Three Up, Three Down – 5/1/2013

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The baseball season is long and so is the fantasy baseball season, but if you’ve started out poorly, you may need to shake up the roster immediately to stay in the conversation through August. You may need to move especially fast in a points league, where players can jump out to an early lead through the likes of Mike Napoli, Chris Davis, or even Coco Crisp, and never look back. Here are some guys I’d target either via waiver or trade, and some guys who need to be either riding the bench or the waiver wire.

 

Three Up

 

  1. Nate McLouth  – OF, Baltimore Orioles

 

McLouth hasn’t been fantasy relevant since 2008 when he posted the closest thing to a full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .276 with 26 HR, 26 steals and 94 RBI. After a move to Atlanta to make room for Andrew McCutchen, a collision with Jason Heyward sent McLouth into a spiral with lingering concussion symptoms. He was moved down to AAA before a brief reunion with Pittsburgh in 2012, and eventually was traded to Baltimore last season.

 

The talent is there, it’s a question of whether this pace is sustainable. I don’t think you can count on a constant run like the last 2 weeks, hitting .429 with 3 home runs, 9 RBI and 5 steals, but his power and speed is returning. 20/20 players (20 HR/20 steals in a season) are so valuable because of their potential to be 5-category players in a standard 5×5 league (Runs, Home Runs, RBI, Steals and Average for batters, Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, ERA and WHIP for pitchers). If you can get him on the waiver wire, run, don’t walk. Even if you don’t need outfield help, prevent others from taking advantage of this hot streak. Worst case scenario, you can send him right back to the wire.

 

  1. Tony Cingrani – SP, Cincinnati Reds

 

This may be the millionth time you’ve seen Cingrani praised, but once again this is legitimate. Quite possibly the hottest pickup lately, Cingrani may be gone in your league, but at 65% owned in Yahoo standard leagues he is still undervalued. His last two seasons in the minors were sparkling, with 198 strikeouts in 160 innings to go with a 1.73 ERA. For anyone who doubts those kinds of numbers, he’s basically repeating them in the majors albeit with a small sample size.

 

It didn’t hurt that Cingrani’s first two starts were against the lowly Marlins and Cubs, but you can’t spin a start against the Washington Nationals where he threw 6 innings of 2-hit ball while punching out 11. I don’t know how long this goes; once teams get to face him a second time some of the mystique may be gone, but the strikeouts should remain no matter what. His fastball can hit 95mph on the gun to go with an effective curveball/slider. I also don’t think Johnny Cueto’s return will be a threat when the Reds have guys like Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake in the rotation. Once again, if you’re lucky enough to have him available, make room for him.

 

Regardless of what happens, Cingrani is a must-start regardless of opponent. We’ll revisit a sell-high opportunity later in the season if one arises.

 

  1. Nolan Arenado – 3B, Colorado Rockies

 

Odds are, your starting third baseman isn’t Miguel Cabrera or David Wright. Maybe you’re doing just fine with Evan Longoria or Pablo Sandoval. More than likely if you’re this far into this section, you’re waiting on Aramis Ramirez or Ryan Zimmermann to return from the DL, or Adrian Beltre or Brett Lawrie isn’t exactly jumpstarting your season.

 

Nolan Arenado has played five major league games after being called up from Colorado Springs, and hit his first home run in his second game. Beginners luck in a rout of the Dodgers? Maybe. I don’t know if you want to watch this prospect get snatched up from the waiver wire while he hits in the most hitter-friendly park in baseball. He will be the everyday 3B for the foreseeable future and at least needs to be owned. If you’re struggling at 3B, you could do much worse than a guy with good power who has been hitting .300.

 

As the wise Ron Burgundy once said, I’m gonna put it out there; if you like it you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back.

 

Three Down

 

Players in this category can be more frustrating to evaluate; either you take a wait-and-see approach, or you believe in their talent and try to buy low from a frustrated owner. Either way, they’re not living up to their potential.

 

  1. Adrian Beltre – 3B, Texas Rangers

 

I have been panicing about Beltre for the past couple weeks, so maybe this is my own personal bias. He’s starting to hit for power more, and is still coming off three straight seasons of at least 28 home runs, 102 RBIs and a .300 average at worst. But the 34-year old who was probably the second or third 3B off the board is killing your average and not quite filling up the stat sheet the way most owners anticipated. Tread carefully.

 

  1. Giancarlo Stanton – RF, Miami Marlins

 

Yikes. Maybe the solution for Stanton is to close your eyes and put him in your lineup and hope for the best. Of course, his latest hamstring pull will prevent that for at least the next 15 days and likely longer. A legendary cold streak to start the year led to a very brief rebound in which Stanton hit 4/6 with two home runs and five RBI. The next night, 0/5, fanning twice with an injury that will outlast his 15-day DL designation. His value couldn’t be any lower. Two seasons in a row of 34+ homers should give some hope especially since we’re just about to turn the calendar to May; there’s a lot of ball to be played. You can’t move him; conversely, I’d consider buying low if you have space on the DL.

 

  1. Josh Hamilton – OF, Texas Rangers

 

The naysayers have not been disappointed. Everyone was predicting a regression for Hamilton this year. I’m not sure anyone predicted .208 with only five extra base hits through 120 at-bats. Every advanced measurement you can find shows that Hamilton’s first year in LA is a disaster. The story to cling to here, either as a Halos fan or a Hamilton owner, is Albert Pujols. It took Pujols until May 6th to hit his first homer last season, and he still finished the year with 30 HR and 105 RBI. The power has always been there; you’d be well-served to wait this out. There is a higher probability that Hamilton will snap out of it than you being stuck with a .200 hitter in August.

 

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