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Fantasy Baseball Insiders’ Inbox: Trade Astros’ Carlos Lee for Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells?

Tue, Apr 13, 2010

Insiders' Inbox

Image courtesy of: Steve Paluch

In a new segment on Fantasy Baseball Insiders, our Insider will answer a fantasy baseball-related question sent from one of our readers.

Whether you have a trade proposal you’d like a second opinion on, or you’re unsure who to add, drop, or keep, we’ve got you covered in something appropriately titled: the Insiders’ Inbox.

I’ve been offered Vernon Wells for Carlos Lee. As you know, Wells is off to quite the start (8 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, .320), while Lee is not (2 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .111) . Should I buy into Wells’ hot start, or will Lee overcome his early 3-for-27 slump?

- Barry (Iowa City, Iowa)

Thanks for writing the Insiders, Barry.

Vernon Wells’ hot start has the fantasy baseball community buzzing. The question is, of course, can he keep it up?

Earlier this week in the Baseball Professor’s Sunday Survey, I mentioned Wells’ inconsistent power output. Wells has averaged 24 HRs each year since 2002, his first full season in the majors. He’s hit 28-plus bombs three times. Three more times (each of the last three years), Wells has hit no more than 20 HRs in a season.

While Wells is sure to rebound from his sub-par 2009 line (84 R, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB, .260), his current pace of 116 HRs and 208 RBI is obviously unsustainable.

Carlos Lee, on the other hand, has been a model of consistency since 2000, his first full season as a big-leaguer. The former White Sock, Brewer, Ranger, and current Astro has never totaled less than 24 HRs and 84 RBI during that time. His career-highs, on the other hand, are 32 HRs, 119 RBI. He’s also a career .290 hitter. 

Like I said, Lee is extremely consistent. In fact, Lee’s worst season since 2000 is better than Wells’ best since 2007.

What about the age difference? 

Lee (33) is a year-and-a-half older than Wells (31).

Despite this, Lee’s numbers are actually trending upward, while Wells’ are on the decline. Check out each player’s three-year averages:

Carlos Lee – 558 at-bats, 73 R, 29 HR, 107 RBI, 6 SB, .304

Vernon Wells - 547 at-bats, 77 R, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 10 SB, .265

Although Wells has a slight three-year edge in runs and steals, Lee is the overwhelming favorite in HRs, RBI, and batting average.

Let’s dig even deeper. To further prove Lee’s superior hitting ability, consider his contact rate over the last three seasons compared to that of Wells:

Carlos Lee – 85.5 % (2007), 86.3 % (2008), 87.7 % (2009)

Vernon Wells – 82.5 % (2007), 84.3 % (2008), 83.3% (2009)

No matter how you slice it, Lee is the better fantasy option, and the first seven games of the season don’t change that.

If you’re concerned about Lee’s slow start, don’t be. April is typically Lee’s worst month, as his career batting average in April is his lowest of any month, and his April HR output is tied for the second-lowest of any month in his career.

Both the Astros and Blue Jays are likely to be sellers at the 2010 trade deadline, though Lee’s contract ($55.5 million owed over next three years) will be much easier to unload than Wells’ ($107 million owed over next five seasons). Don’t be surprised to see Lee dealt to a contender before July 31, further increasing his value over Wells.

Do you have a question for the Insider? Shoot him an e-mail: nick@fantasybaseballinsiders.com

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