Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading: Zack Greinke, Jair Jurrjens

by Rich Arleo on July 7, 2011 @ 13:54:30 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.

Buy

Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers

Since returning from injury, Greinke is 7-3. He's striking out 11.72 per nine innings (supported by a career-high 11.9 swinging strike percentage), holding hitters to a .255 BA and walking just 1.84 per nine. Great stuff, right? Well, the problem is that Greinke's ERA sits at 5.66.

He's given up 18 earned runs in his last 20 1/3 innings pitched, but even during those struggles he's striking out a ton of batters and walking few. There aren't any health concerns from the team or Greinke.

"I've been making (mistakes) too much in big situations," Greinke recently told The Associated Press. "Those are the times when you've got to make good pitches and get out of them. I keep making bad pitches at the most important times. I've got to figure out how to stop doing that. It's upsetting."

Atlanta Braves SP Jair Jurrjens
What price would Jurrjens fetch?

Well, we can all agree that he needs to stop doing that, because it's upsetting all his owners. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said his issue is inconsistency; he'll dominate a few batters but then throw hittable pitches to others. This is something that could be a quick fix, and as his peripherals indicate, he should be exceptional in a turnaround.

Greinke owners are still getting plenty of strikeouts and wins (seven in 12 starts) from him, so they may not be ready to deal. But if you can find an owner willing to give you Greinke for less than his expected value, run ... don't walk. Even at full value, he's a good investment. The ERA should be on the decline and the wins may pile up in the second half.

Hold

Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves

It's been a magical 2011 season. He leads the National League with 12 wins and a miniscule 1.84 ERA, plus a 1.07 WHIP, heading into the All-Star Break. It seems to be between he and Roy Halladay to start the All-Star Game for the National League, and "Doc" is good company.

The question remains: Is Jurrjens really this good? Many owners slept on the 25-year-old after he struggled through 2010 with a strained left hamstring and a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. He tried to pitch through the injuries, and struggled mightily with his control before shutting it down and opting to have surgery in October. Concerns were raised in April when the Braves put him on the DL to start the season. It turned out to be the right move. He made his debut on April 16 against the New York Mets with seven shutout innings, and he hasn't looked back.

Jurrjens' first season with the Braves came when he was 22, in 2008, a year after he'd debuted with the Detroit Tigers, he and impressed with 13 wins and a 3.68 ERA. He improved on those numbers the next year, with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Expectations were high in 2010; Jurrjens was on the rise before getting hurt. Since his short DL stint in April, there have been absolutely no signs of knee or hamstring issues, and as we've seen from him, when healthy, he can be very effective.

Jurrjens has a K/9 of just 5.29 this season, but the reasons he's been so valuable are his low ERA and WHIP and high win percentage. Given the volatility of such stats, fantasy owners cannot depend solely on those for Jurrjens' fantasy value moving forward. The peripherals (BABIP against, left-on-base percentage, etc.) don't offer a ton of support for this type of performance continuing.

Working in his favor: Prior to last season, he had turned in long stretches in which he outperformed the indicators. In addition, although his control has always been solid, it's been immaculate this season (2.03 batters per nine). That's drastically lower than any rate he's posted in the majors before and 1.01 points lower than his lifetime mark. How much can he attribute that to opponents' seemingly increased aggressiveness against him when it hasn't resulted in more strikeouts? The .256 BABIP against and the 84.2 percent contact rate against imply that some extra second-half hits should make up for some of those lost walks.

When he's working well, Jurrjens' hard sinking fastball, slider and changeup are all down in the zone and getting ground balls (43.8 ground-ball percentage this year, 44.8 career). That was an issue last year, as he had a career-low ground-ball rate and career-high fly-ball rate in a season of more than 50 innings.

It's going to be hard for Jurrjens to keep a sub-2.00 ERA throughout the season, and he probably won't be able to keep stranding 84.1 percent of runners on base. There will be some correction, but it may not be steep. If you can sell him as something close to fantasy gold, especially in a shallow league, where K's are a necessity, do it. But how likely is that? If you're in a deep league and your competition isn't willing to pay much for Jurrjens' shiny numbers, you're better served to hang on.

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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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