By the Numbers: Buy or sell, Deadline Edition
While the major leagues' trade deadline has come and gone, many Fantasy leaguers still have time to get in their final wave of deals. Though we are four months into the season, some players have recent or full-season stat lines that aren't indicative of what they are likely to do from here on out. Looking at past trends, a handful of players stand out as prime candidates to target or trade away in your quest to march your Fantasy squad up the standings over the weeks to come.
I'll be identifying the players whom I see as the best ones to acquire or shed as your league's trade deadline draws near, and I'll explain why they need to be on your radar. Since these are just the top targets, every position won't be covered, but just maybe, these suggestions will inspire a deadline deal that can fuel your team's late-season run.
Top Sell Candidates
Yasiel Puig , OF, Dodgers: Thanks to Puig's scorching-hot performance upon his callup, he continues to be started in nearly all leagues on CBSSports.com. After slugging .713 in June, that mark has fallen to .436 in July, and that latter stat doesn't scream, "must-start outfielder." After 50 games with the Dodgers and 63 minor league games, we still don't really know what kind of a hitter Puig is, but given that he still owns a .364/.410/.579 slash line, it's safe to say that many owners are overvaluing him. Let one of them take him off your hands in exchange for more proven talent, especially if it's of the elite or near-elite variety.
Leonys Martin , OF, Rangers: Coming into this season, I liked Martin as a sleeper because he looked to be a low-cost source of steals, power and a high batting average. He did come cheaply and has delivered 20 steals, but he's fallen well short of a .300 average and may not get as many as 10 homers. You may be able to convince a trade partner that Martin is poised for a turnaround, as his average was in the .290s earlier in July. In actuality, his average was boosted by a two-month stretch in which he boasted a .376 BABIP. While Martin has the speed to pile up infield hits, that rate of hits on balls in play would be almost impossible for him to sustain. Since he hasn't shown much improvement in his contact skills, it's best to deal him now before his batting average and run production wither even more.
Marlon Byrd , OF, Mets: Byrd's surprising power surge doesn't have to end, but at some point, it will come at a price. He has been taking an aggressive approach, swinging more often and generating more flyballs, but also many more strikeouts. Byrd has been helped, not only by his 17 home runs, but also by his .284 batting average, but that has been buoyed by his .351 average on grounders. That stat might be believable coming from speedy Michael Bourn or Starling Marte , but not from Byrd. If you own Byrd in a standard mixed league, it probably won't be long before he's not worth starting, so let him be someone else's headache in the weeks to come.
Junior Lake , SS/OF, Cubs: With Alfonso Soriano gone, Lake's role in the Cubs' outfield is cemented, but playing time alone doesn't make the 23-year-old rookie all that attractive. He has a history of poor plate discipline and middling power, even for someone who is shortstop-eligible. He still has a healthy-looking stat line due to the six-game hot streak (.519, 2 HRs) that started his big-league career, but since then, he has gone 4 for 31 (.129) with no extra-base hits. Though he only has one steal in four attempts, Lake could be a nice addition for deep-league teams that need speed, but there's little reason to expect much else. If you could swap Junior Lake for some Junior Mints, that would be a pretty good deal. (Yes, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.)
Bartolo Colon , SP, Athletics: Colon is a superb control pitcher who is backed by a solid offense, but it's an absolute fluke that he ranks as a top 15 starting pitcher in both standard Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats. He's of absolutely no use for strikeouts, and his season-to-date value is largely predicated on a high level of run support (5.5 runs per nine innings) and an 80 percent strand rate that is due to recede. Find an owner who buys Colon as a 20-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA, and you could find yourself with a great deal.
Chris Archer , SP, Rays: If Archer's rotation spot needed solidifying, Matt Moore trip to the disabled list with elbow soreness just might have done the trick. Even if you weren't worried about Archer's job security given Alex Cobb eventual return, there are reasons to sell him. He has yet to get strikeouts with consistency, and while he has improved his control, Archer has a minor league history of high walk rates and has had sporadic command issues this season. Unless Archer starts showing the ability to get batters to swing and miss on a more regular basis, his ERA and WHIP look poised to balloon, as both are being helped by a .220 BABIP that is a sure bet to rise. It's time to deal him before that happens.
Top Buy Candidates
Jason Heyward , OF, Braves: Early this season, Heyward's plate discipline was much better than it had been in the past, but because he was mysteriously lacking power, he didn't have much to show for it. Heyward started to heat up in early June, and he's taken his hitting up a notch since that month's final week, posting a .838 OPS over his last 25 games. While Heyward's stolen base output qualifies as a disappointment, he has shown in his recent stretch -- as well as last season -- that he is capable of being a power hitter and run producer. With this season's reduction in strikeouts, he could also be a threat to hit for average. Given that he is starting in only about three-fourths of our leagues, too many owners seem to be focused on his season-to-date stats rather than the potential he has shown recently, as well as in 2012.
Starlin Castro , SS, Cubs: It's been a long, frustrating season for Castro's owners, and many of them may have run out of patience. If so, they have given up too soon, as he has made some strides in recent weeks. While he's still striking out more often than he has in previous seasons, he's recovered somewhat from a strikeout binge in June, and he's getting hits on balls in play at a rate more in line with his history. After compiling a .277 BABIP through July 2, he's been hitting .345 on balls in play since then. Castro has also been hitting with more power. His Isolated Power was a lowly .094 on July 2, but he has a .158 mark in the 26 games since. Castro's been better over the past four weeks, and his past seasons have shown that there is still room for further improvement. Now is the time to pursue Castro -- especially if you're anticipating losing Everth Cabrera or Jhonny Peralta to a suspension -- before his irritated owners notice he is on the way back to being a top 10 shortstop.
Chase Headley , 3B, Padres: Like Heyward, Headley has been benched in many of our leagues, but as he has ramped up his production over the last few weeks, his activation rate remains stagnant. Over his last 23 games, Headley has hit .289 with 10 doubles and two home runs. He probably won't maintain a batting average that high, given his .415 BABIP rate over that span, but he's been an above-average hitter on balls in play over his career, so the regression may not be dramatic. He should certainly continue to improve his .234/.333/.376 season-to-date slash line, but if his current owner is focused on those numbers, you could wind up getting Headley at a bargain price.
Josh Donaldson , 3B, Athletics: Donaldson's production swooned in July, but his skill set has remained essentially the same. He didn't suddenly become a human windmill or an impatient slap hitter; Donaldson merely got fewer hits on balls in play, resulting in fewer doubles and singles. With a .316 batting average through the end of June, Donaldson probably overperformed in the first half (particularly with his 22 doubles in 81 games), but his minor league numbers suggest that he can hit for power with a decent average. Given that Donaldson hadn't established himself as a productive major leaguer prior to this season, you might find an owner who is nervous about his .233/.340/.356 slash line for July and willing to deal him at a discount.
Patrick Corbin , SP, Diamondbacks: Many of Corbin's owners won't be willing to sell low on him, given his 12-2 record and 2.24 ERA, but others might look at his advanced stats and think it's time to unload the first-time All-Star. Corbin has been helped out by favorable BABIP (.251) and strand (80 percent) rates, and his K/9 ratio is a pedestrian 7.7. However, Corbin has been throwing harder this season, and since mid-May, that has translated into sizable upticks in his swinging strike and strikeout rates. That has been especially true over his last eight starts, in which he has struck out 56 batters in 57 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, he continues to be a good control pitcher who can help with WHIP. If you can land Corbin, you have a good chance of getting much more than just a so-so strikeout pitcher who has lucked into good ratios and a high win total.
Homer Bailey , SP, Reds: While looking at this season's advanced metrics might be misleading in evaluating Corbin, they could be a big help in assessing Bailey's true value. He has made impressive leaps in his K/9 (from 7.3 in '12 to 9.0 in '13), swinging strike (from 10 to 13 percent) and ground ball (from 46 to 51 percent) rates, and he hasn't sacrificed his low BB/9 rate. The biggest blemish on Bailey's record this season is a 24 percent line drive rate, but that's an unstable stat that could easily correct itself over the coming weeks. If that happens, Bailey should see reductions in his 3.55 ERA and an already-low 1.14 WHIP. He should also receive more than the 3.4 runs of support per nine innings he's been getting, which will further help to improve his 6-10 record. Though Bailey is starting in only 64 percent of our leagues, he is worthy of starting on a weekly basis in practically any format. It appears he has many owners who are underappreciating him and could be willing to make a deal.