he bumps umpires over lousy calls. All of that said, Joey Votto has played to the point where he is the number one player in leagues that count OBP and devalue speed. His value is not far off of that in standard leagues either.
I don’t have much to say about the numbers here since not much has changed. Literally the only thing that has changed is he hits more fly balls now, which explains the increased power and lower BABIP. None of that is enough to move the needle on how I feel about him, though. All I have is philosophical advice. You should not be in a hurry to deal the man because of everything stated above. But just as I’ve seen with Ray, I have seen some absolutely absurd trade offers including ones that were turned down.
Joey Votto for Anthony Rizzo and Ken Giles – The guy turned it down even though he needed a closer since Rizzo was too big of a downgrade. Smart fantasy players use tiers and not rankings. Maybe Votto will be the #1 first baseman this year, but make no mistake – Rizzo and Goldschmidt (and maybe Freeman) are in the same tier. If you can make an even swap and get something else you need then you should do it.
Joey Votto for Kris Bryant – This was not an OBP league nor was it a league that counts Ks against. The Votto owner said that he simply needed more than Bryant for “Vottomatic.” Maybe it’s not as clear as I think it is, but Bryant is dual eligible, and as deep as third base and outfield are, first base is deeper. Guy like Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Albert Pujols, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, etc. have all be found on waivers, and are still available in some leagues.
Joey Votto for Nolan Arenado and James Paxton – Actual offer I received from a really good owner that has competed in a near expert level league for several years now. He received and obscenity laced email back and he deserved it.
Again, Joey Votto is maybe my favorite player in baseball for oh so many reasons. Still, if you can trade him for someone who was a top-5 or even top-10 pick preseason, make sure to pull the trigger. Same goes for if you can trade him for an equal tier first baseman while also filling another need. These are the type of trades that win you leagues.
Justin Verlander – Tigers
Mr. Verlander is having a very disappointing season to date. After being a Cy Young snub last year, he has been a roller coaster ride for fantasy owners in 2017, and not a particularly fun one. I still believe there is still reason for hope and reason to buy.
Taking a look at JV’s peripherals, there are many things that jump out as not being very good news. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA, all back up his terrible real world ERA. Hitters are blasting the ball off of him with an obscene 37.8% hard contact rate. Most startling is the fact that his K% has fallen while his BB% has risen. His K rate is down from a studly 28.1% last year to a merely solid 21.1% this year. The walk percentage is up there in Robbie Ray territory at a very ugly 10.8%.
Okay, so why should we buy Verlander then? First of all, he has actually picked up a full mile per hour of velocity this year. This tells us he’s not in obvious physical decline that is often seen by aging aces – 95.4 MPH average is no joke. Second, Verlander has been bad for long stretches before figuring it out. He did this both in 2015 and 2016 when I had written him off for dead. Aces die hard. Guys like Wainwright and C.C. Sabathia still put up great starts now and again on pure attitude. They have the ace mantra still, just not the ace stuff. JV has the ace stuff and the ace attitude. He’s probably the second or third best pitcher of his generation, and he’s not going to fall permanently out of acedome while he still has filthy stuff.
Verlander didn’t suddenly forget how to throw strikes. In my opinion, this is a weird and possibly inexplicable rough patch for a great pitcher. If I did rankings, he would still be in my top 15-ish for starters.
This is a great time to buy-low. Owners are fed up with the inconsistency, and they may think he’s done since he has been around forever. Building on one of my sell highs, I bet you can get Verlander + for Ray. I don’t have any shares of JV, but the kinds of offers I would probably try to make would look like:
- Mike Leake + for Verlander
- Arrieta for Verlander
- Ray for Verlander +
- Hamels for Verlander
Hanley Ramirez – Red Sox
I own Hanley a lot of leagues this year and it’s definitely hurt me to this point. I’ve had to drop him in all but the deepest of leagues due to the emergence of a plethora of highly productive first basemen. He is still on my watch-list, though, and I’m close to picking him up again. HanRam is on a bit of a tear and his profile gives us reason for optimism.
There’s a few things that stand out about Hanley and his batted ball profile. First and most obviously, his BABIP has cratered. It’s down about 30 points off his career and 2016 campaign. He is hitting the ball as hard as he ever has with a 38.1% hard hit rate. He is also putting the ball in the air at a 38% rate, pairing that with a near 20% line drive rate. All of this combined with the fact he’s pulling the ball almost 43% of the time should add up to magic for a right-handed slugger at Fenway Park. Hanley is also notoriously streaky. He was a bit of a disappointment last year before a ridiculous finish. I wouldn’t rule out an encore given all of the peripherals here.
I would add him if he’s available on waivers at this point as he might be at the beginning of one of those epic streaks. Since coming back from a knee issue he is 18/52 (.346) with four bombs and five doubles. I don’t know about you, but I can use that in my lineup.
It shouldn’t take much to get him from someone if he is owned either. I would trade most of the upstart first basemen for him. I would definitely deal Mark Reynolds, Justin Smoak, and Logan Morrison for him, and would probably also deal Yonder Alonso for him, but that one is closer for me.
Jose Reyes – Mets
Have a quick bonus buy for you guys in deeper leagues. I just picked up Reyes in both my 14 and 16 team mixed roto leagues. Reyes is not the fantasy god of yesteryear. He is however, worth owning in a deep league. Shortstop mostly stinks again, and there are some injuries as well with guys like Nunez and Xander banged up. Then you also have the wave of disappointments like Story and Aledmys Diaz.
Reyes plays close to every day and is dual eligible at short and third. He has also had enough pop to blast eight bombs, and enough juice left in the wheels to nab 10 bags. Reyes has done this in about half a season’s worth of at-bats, which means he’d project out to roughly 16 bombs and 20 swipes. I don’t know about you, but I can use that out of a shortstop or middle infielder in my deep roto leagues.
What has kept people away is Reyes doing a cha-cha around the Mendoza line. There’s good news there as well. He has been very unlucky there. He has actually lowered his K rate about 5% from last year, and he has a respectable 17.9% line drive rate. All of this and somehow his BABIP is down 80 points off of last year and 50 points off of his career. He doesn’t exactly smoke the ball, but he never has. And he may not be the stallion he once was on the base-path, but he’s still got 20 steal speed. That should be enough to get him some extra infield hits.
Reyes is owned in under 10% of ESPN leagues and I can’t imagine it’s too much more on other sites. I would add him in leagues with 14 or more teams, and would also consider adding him in 12 team roto because of the large roster sizes and general dearth of speed around the league.
As far as trading for him goes, it shouldn’t take much. I would just trade some hot waiver pickup that I don’t actually believe in long-term. You could legitimately offer one of the bottom three people on your roster and get him.
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