We have completed just over a quarter of the baseball season and your Fantasy team is barely alive. Fear not because you can rebuild it. The statistics and resources are available to you. You have the capability to make your team better than it was before. With the right moves, and if you buy low and sell high you can make your Fantasy roster, better, stronger and faster. In an effort to help you improve your Fantasy team I’ve identified four Fantasy players that you should try to buy low and two that you can try to sell high. You’ll need to use all of your powers of persuasion in order to negotiate a fair and favorable deal that will ultimately help your team, and I have confidence in your abilities.
All stats are current as of 5/28/15
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals
Jordan Zimmermann is no King Felix or Clayton Kershaw but he is a top talent, and with this being his walk year I anticipated big things from him this season. He got off to a slow start and when he gave up seven earned runs in just 2.1 innings in his second outing, his ERA ballooned to 8.64. Since then, Zimmermann has had eight straight starts in which he has given up three or fewer runs, and slowly but surely his ERA has gradually decreased to a respectable 3.26. Eliminate Zimmermann’s second start and his overall ERA would be a sparkling 2.32. If you are in the market for starting pitching, Zimmermann’s early season woes can help you since his reputation as a star pitcher has been somewhat damaged. Use that to your advantage. If someone was looking for a starting pitcher and checked in on Zimmermann on April 24 they’d be staring at a 5.23 ERA, on May 10 they were still looking at a 4.20 ERA. Quite frankly, Zimmermann’s peripheral stats aren’t all that impressive but they are gradually improving. His overall velocity has been down a tick or two this season, but it is starting to creep back up to Zimmermann’s normal range. He has been relying on his hard slider and groundball-inducing curve more this season in order to compensate for the early season loss of speed on his fastball, and that’s helped to lower his HR/FB rate to the lowest level of his career. Zimmermann’s recent history has shown us that he can get stronger as the season progresses. In 2014, he had an 8-0 won/loss record with a 2.18 ERA and .88 WHIP in the second half. If you’re looking for a top notch starting pitcher but don’t want to have to give up what it would take to land a Kershaw or a Max Scherzer, Zimmermann could be your answer.
Jung Ho Kang, SS, 3B, Pirates
In comparison to the buzz created when the Red Sox signed Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, the Pirates’ signing of South Korean prospect Jung Ho Kang (pronounced Gahng by the way) seemed like an afterthought. On average, in Fantasy leagues with 12 teams or more, he wasn’t drafted until the 25th round, and in 10-team leagues Kang wasn’t likely drafted at all. Kang got off to a slow start but his stats have improved as he has gotten regular at bats. He is currently batting .313 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. Kang is still developing as a player and admittedly some of his peripheral stats aren’t great. His .372 BABIP might be hard to sustain, but his .378 OBP and .363 wOBA are both positives. Kang’s multi-position infield eligibility makes him especially valuable, but his true worth could be as insurance for a Fantasy baseball manager who owns shares in oft-injured shortstops like Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes. Look for Kang’s batting average to regress a bit. I estimate that by the end of the season, with enough at bats, he should be batting somewhere around .275 with about 10 home runs, approximately 10 stolen bases and 50 plus RBIs.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, 1B Brewers
When we last saw Jonathan Lucroy on a baseball field he was struggling at the plate, batting just .133. A fractured toe has kept him on the DL since late April and barring any setbacks, he is expected back in the Brewers’ lineup on June 1. You have three things going for you as you attempt to negotiate a fair and favorable deal with a Lucroy owner. Lucroy’s Fantasy managers have already had to make do without his services for a while; they may still be smarting from his disappointing first two weeks of the season, and there are overall negative vibes surrounding the last place Brewers. Don’t expect a Fantasy manager to give Lucroy away, but the lifetime .282 hitter is definitely worth pursuing in a thin Fantasy catcher market. Work your magic, and convince your fellow Fantasy league mate that you are trying to do him or her a favor by taking the “still recovering” Lucroy off of their hands. Remind your trading partners that Lucroy was slumping mightily before he got hurt, but don’t overpay for him and you’ll have a top catcher who is also eligible at first base on your roster for the rest of the season.
Kyle Hendricks, SP, Cubs
Kyle Hendricks enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign in 2014, with a 7-2 won/loss record, 2.46 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, and although he is having another stellar season, he is owned in just 14 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues. Hendricks has average velocity but his effectiveness stems from his ability to use his sinker and four seam fastball to induce an above average groundball rate and below average line drive rate. Although Hendricks is not a prototypical strikeout pitcher, his K/9 rate has increased to 7.01, up from 5.27 last season, which is closer to his minor league average of 7.7. ERA stand-ins like SIERA, FIP and xFIP all point to his continued success. If you are looking for a starting pitcher to round out your Fantasy pitching staff, Hendricks may be waiting for you on your league’s waiver wire.
Matt Harvey, SP, Mets
I think it’s time for Fantasy owners to pick up what the Mets are putting down with regard to Matt Harvey’s future. We’ve all heard that where there’s smoke there’s fire, and although Harvey is having a phenomenal season since coming back from Tommy John surgery, the Mets are sending out smoke signals showing that they are concerned that he may not have the stamina required to be able to pitch the entire season. We all knew that Harvey was on a pitch limit coming into this season, but we haven’t even reached the month of June and Mets manager Terry Collins has had to acknowledge that the “Dark Knight” is experiencing a bit of “dead arm” syndrome. The Mets are concerned enough with Harvey’s health that they are considering moving to a six man rotation. Will giving Harvey five days rest between starts be enough to get him to the finish line? Does his future include a few weeks on the DL, and if so, how will your Fantasy team cope without Harvey’s services? Let’s face it, the Mets don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to dealing with their player’s injuries. I know there is a new front office regime in place, but this is still the team that allowed outfielder Ryan Church to fly to Colorado even though he was experiencing concussion related symptoms. At this point, Harvey has had just one bad start and we shouldn’t overreact, but judging from the way the Mets are acting, it may be time to put Harvey on the block just to see what kind of interest he generates.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates
With a 4-1 won/loss record, 1.37 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, A.J. Burnett certainly appears to be enjoying his return to Pittsburgh. Although when all is said and done this season, Burnett’s overall numbers will probably be very good, the 38-year-old has a history of regressing as the season wears on and his trade value will never be higher than it is right now. Many of his peripheral stats, like his K/9, HR/FB and groundball rates are as good as they’ve ever been, but his 88.8 percent Strand rate and microscopic ERA are largely unsustainable. Considering that Burnett had a 277 ADP this season, you should be able to make a hefty return on your initial investment in the Fantasy trade market.