Now that we have reached the one-third mark of the season and we have watched and studied two months of game action, it really becomes time to sit down and look at our teams and decide where our strengths and weaknesses lie. It is time to see what positions we are weakest at and also which categories we need to try and focus on. With that in mind, I have put together some players you should be targeting either in trades or free agency and players you should try to sell high on. In addition, in what is almost always the toughest call in any mixed league, is who you should drop at this point.
Guys to Target in Trade or via Free Agency:
Availability in leagues will obviously depend on league size, but I will try and find some variety for all leagues. I avoid obvious injured guys like Giancarlo Stanton or David Price as you likely still aren't getting a bargain on them in trade and they are still not available in even the shallowest of leagues.
Ben Revere. It is possible that he was dropped in even some deeper mixed leagues at this point. If you are in need of steals at all, Revere is a great buy low target to pick up in Free Agency or to get very cheap in a trade. Revere slumped early on and lost some playing time as a result. After hitting just .200 in April, Revere has turned it around with a .344 May with a nearly .400 OBP. He only has four stolen bases in May, but some of that has been because he hit near the bottom of the order for a number of those games and he sat some games while he was slumping. If Revere can just hit a little bit, he will end up near the top of the struggling Phillies lineup and has the ability to put on a great stolen base run. His elite level defense in CF also will help keep him in the lineup most days even when he does struggle at the plate. Play up his playing time, batting order demotion and lack of steals; then buy him on the cheap.
Josh Reddick. Here is another guy who you can either get for nothing as a free agent or for next to nothing in a trade. Reddick has done absolutely nothing but be terrible so far in 2013. Reddick hit a grand total of one home run while hitting .152 in 92 at bats before hitting the DL. The thing to keep in mind is that is was only the seventh game of the season where he smashed into the wall in foul territory in Houston and injured his wrist. He played through the injury for more than four weeks before finally going on the DL in early May. He is currently on a rehab assignment in the minors, but by all accounts, the wrist feels good and he hopes to be activated on Friday. Reddick is not going to give you much in terms of batting average, but this is still a guy who hit 32 home runs last year and we all know how hard it is to find that kind of power on the waiver wire as the season goes on. You can grab him now and see how the wrist responds and if he just is not the same guy as 2012, he can be dropped, but while the risk is very minimal, the upside for a guy you get almost for free is quite high.
Allen Craig. He is obviously a guy you would have to acquire in a trade as he will not be dropped in any leagues. However, this is a time to try and grab him from an owner who may be tiring of only getting three home runs from his first baseman while guys like Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion and even Mark Reynolds are already well into the double digits. Craig has been very productive so far in 2013 with 36 RBI and a .302 batting average, but many people are asking what is wrong with him in terms of power. Craig hit 22 homers last year in only 119 games, so he certainly has displayed power in the Majors and he does already have 14 doubles and two triples so far this year. His strikeout and walk rates are fairly consistent with what he did last year and there appears to be nothing wrong with him physically, which has been his downfall in the past. This is a guy whose ADP was under 50 in the NFBC; now is the time to prey on the owner upset with Craig's three meager home runs and ride the power streak when it does arrive.
Miguel Montero. Montero may soon reach the point where people will drop him in shallower leagues, but we are probably not there quite yet. If so, snap him up the second he hits the waiver wire. Two months into the season, I have to think his owners are very sick of him as they watch John Buck, Brian McCann and J.P. Arencibia, all guys taken about 100 or more picks after him, crush him across the board. No doubt about it, Montero has been nothing but a liability for teams so far in 2013. At an ADP just inside 100 in NFBC, he has crushed teams that spent the early pick on him hitting a mere .190 with only three home runs. Looking at his season so far in a little more depth, his walk rate is a bit down from 2012, but still above his career number and his strikeout rate has actually dropped from last year. The number that jumps out from a closer look is his .212 BABIP. His .362 BABIP last year was always a number he was not getting back to, but in 2010 it was .318 and in 2011 it was .317. Of course, it must be stated that his live drive rate is lower than it has been in five years while his ground ball rate is higher than it has been in that time period. So while that may explain some of the drop in power and BA, I will go with the historical data to think that he bounces back a little in those rates, while the BABIP moves up significantly. Montero is only 29 so it is not likely that he suddenly lost his ability to hit. He also plays his home games in a nice hitter park. It is time to jump on Montero now before he begins his rebound.
Jarrod Parker. I have seen Parker dropped in a number of 12 team leagues and while the window to grab him or buy low may finally be closing, I think it is still slightly open. It only takes one look at his numbers to see just how bad Parker has been in 2013, sporting a 2-6 record with a 5.76 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. Parker was having trouble locating his fastball early on and that led to his fantastic change-up losing some effectiveness. He even remarked at one point that every mistake he made was getting hammered and then even his good pitches were getting hit. His home run rate has killed him so far in 2013 with 1.81 HR per 9 after only allowing 0.55 per 9 last year. He has already turned it around a bit in May, with a 3.91 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Even more importantly, his strikeouts have bounced back in May to 7.82 per 9 in 25.1 innings and his walk rate has dropped from 4.91 in April to a more normal 3.20 in May. Parker was very effective last year with a 3.47 ERA and gets to pitch half his games in spacious Oakland Coliseum, try and get him before it is too late and his price gets back to pre-season levels.
Guys to try and sell high on:
Trying to trade your hot or star players is always tough. We always want to trade our weak players or underperforming guys, but trading hot guys who you think are due to regress a bit is a prime way to profit in your league. I will not include someone obvious like Matt Kemp, because you cannot get enough for him for it to be worthy of a deal right now. These are guys who will have a strong demand in your leagues and give you a chance at a hefty profit.
Bryce Harper. This is likely to be a very controversial call and of course it goes without saying that you cannot move him if you are in a keeper league. Harper is an utter freak and is going to be an absolute superstar, but by the time late March came around, he was being drafted as a superstar already, going in the top 10 to 15 in most drafts. I love Harper as much as the rest of you, but I also love what you can get for him in a trade right now. Everyone wants to be the guy to own Harper because he is so good, so fun and so hyped. However, while his all-out style of play is fun to watch, it is getting him in trouble in terms of staying on the field. He is still feeling the effects of his meeting with the Dodger Stadium wall and tweaked a knee while stealing a base this weekend. His MRI came back clean this week, so he will still be very easy to trade. One of my concerns with Harper is with all the leg tweaks, the team may slow down his base stealing since he is too valuable for them with his bat to lose him for any stretch of games because of base stealing. They may determine it is not worth the risk for him to run a lot, and while that makes sense from a baseball standpoint, it will hurt his fantasy value. After a red-hot start, Harper has quietly been awful in May. He does have three home runs, but he only has driven in five runs this month while compiling a .193 batting average. His overall average still sits at .287 and because he was so hot early, many people have not noticed his poor May. If you can get first round value for Harper (and I would guess you can in almost every league), let someone else deal with the twinges, tweaks and lack of stolen bass that are likely to linger the rest of the year.
Justin Upton. This is another one that will raise some eyebrows, but there is no point in making obvious calls as everyone can do that. This call would have been better a few weeks ago, but I think you can still get first round value back for J Up based on his name value and how hot he started. Much like Harper, his crazy hot April has masked how bad he has been in May. Upton is hitting just .232 in May with only 2 homers. The biggest issue I have with Upton right now is how much he is striking out in 2013. Upton's K Rate was 18.7% in 2011 and 19.3% in 2012, but it has jumped to 26.9% so far in a Braves uniform. While Upton has huge potential and upside, we also cannot forget that he has never hit over 31 home runs. Upton is a gigantic talent and will have weeks and even months where you regret dealing him, but he will also bring a large return right now that will be worth missing out on his hot streaks.
Jordan Zimmermann. Here is another guy I really like who has been fantastic this year, but he presents an excellent sell high opportunity. When you combine his name recognition, positive pre-season projections and a fabulous start, he is a guy you can cash in on big right now. Zimm has been absolutely elite so far this year with a 1.71 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP while winning eight games. A deeper look shows that maybe it is not all great with Zimmermann. First of all, his K's have dropped off from 7.04 K/9 in 2012 down to 5.62 K/9 so far in 2013. With more balls in play due to the strikeout drop, it is very clear that his .235 BABIP has helped him out immensely. His BABIP in 2011 was .291 and in 2012 it was .288, so it is very likely some regression is coming. His HR/rate is also a good amount below last year as it currently stands at 0.37 HR/9 after a 0.83 rate last year. While he is still going to be very good, the BABIP will rise as will the HR rate and the runs will arrive with them. Unless he can bump his K Rate back up to his prior levels, he is looking at some rough starts. He will have some gems that will hurt to watch after trading him, but with the return you can get from him, this is a guy you are going to profit on if you can get full value for him, which you should be able to do in most leagues.
Guys where the time has come to drop them:
This is always a tough list to compile, even after two months of the season. We all drafted guys because we liked them in the pre-season and it never easy to cut bait on those guys and admit we just might have been wrong. These will not be late picks that are easy to drop, but guys taken in the top half of drafts who are likely still being held by most teams.
Ike Davis. This is only a tough one because of not only where he was drafted, but because of how he produced last year after a horrible start. Davis is currently hitting .155 and it has to be noted that he was hitting .167 at the same time last year. This drop recommendation comes more from watching a lot of his at bats so far this year. He looks as lost as possible at the plate and his swing looks awful just about every at bat. He is also racking up strikeouts at a ridiculous rate of 32.8% so far in 2013. This numbers tops where he was last year when he was struggling at this point. There are rumors of Davis being sent to Triple-A, and while he did have a two-run single on Sunday, he has done very little to prove to the Mets that he should not be sent down. At a deep position, I am dropping Ike in all but the deepest leagues and not letting him kill my BA anymore. He will likely get hot and hit some home runs in bunches as the season goes on, but they will come with a poor BA and in their offense, it is not like he is going to rack up the RBI. He is officially someone else's problem for me.
Brett Anderson. As an A's fan, this one just pains me to write. After spraining his ankle, Anderson tried to pitch through the injury and ended up going on the DL with a stress fracture in his right foot. It was announced in mid-May that Anderson wouldn't even be re-evaluated for four weeks, which means even if they got great news at that point, it is still probably mid-July by the time he pitches again after he gets his arm strength back and makes a couple of rehab starts. Even more importantly, it has been reported that season-ending surgery has not been ruled out and the A's will not know more about that until he is re-evaluated. There is no doubt that when healthy, Anderson has a ton of talent, but when you add in the fact that Anderson was not good when he did pitch this year, I do not think he is worth the roster spot at this point. If you have a DL spot with no one else in it or are in a deep league, you probably have to wait to see what the news is after 4 weeks, but in a 12 team NFBC-type league with a 7-man bench, I see him as a drop. I actually dropped him last weekend in my RotoWire Online Championship team where I owned him.
Mike Moustakas. The hype machine has been in full effect for Moustakas for the last three years now. Moustakas provided some value in his first full season in 2012 with 20 home runs. However, those 20 home runs came with a .242 average in over 550 at bats. Moustakas has come out of the gate horribly in 2013, sporting a .178 batting average in nearly 150 at bats. He only has four home runs, so he hasn't even helped out in the power category while he has been killing your average. He is still very young and is likely to be very productive at some point in his career, but the fact is that he just is not there yet and is not helping you. He has just not shown enough power in the Majors yet to be worthy of the average he will stick you with. He now has over 1,000 Major League at bats where he has hit .240 and is still not at 30 career homers yet. This is a 20-HR bat right now and you can find that elsewhere, without the average drain attached to it.
This is the time of year when the teams that will win your league start to figure out their teams and what they need or do not need going forward. Drafting is always key, but in-season management is what wins almost every competitive league. Thanks to David for letting me fill in this week!