Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading: Curtis Granderson, Matt Garza, more

by Nicholas Minnix and Tim Heaney on June 2, 2011 @ 18:08:30 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?'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.


Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs

This right-hander's initiation into the 15-win club in 2010 and subsequent trade from the Tampa Bay Rays to the NL might have raised his price a few bucks this past spring. As Tim Heaney noted in our preseason overvalued article, however, there were reasons to expect no sum improvement and, in fact, some possible subtraction from the pitcher's bottom line. His 2-4 record, with a 3.72 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP, seem to reinforce that notion.

Florida Marlins RP Leo Nunez
Gauge your league's SV desperation

Nonetheless, Garza represents a good buy-low opportunity at this stage of the season. He's on the disabled list because a come-backer nailed him, resulting in a bone contusion in his elbow - nothing affecting muscle structure, including ligament or tendon damage.

Some of the statistics the 27-year-old has put up through 55 2/3 frames are downright impressive: a 10.99 K/9, a 0.16 HR/9, a 28.3 percent fly-ball rate and a 76.2 percent contact rate against. All those marks would easily be career lows if they were to continue.

While Garza's 3.23 BB/9 isn't stellar, it's not responsible for the jacked WHIP. When hitters do make contact, it's apparently hard (23.4 percent line drives). Errors extend innings, and Chicago's defense has been one of the worst in the league; seven of the 30 runs Garza has yielded are unearned. It would seem that his .362 BABIP against (.290 lifetime) and 62.2 percent left-on-base percentage (72.8 career) are due for massive corrections.

As a recent Fangraphs piece elaborated, this year the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has relied on his slider and changeup much more often than in years past. With the modified approach, pitch selection could easily be the culprit in those excessively frequent negative results over which he has more control. He has pinned hitters on the ropes, but he hasn't put them away.

Ultimately, the Cubs may have to give in and let Garza rely on his two-seamer a little more often, but he'll take some valuable lessons from this transformation. It's obvious that there's plenty of room for improvement. The upgrade probably won't come without some sort of sacrifice - like shaving some strikeouts - however, and the Cubs' gloves will remain a handicap. It's possible that the flip won't be as phenomenal as seems possible. Regardless, better days lie ahead for Garza, and you should join him. - Minnix


Leo Nunez

Is someone asking you not to buy into the right-hander's fantastic improvement? Is someone asking you to ignore the results of his increased use of a sharper slider and a two-seamer with much more movement? Are his .288 BABIP against and 78.8 percent left-on-base rate really hurting?

No. Nunez has been fantastic. It's apparent that he's maturing, and his fantasy owners have enjoyed the production: a 3.00 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, a 9.00 K/9 (holding steady) and 19 saves in 20 chances. He has oodles of job security. He has no notable health concerns.

Here's the deal: That kind of reliever is rare. There are undoubtedly some folks in your league who are hurting in the putrid category. But, even if Nunez keeps up this level of performance, he's not going to finish with 57 saves, and that's about what he's on pace for. Why do you own closers? Because they net you saves. Realistically, how many more can you expect?

Then, throw in the fact that he has yielded fly balls on 47.3 percent of the balls in play against him but has seen just 5.7 percent of them, nearly half of his career rate, leave the yard. A disproportionately low percentage of them (8.6) are infield flies, too.

Here's what you have to answer: How do your league mates feel about Nunez? If they're skeptical of the new Nunez and won't fork over something pretty nice, then drop him in the "Hold" bin and don't look back. If they see the appeal, though, then try to exploit them. You have already made a tidy profit on your investment. Nunez may not be headed for a big stumble, but he can't look anymore attractive. - Minnix


Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

Sure, there's some trepidation in riding this wave. He's mostly a pull hitter, which makes him prone to slumps. Maybe he'll fail to sustain his lofty fly-ball pace, or more of them will start turning into outs. Plus, there are typically more viable waiver wire replacements in the outfield than any other offensive slot, so you could fill his missing stats while addressing another positional need.

New York Yankees OF Curtis Granderson
Granderson gesture of faith

Focus. This is a continuation of his late-2010 breakthrough via changes he made with hitting coach Kevin Long. The 30-year-old's wrists are much quicker thanks to decreased movement in his stance and the fact he's keeping two hands on the bat during his follow-through. Perhaps most crucial is his .303-9-19 line in 66 at-bats versus lefties; his struggles against them previously hindered his value, but now southpaws have trouble jamming him.

His game has changed since he started donning Pinstripes. His high fly-ball pattern is now the norm, and even if he sees a regression, he'll probably remain among the leaders in that stat. In the context of his career, his 20.2 percent percentage of homers on fly balls only shows good fortune on the surface. When grouped with that of his light-bulb months of last August (15.2 percent) and September (24.3), however, it cements his amplified brawn.

In most leagues, you should stay put. Doubt will probably temper any return haul, and unless it's a bona fide stud who isn't slumping, you won't get anything greater than what Grandy can give you. Fifty homers? A stretch. Recognizing a slowed pace is fine and dandy, but don't write him off. Can you strongly justify shipping Grandy because he may clear the fences "only" 15 or so more times from here on out, while hitting in a stalwart lineup and home park in addition to swiping 10 more bags, potentially? - Heaney


Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

His peripherals don't look all that bad. Same solid walk rate, stable grounder rate, increasing strikeouts - same old Cy Young Carp, naturally, complete with a mild fastball velocity improvement.

Plus, you would think his opponents' in-play clip of .343 would offer a true buying opportunity ... until you look at the 24.0 percent line-drive rate against the veteran righty. Though he's getting more empty hacks, his increased K/9 is also helped by having to face more batters because he's allowing more base runners and seeking more outs without balls in play. The latter sounds a lot like James Shields' high K/9, low effectiveness of 2010.

Though he has looked more on point of late, Carp is laboring; he's averaging 1.2 more pitches per inning than he did in 2010 - not a huge increase, but definitely not his typical efficiency. Maybe the 36-year-old is tiring with two consecutive healthy seasons on his arm. The movement on his defining two-seam fastball isn't right. There are fewer grounders induced, and that liner potency means opponents are squaring him up better. Oh, and he's hitting the strike zone at the lowest frequency of his career.

Carp has, luckily, lined up against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, along with the San Diego Padres - twice. In seven starts versus his other opponents, he has a 6.49 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP while fanning only 6.49 per nine.

There might be some room for improvement here, but despite his enhanced dominance rate, Carp hasn't proven dominant for the reasons that you invested heavily in him. His name value will jack up the price for a pitcher that could wind up being a matchup starter ... or breaking down. - Heaney

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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