4 Trade-Block Stars Whose Fantasy Value Could Skyrocket
Good luck trying to receive any actual, hard trade news over the next 21 days. It's speculation this and speculation that, stories about how an assistant GM's grandmother told Local Paper X that she heard third-hand what the Cubs (always the Cubs) are going to do. I don't believe that anything is final until I see a guy in a different colored hat.
So what am I going to do? Why, more speculation of course! Hey, if you can't beat 'em, then join 'em... but use stats to do it.
These four guys are heavily rumored to be shipped out of town, and if they are, it could be a fantasy bonanza for you. Especially if you're faltering in your league, I would either pick up or trade for these guys and hope for the best and a change of scenery over the next three weeks.
Current Remaining Projections (with Houston)
The "ace" of the Houston staff (you have no idea how reluctantly I put "ace" with a staff that has zero starters under a 1.350 WHIP), Norris has been rumored to go to everybody from Tampa to Cleveland to Texas to Kansas City to Mudtown. Any of those places would be helpful considering his offensive support: the Astros as a team are next-to-last in both on-base percentage and slugging, with only Miami worse in both areas.
Sure, Norris has a 1.412 WHIP. But look at what has contributed to that WHIP: a 24 percent line drive rate, a .330 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), and a 16.7 percent strikeout rate. Know what the common thread among those stats is? They're all easily the worst of Norris's career, and they're all likely unsustainable long-term.
Given his career rates, it's much more likely that his line drive percentage hangs around the 20 percent mark, his BABIP is around .315, and his strikeout rate gets back to his 22 percent norm. That's a good thing for those teams looking for starters, especially if he can extend those numbers late into games. Even with his rough current numbers, 12 of his 19 starts have been considering quality starts. That's 10 percent above the MLB average.
So a pitcher due to increase his ratios, who pitches late into games, and is only owned in 9.7 percent of ESPN leagues? Sounds perfect to me. I'd pick him up instantly.
Current Remaining Projections (with L.A.)
Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and that guy from Cuba whose name I can't quite remember at the moment... where exactly is Andre Ethier supposed to fit in? If I had my guess, it's at the top of a different team's lineup.
The Dodgers are World Series or Bust, and Ethier is their main trade chip. One thing's for sure: any team that takes a chance on Ethier will receive an excellent outfielder who we project to have a much better second half than first half.
His .310 BABIP - actually his lowest since 2009 and due to go up with a corresponding 23 percent line drive rate. His 1.5 percent homerun rate - his lowest ever, and he has been above 3.0 percent in four of the past five seasons. His 9.9 percent walk rate - sustainable given his 9.5 percent career average. His 7.2 percent extra-base hit rate - his lowest ever. To some, these numbers are scary. To me, it says he's due for a regression to the mean in a big way.
Really, other than a 14.6 percent strikeout rate that is just a bit too far under his 16.8 percent career rate, every single one of Ethier's metrics should improve in the second half of the season. If he can get on a team where he'll consistently get about four at-bats per game (or if Kemp and Crawford keep getting injured), Ethier's bound to become a serviceable fantasy outfielder.
Current Remaining Projections (with Miami)
Yeah yeah, Giancarlo Stanton's not available, so sayeth the Marlins. I bet you thought they wouldn't sell off half their team to Toronto then turn around and ask Dade County for more money either. Let's just say I would be mildly amused, but not overly shocked, if the outfielder that has a negative percent chance of re-signing in three years gets shipped for infield/pitching prospects while Miami instead plays young guys.
This may shock absolutely nobody, but Stanton could become a top five outfielder if given a chance with another team. In total, Miami has the single worst OBP (by .006) and slugging percentage (by .029) in the entire major leagues. That means Stanton's at-bats per RBI, which had previously held steady between 5.2 and 6.1, are all the way up at 8.0 this season. That's about one RBI for every two games played. What good is a slugger if he drives nobody in?
Of course, some of this is Stanton's fault; he's had a down first half of the season. But there is reason to believe that, just like Ethier, his numbers are going to rise again. Stanton's line drive rate is the same as last year - at 22 percent - but somehow his BABIP is .045 lower. His 3.9 percent homerun rate is far below his 5.9 percent career average, but that's because nobody wants to pitch to him. And while his 2.00 SO/BB ratio is the best of his career, keeping pitches out of the zone has induced a higher GB/FB ratio than ever before (also limiting RBI/run opportunities).
Put Stanton in, say, Texas's lineup, and all of that changes. Pitchers are forced to throw him something other than junk, which helps his homerun rate, BABIP, and GB/FB all return closer to his mean from his previous three Miami seasons. We saw what he could do when protected by Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes in the lineup. For Stanton owners to be happy, he needs to be in that same situation once again.
Current Remaining Projections (with Chicago)
Sure, a 5-1 record seems positively excellent. It is; I'm not going to dispute that fact. But that's not thanks to the Chicago Cubs offense; their .301 OBP ranks 26th in the majors, and their .409 slugging percentage is just above the league .402 average. The only way Matt Garza has won those games is a 1.073 WHIP that has absolutely shut down the competition.
Garza's somewhat of an anomaly on this list - he's not expected to improve in the second half. In fact, according to our projections, he's due to get worse. His 28 percent line drive rate betrays a higher expected BABIP than his career-low .250. Even if his homerun, walk, and strikeout rates remain the same (and there is reason to believe all three are sustainable), that increase in expected hits should damage his overall value. There's a reason he's only expected to have four wins the rest of the way.
A different team could mitigate that impending doom, however. Put Garza on Tampa (yes, again) or Cleveland, and suddenly he may be able to pull out a win or two even when he isn't at his best. With a 3.92 projected ERA and 1.27 projected WHIP the rest of the way, that run support should be crucial. And given Garza's penchant for going deep into games - this is his third year running with his quality start percentage at 60 percent or above - having a solid offense behind him should make all the difference.
Garza's owned in 99.7 percent of ESPN leagues (it was around 93 percent a week ago), so you'd likely have to trade for him rather than pick him up. The only way he'll maintain the same value he currently has is through a trade. However, if Garza has a bad start or two before the trade deadline - and a scheduled start against St. Louis on Saturday could do it - then you may be able to grab him for cheaper and hope for the best.