Commentary

Time to sell high on Helton, Hudson

Updated: May 28, 2009, 12:46 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

Hit Parade
Some people just don't get it.

So I get an offer in a deep league recently, and the fellow owner wanted Brian McCann. OK, makes sense, McCann and his fresh legs and now-usable eyes should have a fine four-plus months. He's an elite catcher, and this is a two-catcher league.

Problem is, the guy offered three crappy players to get him. He reasoned how so-and-so is good enough to start for me, and so-and-so could spot-start, and Player C was a nice handcuff for a banged-up closer I had. In his mind, those three players equaled McCann's studliness.

That's not how it works. McCann is a locked-in player at a very shallow position, while the rest of these guys were hit-and-miss. Plus, if I add up the players I'd have to bench to start the three guys (he wasn't offering a catcher in return), it was a no-brainer rejection. Basically, none of the guys he offered really helped me that much, but losing McCann certainly would.

I wouldn't say I was offended because I'm not against 3-for-1 deals by any means, but he broke Cardinal Rule No. 41 (I think it's on Page 26 of the "Fantasy Baseball for Dummies" book): To get a good player, you have to give up a good player.

Look, it's tough for any owner to give up one of his horses; the least you can do is not insult him and give him somebody decent in return. I'm not saying you shouldn't ask for two great players, but offer just one and a throw-in in return. It still might look unfair, but at least it shows you're willing to part with talent, and that's a good start to any trade talk.

Sometimes it looks so nice and neat; you envision what your lineup would look like with someone but you fail to actually consider what your trading partner's lineup would look like without him. Don't be that guy. If you wanna dance with the pretty girl, you gotta bring your blue suede shoes to the dance.

On that note, it's time to continue a theme Christopher Harris began in this week's Sixty Feet, Six Inches column and talk about sell-high guys. These hitters might have looked really good in your lineup thus far and boosted your team in the standings. However, if you need help at another position, or simply want to gamble that you can sell the guy at peak value and get a lot in return, you dangle them. Your fellow owner will see those shiny shoes and at least be willing to talk.

So here are my seven hitters to sell high, but a few notes before I begin. I tried hard to include only those players with big-name trade value, the guys who actually take some guts to trade. I mean, everybody knows Brandon Inge won't maintain his 45-homer pace, Russell Branyan and Casey Blake won't hit .300, and Adam Dunn won't hit .284 or better. Even if they do, they don't have that kind of trade value. Everybody knows Juan Pierre heads back to the bench right around July 3. And when it comes to such guys as Adam Lind, Nyjer Morgan and Dexter Fowler, the window to sell high is almost closed. But for the seven players below, it's wide open:

Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians: I know he's only 23 years old, but even 23-year-olds don't jump from .259 in 352 at-bats to .317 the next season. Nor will he remain on pace for 120 runs, or 92 RBIs, or 24 steals (he had 56 steals, being caught 35 times, in 481 minor league games heading into this season). Plus, his hit rate (on balls in play) is sitting a good 5 percent higher than it was the past two years. Stats tend to remain somewhat consistent from season to season, which is why we love this game. But that element of the unknown seems to have fantasy owners drooling. So once he gets in two more games at shortstop (giving him 20), sell the fact that he qualifies there and deal him away.

Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays: That's right, I'm not messin' around here. I've taken some heat for not ranking Hill higher, but I just don't see his breakout continuing anywhere near the same level. I mean, I know the guy has been developing and all, but he never had more than nine homers in a college season (at LSU), then he hit 20 homers in 877 minor league at-bats, and then came into this season with 28 homers in 1,720 major league at-bats. Sure, I could see him hitting .300, but I'm seeing 22 homers, tops, and with little speed. He's on pace for 39 homers now.

Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: In 2008, Fukudome hit .327 in March/April, then .293 in May, .264 in June, .236 in July, .193 in August and .178 in September. This season he hit .338 in April, has hit .279 in May … see where I'm going with this?

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: That crash into the fence Sunday is Reason A why I don't think Hunter can maintain his hot start. While interviewing him once years ago about his fielding prowess, he once told me he's "been knocked out several times" by hitting fences, and he's the type of durable player who plays through the nicks. Good for the Angels and his legend, but not for fantasy owners. He finishes solidly in the .270-.287 mark each season, and he'll do so again this season, meaning his best games are behind him.

Todd Helton
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireThe Todd Helton of old has shown up, but how long until we see the aging Todd Helton return?
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: Hey, at least he has name value as a former multi-year fantasy stud, he has a .328 career average, and he's sporting a .327 average and 22-homer pace. So all looks well. We know it probably won't stay that way, what with his broken-down body already aching, but I'll bet there's one owner who can't get past his name. It's probably the same guy who wears a Sammy Sosa or Dante Bichette jersey on draft day.

Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers: Quick question: How old is O-Dog? He's 31, hardly a young man, and he has 3,300-plus at-bats under his belt. Now, his batting average has gone up every season since 2003, which is actually quite a feat, but I'm not seeing much better than a .310 average (he's hitting .349 now). And let's not forget that he has been playing in hitters' parks in his career (the current Rogers Centre very much favored hitters, according to ballpark indices, in the years he played there), and Dodger Stadium slants toward pitchers' park status, regardless of how well the Dodgers have hit there.

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Gulp, I am already awaiting the call from the ESPN gods. We love him, and for good reason, but I'm still not ready to jump this guy to the elite yet. There again, the guy came into the season with a .261 career average, a K every four at-bats and just 29 walks in 640-plus plate appearances. I just don't think players even of Jones' age and talent level jump that much that quickly. His hit rate is up over 40 percent after consistently being at 33 percent the past two seasons. And his OBP has jumped more than 100 points. Combine that (more times on base) with him eventually blowing past the 132 games he played last season, and with those games being in center field, and I could see him wearing down a bit in August and September. (He already has suffered a slight hamstring strain this season.) And then he'll be facing divisional opponents, which held him to a batting average 19 points lower than non-divisional opponents from 2006-08. As much as I too like him, this would be the very best time to deal him in non-keeper leagues.

Honorable mention: Nick Johnson, Mike Cameron, Felipe Lopez.

Fortunes rising

Top 100 hitters

Note: Brendan Roberts' top 100 hitters are ranked for their expected performance from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL (1)
2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA (2)
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY (5)
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET (4)
5. Ryan Braun, OF, MIL (3)
6. Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY (7)
7. David Wright, 3B, NYM (6)
8. Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX (8)
9. Chase Utley, 2B, PHI (9)
10. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB (11)
11. Carl Crawford, OF, TB (14)
12. Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM (10)
13. Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE (13)
14. Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC (16)
15. Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX (20)
16. Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN (21)
17. Joe Mauer, C, MIN (40)
18. Jose Reyes, SS, NYM (12)
19. Nick Markakis, OF, BAL (15)
20. Jason Bay, OF, BOS (22)
21. Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI (18)
22. Carlos Lee, OF, HOU (19)
23. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS (17)
24. Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI (24)
25. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, BOS (25)
26. Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI (27)
27. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SD (28)
28. Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU (34)
29. Matt Holliday, OF, OAK (32)
30. Prince Fielder, 1B, MIL (29)
31. Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL (30)
32. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS (33)
33. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN (37)
34. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN (39)
35. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD (31)
36. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA (23)
37. Curtis Granderson, OF, DET (35)
38. Nate McLouth, OF, PIT (26)
39. Victor Martinez, C, CLE (44)
40. Carlos Pena, 1B, TB (42)
41. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS (43)
42. Alex Rios, OF, TOR (36)
43. Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX (55)
44. Torii Hunter, OF, LAA (38)
45. Adam Dunn, OF, WAS (51)
46. Johnny Damon, OF, NYY (46)
47. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY (61)
48. Adam Jones, OF, BAL (52)
49. Hunter Pence, OF, HOU (48)
50. Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR (54)
51. Brian McCann, C, ATL (60)
52. B.J. Upton, OF, TB (41)
53. Carlos Quentin, OF, CWS (53)
54. Bobby Abreu, OF, LAA (47)
55. Justin Upton, OF, ARI (76)
56. Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, BAL (45)
57. Jay Bruce, OF, CIN (50)
58. Vladimir Guerrero, OF, LAA (63)
59. Jermaine Dye, OF, CWS (49)
60. Brad Hawpe, OF, COL (71)
61. Derek Jeter, SS, NYY (66)
62. Corey Hart, OF, MIL (56)
63. Michael Young, SS/3B, TEX (68)
64. Andre Ethier, OF, LAD (58)
65. Manny Ramirez, OF, LAD (70)
66. Russell Martin, C, LAD (59)
67. Jayson Werth, OF, PHI (64)
68. Alexei Ramirez, 2B, CWS (79)
69. Shane Victorino, OF, PHI (65)
70. Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL (67)
71. Magglio Ordonez, OF, DET (77)
72. Vernon Wells, OF, TOR (74)
73. Stephen Drew, SS, ARI (81)
74. Willy Taveras, OF, CIN (78)
75. Orlando Hudson, 2B, LAD (89)
76. Mark Reynolds, 3B, ARI (NR)
77. Chris Davis, 1B/3B, TEX (62)
78. Chone Figgins, 3B, LAA (84)
79. Ryan Ludwick, OF, STL (82)
80. Denard Span, OF, MIN (75)
81. Jorge Cantu, 1B, FLA (80)
82. Rafael Furcal, SS, LAD (69)
83. Mike Lowell, 3B, BOS (96)
84. Geovany Soto, C, CHC (85)
85. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE (95)
86. Miguel Tejada, SS, HOU (90)
87. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, ChC (88)
88. Pablo Sandoval, 1B, SF (73)
89. Adam Lind, OF, TOR (57)
90. Jason Bartlett, SS, TB (91)
91. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, CLE (99)
92. Derrek Lee, 1B, CHC (83)
93. J.J. Hardy, SS, MIL (87)
94. Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA (NR)
95. Brandon Inge, 3B/C, DET (97)
96. Chris Iannetta, C, COL (72)
97. Placido Polanco, 2B, DET (92)
98. Adrian Beltre, 3B, SEA (93)
99. Nick Johnson, 1B, WAS (94)
100. Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B, CLE (NR)

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: Normally I don't put much credence into trade rumors, but when I read earlier this week in the Chicago Sun-Times that the Cubs are looking at Kouzmanoff, my mind started racing. First of all, he has begun to pick it up of late, just as he usually does this time of year. But I could see him being trade bait with Chase Headley being more ideal at third base and the team having a few corner outfield prospects to try out. Just the thought of getting his 20-plus-homer bat out of San Diego is pleasing to me.

Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: It's not like the Reds have set the world afire with their left fielders (Chris Dickerson, Jerry Hairston Jr. and now Laynce Nix) this season, and Gomes has plenty of offensive upside. He did the right thing and accepted a minor league assignment coming out of spring training, and I could see the Reds giving him a legit shot to work into at least an outfield platoon. Hey, the guy came up hyped as a 30-homer candidate, and he played the part in 2005. Now he's getting a fresh start in a new league and in a homer-prone ballpark. He's definitely on my watch list.

Fortunes falling

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: I've about had it with this guy, and apparently so has Clint Hurdle. He benched him for a game last week for swinging at a bad pitch and grounding into a double play in a clutch situation, and all Tulo has done since then is go 4-for-27. At what point do we have to expect that his talent translates to good fantasy numbers? You'd think we'd be there already, but all this guy has done this season is post a .393 slugging percentage and .213 batting average on the road. Granted, he's only 24, and he is being more patient at the plate this season, but seriously, I'm about to lump him in with Jeremy Hermida. Give him a few more weeks (only because he plays shortstop), but if he's not hitting by mid-June, it might be time for mixed-leaguers to cut him.

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: Ov-er-rat-ed! I mean, not as a hitter, but as a fantasy option. The problem is not Ichiro's; it's his offense's. The M's are second to last in runs scored, and that is killing Ichiro's numbers. He's on pace for just 62 runs scored (his career low is 101) and just 54 RBIs (which is somewhat in line with recent seasons), even though he's hitting .343. And his 31-steal pace also is below typical standards. We simply can't count on that offense to pick it up. Ichiro is ranked 113th in our Player Rater, and might not finish better than that.

Pickups of the week

Mixed: Gary Sheffield, Mets. Because I just noticed he was available in more than 90 percent of ESPN standard leagues.

AL-only: Mark Kotsay, Red Sox. He's due back this week, and fellow reserve outfielder Rocco Baldelli is battling a hamstring injury.

NL-only: Frank Catalanotto, OF, Brewers. I once was told the guy could hit .300 in his sleep. He should be able to hit well enough in his limited at-bats to warrant a bench spot.

Position watch

Alfonso Soriano/Jake Fox, OF, Cubs: OK, lemme think out loud here; bear with me. So Lou Piniella hints that Soriano could see time at second base if Mike Fontenot doesn't pick it up at third. Then the team moves Fontenot back to 2B, and gives Ryan Freel and Bobby Scales shots at 3B. Freel and Scales have proved they're nothing special, and Micah Hoffpauir and/or recent call-up Jake Fox deserve to be starting. Could we see Lou move Fontenot back to third base (or in a platoon mix there), with Soriano getting the occasional start at 2B, and Fox or Hoffpauir starting in left field? Just speculation, of course, but I'm trying to read between the lines here. Stay tuned.

On the docket

Time for the Twins to get out their suitcases. Beginning Friday, the Twinkies play 19 of their next 25 games on the road, including nine games of interleague play (at NL parks, obviously). The team is 18-10 with 5.8 runs per game at home and just 5-14 with 4.5 runs per game on the road (and even that last number was skewed by their 20-1 win one week ago). Hmm, suddenly Jason Kubel and Delmon Young don't seem so appealing right now, huh?

Lineup card

Lost in the whole "David Ortiz is now hitting sixth" news is that J.D. Drew was the one who was bumped up to third, not Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay (who both seem quite adept hitting cleanup and fifth, respectively). So that puts Drew between Dustin Pedroia and the pair of Youk and Bay, at least against righty pitching. Drew hit third there often when Ortiz was out last season, and hit pretty well. I could see him take off if he can remain healthy; he should get good pitches to hit, and he'll score plenty of runs. He's hitting .257 now, but he still sports a .373 OBP, and he shouldn't be available in more than 60 percent of ESPN standard leagues.

On the farm

Jeff Clement, Mariners: We addressed Clement, who's hitting .309 with 29 RBIs in 37 games in Triple-A, in the Insider portion of Minor League Notes, but there is a bit more to the story. When Kenji Johjima was placed on the DL, it was Guillermo Quiroz who got the call to the majors. That's because Clement is not catching at Triple-A, and some wonder whether he ever will again. According to the Seattle Times, he has a knee injury that's preventing him from catching, so he has been playing DH. The M's don't need a DH right now as long as Ken Griffey Jr. is there.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.

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