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The Fantasy Baseball season is still young but you’re starting to get a better feel for how good, or how bad your Fantasy team is. It’s still early enough in the season that a couple of days of typical production from your best Fantasy players can turn your squad from a cellar dweller to a team battling for one of the top spots in your Fantasy league. Don’t panic, but don’t get complacent either. Be aware of what’s available on your league’s waiver wire. Know what your league-mates’ strengths and weaknesses are, and most of all know when it’s time to buy low and sell high.
Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies
Much has been made about Cole Hamels giving up seven home runs in his first 18 innings of work to start the season. What you may not know is that Hamels has historically been largely ineffective during the month of April. This makes him the perfect “buy low” target. Hamels has a lifetime 4.12 ERA during the months of March and April but he’s just one of those ball players who performs better as the season progresses. His lifetime first half ERA is 3.57 but in the second half it drops to 2.93. Other than his elevated walk rate, his peripheral stats are all in the same range that they’ve always been and show no indication of skill regression. Some of his stats, like his 8.3 percent line drive and 52.1 percent groundball rates are even better than in past years. Some Fantasy owners might be reluctant to add Hamels since the Phillies might trade him in midseason, however, Hamels’ no trade clause allows him to dictate who his next employer will be. Work out your own deal for Hamels, but don’t wait too long. April is almost over and you won’t be able to buy him low for much longer.
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
Jean Segura burst onto the scene in 2013 with a breakout season in which he batted .294, clubbed 12 home runs and stole 44 bases. Unfortunately, the 2014 season was not kind to Segura. After turning down a $38M contract extension, he battled through a prolonged batting slump and suffered through the personal tragedy of having his infant son pass away unexpectedly. He ended the season with a .246 batting average, five HRs and 20 stolen bases. In preparation for the 2015 season he played in the Dominican Winter League, where he adjusted his batting stance and put the mental anguish of 2014 behind him. The early results have been very positive and so far he has looked a lot like that breakout star from 2013. He’s become a more patient hitter, and that has allowed him to hit the ball to the opposite field more consistently. His 12.5 percent HR/FB rate is also back within the expected range. There aren’t many Fantasy standouts at the shortstop position and with Segura looking like he is primed for a bounce back year, you should try to buy him low while you still can.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/U, Royals
In any negotiation the market always determines the true value of what you are offering. As a free agent in 2014, Kendrys Morales overvalued his worth and held out for more money, and that caused him to delay his season debut until June 9th. Last season was a disaster and Morales was never able to get on track. He finished the year with a .218 batting average and a slugging percentage more than 100 points below his career average. This offseason Morales quickly signed a two-year deal with the Royals, and based on his early season numbers, it looks like he has found a home in Kansas City. Although largely ignored in early season drafts, a seven game hitting streak to start the season and his elevated ISO (Isolated Power) and line drive rate have helped him become one of the most added players in Fantasy Baseball. He’s eligible at first base in Yahoo! leagues and he’s both physically and mentally healthy. Across a full season he should provide Fantasy owners with a .275 to .280 batting average, 20 to 25 homeruns and upwards of 80 RBIs. He should be added in all leagues with 12 or more teams.
Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
When you play on a team with Fantasy standouts like Addison Russell and Kris Bryant, even though you’re one of the best shortstops in the game, you tend to get lost in the shuffle. Just ask Starlin Castro. Other than a low BABIP-induced off year in 2013, he has quietly been one of the more consistent and productive shortstops in baseball. In any given season he can be counted on for a .280 to .290 batting average, double-digit home runs and, although he doesn’t run as frequently as he once did, he can still steal 10 to 20 bases. So far this season he’s cut down on his strikeouts, raised his contact rate and seems well on his way to another productive year. His 110 ADP in preseason drafts clearly shows that Fantasy owners consider him a second tier shortstop. Take advantage of their errant valuation of this talented player and try to swing a deal for him.
Carlos Rodon, RP White Sox
The White Sox rocked the Fantasy Baseball world by calling up 22-year-old pitching phenom Carlos Rodon to the big show this week. If you were lucky enough to pluck him off of your Fantasy league’s waiver wire and don’t play in a keeper league, I congratulate you! Now, put him on the trading block. Rodon’s Fantasy value might be at the highest level it’s ever going to be this season and there are a bunch of Fantasy owners who are angry because they missed out on acquiring the next “sure thing.” Although there’s a good chance that Rodon will eventually be a Fantasy force to be reckoned with, his early results have been less than impressive. Hedge your bets and take advantage of those Fantasy owners who need pitching. Exchange Rodon for a known quantity. Although he throws a 97 MPH fastball and an effective slider and cutter, the White Sox expect Rodon to further develop his changeup and will have him working out of the bullpen for the time being. That’s great for Rodon owners who play in leagues that utilize the holds category, but if they don’t play in that type of league, Rodon will be taking up space on their bench. Put him on the block, start fielding offers and turn that Fantasy bench player into someone who can help your team now.
Alfredo Simon, SP, Tigers
After toiling as a relief pitcher for much of his career, Alfredo Simon joined the Reds starting rotation last season. Although his overall numbers were very good, 15-10 won/loss record and 3.44 ERA, it was obvious that pitching 196.1 innings, the most in his career, caused him to wear down as the season wore on. His first half numbers were amazing: 12-3, 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP. His second half numbers reflect a pitcher unaccustomed to the rigors of having to pitch every fifth day: 3-7, 4.52 ERA, 1.44 WHIP. While Simon has again gotten off to a great start, some of his numbers suggest that he may be hard pressed to maintain his level of success across a full season. For instance, his velocity is down a couple of ticks in comparison to last season and his swinging strike rate, currently at a well below average 5.5 percent, has decreased each season since 2013. His LOB percentage (Strand rate) of 85.2 is way above the league average of 70 to 72 percent and shows he’s doing a great job of not allowing runners to score. In 2014, Simon had a similarly high early season strand rate but it eventually regressed towards the league average and contributed to his second half slump. Simon has only three seasons in his professional career in which he’s pitched over 116 innings; he’s now pitching in the American League and he will turn 34 years old. Those facts point towards a downward trend to his season. Trade Simon now while his value is still high.