If you’re anything like me, you’re living in heaven right now. At no time of the year does my MLB.tv subscription come in handier than on Opening Weekend. All is right with the world when you can watch four baseball games at once on a split screen.
While watching these games, I’m constantly checking my various fantasy leagues to see which pitchers I have starting or which position players are about to hit. While religiously watching games, I remember why my social life tends to diminish around this time of year as my baseball obsession hits the honeymoon stage that is the first week of meaningful baseball.
Sure, midseason malaise will hit and I’ll stop watching so much of it that my girlfriend thinks I’ve left her, but for now, this is how I live.
For this week’s instalment of What’s Your Fantasy, as with every instalment from here on in, I will quickly detail a couple players you’ll want to buy low (off of waiver wires or through trades) and a couple you should sell high (by suckering a less knowledgeable owner into a trade that he or she will regret almost immediately).
Let’s start with the bargain buys:
Jurrjens is a talented pitcher who was acquired by the Braves in the deal that sent an aging Edgar Renteria to the Tigers ahead of the 2008 season; a deal that has already worked out in spades for Atlanta. In his first two seasons in Georgia, Jurrjens made 65 starts logging 403.1 innings and pitching to a 3.10 ERA and a 3.65 FIP.
Then in 2010, Jurrjens got hurt and never recovered falling to a 4.64 ERA and 4.19 FIP in only 20 starts. Due to this and the fact that he suffered from a rib injury this spring, Jurrjens may have gone undrafted in your league. If he did, it would be a great idea to pick him up off waivers before he returns to his former self and someone beats you to it. If you play in a dynasty league, you might be able to trade for him and his likely very low salary.
The reason for Jurrjens’ struggles in 2010, besides injury problems, was his sudden inability to keep the ball on the ground. His groundball percentage fell to under 40% last year for the first time in his career and after giving up only 0.58 HR/9 in 2008 and 2009, Jurrjens gave up over a homer per nine-innings last season.
The reason for this sudden change has to do with the effectiveness of his changeup which tends to induce a lot of groundballs due to its heavy sink. In 2008 and 2009, Jurrjens’ changeup was an extremely effective pitch, according to FanGraphs’ pitch value statistics, while in 2010 it was suddenly well below average.
The rest of Jurrjens’ peripherals were well in line with his career averages including both his strikeout and walk rates. If I were a betting man, I was wager on him returning to form which means he’s a solid number three pitcher in a very good Atlanta rotation.
Morneau was well on his way to another MVP-calibre season in 2010 before his head collided with the knee of John McDonald ending his season because of a nasty concussion. Concussions are a scary thing and it wasn’t really known if Morneau was going to back even this season, but thankfully, he is.
His timing is still off due to the fact that he had very few in-game at-bats in the Spring, but when he finds it, you can expect big things. Last season, Morneau had a .345/.437/.618 slash line with a stupid 5.3 WAR rating in only half a season. His WAR was actually higher than Joe Mauer’s who played a full season of All-Star calibre ball.
The point is that some fantasy owners may be thinking that Morneau is less than a certainty to return to form and if they drafted him, they probably also drafted another, safer, first baseman. If you can swoop in and make a trade for him without giving up much it could end up paying big dividends for you as the season wears on.
What about the players you’ll want to sell-high? I’ve got you covered, fair Blankards:
Nishioka comes over from the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan as the reigning batting champ and was the subject of a bidding war this offseason, but the fact is that he may not be all that great.
Most scouts think he’s a Kazuo Matsui-in-the-making largely due to the fact that he’s a slappy contact hitter whose game is much better suited for the Japan-style of baseball. It’s a style that doesn’t necessarily translate to the North American game.
He doesn’t walk much, he doesn’t hit for power and he’s not a guy who’s going to get you much more than a few singles and a few stolen bases. It’s not that a player like Nishioka doesn’t have value, it’s just that he’s a player you can easily replace on the waiver wire.
If you drafted him (as I did in two of my leagues), now’s the time to trade him. Other owners may be spellbound by his high average potential and the fact that most Japanese players suffer from being over-hyped, or what I like to call the “Ichiro-effect.”
If you can turn him into someone with slightly more value in a trade, you may get the extra 2% you need to win your fantasy league (oh yes, it’s a concept that you can use just as effectively as the Rays).
Staying with the Twins, another sell-high opportunity awaits in their Opening Day starter. Pavano isn’t a terrible pitcher, but he’s not really much better than someone like Joe Blanton and Joe Blanton is not someone you’d want anchoring your rotation. The Twins, however, seem to be higher on him than their real ace Francisco Liriano; hopefully other fantasy owners in your league think that way too.
If you happened to draft Pavano, now’s the time to turn him into something more valuable before the rest of the world figures out how mediocre he really is. Try and trade him for say, Anibal Sanchez and thank me later when it turns out very well for you.
Until next week, happy baseball and come check me out at Baseball Canadiana!