No hitch, no ditch, only pitch

My rule for trading is to target the biggest names that I can who have been under-performing. If I can’t get the names I want, I will shift my focus to need. If I can’t get the need, I will focus on prospects. If I can’t get the prospects then you won’t get a deal out of me. I don’t take junk, especially players who are playing well beyond their actual talent level (cough Matt Joyce cough). My goal in this week’s column is to focus some attention on some under-achievers who still have big Hollywood-size names. No hitch or ditch this week; let’s dive into my favorite part of fantasy baseball, the trade.

Pitch for

Hanley Ramirez SS FLA– When I recommended that you go hard after Carl Crawford, little did I know that it would mark the last chance to steal him away from his owners at a discount. I am now advising any and all with the means or need to secure the top shortstop in baseball.

So far we have seen Hanley put together the worst season of his career, but there are some encouraging signs. Sometimes an injury gives a player a chance to gather his thoughts, talents, and training and graft them into a resurgence to former glories, as with 2009’s Joe Mauer.

Before Hanley’s injury he was hitting an awful .210, mired by his .236 BABIP. As he’s a career .350+ BABIP guy, there’s little reason to think that this trend will continue. Look for his line drive rate to normalize to career norms and his ground balls to turn into home runs. The only question I have about Ramirez is his strikingly bad stolen base success rate (11 out of 17 attempts). As a healing player with a tremendous amount of value to his team, he may not be allowed to steal many bases.

I don’t think there will be any more value to be had from the shortstop position going forward than Hanley Ramirfez. Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer for Hanley would be exactly the kind of deal I’d be looking to get done. I am assuming of course you have found a replacement for Mauer already.

Evan Longoria 3B TB- He’s starting to heat back up. So far in June he has a .300+ average and even an inside-the-park homer. Longo is one of those guys that will still have great value in his name and history of success. His owners are frustrated. With the trip to the disabled list and the relatively disappearing statistics, now is the time to jump. His owners may be having a going-out-of-business sale and the time is truly running out on getting Longoria on the cheap.

Going into the season, there weren’t any other third baseman with more value than Longoria. Today, there are a few that you might think are better, but I am going to say you are wrong. You might say Kevin Youkilis. I say I would trade Youk straight up for Longoria today if I could. What about Alex Rodriguez? I’m still buying Longoria. The only third base Yahoo-eligible player I would consider rostering over Longoria would be Jose Bautista. That means no to Adrian Beltre, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman.

I point to all these players to emphasize your power as a dealing manager to wrestle away a top fantasy talent for a much cheaper price. I guarantee that most managers in your league do not still value Longoria as highly as I just proclaimed. So take advantage of them.

Troy Tulowitzki SS COL- It’s time for the Tulo discussion. I was not a huge fan of his going into 2011. I was actually ridiculed for ranking him outside of the top 10. I’m not going to gloat because there’s still a lot of baseball to be played.

I’ve gotten the chance to watch a few of the Rockies games over the couple of weeks, and I’ve noticed that Tulowizki hasn’t necessarily been having mechanics problems as much as it seems like he’s pressing. That’s remarkable to me considering this guy put up one of the greatest months in baseball history. I think only Babe Ruth was better in any single month. He’s seeing a significant more amount of breaking balls, particularly curveballs, and that seems to be causing him to not be as successful with getting around cleanly on the fastballs.

My point in having him in the “pitch for” section is that his talent will overcome a marginal start. It’s actually not been that bad. He’s hit 12 homers with a .270 average. We’ve been numbed to a line like that from him, and rightfully so. To give you some perspective, at this point in 2010 Tulowitzki had only nine homers with a slightly better than .300 average.

I believe that he will relax as the season progresses, and we’ll see greater things from him and the rest of the Rockies.

Ian Kinsler 2B TEX- I struggled with whether to include Kinsler on this list. I’m a huge fan of him as a bargain going forward, but I didn’t have the stones to recommend him to you until now.

Sure, Kinsler is a health risk who has sickening streaks of feast and famine. His WAR is a solid 2.3. He’s walking at the highest rate of his career. He’s got that low BABIP that points to a rebound of sorts for his batting average. Likewise, his speed looks fine. He’s still a second baseman with a huge upside.

With Josh Hamilton back in the lineup, look for Kinsler to continue to excel in the runs category. I see his numbers rebounding to a season ending line of .260+ AVG/ 100+ R/ 20+ HR/ 30+ SB. I would be all over that if I’m looking to upgrade my middle infield. He’ll cost you a guy like Shane Victorino. They are generally the same player, but Kinsler’s positional eligibility and slightly better power swing gives him more value.

Mark Teixeira 1B NYY- Folks, he is a second half player, struck in the same mold as Ryan Howard. As the temperature heats up so will his bat. What’s been amazing about Tex’s season so far is the dramatic batting average success he’s having without much help from his BABIP. I could speculate investors could see a .300+ average from this point through the remainder of the season.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

My favorite part of what Teixeira has done in 2011 has been his tremendous power surge. He is on pace for 40 or more home runs. If he indeed sees a second half correction, then look for that power to flow nicely with a .300+ AVG. If you need a miracle, Tex might be the perfect target for a stretch run.

Carlos Quentin OF CHW- Speaking of power, I was talking with a competitor the other day and we joked about Quentin’s propensity for multi-homer games. He’s developed a reputation as a guy who, when he goes big, goes really big. He has a lot of value for the daily fantasy gamers, but he can also have success for the roto and H2H players if used properly.

I think we are witnessing the 2008 Quentin who finished the season with a respectable .283 average and 38 jacks. I’d trade Jason Heyward, Jimmy Rollins or Andre Ethier for him. He’s going to finish as strong as he’s started. I just hope you take advantage of a semi-low batting average. I think he could actually be a top 10 outfielder.

Pitch away

Justin Morneau 1B MIN- This guy is my favorite player on this entire list in both the pitch for and pitch away categories. He’s always held a special place in my heart even when he stole the home run derby from Josh Hamilton.

Morneau has struggled with his BABIP a little, but I’m more concerned with the power outage. He has only four home runs to this point. He’s struggled with a wrist injury, but I must look to other reasons why he has his career worst ISOP of .113. My first reaction is to blame his fall-off to the Twins’ anemic roster. This roster is laden with the Luke Hughes and Drew Buteras of baseball. Without Mauer for any kind of protection and Delmon Young falling off the planet, there are valid concerns about his protection in the lineup.

But you can’t blame it all on the roster. He’s turned 30, and his season-ending concussion from 2010 might still be plaguing his bat this year even if it’s just a timing issue. As an owner of Morneau, I’ve grown tired of waiting for a rebound. I just started testing the trade waters so I’ll have to get back to you on the true market value. If you can two-for-one Morneau with another player to land a guy like Teixeira that should be considered a huge success.

Adam Dunn OF CHW- Before the season I heard Dunn say something I’ve never heard a hitter say to a reporter: He was still working on his timing because he didn’t pick up a bat the whole offseason. The reporter, somewhat taken off guard, made Dunn reiterate that he literally did not touch a bat from the end of the season in 2010 to beginning of spring training. At first I was dumbfounded. I didn’t think any major league player would go that much time without honing his trade, especially a guy like Dunn in a new city with huge expectations for him. Dunn went on to explain that he’d done that technique before, and I felt understanding come over me.

That understanding is gone now. With his having only six home runs so far and a sub-.180 batting average, one is forced to examine whether taking the offseason off was a good move for Dunn. Since he was one of the more consistent power hitters in the game, most of Dunn’s owners were banking on that 40-home run bat. Dunn will struggle to hit 30 home runs by season’s end. If his average hovers around the Mendoza line, then he’s not anywhere near a viable fantasy player. If you don’t move him now, you will be scouring the waiver wire before too long.

Adrian Beltre 3B TEX- See my Aversion All Stars(the hate list) prior to this season. I was not a fan to say the least. I felt he was the product of a situation in Boston, one actually similar to the monster season he had in Seattle. The Ballpark at Arlington wasn’t as friendly to right-handed hitters as most thought, and Beltre has seen his numbers plummet in Texas.

Ichiro Suzuki OF SEA- He’s one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. He was the greatest fielders my generation had to watch. He’s set the bar for all future Japanese baseball players. Most fantasy drafters have always under-valued him. His numbers were never sexy enough to garner more than an average guy with speed. He embodied the perfect real life baseball player who could encompass great real life value and fantasy value.

The value is gone. Ichiro does not have the bat he once did. He still has the name that cannot be ignored, but he lacks the same skill set. I don’t know if you can get them, but I’d make a play for Logan Morrison or Jason Bourgeios if you need speed. I just don’t see Ichiro breaking out of this funk.

Alex Rios OF CHW– During 2010 I couldn’t believe that Rios was able to resurrect his career. I know now that 2010 was an outlier performance. He’s not showing the power, average or speed that he displayed for the White Sox last year. I’m not seeing anything that says that 2010 is the real Rios and that 2011 is the outlier.

My gut says he’s done, and you need to try your hardest to move him along to another manager in your league. I’m afraid that he’ll just be a roster nuisance and you will constantly struggle over whether to start him or a Michael Morse. If it’s me, I’m moving Rios for a lower tier closer, mid-level pitcher, or another hitter of better value with a lesser name.

Jimmy Rollins SS PHI In my 14 years of playing fantasy baseball I’ve never owned Rollins. That’s hundreds of fantasy baseball teams with no Jimmy manning the shortstop position.

I don’t know why that is. I’ve always placed a lower importance on the shortstop position, I guess. As I highlighted Ramirez and Tulo earlier, I’m going to try to lowlight Rollins. The only statistic that Rollins is performing anywhere near career averages is in the stolen base category. His power is okay, but not 25+ home run level. His runs don’t look like they’ll eclipse the 100 mark even though he’s finally healthy for now. I buy his .257 average as what he’ll probably maintain the rest of the year.

If he can hit .257/18/35 SB/100 runs he’ll have value as a shortstop, so he’s not a guy that you want to sell low. I like the idea of starting Dee Gordon and moving Rollins for a bigger bat with a better average. In the end that strategy will prove safer with Rollins’ ever-present injury risk and will give you flexibility with filling other holes in your roster.

Pritch slap: “Don’t make your teams into shopping lists. Immerse yourself in your roster, and the right moves will find you.”

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11 years ago

I was one of those people who figured Dunn would hit 40+ homers playing half his games in Chicago, and I dealt for him early on. Needless to say, he has killed my power numbers.

Because of his slump, and a decent amount of roster space / flexibility, I’ve been rotating a multi-headed monster of Todd Helton, Carlos Pena, and Mitch Moreland depending on match-ups. I haven’t exactly had monstrous numbers, but it’s kept me from totally bottoming out. I thought it’d be a temporary thing for April or May – now we’re into June and I’m not sure if I can keep getting such limp 1B production.

I don’t like the situation I’m in, but I can’t seem to part with Dunn (no way I’m dropping him, and no one wants him in any deal I’ve tried). This might be wishful thinking, but he’s hit 2 homers in 4 games. It’s hardly a hot streak… But maybe he’s picking it up?

What would you recommend here?

Btw, guys like Hosmer, Rizzo, Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton are on waivers.

11 years ago

The problem is, I’m not entirely clear on just what Hanley’s injury is, and if he’ll be totally over it once his DL period is up.

He has back problems of such a bad nature he can’t even tie his shoes, but after 15 days on the DL, it’ll clear right up and go away?

I still think there’s a significant chance Hanley is dogged by his back all year, and even if his numbers do go up, I still think there’s significant risk here.

Yet you seem to be mostly positive and upbeat in your future evaluation of Hanley.  What makes you think his back problems will not linger for him?


11 years ago

“The only third base Yahoo-eligible player I would consider rostering over Longoria would be Jose Bautista.”

I really hope you wouldn’t have to CONSIDER that. Bautista is the best fantasy player on the planet going forward.

11 years ago

Beltre has seen his numbers plummet in Texas? He’s on pace for approx. 90R, 115RBI, and 28HR which are all equal to or better than what he posted last year in Boston. His .265 AVG is down from last years .321, but his .249 BABIP which has actually improved over the past week is surely to blame. I’m curious as to how much more favorable Fenway is for RHB than Arlington since you mentioned it in both articles. From what I’ve seen at StatCorner it looks like Arlington is more favorable. Like you, I was also weary of Beltre coming into the season, but I saw a good chance to buy last week due to the BABIP and so far it’s paying off.

Ben Pritchett
11 years ago

@Drew- That’s the same dilemma I think that all Dunn owners are in. There was really no reason to think that he couldn’t replicate his numbers from Washington in Chicago. I was like you and thought he would be even stronger in Chi-town. I don’t actually own Dunn on any of my teams, but I can certainly imagine how difficult a spot he’s put you in.

I love Hosmer and Rizzo. They are both strong competitors with gobs of potential. Drew it seems like you’re not desperate for first baseman with Helton, Moreland, and Pena. I’m not a huge fan of match-up playing with the trio. I’m assuming you’re in a daily league.

If it’s me, I’m going to pick up Hosmer and drop Pena. I might even try to add Rizzo for the short term if you have the roster space. One of Rizzo, Hosmer, Helton, and Moreland will separate themselves from the pack. IMO it will be either Hosmer or Rizzo. That’s why I’m recommending adding both even if that means dropping Moreland and Pena or Helton and Pena.

Good luck Drew.

11 years ago

Thanks. It is a daily league, of course.

I’ll dump Pena and Moreland, pick up the young dudes, and let you know how it turns out (hopefully with Dunn hitting 25-30 HR ROS).

11 years ago

“I don’t know if you can get them, but I’d make a play for Logan Morrison or Jason Bourgeios if you need speed”

Am i missing something? Logan Morrison? Speed?

Ben Pritchett
11 years ago

@Alan- Just slightly, that should read Logan Morrison… or if you need speed they you could go after Jason Bourgeios. Obviously, I would prefer to have a guy like LoMo, but I also know that some people roster Ichiro for his speed. Bourgeios is probably the best speed guy you could get for Ichiro (Jason Bourgeios is still a stretch.. I might look for speed at another position like Dee Gordon at SS).

Ben Pritchett
11 years ago

@Tom- I apologize for the hyperbole. He hasn’t been as awful as I made him sound. I had two lists of possible “pitch away” guys, and he was supposed to be edited out. I still think he has value on the trade market but you may be correct with your assumption that he might have more value as a “pitch for” guy…

The Home Run numbers as a devaluing of Beltre and Arlington as a home run park come from and last years Hardball Times Annual.

That also goes to prove that you can’t look at stats in a vaccuum. Observe Ameriquest this year which is giving up an Major League best 2.91 homers per game.

I can admit my mistakes and you could probably just eliminate Beltre from the “Pitch Away” list. Thanks Tom.

Ben Pritchett
11 years ago

True Andrew, but it’s not that cut and dry. We all want to look at future value, not past. But anyone who reads me knows that I have a huge Bautista man crush. Moving forward I still take Bautista, but not by the margin he’s displayed so far in 2011.

Ben Pritchett
11 years ago

@Hunterfan- I understand your uneasiness regarding Hanley’s injury to his back. If you ever even really pulled a muscle in your back or had back spasms you wouldn’t be able to tie your shoes.

I remember when I threw out my back a couple of years ago I had to go to the emergency room and stay in my bed for two weeks. After that time I was back hitting bombs in my back yard.

In all seriousness, there’s still risk involved, but I love his price right now. I’m willing to take the chance. What you need to do is figure out if you are or not. He’s 5-8 in his rehab stint with Jupiter so far. If you don’t jump now the price will sky rocket.

11 years ago

I have a decent squad put together but my pitching is better than my hitting. I’ve got pretty good run production and steals aren’t a problem but I am lacking in the HR and RBI categories. Is it worth giving up an ace like Chacin or Hernandez to get Tex?

Ben Pritchett
11 years ago

Josh- If your pitching is in good shape and you need HR/RBI, you have my full endorsement to move Chacin or Hernandez for Tex. I would prefer to move Chacin of course, but if you feel like you need to go King Felix to get it done, I get that.

11 years ago

Thanks for the help. Ended up getting Tex and Carl Crawford for Chacin and Olivo. I’m only in my second year of fantasy, but I think I got the better end of that deal.

11 years ago

I think Rios’ numbers are so perplexing. He is pretty much the same as last year with the lowest K rate of his career and his highest line drive %. While his fly ball rate has gone down since leaving Toronto he’s practically at the same point as last year. His speed score is down, but unless he’s hurt it’s never been any where near this. And according to fangraphs new baserunning metric he’s damn good on the paths. Where I see the real difference is his contact and swing rates. He’s increased his contact rate and outside swing rate nearly every year while lowering his swinging strike rate. That says to me that he has worse zone judgement while making more contact with bad pitches and hitting them for easy outs.

What do I think all that means. His babip will get back to .280 and he’ll hit more and his speed will come around, but his average will never be better than .260 and his power will continue to be low.  .255 w/ 8 HRs and 12 SBs is my estimate for the rest of the year.