Commentary

Grand Theft Roto: Risky business

Updated: June 6, 2008, 12:31 PM ET
By Shawn Peters | Special to ESPN.com

There are different kinds of risks in this world.

Doubling down on 11 is a smart one. Bungee jumping is a questionable one. Dining at an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet during a statewide power outage is a monumentally moronic one.

But they're all risks.

Risk also is a key component of winning a fantasy league, but the most crucial element of risk is knowing when to take some of it, and when to avoid it.

Casing the joint

This is the time of year when your position in the standings may be the most essential factor in whether you should assume risk or try to risk-proof your roster.

Let's talk about who should get frisky and risky.

If you are in the bottom third of your league, it's time to get aggressive. Look at your roster. If every underachieving player on the team were to perform to the level you expected from this point on, would it be enough for you to win or even contend? Probably not.

Jeff Francoeur
G Fiume/Getty ImagesJeff Francoeur: Poster boy for disappointment.
By definition, you need a hot risk injection. The idea would be to turn over your roster, searching out high-risk players who have a chance to be crazy good for the rest of the season. Moderately imbalanced good won't get it done. You want established stars who, two months into the season, still haven't shown any real signs of performing at the level one would expect. We'll call them the Jeff Francoeur All-Stars. Sprinkle in injured players on the mend. Troy Tulowitzki is a fine place to start. And finally, you'd target the league leaders whose own owners are convinced they can't keep it up. Darrell Rasner, anyone?

How much risk should a fantasy owner in this mode assume? Well, anything worth doing is worth doing right, and personally, I'd rather finish last while trying to finish first than be in the middle of the pack with the same bunch of guys I started.

But there's a flip side to this scallion pancake.

If you're in first or near the top with a roster that's surging, now is the perfect time to eliminate some risk. But what does that really mean? We have seen big-time injuries take out such players as David Ortiz, John Smoltz and Daisuke Matsuzaka in the last week. But rather than hash out who is "injury prone" or "due for a correction," let's just talk simple logic.

Do you have a player who is indispensable? Whether it's Ichiro being responsible for 60 percent of your team's stolen bases or Edinson Volquez having twice as many strikeouts as any other starter on your roster, you are taking a risk by putting so many eggs in one basket. You could trade for a safety net -- a second player who gives the same stats at a lesser degree -- or you could trade away that amazing, unique player who helped get you to the top of the standings.

I know, it seems like the height of fixing what ain't broke. But would you rather have a single player who steals 50 bases and know that any injury, suspension or act of God could cost you all those swipes, or hitch your wagon to two players who each steal 30 so if the unthinkable happens to one of them, you aren't up speed's creek without a Suzuki? When everyone is chasing you, making your team deeper is more important than being explosive.

Three I'm stealing

Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees: As a Red Sox fan, I know that the Yankees aren't done by a long shot. See 2007 for reference. So when I see Andy Pettitte quietly pitching better, I'm buying. In his past seven starts, Pettitte has struck out 35 batters while walking only seven. Also, the MLB home run rate has been rising since mid-May, so I'm high on guys who keep the ball down. Pettitte's ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is 2.00, No. 11 among pitchers who have logged at least 60 innings in 2008. With a 4.21 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, he shouldn't be expensive.

Salomon Torres, RP, Brewers: The next time there's a report that Eric Gagne is on the comeback trail, call Torres' owner. I know the Brewers invested $10 million in Gagne for a year, but they have a winning record, and after watching the playoffs slip away in 2007, I believe they won't mess with Torres. He hasn't allowed a run since May 18, all while earning five saves. Torres deserves to be pitching the ninth for the Brewers for the rest of the year, and his manager, Ned Yost, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he's open to that possibility.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Is it possible to buy low on a guy with a batting average north of .300 who has seven homers and 16 steals in his team's first 58 games? Yeah. The weather is heating up, and Kinsler is hitting the ball in the air with authority. He ranks third in the AL in fly balls and fourth in line drives, and when you realize he plays in a homer-happy ballpark, there's plenty of reason to think his solid power numbers could escalate to the next level. With his speed, Kinsler could be the most valuable second-sacker in fantasy outside of Chase Utley, and I bet he'll cost a lot less than Utley or even Brandon Phillips.

Three I'm dealing

Josh Hamilton
David Pellerin/AP PhotoJosh Hamilton is at the height of his value.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: Great story. Hell of a player. Can't wait to see the movie. But only in Hollywood would we expect a player who has never logged 400 at-bats in a season at any level to stay healthy and productive long enough to hit 45 homers and drive in 179 runs, which is his current pace should he reach 665 at-bats. It's simply a question of knowing when a player's value can't rise any higher and getting something you shouldn't be able to for him.

Brett Myers, SP, Phillies: I'll admit, there isn't a great market for Myers, whose losing record, 5.12 ERA and 1.52 WHIP turns stomachs. But his past two starts have included 19 strikeouts and only four earned runs total, so this is when you might be able to sell him as an ace who finally is coming out of his slump. Of course, the reality is that Myers walked nine batters in those two games and he has allowed 15 homers in 13 games. Considering the weather and his home ballpark, it could easily get worse. Let's all shudder together and then start making offers.

Scott Olsen, SP, Marlins: A 3.72 ERA and a 4-2 record is like a pleasant smile. It may make you like someone, but it doesn't make him your best friend. Olsen is one of the most extreme fly-ball pitchers in the majors right now, and he has given up multiple home runs in each of his past three games. You can get away with giving up dingers and if you also pile up the strikeouts, but Olsen doesn't. In fact, he has whiffed only three batters more than he has walked all year. I'm no fishmonger, but I'm selling Marlin.

Pulling the job

In my home league, a 11-team, AL 5x5 keeper league, the teams in the bottom half of the standings have begun dumping their expensive players in exchange for inexpensive studs and top prospects. Sitting in second and needing steals and saves to move up, I called up a man we affectionately call "Lugie." It's related to his last name and not a proclivity for expectoration. Lugie coveted a couple of my top minor leaguers, Travis Snider and Carlos Gonzalez, as well as the oft-injured Howie Kendrick. After a week of haggling, I gave him an injured Gregg Zaun, as well as Snider, Gonzalez, Kendrick and Ramon Vazquez (who recently realized he's Ramon Vazquez), and got back the equally injured Chone Figgins, plus Delmon Young, Jason Varitek and Rays' prospect Reid Brignac.

Delmon Young is actually keepable for two more years, Brignac could be the starter in Tampa Bay as soon as next year, and I picked up at least 30 steals the rest of the way and some extra production at catcher, all for Kendrick and two guys who haven't done anything in the bigs yet. But that's how this league works, and who knows? In three years, I may regret it.

But for now, I just gotta steal some saves.

Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball, football and golf analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.

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