Every week from now until September, you can come here to find an in-depth look at fantasy baseball's buy-low and sell-high candidates. June is here, and there are plenty of owners with itchy trigger fingers when it comes to trades...
Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins
Liriano owners are a little bit rattled right now, and understandably so. He was the steal of many-a-draft after following up a nightmare 2009 with a strong spring, and justified his SOTD (that's what the kids call it) status with a strong April. Then came May's 5.15 ERA, anonymous scouts were telling unanonymous ESPN reporters that he wasn't the same pitcher since a 123-pitch outing in Cleveland on May 2, and the panic is starting to set in.
Of course, it's all unjustified. Liriano indeed carries some risk because of his injury history, and as a stat geek I'm not about to weigh in on his reportedly sloppy mechanics over the past month. What I can see is that his velocity is the same it was in April, and during that nightmarish month of May he struck out 39 and walked only nine in 36 2/3, so command doesn't really seem to be an issue either.
What does seem to be the issue is some bad luck at bad times. Liriano still leads the majors in fielding-independent pitching (2.42). He's striking out hitters, keeping the ball on the ground (64.9 ground ball percentage), still has a strong supporting cast, and as of now seems to be 100 percent healthy. He's as good as any pitcher in the American League.
Any owner fretting over Liriano's May line doesn't deserve to have him anymore. If you can get him for a second-tier player, you're getting a great deal.
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs
"I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell, 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!'"
Little known fact: Peter Finch, playing Howard Beale in Network, was actually referring to his two years as a Geo Soto owner. Ah, but I kid, I kid ...
Plenty of Soto owners are done with him, but they shouldn't be. True, Lou Piniella is doing his fourth-best hitter no favors by batting him in the seventh and eighth holes this year (that's what Sweet Lou does), and Soto is going to have a tough time changing his mind with a .148 batting average with runners in scoring position.
But, if given an extended chance to hit fifth or sixth, Soto would likely deliver. He's recovered from an absurdly unlucky '09 and is generally hitting the ball hard this year. Even with wear and tear during the dog days factored in, he should be good for around 10-12 more homers while not hurting your batting average.
Of course, the lack of RBI opportunities and runs are out of his control. But considering he's back to being a borderline top five offensive catchers in baseball and can be had for cheap, it's worth rolling the dice that Piniella will come to his senses at some point in '10.
Tim Hudson, SP, Braves
Hudson has all the makings of a classic sell-high candidate. He's a former star, all the way back from injury, and his stat line is simply sparkling: 6-1, 2.30 ERA.
But it masks the fact that he's now essentially the National League's answer to Jake Westbrook: a low-reward sinkerballer. Hudson won't keep up this kind of success. The outstanding groundball rate is very encouraging (76.7%), and his walk rate is low as usual. But that's not the stuff of ERAs in the low-2s.
Hudson is striking out 4.2 per 9 innings, putting him on pace for somewhere around 100 even on the season. That would be alright if he had a shot at 18 wins, but that's only a possibility if he continues to get out-of-character run support from the Braves (6.78 right now, as opposed to less than 5.00 for the rest of the staff). And most likely, once some of those groundballs start finding their way through the infield, his ERA is going to hover closer to the high-3s.
His name recognition and current stat line will have a lot of owners mistaking Hudson for a star. If you're a Hudson owner, don't push your luck. You've already gotten two magical months out of an above average vet. Trade him while you can.
Casey McGehee, 2B/3B, Brewers
Ah, is there anything sweeter than lingering position eligibility? Especially when that eligibility is at second base?
That's part of the giddiness over McGehee, who qualifies at third and second in just about every league. Of course, the .297, 9 HRs, and 41 RBIs accounts for the remainder of said giddiness.
But a closer look at the numbers reveals a whole lot of groundball singles for McGehee right now. In 394 plate appearances last year, he posted a 21.6 percent line drive rate (according to Fan Graphs) en route to a .301 average. This year, that LD% has dropped to 12.8%, but due to a whole lot of luck his average still sits at .297. In reality, it should be sitting about 25 points lower. Ken Macha may not be able to manage his way out of a paper bag, but even he'll eventually be forced to move McGehee out of the cleanup/fifth spot once his average starts dropping. (Though props to Macha for using the word "poppycock" during a meeting with reporters last week, a difficult task if you're not a British octogenarian.)
McGehee still figures to be somewhere around the 10th to 15th best second baseman in fantasy from here on in, but right now a lot of people see him as top five. His owners should look to take advantage before he comes back to earth.