Matt Kemp is a good baseball player.
Apparently, some people have forgotten, tossing him around casually enough to make him the fourth most traded player in Fantasy.
It's reckless and wrong.
Look, I've never been a big fan of the guy. He strikes out a ton and looks like he should hit more home runs than he does. But even I recognize the potential and respect the track record.
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So if you're thinking about dealing him off for an extra starting pitcher or a spare middle infielder, consider this column a public service announcement and heed the advice within.
He's good. Trust me.
I'm in a 10-team Head-to-Head mixed league and have been offered Matt Kemp for Tim Hudson. I was originally tempted, but I'm not sure it will be a big improvement to my team. My four outfielders are Andre Ethier, Vladimir Guerrero, Vernon Wells and Magglio Ordonez. My top starting pitchers (excluding Hudson) are Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Mike Pelfrey, Clayton Kershaw and Phil Hughes. Should I go for it, or should I try to trade Hudson (or another pitcher) for an upgrade at shortstop (Elvis Andrus) or first base (Pablo Sandoval)? -- Adam Kinzley
SW: Am I reading this right? Kemp in exchange for Hudson, and you're turning it down? Has the world gone sideways since Draft Day, when Kemp was a first-round pick and Hudson was a middle-rounder at best?
I realize draft value doesn't mean much anymore, but stop and ask yourself what has transpired over the last three months to cause the two to switch places.
Has Kemp underachieved? Yes, but it's not like he's had an entire season of futility, struggling to get his batting average over the Mendoza Line like Gordon Beckham or Adam Lind. He's had a bad June that has caused his batting average to dip below .260, but he's due for a rebound and is still on pace for a 20-20 season.
Has Hudson proven his Tommy John surgery is completely behind him? Yes, but it's not like he's suddenly a Cy Young contender. He's averaging 4.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which isn't just unimpressive or below average. It's plain bad -- the kind of rate you'd expect from a space-filler like Rodrigo Lopez or Luis Atilano.
Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't have drafted Kemp in the first round. I don't like his strikeout rate, and I wonder about his ability to hit .290 for a third straight season. But you can't argue with his five-category potential. He will produce even if he doesn't produce at the level he did last year.
Again, don't get me wrong: Hudson isn't a bad pitcher, but he's better in real life than in Fantasy. His low strikeout rate will prevent him from becoming an elite option, and even though he currently ranks 14th in standard Head-to-Head scoring, the fact his 2.37 ERA and 1.17 WHIP are both unsustainable by his standards suggests he can only go down from there. With a return to his career norms, he'll likely drop out of the top 25, which would make him not nearly as enticing on the trade market.
Granted, you don't exactly need Kemp, but with that loaded pitching staff, you don't need Hudson either. This isn't a needs-based trade; it's a value-based trade. Getting the more valuable player can only help you in future trade considerations.
If I owned Miguel Cabrera and was hesitant to deal him, an offer of Kemp and Sandoval would look much more attractive to me than an offer of Kemp and Hudson.
Not that I'm suggesting you should offer that much, but hey, you could.
I'm in a 12-team Head-to-Head mixed league where we keep two major-leaguers and one minor-leaguer each year. We can only carry six starting pitchers. Mine are currently Phil Hughes, Yovani Gallardo, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Carl Pavano. In my minor-league slot, I have Madison Bumgarner, but since he was recently called up, I need to make room for him. I was going to drop Pavano, but he has been pitching well of late. Is Bumgarner worth it, or should I just cut him and keep the rotation I have? -- Phil Posey, Huntsville, Ala.
SW: While I don't have much confidence in Pavano -- who follows the Tim Hudson model of succeeding without strikeouts, only without the long track record to justify it -- I'm not sure Bumgarner is a clear upgrade.
Nobody's denying his long-term potential, but he remains unowned in 82 percent of Fantasy leagues for a reason. This isn't another Stephen Strasburg blowing hitters away every step up the organzational ladder. This is a 20-year-old kid who had yet to fully master Triple-A.
He'll have his share of trials, with the Giants counting his innings all the way, which leads me to believe he'll be too inconsistent for leagues that roster only 72 starting pitchers. And it's not like he's a candidate to keep in your situation.
So yeah, I'd probably cut Bumgarner, but I'd do so more because I don't think he deserves the roster spot than because I'm sold on Pavano.
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I'm in an AL-only Rotisserie keeper league, and I'm wondering if I should try to engineer a trade that would involve me moving B.J. Upton and John Lackey. I could try to make a play for Curtis Granderson or Billy Butler, but I'd probably have to offer more. My team has lost ground in the power categories since Kendry Morales went down, and my steals and wins should be OK with the loss of these two players (and whatever else I may have to offer). Would I be wrong to sell these players when their value is at its lowest? -- Brian Jurchisin
SW: Generally, you wouldn't want to trade any player at his lowest value, but it's not like it's completely forbidden to do so if you fill a need in the process.
The problem here is I don't understand what need you fill. You say your primary concerns are home runs and RBI, right? Well, Granderson has one 30-homer season to his credit and looks like he'll fall short of that number this year, and the one knock on Butler is his lack of power, at least at this early stage of his career. Frankly, Upton could finish with more home runs than either if he gets hot at the right time.
Besides, even if you take the don't-want-to-wait approach, Granderson isn't any better off than either Upton or Lackey, striking out every fourth at-bat with a batting average around .240.
Honestly, these four players have about the same value right now, with Butler perhaps slightly, slightly ahead of the other three. Trading two for one doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. You're just swapping out buy-low candidates without a clear goal in mind.
I've received a trade offer that makes me go "hmm." Can I get a second opinion? In a Head-to-Head league where hitters lose a point for every strikeout, I'm stacked at outfield with Matt Kemp, Brennan Boesch, Nelson R. Cruz, Jay Bruce, Garrett Jones and Michael Stanton, not to mention Jacoby Ellsbury on the DL. I feel I'm a little lacking in starting pitching, with Matt Garza, Clay Buchholz, Roy Oswalt, Tim Hudson, Mat Latos, Gio Gonzalez, Fausto Carmona and Rich Harden. I've been offered Mike Pelfrey for Kemp. Does this make sense for my team, or should I hold out for a better No. 1? Pelfrey has been great this year, but it's unchartered territory for him. Can it continue, or do you think I'd be better off with Kemp? -- Errin Carner, Monroe, N.Y.
SW: Here we go again with Kemp. Are we looking at different numbers or something? The guy hasn't been that bad -- a little disappointing, yes, but not enough to create this widespread loss of confidence.
This is several questions rolled into one, so I'll try to give an answer to each. Can Pelfrey keep this going? Yes, but let's examine what exactly he has going. He's striking out less than six batters per nine innings, which automatically makes him less than an ace in the Fantasy sense, and his 3.1 walks per nine innings are awfully high in comparison. The ratio suggests his 2.71 ERA is lower than it should be, and his 1.22 WHIP supports the idea. Most of his value so far comes from his 21-win pace, which figures to slow strictly by the law of averages, not to mention a small rise in ERA. He'll still be a good pitcher -- he was a top prospect, after all -- but he wouldn't be your No. 1. Frankly, I'd take Oswalt, Garza, Buchholz and even Latos over him.
I think you need Kemp, and not just for all the reasons I've mentioned in other parts of this column. You say your outfield is stacked, but by mixed-league standards, it really isn't. All of those outfielders are usable, but only two -- Kemp and Cruz -- stand out as exceptional, and even they lose significant value in leagues that penalizes strikeouts a full point. In fact, all of those outfielders strike out more often than desired in your particular format, with the exception of maybe Jones.
I'm in a 14-team keeper league and am already rebuilding for next year. With the way our league is set up, we are allowed to keep players for up to four years. Someone offered me Gordon Beckham for Alcides Escobar and Aroldis Chapman. Beckham has three years of keeper eligibility remaining, Escobar has two, and Chapman (in my minors) still has four. Keeping in mind the rest of 2010 means nothing to me, should I make this deal? -- Christopher McDermott, Manteca, Calif.
SW: I'm thinking you should accept the trade, mostly because Chapman's status is so up in the air right now. His control problems likely aren't a quick fix, and if he gets stuck in the bullpen for a couple years, he's hardly worth the trouble.
Take him out of the equation, and it's an easy call. Beckham is clearly more valuable than Escobar in your format, especially since he has a whole extra year of eligibility. Escobar might never develop enough power to become a high-end Fantasy option. Or he might -- it's too early to tell with him. But Beckham has already proven he can be a legitimate middle-of-the order hitter, and though he has done nothing but disappoint this year, his pedigree suggests it's nothing more than a sophomore slump.
So I have to ask ... Why are Matt Garza and Nick Markakis still owned in 97 percent of leagues? Am I missing something? It's Week 13, and despite all their "potential upside," both have been pedestrian to say the least. What has Garza ever really accomplished to deserve this kind of respect?! In years past, his ERA has been solid, but in his best season to date, he went 11-9 in 30 starts. Markakis is slightly more understandable. His batting average is good, but his power numbers are severely lacking. And with no one hitting around him on a really bad team, he's likely to stay on that .306-6-52 pace. As one CBSSports.com user posted, those are rookie shortstop numbers. I feel I've been patient in my 10-team Head-to-Head league, and I'm ready to drop 'em both. So enlighten me: Why should I keep either of them? -- Nate Kelley, Chicago
SW: You're like the opposite of that guy in Memento, Nate. You have no long-term memory.
Perhaps you forget, but Garza was looking like one of the biggest breakouts of 2010 just one month ago, when he was 5-2 with a 2.37 ERA. A poor June inflated those numbers, but it's not like CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander haven't had their share of bad months during some of their best years.
Garza's strikeout rate and WHIP say more about his ability than his win-loss record, and you said it yourself: His ERA has always been solid, good enough to earn him better than an 11-9 record for a contending team like the Rays, especially since he consistently pitches deep into games. He has suffered from bad luck in that regard in the past, but bad luck tends to right itself in the long run, as his 8-5 record so far would indicate. He's a potential ace and has shown signs of meeting that potential this year, so if you cut him for Gio Gonzalez or Bronson Arroyo, chances are you'll be sorry.
As for Markakis, keep in mind he has averaged 20.3 homers, 100 RBI and 99 runs scored over the last three seasons, so his track record alone makes him worth the trouble, especially since he's still producing a respectable .825 OPS. He has a history of doing most of his damage in the second half, so even though he doesn't have much of a supporting cast, you have to figure his numbers will go up from here. And as "bad" as he's been so far, he still ranks 48th in standard Head-to-Head scoring, which would make him about a fourth outfielder in your league. You can't make room for one of those?
To win in a league as shallow as yours, you need an elite player at every position. Garza and Markakis both have the potential to get there. As long as they aren't directly causing your team to lose and fall out of playoff contention, they're worth the wait.
I have Stephen Strasburg and recently learned he might not start as often after the All-Star break to save his arm. Should I sell him now and get something out of him or hold out and see what he does? -- Nick Malizia, Pittsburgh
SW: I don't see any harm in shopping Strasburg. He has completely lived up to the hype, so his value is through the roof right now. If one of your opponents gets caught up in the storyline, he might trade you an elite player like Kevin Youkilis or Chris Carpenter for him and feel good about it because the talent justifies the move.
But you and I both know even the most talented pitchers can only do so much damage within a five-inning window. The certainty of Strasburg's ability makes the out-of-contention Nationals even more interested in coddling him. They've all but guaranteed he won't pitch more than 160 innings this year, and he already has 89. You do the math.
Of course, in order for you to swing a favorable deal, you kind of have to hope your competition didn't read what you read or what I just wrote. Good luck with that.
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