Fantasy baseball Weekly Planner: Consider selling these hot starters
Baseball can be a fickle game, something fantasy owners know all too well. Now that the first four weeks of the season are in the books, it's a good time to sell high on some hot starters.
It's also a good time to take a look at some players who are on pace for some ridiculous numbers:
• Braves outfielder Justin Upton is on pace for 88 homers.
• Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is on pace for 60 homers.
• Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is on pace for 190 RBI.
• Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson is on pace for 169 runs scored.
• Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is on pace for 77 steals.
• Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish in on pace for 330 strikeouts.
• Breakout starting pitchers Matt Moore and Clay Buchholz are on pace for 35 victories.
• Orioles closer Jim Johnson is on pace for 70 saves.
Of course, projecting all of these after just four weeks is absurd, but it's also arguably the best way to explain why the first month of baseball cannot be overrated. We wouldn't advise dealing any of those hot starters, even if they are inevitably going to cool off. They are all legitimately capable of carrying this hot start through to a career year.
Here are five decent sell-high candidates we do advise you shop around right now:
1. SP Matt Harvey, New York Mets -- He's been the best pitcher so far in fantasy, but he's also incapable of sustaining this kind of dominance; young arms in their first full major league season always hit the wall in the summer. An owner can even consider dealing Harvey closer to the All-Star break to capitalize on his talent, but if someone ignores his approximately 180-inning cap, an owner could possibly get the best return right now.
2. OF Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics -- My cohort Michael Beller wrote this week that Crisp's hot start can be sustained, citing advanced metrics. Hogwash. Numbers guys shouldn't ignore the most extensive data: the mediocre first 12 years of Crisp's career. Statistics are always more telling in larger sample sizes. Crisp's one month of solid numbers just might be enough to convince a too-smart-for-his-own-good data head to trade something significant for Crisp.
3. SP Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals -- Miller's season this year will be a carbon copy of his predecessor Lance Lynn's season last year. Lynn was 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA through May before slumping in June (5.67) and regressing in the second half (4.32). Right now, Miller is putting up the numbers of an ace, but there's no doubt that his young arm will have a cap of around 180 innings this season. If you deal him now, you'll likely get a true ace, who can carry a fantasy team the full season, in return.
4. C John Buck, New York Mets -- Like Crisp, Buck has too many years of struggles to believe his hot start is the signal of a career year at age 32 -- the age of breakdown, not breakout, for a catcher. Buck is on pace for 61 homers and 177 RBI, but he won't even get halfway to those numbers.
5. OF Vernon Wells, New York Yankees -- It's not a coincidence that there are three New York players on this list. The Yankees look like they have struck gold with Wells (.294, six homers), who has hit more homers and doubles and scored more runs in April than in any other month in his career. However, keep in mind that Wells often starts hot, and there's little doubt he'll fall into the funk that made him a Mendoza Line hitter in 2012 (.231) and 2011 (.218). Flip him now if someone believes Wells is back at age 34.
• 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays -- After getting off to a slow start, this streaky slugger ripped five homers in four days, proving he's a must-start in leagues again. Keep in mind that sluggers like Encarnacion do 50 percent of their damage in 25 percent of the season. Hopefully, you didn't sit him for this run, and if you did, consider it a lesson learned.
• SP R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays -- Dickey entered his two-start week with back-to-back quality starts, but he proved to be a bust, losing both starts and looking nothing like the Cy Young Award winner he was a year ago. To add injury to insult, Dickey is dealing with an issue in the back of his shoulder right now, which may warrant an MRI and a trip to the DL. The body breaks down at age 38, what can we say? Don't start Dickey this week and pray he can prove to be trade bait before he becomes waiver-wire fodder.
• 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies -- On the one year anniversary of Bryce Harper's major-league call-up, we get the arrival of this future star. Arenado didn't have a great 2012 season, but he was a hot name in spring training, and he scorched in his 18 games in Triple-A: .364 (24-for-66) with three homers, 21 RBIs, 14 runs and just nine strikeouts. Arenado has a high ceiling when it comes to his talent, making him worth owning in all leagues immediately. He was hitless in his debut Sunday for the Rockies, but he is talented enough to be the best prospect call-up of the year. Seriously.
• SP Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics -- We featured him as the No. 1 minor-league starter to pick up in Friday's Prospects Watch, and he got the call to start for Brett Anderson (ankle). Straily already has an 11-strikeout start to his credit for the A's earlier this month and was 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in his three Triple-A starts. He is a must-add in all leagues and he should stick around in the A's rotation with so many of the back-end starters struggling right now.
1. OF Nate McLouth, Baltimore Orioles -- It has been years since McLouth has looked this good. For that reason, consider this more of a hot streak than a career renaissance.
2. 2B/3B Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee Brewers -- Here's another 30-something on a torrid stretch, earning starts he might not have gotten otherwise. Over the long haul, he's only viable as a stopgap second baseman in mixed lineups.
3. SP Garrett Richards, L.A. Angels of Anaheim -- His past start (five earned) was more indicative of his fantasy potential. He isn't quite good enough to trust consistently.
4. CL Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers -- With this start, why did it take so long for the Tigers to go back to the well here? He is playing well enough to trust in all leagues. He is still undervalued right now.
5. 3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics -- The 27-year-old is off to a start that portends a career year, but his power still isn't intriguing enough to consider him a full-season option at third base in mixed formats.
1. SP Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers -- He officially had Tommy John surgery and is out for the season. Ignore him.
2. RP Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals -- He's struggling even in middle relief. He doesn't look like a candidate to get that closer's role back, especially now that Trevor Rosenthal is closer Edward Mujica's handcuff now.
3. 3B Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins -- He has showed signs of coming out of his slow start, so watch him for a potential hot stretch -- he's a streaky hitter.
4. RP Joaquin Benoit, Detroit Tigers -- He can still contribute in fantasy as a setup man, but if you only have relievers for saves, you don't need to own Benoit any longer.
5. C Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers -- We shouldn't be giving up on him as a fantasy starter at age 26. He can still get hot and have a rebound year.
Most viewed (Rotoworld):
1. SS Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks -- His seven-day concussion DL stint comes at an unfortunate time You will need a replacement for him this coming week in all formats.
2. CL Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers -- The 35-year-old has a shot at being a fantasy revelation, so get on board while you still can. He's showing signs of the 2011 Valverde.
3. C Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves -- Those two homers in his rehab stint debut prove he can progress quickly. Take that flier on him now if he's available in your league.
4. SP Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres -- His most recent start was certainly an eye-opener. Pick him up, because he's a great breakout candidate.
5. 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees -- He has cooled considerably and might need a DL stint due to his back woes. Owners can justify cutting him in smaller leagues.
Most traded (CBSSports.com):
1. OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins -- Like Encarnacion above, Stanton will cause 50 percent of his damage in 25 percent of the season. Stanton's three-homer series versus the Cubs shows that many have given up on him too soon. BUY
2. OF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers -- See Stanton above. This was the best buy a week ago and he still hasn't scorched. Take advantage. BUY
3. SP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants -- He came off a career year and was a postseason hero, which are always bad times to buy a player in fantasy. However, he can be much better than his current numbers show, so you shouldn't sell low. HOLD
4. OF Josh Hamilton, L.A. Angels of Anaheim -- Owners who drafted him knew he was streaky and risky. Stay confident he will produce around his career levels eventually. HOLD
5. SP Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers -- The 27-year-old has won his past two starts, but his walk rate suggests he won't get to that elite potential we once thought he had. It might be a good time to see what you can get for him. SELL
Still looking for some pitching help -- there is a lot of dead weight on my roster, including slow-starting setup men/saves sleepers Bruce Rondon, Drew Storen and James Russell. All three are worth cutting for fill-in Cubs closer Kevin Gregg or starting pitchers. Here are the top free agents to get this week (unfortunately Straily is owned):
1. RHP Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs
2. LHP Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
3. RHP John Lackey, Boston Red Sox
4. RHP Justin Grimm, Texas Rangers
5. LHP Scott Kazmir, Cleveland Indians
Going back to the well at catcher -- Francisco Cervelli has been a solid addition, but his broken hand sent him to the DL. Have to go find his replacement now, starting with the guy that replaces him for the Yankees and then the one that was cut to get him:
1. C Austin Romine, New York Yankees
2. C Jason Castro, Houston Astros
3. C Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
4. C Nick Hundley, San Diego Padres
Taking a flier on another hitter (or two) -- With Travis d'Arnaud still sucking up a reserve spot and Jedd Gyorko now eligible to replace Zack Cozart at the middle-infield, it is time to get in on the ground floor on some hitters with upside. Here are the best of them (unfortunately, Arenado is already owned):
1. 1B Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners
2. OF Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles
3. OF Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals (for steals)