One phrase that is thrown around too loosely in fantasy leagues is the concept of "selling high." You typically see this kind of talk after some surprises emerge in the early part of a season. The two most notable examples this year are Chris Colabello of the Twins and Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies. I have fielded several questions on each of these guys, particularly whether it makes sense to trade them right now. In theory, you absolutely should, but this is assuming that someone else will buy on a limited track record and believes enough to give something of significant value in return. I just don't see that happening in most leagues.
I'll concede that "significant value" is a relative term and what it means to you might be different than what it means for me. It certainly doesn't hurt to shop these guys, perhaps for a more established player who is struggling in the early going, but don't fret if you can't find a match and are forced to hold. Maybe one of them is for real. And even if they aren't, at least you got some unexpected production from them in April. Let's get to this week's recommendations.
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Garrett Richards SP/RP, Angels (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)
Royals rookie Yordano Ventura has the highest fastball velocity so far this season, but Richards is right behind him. The 25-year-old right-hander averaged 94.8 mph on his heater last year, so he has always had plenty of giddy-up, but he's been averaging 96 mph in the early going. That's some serious gas. As a result, we've seen an increase in both strikeouts and walks, with a 24/14 K/BB ratio in 25 innings. He's been effectively wild so far, holding a 2.52 ERA through four starts. The matchup against the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka at Yankee Stadium this weekend isn't ideal, but if Richards can maintain the velocity and the strikeouts, he could finally be ready to make the leap in mixed leagues this year.
Ike Davis 1B, Pirates (Yahoo: 13 percent owned)
After being shopped by the Mets for most of the offseason, Davis was finally unloaded to the Pirates last Friday for minor league reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later. The 27-year-old found himself in a very difficult situation in New York, so here's hoping the change of scenery will get his career back on track. Granted, I would have liked him more from a fantasy perspective if he would have ended up with a team like the Orioles, as PNC Park is one of the toughest power-hitting parks in the majors. Another knock against him is that he's going to platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first base. Still, Davis should play against right-handed starters, which is better than the alternative. I'd take a flier on him as a CI (corner infielder) option in deeper leagues.
Will Middlebrooks 3B, Red Sox (Yahoo: 37 percent owned)
Sidelined since April 4 with a Grade 1 strain of his right calf, Middlebrooks has made it through two minor league rehab games without incident and should be activated within the next couple of days. Brock Holt has filled in admirably of late, but he's merely a stopgap at third base for the Red Sox. Middlebrooks still has a lot to prove in regard to his contact rate, so I'm not counting on him to be much of an asset in the batting average department, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw 20-plus homers from him the rest of the way. He's a solid (CI) corner infielder option.
Wily Peralta SP, Brewers (Yahoo: 38 percent owned)
Peralta has started the season on a high note, going 3-0 with 2.19 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over his first four starts. Of course, the ERA doesn't tell the whole story, as he has also allowed five unearned runs along the way. Still, he has shown improved control early on and continues to induce a ton of grounders. Dating back to last season, only three pitchers (min. 150 innings) have a higher ground ball rate. It would be nice to see his mid-90s velocity result in more strikeouts, but he's still pretty useful as is. Start him with confidence this weekend against the Cubs and don't be surprised if he's mixed league relevant all season.
Sean Doolittle RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
The Athletics are doing their platoon closer thing right now with Doolittle and Luke Gregerson, but I'm still guessing that Jim Johnson will get another shot. However, now that Doolittle is locked up for five-years and $10.5 million, the A's no longer have to worry about what he could make in arbitration through lofty save totals. This could be the motivation needed to give him a full-time shot at the role. While Doolittle throws from the left side, his numbers against right-handed batters (.582 OPS, 5.56 K/BB ratio) have actually been slightly better than his numbers against left-handed batters (.609 OPS, 5.25 K/BB ratio) during his career. Just something to keep in mind. He could be a very solid fantasy closer if given the chance.
Zach McAllister SP, Indians (Yahoo: 20 percent owned)
McAllister is another starting pitcher who is on a roll to begin the season, posting a 2.28 ERA through four starts. The big key is that he has yet to allow a home run in 23 2/3 innings of work. The 26-year-old right-hander has never had a swinging strike rate near the league average and his walk rate went in the wrong direction last year, but he quietly owns a 3.98 ERA through 54 starts in the majors. I don't advise picking him up with the long-term in mind, as there's just not enough upside here from a fantasy perspective, but I'd consider streaming him on Saturday against the Giants at AT&T Park.
Alcides Escobar SS, Royals (Yahoo: 25 percent owned)
May I present to you the Royals' team leader in OPS. Seriously. No, I don't expect it to last, but Escobar made sense as a potential rebound candidate coming into this season. The 27-year-old hit just .234 last season, but he did so with a .264 BABIP. That's an 80-point drop from his BABIP in 2012. With his speed and batted ball profile, there was nowhere to go but up here. I don't think we'll see his average sit around .300 for the entire season, but with any luck, he won't hurt you in the category. We also know that he's good for 20-plus steals, as he's done it in three straight seasons. Sure, he's still a stretch as a starting shortstop in mixed leagues, but he's fine a middle infielder.
Kyle Farnsworth RP, Mets (Yahoo: 39 percent owned)
This isn't a recommendation as much as it is an acknowledgment of a player who is in a particular role. The Mets tried and failed with Jose Valverde as their closer and now they are seeing if Farnsworth has anything left in the tank. I'm skeptical about it, but at least he's throwing harder now than he was during spring training. While it appeared that his velocity was down during his shaky appearance Wednesday, he said after the game that he was mostly relying on his two-seamer. Don't forget that it was also ridiculously cold at Citi Field. So we can forgive him for that. It's hard to have much faith about his ability to keep the job for the long-term, especially if the club signs Joel Hanrahan, but he's a closer and closers should be owned in all leagues. I'll make the same recommendation if Daisuke Matsuzaka is closing games in a couple of weeks. Maybe.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Trevor Bauer SP, Indians (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
As I said in this week's Rotoworld Mailbag video, with the Indians' rotation struggling, it might not be long before we see Bauer back in the majors. The 23-year-old owns a 0.96 ERA and 21/6 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings over three starts in the minors this year and impressed when he came up to start in a doubleheader two weeks ago. With his retooled mechanics, his fastball velocity is back up to the mid-90s. It's easy to move on from someone after some initial struggles in the big leagues, but don't forget that Bauer was one of the game's top pitching prospects less than two years ago. It's time to stash him.
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, Indians (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Chisenhall is no longer the full-time third baseman for Cleveland now that Carlos Santana is getting a shot there, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't pay attention to him in fantasy leagues. The 25-year-old is still getting semi-regular at-bats against right-handed starters and is hitting .432 (16-for-37) with six doubles through 12 games this season. This might be the best way to utilize him, as he has really struggled against southpaws (.623 OPS, 24.6 percent strikeout rate) so far in the majors. Chisenhall is only rosterable in leagues where you can make daily lineup changes, but I could see him surprising and thriving this year. He should be on your radar in deeper formats.
Corey Dickerson OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
Hyped as a potential fantasy sleeper for most of the spring, Dickerson began the season without a significant role and even spent some time in the minors. However, he should get the chance to play pretty regularly now that Michael Cuddyer is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. The 24-year-old hit for power in the minors and owns a .791 OPS and 26 extra-base hits over his first 234 plate appearances in the majors, so he's plenty intriguing. Cuddyer could be back as soon as next weekend, so this is strictly a short-term pickup, but Dickerson could be relevant in the long-term if Charlie Blackmon slows down or Carlos Gonzalez eventually needs to miss some time. Grab him in deeper formats and keep this name filed away in shallow leagues.
Lucas Duda 1B/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
While the situation was rather complicated coming out of spring training, last week's Ike Davis trade means that Duda is officially the primary first baseman for the Mets. The 28-year-old has struggled to hit for average over the past two seasons, but he has plenty of patience and shows enough power to think that we might not have seen the best of him yet. He could find himself in the cleanup spot before long. Duda is best utilized in leagues which allows for daily lineup changes, as Josh Satin should still draw starts against tough southpaws, but he's worth a try in deeper formats.
Joe Smith RP, Angels (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
Ernesto Frieri blew up again Tuesday night against the Nationals and now owns an ugly 9.35 ERA across 10 appearances this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia demoted Frieri from the closer role for a brief stretch last summer and he might not have much choice here either. There's no perfect alternative for the ninth inning, but the best bet might be Smith, who signed a three-year, $15.75 million deal with the club during the offseason. While the submariner doesn't have the high velocity of a prototypical closer, he gets his fair share of strikeouts and induces plenty of ground balls. His 2.48 ERA dating back to 2011 is also pretty impressive. He's the pitcher to stash in this bullpen.
Gordon Beckham 2B, White Sox (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Beckham began the season on the disabled list due to a strained left oblique muscle and had some stops and starts during his rehab process, but he was finally activated on Thursday. While it will be interesting to see what happens with Marcus Semien and Conor Gillaspie moving forward, Beckham should be the regular second baseman right away. I understand that there's not a lot of excitement for him at this point, but his contact rate has trended up in recent years and we should see more pop from him now that he's a year removed from hamate bone surgery. He can even steal a few bags. It can be a challenge to find MI (middle infielder) help in deeper formats at times, but Beckham is serviceable. And that's worth something.
J.D. Martinez OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Martinez was called up by the Tigers over the weekend after slugging 10 home runs (!) in just 17 games with Triple-A Toledo. The 26-year-old outfielder never topped 11 home runs in a season during his time in Houston, so I don't see his early season power explosion as some sort of breakthrough, but it appears that he's finally healthy after an injury-plagued 2013. Martinez has produced better against southpaws during his career, so he'll likely be on the short-side of a platoon with Rajai Davis in left field. This limits his usefulness, but he's worth monitoring.
Fernando Salas RP, Angels (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Salas gave up the game-winning hit to Adam LaRoche in Wednesday's loss to the Nationals, but it was Ernesto Frieri's mess and Angels manager Mike Scioscia put him in a really tough situation. As I said above, Joe Smith is probably the best bet to take over the closer role if Frieri gets a break, but don't rule out Salas as a possibility. In addition to having more swing-and-miss ability than Smith, the 28-year-old saved 24 games with the Cardinals back in 2011. Not a bad guy to stash if you're desperate for saves in AL-only leagues.
Tony Campana OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Mark Trumbo landed on the disabled list early Thursday with a stress fracture in his left foot and could miss significant time, so we should see some shuffling in Arizona's outfield in the coming days and weeks. A.J. Pollock has struggled early this season and has been dealing with a neck issue in recent days, so there could be a window for Campana to make an impact. The 27-year-old is a .257/.308/.297 career hitter and offers zero pop, but he's 65-for-73 in stolen base attempts. Reason enough to pay attention.
Tommy La Stella 2B, Braves (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
While Dan Uggla owns a .227/.280/.347 batting line through his first 20 games this season, it's probably a good idea to keep an eye on this guy. Ranked as the team's No. 9 prospect by Baseball America over the winter, La Stella is hitting .333 (20-for-60) with two doubles and a 3/9 K/BB ratio through 17 games with Triple-A Gwinnett. The 25-year-old doesn't bring much power to the table, but he makes contact and has excellent plate discipline. I don't see a change as imminent here, but the clock should be ticking on Uggla.