Roster Doctor: Two to sell high

Welcome back to the roster doctor’s office, where the receptionists are as curt as they are unhelpful.

This week, we encounter another patient ailing in both runs and stolen bases. It must be an epidemic. Jason writes:

It’s a 10-man league, standard 5×5 scoring. I’m getting smacked around in runs and SB. I also can’t seem to buy a win. Since it’s only a 10-man league we had to add some extra positions

C: Wilin Rosario
1B: Allen Craig
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
SS: Ian Desmond
2B/SS: Jhonny Peralta
1B/3B: Kendrys Morales
OF: Adam Jones
OF: Shin-Soo Choo
OF: Carlos Gomez
OF: Norichika Aoki
OF: Alex Rios
UTIL: Kelly Johnson
BENCH: Jurickson Profar

SP: Max Scherzer
SP: Doug Fister
SP: Jeff Samardzija
SP: Mike Minor
SP: Justin Masterson
SP: Gio Gonzalez
SP: David Price DL15
RP: Joe Nathan
RP: Addison Reed
RP: Jose Valverde
RP: Tom Wilhelmsen

DL: Giancarlo Stanton

With Giancarlo Stanton‘s impending return from the disabled list—Marlins fan(s) rejoice!—somebody in your lineup is going to have to take a seat.

Maybe I’m just a bitter, jaded Jays fan who endured five disappointing months with Kelly Johnson last season as he fashioned a .663 OPS from May through October, but my prejudice notwithstanding, I simply can’t believe he’s a top-10 fantasy second baseman. He’s doing a commendable job trying to convince us, though, collecting 10 home runs, 35 RBIs, and six stolen bases while hitting a respectable .275 through June 5. But considering how you’ve struggled to generate runs and steal bases, I’d recommend moving him for someone with speed who hits toward the top of the lineup. Coco Crisp (39 runs, 12 steals, .290) and the resurgent Nate McLouth (38 runs, 21 steals, .301 average) come to mind. Much about Johnson’s accomplishments so far this year scream aberration and portend some regression; let me count the ways:

1. Johnson, in his age-31 season, has produced a .240 isolated power that represents a 63-point bump over his career mark.
2. Of Johnson’s 10 round trippers—among second basemen, he trails only Robinson Cano in that department—four have come at the Trop, a ballpark that hasn’t been hospitable to home runs since 2006. #unsustainable
3. His home OPS trumps that of teammate Evan Longoria by more than 80 points—if that doesn’t adequately convey why Johnson will probably cool off, I’m not sure anything can.

Most of Johnson’s RBIs (and consequently, much of his value) have come via the home run; he’s driven in 19 with the long ball. As his power numbers start to approximate his career norms, his value will drop substantially. Hitting toward the bottom of Tampa Bay’s lineup, Johnson likely won’t collect a ton of runs, and while the half-dozen steals are nice, your offense is potent enough to handle swapping him for someone who really knows how to purloin a sack.

With Jurickson Profar getting antsy on your bench and ready to assume second base/utility duties (at least while Ian Kinsler is incapacitated), I’d suggest shopping Johnson immediately. He’s already showing signs of slowing down, eking a paltry .083/.250/.083 line over his last 16 plate appearances, and I’d argue the window to maximize return is closing shortly.

I’d also explore potential trades involving Ryan Zimmerman or Kendrys Morales, players with undeniable value who also boast unique deficiencies that’ll impede their ability to become stars.

Let’s start with Morales. In the cavernous (but slightly less cavernous than last year) Safeco Field, Morales’ power and run production prospects don’t inspire a whole lot of tumescence. Despite a relatively negligible 18-point difference between his home/road OPS splits (.871 and .853, respectively) the modest disparity fails to convey how tough it is to hit the ball over the fence in Seattle. Only two of Morales’ eight home runs this year have come at home, a ratio that bespeaks a .148 home isolated power that trails his road mark by almost 75 points.

As discouraging as his pitcher-friendly environment is, the cadre of players Morales shares the field with is even more disheartening, from a fantasy perspective. Seattle’s collective .307 on-base percentage ranks eighth-worst in baseball, a number that can be largely attributed to the team’s alleged “table-setters”; Mariners leadoff hitters have managed just a .292 OBP through the first 60 games of 2013, a number that would have you believe Brendan Ryan is batting first for Seattle. With 35 RBIs, Morales has yet to really suffer from his teammates’ on-base issues, but it’s a problem that could easily curtail RBI potential. As such, I’d try to swap him for the run-scoring, base-stealing prototype discussed earlier.

Zimmerman also is worth moving, as recent injury trouble has evoked some concern about his true value. He already has missed 26 games this year with a wonky hamstring, and his relatively meager production has further eroded any chance of repeating his impressive 2012 campaign.

Much has been made of the impact that offseason shoulder surgery has had on Zimmerman’s throwing motion, but the procedure seems to have had consequences on the offensive side of things, too. As of Thursday, Zimmerman has managed a .169 isolated power—21 points below his career average and a 27-point departure from his 2012 campaign. He has just six home runs, of which three came last Wednesday night against the Orioles.

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Zimmerman also is striking out with unprecedented regularity, fanning in a career-high 20.9 percent of his plate appearances. Zimmerman’s 22 runs (19th among third basemen) typifies the Nationals’ inability to put points on the board this season; they’ve averaged just 3.41 per game, good for 29th in the league, an issue compounded by the absence of Bryce Harper.

Granted, Zimmerman is still just 28, and he plays for a team that’s undoubtedly better than it has demonstrated so far in 2013, but he’s a name that could command a sizable haul in the trade market, and should be considered moveable for the right price.

As far as your pitching goes, I’m not sure you’re in a position to complain, your dearth of wins notwithstanding. Outside of David Price‘s injury and a minor, expected regression from Gio Gonzalez, your staff is performing better than anyone could’ve expected. In fact, Price is the only starter on your staff to possess an ERA north of 3.64 or a WHIP greater than 1.20. Heck, maybe you should just drop him now. (Read: do not, under any circumstance, drop him now.)

I hate to be non-interventionist —it’s sort of in my job description to intervene—but this is an impressive collection of pitchers, and the wins will start to come if you remain patient. Outside of Samardzija and Gonzalez, each of your starters plays for a team currently above .500 and above-average at scoring runs. Each of your starters (again, with the Price qualifier) has done a tremendous job at both keeping men off base and limiting home runs; only Gio has a walk rate above 10 percent, and only Minor has allowed more than 0.80 home runs per nine innings. If you’re really desperate (and you really shouldn’t be) consider moving one of your closers, as you’ve assembled a pretty formidable bullpen and could afford to trade saves for other categories.

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Robert Odden
Robert Odden

First time I have ever seen “tumescence” used in a fantasy baseball article.  Good work fine sir!