2013 Best ‘Sell High’ — Jason Kipnis

Remember how great it was during Jason Kipnis’ rookie year? You probably got him for cheap in your draft and right out of the gate, he starts producing. Sure, he hit just .256 for that first month, but he also had three home runs, 12 RBI and four stolen bases. Not bad for your low-budget, rookie second baseman. But then the calendar flipped to May and Kipnis flipped a switch…a power switch, that is. He batted .295 for the month, hit another five home runs with another 18 RBI and another seven stolen bases. Two months in and he’s already paying big dividends. With a solid  month of June, he totally crushed it in the first half, batting .277 with 11 home runs, 49 RBI and 20 stolen bases; basically the line you hoped he would have by the end of the season. And just to help make you feel more comfortable about his performance, his walk rate was slightly better than league average (8.9%), he had just a 15.4% strikeout rate and posted a solid .345 on-base percentage. He was the total package.

But then the second half came and our illustrious hero vanished. The strikeouts increased, the batting average dropped, and after an ISO of .143 for the first half of the season, he served up just a .095 ISO for the second half. He hit just three home runs the rest of the way with 27 RBI. He did have 11 stolen bases which was nice, but his success rate on the base paths in the first half was a spectacular 95.2% while it was just 64.7% in the second. Public opinion as to his ability to sustain his first half production was split fairly evenly and those who didn’t believe and treated him as a sell-high candidate probably reaped some serious benefits. For those who didn’t trade him away, sure it was an aggravating second half, but his overall line of 14 home runs, 31 stolen bases and a .257 average was still beyond expectations heading into the season.

I was one of the many who held onto Kipnis and weathered the storm of the second half last year. I did it because it was a keeper league and his first half production and the lack of depth at second base already made it worth my while to hold onto him the following season. If he maintained production, well then this was better than I thought and if he didn’t, well it was his rookie season and he showed enough talent, maturity and plate discipline to believe that he would easily learn to sustain it over a full year next season. And that was the belief I held when I walked into this season happily protecting the power/speed combo at the keystone.

When this season opened a bit slower than last year did, there was definitely some trepidation. The strikeout rate was way up and he was already pressing at the plate just two weeks in. But that switch flipped again when May hit and all concern and worry was washed away with every home run hit and a double-up on the steals. But while he finished the first half with numbers that surpassed last year’s, there were a few concerns this time around. That improved walk rate continuously made me second-guess my skepticism, but the increased strikeout rate and the over-inflated BABIP had me concerned and were just too tough to overlook.

This time around, I opted to sell. My team was strong enough to compete so an extra tweak was sure to push me closer to the winner’s circle. My sales pitch revolved around the learning curve and the expectation of a full season’s worth of stats and his keeper value at second base obviously didn’t hurt either. In the end, I flipped him and the Bartender for Hisashi Iwakuma and Jedd Gyorko.

::holds for applause:::

A first place finish for me and another second half in the tank for Kipnis confirmed that the trade was indeed the right move. He finished with better overall numbers than the year before but, once again, it was all front-loaded, making him one of the 2013 season’s best sell-high candidates. But just a word of caution to those planning on drafting him in 2014 — after two years of tanking it in the second half, he’s going to be an awfully tough sell after the first half. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I’ve got a .250 average and just two home runs coming from my second-half second baseman.

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

12 Responses to “2013 Best ‘Sell High’ — Jason Kipnis”

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  1. Freddy T says:

    Traded him and Papelbum for Altuve and Ryan Zimmerman at the break. So good..

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  2. tylersnotes says:

    this is a fun idea for a column. while “selling high” on kipnis worked here for you, I have to think you’re the exception. you mention you had kipnis as a keeper– if someone drafted him this year, they probably paid too much to warrant trading him for what you got back here or at least it wouldn’t have been a ‘sell high’, it would have been a ‘sell for equal ROI’.

    Assuming this trade took place in july, you’d be getting gyorko and iwakuma for their worst months all season. Iwakuma’s september more than makes up for his july, but i don’t know if you actually got more value in return than you gave up here.

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    • tylersnotes says:

      well, except the wilhelmsen part. adding him definitely tips the scales of that trade in your favor a bit more, since you replaced what would be negative value with something. but even taking gyorko and wilhelmsen out, I think kipnis for iwakuma from July-Sept could be a pretty even trade in a lot of formats.

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  3. bluejays49 says:

    I flipped Dexter Fowler for him in a dynasty league literally the day his breakout started. Very happy with how that worked out.

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  4. dan says:

    I held onto him for the entire season. Yeah, the second half was rough, but his big surge in the final week of the season won me the finals in my league’s playoffs.

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  5. Jon L. says:

    It would be great to see some analysis of Kipnis’ first-half/second-half split, with comparable players for context, to better understand what we might get from him in the future. This reads more as a story about one man’s experience with one player on his fantasy team over a two-year period.

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  6. stuck in a slump says:

    Kipnis was only really bad in August, and if you managed to combine him with another 2B for that stretch, then you got some serious overall production from a weak position. I tried this strategy by trading Napoli for Espinosa, but it backfired pretty badly on me, but the theory was sound. Having two 20-20 candidates on you roster at a very thin position, especially when front loads his production, can pay serious dividends.

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  7. Roger says:

    I traded for him at a reasonable price in a dynasty league several years ago and have held on. I will continue to hold him. I also have Rendon (intended for 3B but now qualifying at both 2B and 3B), and there are some good 2B prospects still on the wire (Schoop, Siemen, Micah Johnson, Cory Spangenberg off the top of my head), so I’ll use this article as a reminder to keep another decent 2B around and play the hot hand.

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  8. s_t_w says:

    I had Kipnis for $2 in an AL only auction draft league ($130)
    I kept him, won the league and have him again next year for the same $2.
    No regrets.

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  9. Swfcdan says:

    This seems like a relevant post for me. Acquired him at the break for Encarnacion really needing a 2B and thinking his 2nd half 12 slump was down to fatigue and he was the real deal. He did it again….so gave me very little apart from speed.

    Now I have him though at 6 bucks renewable in a keeper (9 for 1 year, 12 for 2 years) so he’s obviously worth keeping still. The question is im considering offering him back for Encarnacion as im so pissed off with Kip! E5 is signed for another year at 8 bucks, would you rather have him and his contract over Kip? Flexibility vs better value.

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