Every Thursday from now until September, you can come here to find an in-depth look at fantasy baseball's sell-high and buy-low candidates ...
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
Despite all the statistics bandied about, baseball is relatively simple. If you hit the ball hard more often than most players, you usually get hits more often than most players.
This hasn't been the case with Konerko's 2008 season. When your line drive rate is a respectable 20.3 percent (via Hardball Times), and you're only striking out once every 5.8 plate appearances, your batting average should be decent, maybe in the .260-.270 range. But Konerko's batting average on balls in play is .239, the lowest in baseball. His BABIP has always skewed toward the low side, but this is absurdly below his .285 career mark coming into the season. Thus, the only logical explanation for Konerko's .218 batting average is a lot of bad luck, quite possibly brought on by some kind of voodoo curse.
That's not to say that everything is fine and good with Konerko. The 32 year old is definitely in decline. His strikeout rate is up ever so slightly, and his once-robust isolated power (between .230 and .260 each of the past four seasons) has dropped to .146, indicating his 40-home run power has fallen to 20-home run power. It could have something to do with the oblique injury that knocked him out of action for three weeks, but certainly that drop can't be ignored.
The good news is that Konerko has a couple of on-base percentage guys hitting in front of him in Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome, so the RBI opportunities will be there. And the average can't possibly stay this low. And in good health, 8-10 more homers is a reasonable expectation. Considering he can be had for a ham sandwich at this point, rolling the dice on Konerko is worth it.
Randy Wolf, SP, Astros
Houston GM Ed Wade has done it again. The man who brought us five players for a declining Miguel Tejada, Brad Lidge at his absolute lowest point for a No. 4 outfielder, and Kaz Matsui for $16.5 million for three years has now given us a prospect for two months of Randy Wolf, a free-agent pitcher to be who couldn't fit any worse in a ballpark.
Granted, there probably weren't a lot of owners eyeing Wolf. But with 105 strikeouts in 119.2 innings, there's some value. If you can get anything for him, literally anything of value, do it. Because he takes a major hit leaving Petco Park.
The obvious indicator is his home-road splits this season. In 11 starts at pitcher-friendly Petco this season, Wolf is 5-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. In 10 starts on the road, he's 1-6 with a 6.63 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. But wait, it gets worse. The left-handed Wolf will see plenty of right-handed bats in Minute Maid Park. And few parks a friendlier when it comes to home runs for righties thanks to the Crawford Boxes. If Wolf does anything but hurt fantasy owners from here on in, consider it a miracle.
As an aside (the result of an angry loser who thinks he should be running a major league franchise), the fact that the Astros would give up anything of value for Wolf is a testament to how poorly this franchise is being run. Why deal a prospect (any prospect!) for a free agent to be when you're 11 games out of first place because of your preseason batch of ill-advised moves? Not only a free-agent-to-be, but one who has given every indication his preference is to sign with a California team this winter to be near his recently-purchased Los Angeles home. Unless prospect Chad Reineke (who was pitching pretty well of late and could be a useful middle reliever down the line) traveled back in time to mid-14th century Europe, contracted the bubonic plague and began spreading it throughout the Astros' minor league system, he is more valuable than two months of Wolf. And if the Astros claim that Reineke time travel story to be true, I would find it highly suspicious. (If Reineke could travel back in time, why would he choose to visit Europe around the time of the Black Death?)