Fantasy baseball Roundtable: Under-the-radar trade targets
Which under-the-radar players should fantasy owners target as league trade deadlines near? Can certain prospects make a fantasy impact the rest of the way? How should owners in keeper leagues be prepping for next season? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack discuss that and more in this week's Roundtable.
1. It's not just the MLB trade deadline. Many fantasy league deadlines are looming as well. Who's your favorite under-the-radar trade target?
Beller: I've got a great one for all you pitching-needy owners out there: Brandon Beachy. Yes, Beachy had a terrible first outing on Monday in his return from Tommy John surgery, allowing seven runs on eight hits -- including two homers -- in 3.2 innings. His velocity was also back where it was in 2011, averaging a shade less than 92 mph on his fastball. He struggled terribly with command, which isn't a huge surprise for a guy making his first start in more than a calendar year. This is something he should be able to correct with a few more reps. However, given that he's coming back from such a major injury and got roughed up in his first start, his owners may be more than willing to deal. I'd put in a call to check on the asking price.
Mack: I absolutely echo Beller's choice. Beachy is an underrated commodity. Beyond that, what I generally do is go back to my leagues' draft results and look at the early picks who are healthy but underperforming. Those players are often due for a solid second half. The likes of Matt Kemp (ankle), Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Justin Upton, Matt Cain, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Ryan Zimmerman, Cole Hamels, Chase Headley and Billy Butler are all better than they have shown to date. Expect their hot streaks to come, as long as they stay healthy. If you need more buy-low candidates, check out out my Weekly Planner lead from a few Sundays ago.
2. What's your ranking on Adam Eaton, Junior Lake and Christian Yelich the rest of the way?
Beller: All three are relatively new to the league, with Lake and Eaton having about a one-week jump on Yelich. Lake is the only one who has produced thus far, but he's starting to slow down and was also the lowest-regarded prospect of the bunch. To me, the best bet to make a real mark in fantasy leagues the rest of the year is Eaton, thanks to his speed. He'll likely play every day for the Diamondbacks, and he stole 45 bags in 119 games at Triple-A Reno last year. I'll slot Lake second due to his hot start. He, too, will get a ton of playing time with Alfonso Soriano out of town. Yelich slashed .280/.365/.518 in 222 plate appearances with Double-A Jacksonville. While Yelich projects as the best player of the three, that's still a big jump to make for a 21 year old. I'd only consider Lake and Yelich in deep mixed leagues.
Mack: Eaton is the choice in rotisserie formats because of the stolen bases. Lake is the man of the moment in mixed points-based leagues, but Yelich will eventually be the man of choice in all formats. Because these are young players who figure to have some peaks and valleys as they acclimate to the major leagues, go with the hot hand. Right now that's Lake. Any of the three are merely low-end mixed-league options until they prove productive over a period of multiple weeks, though.
3. Once the trade deadline passes, teams, especially those looking to 2014, will start giving the next generation a chance. Which prospects could make a fantasy impact the rest of this season?
Beller: Taijuan Walker, one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball and currently at Triple-A Tacoma in the Mariners organization, has thrown 110 innings this year. There's a chance he'll hit his innings limit before the team gets a chance to call him up, but if the Ms decide to let him extinguish his remaining innings in the majors, he'd be an immediate add in all fantasy leagues. In five starts with the Rainiers, the 20 year old has a 2.42 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 1.15 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 26 innings. Before his promotion to Triple-A, he posted a 2.46 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 1.05 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 84 innings at Double-A Jackson. He looks like a future ace or No. 2, and that's the kind of guy who could really help in fantasy down the stretch.
Mack: Indeed, Walker is intriguing, as are fellow pitchers Archie Bradley, Michael Pineda, Michael Wacha and Trevor Bauer. Young pitchers can be dangerous to trust in fantasy crunch time, though. It isn't just the innings limit late in the year, but also how the shoulder holds up when the innings add up. Xander Bogaerts is really intriguing right now, particularly with the Red Sox dealing Jose Iglesias as part of the Jake Peavy deal. Bogaerts can make the impact Manny Machado made down the stretch a year ago for the Orioles. Bogaerts has a very high ceiling because of his power potential, and he can help at the shallow middle infield position. Add him in all leagues right now if you have a reserve spot available. If you miss out there, give Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud and Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos a look. The best thing about prospects is that there are so many who can potentially chip in and fill holes. The key is timing.
4. For fantasy owners looking ahead to next season, whom could they acquire now on the cheap for a huge return in 2014?
Beller: Oscar Taveras. The Cardinals are a lock to make the playoffs and don't really need much help on offense, so Taveras probably won't see the majors this year, save a September call-up. That'll keep him off the grid and nice and cheap, unless you're in a league with minor league rosters. Taveras, the No. 3 prospect in baseball according to both Baseball America and MLB.com, is hitting .306/.341/.462 in 186 plate appearances with Triple-A Memphis this year. He has dealt with a few injuries, most recently a sprained ankle that had him on the DL, and those help to explain his somewhat disappointing numbers. Still, chances are he'll be with the big league club next year, likely on Opening Day. If you can pick him up and stash him for next year, do so at your earliest convenience.
Mack: Beller going with the prospects again. Yes, Taveras has significant upside. Bogaerts is even more intriguing. My midseason look at the top 10 long-term fantasy prospects put everyone behind 19-year-old Byron Buxton in the Twins organization. He is No. 1 overall in baseball and just ahead of Twins farm-mate Miguel Sano, who has Miguel Cabrera-like power potential. Buxton, Sano and Bogaerts are all higher on my list than Taveras because their numbers this season are better. In the end, fantasy is about production, not potential. A keeper-league owner should be elated to have any of these four.