Today, I’m proud to announce a brand new BP Fantasy column that has been in the works for quite a while that I’m incredibly excited about. Trading Post will offer insight heretofore unavailable to fantasy baseball players. Using a unique combination of PECOTA rest-of-season projections and CBS’ archive of every fantasy baseball trade that every player has been involved in this season, Trading Post will delve into the value you can expect to receive via trade for the players on your fantasy squad. It will also be able to tell you which players are being undervalued on the trade market and make for good targets. While some fantasy analysis will look at a player’s cold streak and slap a “Buy Low” tag on him, Trading Post will be able to say whether you can actually buy the player low and, if so, will be able to quantify just how “low” he can be bought.

The 2011 season has seen a flood of middle-infield prospects recalled to take over full-time jobs as rookies—Dustin Ackley, Brett Lawrie, Jason Kipnis, Jemile Weeks, Zach Cozart, Johnny Giavotella, Darwin Barney, and Dee Gordon, to name a few. In this inaugural Trading Post, I’ll look at the cream of the middle-infield crop and see how they’re being valued on the trade market, tossing in a few veteran middle infielders as well.

Trading Post Card Explanation
Each player discussed in Trading Post will receive a “Trading Post Card.” This card will be jam-packed with useful information about each player’s trading profile. It will list information about the player himself, look at every trade the player has been involved in over the past two weeks and every player he’s been traded for, and give information about the average player he’s been traded for. Hopefully these cards will be self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure what anything means, here’s an explanation of everything:

  1. League Type tells whether we’re looking at the player’s value in a mixed, AL-, or NL-only league
  2. Rest-of-Season tells us:
    a. The player’s PECOTA-projected dollar value for the rest of the season
    b. The average PECOTA-projected dollar value of the players received in trades
  3. Year-to-Date tells us:
    a. The dollar value worth of the player’s performance to date
    b. The average dollar value worth of the performance to date of the players received in trades
  4. ROS Forecast tells us what PECOTA projects the player to do over the rest of the season
  5. ROS Return (Hit) looks at all trades in which the player was swapped one-for-one for a hitter and tells us the average PECOTA projection for those hitters
  6. ROS Return (SP) looks at all trades in which the player was swapped one-for-one for a starting pitcher and tells us the average PECOTA projection for those starters
  7. ROS Return (RP) looks at all trades in which the player was swapped one-for-one for a relief pitcher and tells us the average PECOTA projection for those relievers

Dustin Ackley | Mariners | 2B

Ackley was one of the most anticipated callups this season, and he hasn’t disappointed owners who stashed him on their benches on draft day, especially in deep leagues. He hasn’t set the world on fire, but a .292 average with five home runs in fewer than 200 plate appearances isn’t bad at all from a second baseman. His year-to-date value doesn’t reflect this because of the time he spent in the minors, but despite Ackley’s moderate success thus far, PECOTA actually sees him as a hindrance in mixed leagues for the rest of 2011, worth just $2. BP’s in-house projection system sees Ackley managing to muscle just two more balls over the fences while his batting average plummets to a near league-average level over the remainder of the season.

Fantasy owners, however, couldn’t disagree more, valuing Ackley as a $15 player on the mixed-league trade market. If you’re an Ackley owner, it’s time to cash out your chips on this hyped prospect making good on his potential. Ackley doesn’t have one outstanding tool (yet), so even if you’re playing the category game, he’s unlikely to really help you.

Jemile Weeks | Athletics | 2B

Weeks was the first of our middle-infield quartet to be promoted this year, seeing his first major-league game during the first week of June when the A’s placed Mark Ellis on the DL, never relinquishing his hold on the job as the struggling veteran was eventually traded. Weeks had many fantasy owners excited because of the numbers his brother, Rickie, puts up when he’s healthy—plus the promise for even more speed. Weeks, like Ackley, has delivered on his potential, batting leadoff for the A’s, hitting .292, and stealing 12 bases.

Weeks won’t bring power, but the name value and the speed have owners overpaying drastically for this keystoner. PECOTA sees Weeks as a flat $0 player in mixed leagues, but fantasy owners think he’s worth $9. Despite the early returns, there seems to be too much downside to think about buying Weeks, or to even consider holding him if you’re an owner in a mixed league. The speed has been good—but not fantastic—and PECOTA sees him slowly down a tad with just four more stolen bases the rest of the way.

Brett Lawrie | Blue Jays | 2B/3B

Lawrie has played third base exclusively this season, but he played second last year and still qualifies there in most fantasy leagues. The most recent callup of the four, Lawrie has raked since his callup less than a week ago (data in Lawrie’s Trading Post Card has only been taken since the day of his callup), topped off with a grand slam last night. Owners looking to trade him early based on the hype of his much-awaited call-up have done well, receiving $11 more than PECOTA believes he is worth.

Like Ackley and Weeks, PECOTA sees Lawrie as a replacement-level hitter for the rest of 2011 in mixed leagues. The hype often exceeds the reality for prospects, and that seems to be the case for our first three Trading Post targets. They’ve done well so far, but their minor-league performances don’t back up what they’ve managed to do in a limited major-league sample.

Jason Kipnis | Indians | 2B

Kipnis has made perhaps the biggest impact of this group of elite middle-infield rookies, batting .295 with six home runs in just under three weeks of major-league play. One would think that, given this ridiculous performance, fantasy owners would be able to extract more value out of Kipnis than they could the other three. In reality, they haven’t; Kipnis is being traded for even value. Part of the reason for this is that he wasn’t quite as hyped as Ackley or Lawrie coming up and doesn’t have the family pedigree that Weeks has; the other part is that PECOTA really likes him. While many fantasy sites are lauding Kipnis as a great “sell high” candidate, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

PECOTA likes Kipnis’ power and gives him healthy RBI and runs totals, likely due to his cushy spot in a good lineup. PECOTA views him as an $11 player in mixed leagues. After his 5-for-5 outburst last night, Kipnis’ trade value may improve a bit, but it may still prove difficult to extract as much value out of him as you might have originally thought. If you own him, you’re probably best off riding the season out. If you don’t, he’s probably not worth pursuing since you’ll need to pay at least even value for him. There will probably be cheaper trade target. One possible candidate…

Derek Jeter | Yankees | SS

The Captain has had a disappointing season to say the least, but while he’s substantially underperformed expectations, he hasn’t been useless. You wouldn’t believe that if you were looking only at his trade-market value, though. Despite producing $9 in value this season, Jeter is being traded for players that have produced -$3 in value. It’s not even like he’s being traded for players that have been decent. He’s simply being dumped.

Worse still, Jeter has a great history, and we’re looking at just two-thirds of a poor 2011 season; PECOTA projects him to be worth $16 over the rest of 2011, meaning he’s being undervalued by $19 (!) on the trade market. And it’s not as if PECOTA’s projection for Jeter is outlandish. It projects a modest .278 average to go with a little power, a little speed, and a reasonable number of runs and RBI given Jeter’s entrenchment as the leadoff/second-spot hitter in one of the best lineups in baseball.

It’s likely that Jeter’s owners are frustrated with him, and all of the media attention given to his poor season (in relative terms, mind you, since they’re comparing to the Jeter of old) hasn’t helped. At age 37, it seems fantasy owners are writing him off as an old player incapable of helping much longer.

While Jeter is not the player he used to be, he still has a lot of value and can be had dirt cheap. The absolute best return owners have received in one-for-one trades over the past two weeks have been Joe Mauer and Alexei Ramirez. Others have settled for the likes of Andres Torres, Carlos Zambrano, John Lackey (twice!), Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jed Lowrie. Despite his struggles (which are perceived to be much worse than they’ve been), Jeter is a worthwhile addition to a fantasy squad.

Dan Uggla | Braves | 2B

I talked a little about Uggla on Monday, but I wanted to discuss him again because of how much value there is to be had. Despite his recent hot streak (I’ve only included the past 10 days in his Trading Post Card to catch as much of it as possible), fantasy owners simply aren’t noticing, continuing to treat him as a below replacement-level player (-$4) on the open market. While PECOTA currently thinks he’s an $8 player, if his early-season struggles are indeed behind him, that number has a world of upside. It’s a different kind of upside than the youngsters we discussed today, but it’s the kind of upside I would love to gamble on, especially when it’s coming $15 cheaper via trade.

Concluding Thoughts
Hopefully you have all enjoyed the first Trading Post as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing it to you. I’d love to hear what you think of it. Starting next Tuesday, the rest of the BP Fantasy crew will get in on the action, bringing you a weekly Trading Post until the end of the month when the majority of fantasy trading deadlines have come and gone. If I see some interesting players while I’m diving through the numbers, maybe I’ll bring you another couple as well.

Special Thanks
Special thanks go out to John Burnson and David Gassko, who helped develop the idea for Trading Post while we were all at THT Fantasy. We were unable to implement it technically at the time, but hopefully they’re happy to see it come to life here at BP.

Special thanks also go out to Rob McQuown for all of his hard work making this happen on the tech side. Without him, Trading Post would not have been possible.