For those of you not familiar with the concept, snakes are players whose value has dropped significantly since the season started. And ladders, as you might expect, have climbing value.
SNAKES- Closers- Of the 30 opening-day closers in MLB, 15 have since been removed from their jobs for one reason or another. This, of course, includes Brian Wilson, Mariano Rivera Ryan Madsen, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, and Joakim Soria, who are all either done for the year, or legitimately could be.
LADDER- Setup men- Kenley Jansen, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, Aroldis Chapman, Scott Downs, Alfredo Aceves… if you drafted 7th or 8th inning guys in your draft, odds are you lucked into at least one closer.
SNAKES- Aces- Tim Lincecum is 2-4 with an ERA over six. He has a 10.0 K/9, which shows the stuff is still there, but his command is all over the place. A 3.58 ERA and 1.109 WHIP for Roy Halladay is considered a sluggish start, but he’s been dominant for long enough to believe his ratios will end up on par with expectations. Of more concern to Halladay owners is the Phillies offense and how it may limit his win total. The concern with Josh Johnson has always been his health, but JJ is perfectly healthy and boasting a 2-3 record, with an ERA close to five. However, his last two starts have been more indicative of the production we’ve come to expect and I’d start him as long as he’s healthy. Heck, he has to have a full season someday. Even Detroit Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford did.
LADDER- Rookies- Regardless of the numbers, owners should be thrilled just to have the services of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout this early in the season. Now consider Trout is batting .312 with an OPS over .900, four homers and six steals in 24 games. Drew Smyly has a 2.89 ERA in eight starts for the Tigers this season. Yu Darvish has a 3.05 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and leads the league with six wins. I’d be selling Smyly and Darvish if I could get top-30 SP value for them. I’d also be selling Harper in a redraft league if someone would give me a proven productive player in return.
SNAKES- Former All-Stars on the East Coast- Carl Crawford won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and was seventh in MVP voting in 2010. He signed a mega-deal with the Red Sox and in 2011 batted .255 before ending his season on the disabled list. He has yet to play in 2012. Jacoby Ellsbury had a career year in 2011, finishing second in MVP voting and topping .320, 30 HR and SB, and 100 RBI and runs scored. He played seven games and batted .192 before landing on the DL early in 2012. Ryan Howard had 33 HR, 116 RBI and scored 81 runs for the Phillies in 2011 before rupturing his achilles on the last play of their 2011 postseason run. He has yet to play in 2012. Chase Utley appeared in five consecutive All Star Games going into 2011, battled knee problems throughout the season which limited him to 103 games and has yet to play in 2012.
LADDER- Relievers Turned Starters- CJ Wilson has a 2.90 ERA and 8.2 K/9 over his first 10 starts for his new team. When they start putting runs on the board, the wins will come too. Chris Sale has been even better with a 2.50 ERA and a 5-2 record over his first eight starts and nine appearances. After a momentary stint in the bullpen during an elbow scare, he is back to dominating in the rotation. You may shop Sale around late June, early July as the added wear on his arm may cause an innings limit, or worse, injury. Before going on the disabled list, Neftali Feliz was also pitching well, with a 3.16 ERA over his first eight games, with a 1.159 WHIP and 7.8 K/9. The time out may even help limit the workload on his arm, and allow him to return fresh and go deeper into the season. Beware a potential move back to the bullpen if Texas fears future injury though.
SNAKES- Second year super-prospects- In 128 games of his rookie season, Eric Hosmer batted .293 with 19 HR, 78 RBI and 11 SB. Many scouts projected Hosmer to be the next Joey Votto as early as this season. However, through 41 games of 2012, Hosmer is batting .191. There is concern he could serve a stint in Triple-A to get his stroke back if there isn’t marked improvement sooner than later. Considering Hosmer’s peripherals are right on track and he sports a record-low BABIP, I’d be buying low on the kid. A late season call-up for the Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Moore was expected to dominate the league starting in 2012. Through nine starts, he is 1-4 with an ERA over five. His 8.7 K/9 is encouraging, but he also walking almost five batters per nine innings. Moore’s stuff looks just as good as ever, but he will need to regain his control to meet expectations.
Some notes to add to this article, since I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks… If you can sell Josh Hamilton for value close to the No. 1 overall player in fantasy, do it. I wouldn’t give him away, but the track record shows a penchant for mid-season DL stints. I’d have to be getting two top-50 players to trade him, but I’d at least be listening.
There is a real possibility Lincecum is hurt. He has shied away from using his slider, and his control is inconsistent, which is odd for a guy with preciously impeccable mechanics. Meanwhile, the time for buying low on Dan Haren may be gone after his 14-K shutout last night. He will be just fine. Darvish and Sale might be prime sell-high candidates. Other Japan imports have started hot and struggled in the second half as more video is available on him. And Sale has already had one injury scare that prompted a bump to the bullpen for a few days. The White Sox are appropriately skittish with their lefty.
As I said, buy Hosmer while you still can. And buy Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira and Troy Tulowitzki if owners are losing patience.