Happy Easter Monday Blankards!  For those of you lucky enough to get this extra day of “holiness” off, good for you.  For the rest of us, maybe a little fantasy baseball talk can help us get through the day.

Baseball is starting to edge back to normalcy now that we’re nearly a month past opening day; the Red Sox and Rays are winning ballgames like we all knew they would, the Royals and Orioles are back to their losing ways, and Kevin Youkilis’ average is slowly creeping back up to where it should be.

One of the features of this week’s article was going to be James Shields of the Rays, but now that he’s gone and reeled of two consecutive complete games, you’re probably not going to be able to ‘buy-low’ on him since just about everybody has realized that he’s back to his old self.
There are, however, still a few players of note to talk about.

SELL-HIGH: Michael Young

For those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis, this one shouldn’t surprise you.  I think every contributor has, on at least one occasion, blasted Michael Young’s playing ability, usually in reference to the prospect of him being acquired by the Jays.

At the moment, Young’s detractors are looking a bit foolish given that he’s off to a great start, but worry not fellow Blankards, regression to the mean is the natural enemy to the luck dragon and it will strike a crushing blow at some point.

Young’s ridiculous .366/.376/.500 slash line is an interesting one.  First of all, the difference between his batting average and his on-base percentage is extremely small due to his miniscule 1.2 BB%.  Couple that with his .417 BABIP so far and you get a regression candidate waiting t happen.  When those hits stop falling in, Young will stop getting on base altogether and his numbers will bottom-out.

The other mitigating factor in Young’s hot start comes from the fact that he’s swinging at and making contact with a lot of balls outside the zone at a much higher rate than his career average.  You’d have to think that eventually he’s going to start missing those pitches, or making weak contact on them; either way, what he’s doing is not at all sustainable.  Trade Young to someone desperate for infielding help who thinks it’s 2005.

BUY-LOW: Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla may be a terrible defensive second-baseman, but in most fantasy leagues, this doesn’t matter so do not let it colour your opinion of him and his tremendous value.  Uggla is off to a slow start so far this year, hitting just .176/.213/.365, but there are two numbers that stand out telling us that Uggla will eventually start to hit.

The first is his .177 BABIP which is obviously too low to sustain; and the second is his 4.5 BB% which is far below his rather solid 10.6% career mark.  His lack of discipline this season can be traced to his willingness to swing at pitches outside the strike zone (His outside-the-zone swinging percentage is seven percent higher than his career mark) and he’s generally swinging far more often than normal.  You have to believe he’ll go back to his selective ways soon and his numbers will benefit from it.

Another factor in Uggla’s slow start is his inability to hit fastballs so far this season.  Despite being a very good fastball hitter throughout his career (he has a career mark of 1.32 wFB/C which is a stat that measures how many runs above average a hitter is per 100 fastballs) he’s struggling this season with a mark of -0.68 wFB/C.

As I mentioned in Young’s section, regression to the mean must be taken into account when predicting future outcomes for players and regression goes both ways.  Maybe you can swindle a fellow owner into taking Young off your hands in return for Uggs.

SELL-HIGH: Sam Fuld

Fuld has taken the baseball world by storm being likened to many a superhero with his jaw-dropping catches in the outfield and his knack for timely hits.  Indeed, Fuld has been instrumental in the Rays’ turnaround, but this is a player who has never been seen as anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder.  So why, at the age of 29, is he suddenly seen as the next big star?

Yes, he’s hitting the cover off the ball and stealing a ton of bases, and he’s a very patient hitter who will always accumulate walks and will always steal bases, but his hitting ability has been ballooned up by a .382 BABIP and a very low 8.1 K%; both are unsustainable.  His .541 slugging percentage is also extremely high for a player who slugged at a .405 clip in the minors.

Fuld is also only getting playing time until prospect Desmond Jennings is ready to make the jump to the majors full-time.  Once Fuld stops hitting, expect to see Jennings up, which means Fuld will slink back to fourth outfielder status.

There’s no doubt this is an impressive ride, but trading Fuld before the roller-coast comes down from its apex is probably your best course of action.

BUY-LOW: Brett Gardner

Out of all the position-players on the Yankees in 2010, Robinson Cano led the way in fWAR at 6.4.  Who was second?  Was it Mark Teixeira?  A-Rod?  Swisher?  Maybe Jeter?  Nope, it was Brett Gardner at 5.4.  A lot of that had to do with his outstanding defense, but there’s no denying that Gardner was an offensive force last season.

This year has been a struggle so far for Gardner, but most of that can be explained by an unbridled aggressiveness at the plate so far.  This has led to a low walk-rate, high strikeout-rate, and very low .194 BABIP which are all due to start regressing toward the mean sooner than later.  If you can hook a Sam Fuld for Brett Gardner trade, you’ll be laughing in July.

Until next week, Happy Baseball!

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