Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading: Aubrey Huff, James Shields, more

by Rich Arleo on May 5, 2011 @ 09:53:02 PDT

 


Some batters and pitchers on the other teams in your fantasy baseball league are becoming real drags. A few MLB players on your fantasy baseball team are performing better than you expected. Is it time to move in? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading series is your accomplice when it's time to do shady business in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game.

It's time to start thinking about the guys who have been playing above or below expectations and what you should do with them.

Buy

Aubrey Huff, San Francisco Giants - After a stellar 2010 helping lead San Francisco to glory, Huff is off to a very slow start; he has gone hitless in 16 of 30 games.

It's been a tale of two hitters the previous three seasons. In 2008 he hit .304 with 32 home runs and 108 RBIs with a solid line-drive percentage (17.4) and the lowest ground ball percentage of his career (40.9). In 2009, Huff fell off with a .241 average and just 15 home runs. He had an line-drive percentage of 15.5 and ground-ball percentage of 48.1 with his OPS a depressing .694, his lowest since 2001. Whatever he didn't have in 2009, he found in 2010, bringing his average back up to .290, OPS to .891 and line-drive percentage up to 18.0, with no strong indicators of luck.

Huff was expected to be a solid source of power with a reasonable average, but he finished April hitting .211 with just two home runs, slugging just .322. A closer look at the numbers indicates he should be turning the corner soon. Huff's fly ball rate is at 37 percent, right around his career average and identical to last year's, and he typically heats up with the weather. He is a career .245 hitter in March and April, while he hits .311, .292 and .306 in June, July and August, respectively.

If you're going to try to buy low on Huff, you have to act fast. He is four for his last nine with a home run and a double, and looks to be getting off the schneid sooner rather than later.

Tampa Bay Rays SP James Shields
Shields has more to offer

Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox - The Cuban Missile has begun 2011 as a big dud, hitting just .250 with an OPS of .677. He's not getting on base and not hitting for power, but a closer look at his stats indicates that could change. His GB percentage is at a career low 41.1 and he's hitting more fly balls than ever (41.4 percent), so the extra-base hits should be on the way. Despite the low OBP, he's actually walking at a higher rate than usual (8.6 percent, double his rate from 2010). Even with the low average, he's on pace for standards in home runs and steals, so when he gets it going, he could see a bump in production.

Ramirez is hitting second in the White Sox's lineup, in front of Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, and when Dunn finally gets comfortable, Ramirez should score more often. This is the first year of Ramirez's recent contract extension. With a White Sox lineup struggling all around him, it's been a slow go to start the season. Signs are pointing up for Ramirez at a position with some scarcity, so if you can find an owner who's grown tired of his weak average, target him.

Sell

Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies - Usually the case with Polanco is, if you're looking for a boost in batting average and don't mind getting little else, then he's your man. However, Polanco is on pace for 117 RBIs, 11 home runs and 16 to 17 steals. The 117 RBIs would be 45 more than his career high; the 11 home runs would be more than he's hit since 2004; and he hasn't stolen 16 bases ... ever, and more than seven since 2003. Polanco, 35, certainly has some value, and while that .374 batting average will come down, a .320 season certainly isn't out of sorts.

You may convince your trade partner that Polanco is a good source of RBIs sitting in the three-hole in a solid but underperforming Philadelphia Phillies lineup, and could even be a 15-15 guy. It'd help if that person is feeling the burn of the multitude of injuries at the hot corner in 2011. Polanco has played more than 140 games just three times in his eight previous seasons. His elbow was surgically repaired in the offseason, and he tweaked it in spring training, although it was reportedly unrelated. One wrong move and Polanco could be ailing again, though.

Hold

James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays - Shields has gotten off to a spectacular start with two wins, 39 strikeouts, a 2.14 ERA and miniscule 0.95 WHIP through six starts. He's pitched at least six innings in every start and has pitched two complete games, two more than he did in 2010 and 2009 combined. Some may think Shields is a sell-high candidate, but it looks like he's bouncing back from a nightmare and perhaps even ready for a breakout season in 2011.

Shields has found the elite control that he seemed to lose the past two years, walking just 1.75 per nine innings, his lowest mark since 2008 and 2007. Those two years just so happen to be the last two he finished with an ERA under 4.00. Shields' 2010 struggles (career-worst 1.50 HR/9, .341 BABIP against, 1.46 WHIP and 5.18 ERA) looked more like the exception than the norm. He had more strikeouts per nine (8.28) than ever in 2010 but, interestingly, threw a career-high 13 wild pitches.

The 2011 Shields isn't going to keep throwing complete games at this pace, but his return to a stunning control rate along with a continued reduction in fly balls allowed has led to length in games and fewer blowups. The strikeouts are still coming in at a nice rate (7.58 K/9), too. As far as expectations, look no further than a combo of his 2007 and 2008 seasons; in the former, he struck out 184, and in the latter, he pitched a career-high three complete games and had a career-low 3.56 ERA. If you were lucky enough to capitalize on his bad 2010 and grab Shields late, just sit back and enjoy.

Short

Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers - Those who look at Ordonez as a possible buy-low candidate will have to consider a few things. The former six-time All-Star is now 37 years old and three years removed from his last 20-homer season. Ordonez has become a huge health risk, and there are other issues with both him and his team.

First, Ordonez's surgically repaired ankle is clearly affecting his play. He has admitted he's only half a player with his right ankle still not at full strength, and it shows in his .188 average, one home run (finally, on May 4) and four RBIs.

Second, the Tigers have other options, with Victor Martinez back from the disabled list and the emergence of Scott Sizemore. The second base prospect was raking to the tune of a .408 average and 1.100 OPS in 23 games for Class AAA Toledo before being called up Monday. He's 4-for-12 in his first three games in the Tigers' lineup. Manager Jim Leyland now has a chance to give Ordonez regular rest, with Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch also deserving of playing time and struggling Austin Jackson still in the mix.

It took roughly nine months for Sizemore to regain the strength around his ankle when he suffered a similar injury in October 2009. Maggs' is more than 10 years older than the second sacker. The numbers from his last couple of games seem encouraging, but until Ordonez shows consistent signs of being 100 percent and driving the ball, he's not someone to target, unless you're making a play for the long haul.

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About Rich Arleo

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been playing fantasy sports since he was 14 years old. He is a local editor with AOL's Patch.com and became a staff writer with Bruno Boys Fantasy Football in 2010 and a contributor to KFFL in 2011.

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