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September 10, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Lance Lynn

2

J.P. Breen

Has the Cardinals righty truly become a fronline starter, or should owners look to dump him on someone who believes in his breakout?

With less than a month remaining in the 2014 season, we begin to shift our gaze toward the 2015 fantasy campaign. That’s not only because many leagues have moved beyond their trade deadlines, but also because it’s too difficult to project performance over a two- or three-week period of time. Too much fluctuation exists. Thus, the buy, hold, or sell discussion at the end of the piece will be geared toward the 2015 campaign while still providing some analysis in regards to the remaining three weeks.

September and October is when fantasy owners begin to reflect on the entire year and dish out accolades. While we’ll be talking about Fantasy MVPs and Fantasy Busts soon enough, the Most Underappreciated Player is regularly one of the more interesting distinctions discussed each autumn. In that vein, it seems right-hander Lance Lynn is deservedly getting some love as of late. He’s been overshadowed by Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha this year—and even Shelby Miller more recently, to some extent—but he owns a sterling 2.80 ERA and has easily been a top-30 fantasy starter.

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August 25, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Carlos Carrasco

2

J.P. Breen

The Indians righty caught J.P.'s attention last week, and now might be the time to pounce.

Spring training in Arizona is close to perfection for me. I adore the various unique ballparks that only fill to half of their capacity, the infectious optimism that surrounds every team, the pristine weather, and the opportunity to submerge myself in nothing but baseball. Most of all, I enjoy the action on the backfields. There’s something great about watching dozens of young players playing a wonderful game, wearing jerseys without their names on the backs, and honing their craft in relative obscurity.

The real thrill, though, comes when some no-name guy jacks one 450 feet to straightaway center. Or when a random pitcher catches your eye because he’s popping triple digits with ease. It’s that moment in which you mutter, “Wow. Who the f--- is this guy?” and quickly start scribbling notes.

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August 18, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Jonathan Lucroy

2

J.P. Breen

The Brewers backstop has emerged as a darkhorse MVP candidate, but his is improvement at the plate sustainable?

Approach at the plate has been on my mind in recent weeks. I’ve been specifically ruminating on the learned aspect of plate discipline; for example, how gifted 20-something hitters who have otherworldly hand-eye coordination can learn to eschew a simple bat-to-ball approach and focus on quality pitches to hit. That is to say, how can hitters develop the inner filter to discern between pitches they can hit and pitches they should hit, or which pitches they can merely hit and which pitches they can drive.

Obviously, such a development would be desirable for any player, and it can happen for many different reasons. Maybe it’s a maturation process. Maybe it’s a new pitching coach who presents the information in a different way. Maybe it’s trial and error. Maybe it’s studying the numbers. But I’ve been more convinced that most big-league hitters are only able to carve out sustained success over multiple seasons if they can adjust and refine their approach at the plate, at least to some degree.

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August 11, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Josh Harrison

1

J.P. Breen

The Pirates utility man has outperformed expectations to date, but is there reason to believe he can stay hot?

As experienced fantasy owners, we’re all accustomed to surprise performers early in the season. We all react to differently. Some owners pepper the waiver wire with claims, hoping to ride the wave of success, while other owners wait for the wheat to separate from the chaff, if you will, before jumping on individual bandwagons.

Personally, I try to pick-and-choose my spots. I don’t prefer the claim-and-drop strategy that many owners employ, in which they claim hot-starters and quickly release them once their performance expectedly drops. I claim guys I plan to retain for a good portion of the season, investing in breakout performances I believe in. It perhaps takes a bit longer to make those decisions—and thus I can miss my chance to acquire those players—but it’s a bit more sustainable in the long term.

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August 4, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Lucas Duda

2

J.P. Breen

The Mets slugger is thumping like Chris Davis in 2013, but does that mean you should invest in his services?

Every fantasy owner has a handful of players who have repeatedly burned them. Like the sleeper picks who don’t pan out, yet leave you undaunted and going back to the well next season for another bucket of water, only to find out it’s still polluted, pungent, and undrinkable.

Brandon Morrow was one of those guys for me. I felt a brief sense of vindication when he dominated with a 2.96 ERA over 21 starts in 2012, only to suffer extreme heartbreak when he plummeted into the abyss the following year. Luckily, that next season, I shied away from him in general and only resented my impetuousness in a single league. Progress, right?

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July 28, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Francisco Liriano

0

J.P. Breen

The Pirates lefty has fared well in July, but is that reason to believe that the tide has turned on his 2014 season?

It’s no secret that Francisco Liriano remains one of the more electric arms in baseball. He still has a lively fastball, as well as a devastating slider-changeup combination that can induce a myriad of swings-and-misses. When he throws strikes consistently and stays healthy, he can be dominant. Last year, he missed a few starts and only threw 161 innings, but he decimated the NL Central with a 3.02 ERA (2.92 FIP) and struck out more than a batter per inning. Ultimately, he was a top-30 starter and a wonderful surprise in all formats.

Fantasy owners remained skittish when drafting Liriano this spring. His average draft position didn’t reflect his 2013 performance, as owners worried about his health and whether he had truly discovered something that would lead to consistent, reliable performance on the mound.

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July 21, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Jason Kipnis

8

J.P. Breen

The Indians' second sacker hasn't lived up to expectations in 2014, but is a turnaround in store?

Prior to the season, the upper fantasy echelon of the second base position appeared to be a rather precarious investment. Robinson Cano inked a mega-contract with Seattle, which made many fantasy owners nervous that his power numbers would spiral down the drain. Dustin Pedroia saw his power production drop precipitously in 2013 and had finally found himself on the wrong side of 30. Ian Kinsler compiled rather pedestrian (for him) numbers a year ago and was transitioning that performance to a more pitcher-friendly environment in Detroit.

The traditional fantasy stalwarts at second base were vulnerable. It seemed a changing of the guard could occur and other guys could step into the limelight—and in some ways, that’s exactly what has happened with Dee Gordon, Jose Altuve, and Anthony Rendon asserting their fantasy dominance in the first half of the 2014 season. After the season, perhaps we must re-evaluate who can now be labeled as “elite” at the position.

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July 14, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Howie Kendrick

2

J.P. Breen

The Angel had a fine first half by fantasy keystone standards, but can he sustain or improve on it?

The Buyer’s Guide has been rolling along for the better part of two months at this point. I’ve been dishing out buy, hold and sell recommendations each Monday, and as your high school mathematics teacher likely reminded you dozens of times, it’s imperative to go back and check your work.

Past articles:

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July 7, 2014 11:23 am

The Buyer's Guide: Michael Brantley

1

J.P. Breen

Is J.P. buying the Cleveland outfielder's breakout?

With the summer trading season in full swing, the letters “PTBNL” are about to become quite familiar. However, while many trade deadline deals include that mysterious Player To Be Named Later, recent history has taught baseball fans to disregard any such player, as they usually turn out to be inconsequential.

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July 1, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Jake Arrieta

7

J.P. Breen

Can one of the league's hottest pitchers keep it up?

I’m flipping the script a bit this week. Y’all brought interesting names to the table in the comments section last week, and while I normally choose an individual player on whom to focus based upon your suggestions, I felt the need to go off the board. Quite simply, it’s because right-hander Jake Arrieta laid waste to Major League Baseball last month. He wasn’t talked about enough in fantasy circles, but after flirting with no-hitters in back-to-back outings, he’s on the tip of every fantasy owner’s tongue.

Through 39 2/3 innings in the month of June, Arrieta compiled a 0.92 ERA with 48 strikeouts and only six walks. He’s gone four consecutive starts in which he’s thrown at least seven innings and struck out nine. Fantasy owners have taken notice, too, as the 28-year-old hurler is now owned in 83.5 percent of ESPN leagues (as of Monday evening). It’s a number that has increased dramatically in the past couple weeks, and owners have begun to ask whether Arrieta is someone to simply plug-and-play while he’s scorching hot, or if this breakout is something more permanent.

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June 23, 2014 11:26 am

The Buyer's Guide: Billy Butler

5

J.P. Breen

Country Breakfast is only 28 years old, but is his still-young age enough reason to think that his fantasy value could rebound?

A week ago, we dissected Michael Wacha’s recent drop in velocity and his dramatic decrease in swings-and-misses. The article aimed to make a larger point about small sample sizes and how fantasy owners can identify trend changes in small samples, only to subsequently track them to determine if the small sample is actually indicative of something larger and more permanent. A week later, the St. Louis Cardinals placed Wacha on the DL with shoulder issues, and it appears that small sample was hinting at something larger.

Though y’all slacked in the comments earlier in the month, the suggestions from last week were strong. I almost grabbed Garrett Richards, because he’s enjoyed such an interesting breakout this year, but I wanted to focus on a position player this week. Considering the amount of Billy Butler questions that have been flying through the Bat Signal over the past couple months, I grabbed the recommendation from BP reader D1Johnson. If you have a specific player you’d like to see in this space next week, be sure to leave your suggestions for next week in the comments, or feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

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June 16, 2014 6:00 am

The Buyer's Guide: Michael Wacha

5

J.P. Breen

The Cardinals righty has struggled of late, but does that mean it's time to buy or sell?

It’s only the third installment of The Buyer’s Guide on Baseball Prospectus—you can find the previous two right here and here—so I still feel obligated to introduce the column and to elaborate on what we’re doing in this space each Monday.

The overall goal is always to better understand an individual player’s trends and to make our best educated guess for future performance. With that said, I also strive to center the discussion around fantasy value. We’ll place a buy, sell, or hold label on the individual player each week, but readers should more importantly leave with a few concrete trends or performance changes upon which to focus and to ultimately make the buy-or-sell decision on their own. I’m simply offering my best recommendation.

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