Dynasty Buy/Sell/Hold (Fantasy Baseball)
Want a good laugh while preparing for 2018’s MLB season? Dig up last year’s rankings and draft results.
Like every great hitter, all managers will whiff on multiple occasions. Studying past outcomes can humble the most arrogant drafter who mistakenly thinks his or her preseason evaluations are bulletproof.
They’re not. Even the most detailed projection algorithm is an inexact science with no psychic foresight.
Rewinding just one year will uncover massive value shifts from 2017 to 2018. Formerly envisioned as young fixtures, the following players burned their stock with woefully underwhelming campaigns.
Dynasty gamers now must re-access their worth to see if they should buy low, hold, or sell before they sink any deeper. Let’s take a look at a few notable cases.
Rougned Odor (2B – TEX)
Rougned Odor’s case is a tricky one. After all, how many fantasy investors will consider 30 home runs and 15 steals a lost season from a 23-year-old? He maintained an elite trajectory in those important categories, but cratered in every other facet.
His batting average tumbled to .204, and his .252 on-base percentage finished .20 points lower than Alcides Escobar for the worst clip among qualified hitters. Joe Panik, Jordy Mercer, Chase Headley, and Brandon Crawford were among the 129 qualified position players to record a higher slugging percentage than Odor’s .397. At .459, Steven Souza Jr. had the next lowest rate of anyone with 30 long balls.
Although he also possessed MLB’s worst wRC+ (61), the Texas Rangers never abandoned their second baseman. Odor was one of five players to participate in all 162 games despite his sub-replacement level production. Perhaps the Rangers were also blinded by his upside and home-run tally, but he won’t receive the benefit of the doubt forever.
Given his power, speed, and durability, repairing his average to the .250 range would do just fine. It’s also a reasonable request. He maintained a comparable exit velocity (88.4 mph) to 2016 when he batted .271 with an identical fly-ball rate (42.2).
The main differences from 2016’s breakout and 2017’s nadir? He temporarily fixed a glaring pop-up problem that resurfaced last season. His strikeout percentage also increased from 21.4 to 24.9.
Even fantasy stakeholders shouldn’t want Odor to sell out this much for fence-clearing pop. Some walks and line drives would also be nice, and the early arrival still has plenty of time to improve. He no longer looks like a dynasty cornerstone, but some positive batting average repression will bring him back into the top-10 second base discussion. There’s likely little buy-low potential because of his age and 30/15 line.
Matt Harvey (SP – NYM)
In his first three professional seasons, Matt Harvey recorded a 2.53 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 9.46 K/9. He reclaimed a top-10 pitcher ranking after successfully returning from Tommy John surgery and guiding the New York Mets to the 2015 World Series. A top-100 SP designation is now generous.
It’s hard to have a more disastrous year than Harvey’s 2017. Another major surgery sapped him of more velocity, and this time he could not recover. A 7.5 swinging-strike rate and 58.0 first-pitch strike rate led to a 6.70 ERA and 1.69 WHIP.
He recorded a ghastly 67 strikeouts and 47 walks in 92.2 innings. His opponents collectively delivered All-Star production with a .295/.381/509 slash line, pounding his four-seam fastball to a .330 average and 15 homers.
Having witnessed his Cy Young-caliber season, some daring managers may play the lottery. The odds of winning the jackpot, of course, are infinitesimal. The only hope is that another offseason of rest and/or a change of scenery magically repairs his arm.
As the righty searches for his first quality start since May 28, the Mets may eventually have no other choice but hope they can salvage some value from the upcoming free agent in the bullpen. Unless we’re talking about a modestly sized NL-only league, Harvey isn’t worth the headache.
Verdict: Sell (which may mean drop in shallow mixed leagues)
Steven Matz (SP – NYM)
The Mets’ curse also struck Steven Matz, who got decimated to a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts. He had allowed just five more runs in nearly double the innings the previous year when he touted a 3.40 ERA in 131.1 frames.
Opponents hit .301 against the southpaw, who mustered a measly 6.48 K/9 and 7.1 swinging-strike rate. Following more baffling injury mismanagement, he underwent elbow surgery in late August. Like Harvey, his once promising career is suddenly on life support.
At 26, he’s younger and carrying less mileage than his rotation mate. While Harvey also labored in 2016, this is the first time a healthy Matz has tumbled.
Then again, a healthy Matz is a rare sight; he has made 41 starts since getting promoted in mid-2015. The southpaw had previously posited a 3.16 ERA over 28 turns before unraveling last season.
Buying low would constitute a leap of faith in a complete turnaround under new manager Mickey Callaway. Success before 2017 suggests it’s possible, so take a wait-and-see approach this spring.
Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
Remember way back to last February? It was a far simpler time when nobody cared about LaVar Ball and Dansby Swanson was tabbed as the consensus NL Rookie of the Year favorite. ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft ranked the burgeoning shortstop No. 65 in his pre-2017 dynasty rankings after he batted .302 in 145 plate appearances.
One year later, he went No. 268 in the ongoing Rotowire Dynasty Invitational. Is this a standard case of everyone flocking to the newest rookies yet to gash their dreams, or has the market just corrected course on someone who posted the fifth-worst wRC+ (66) of all qualified hitters last season?
Probably a little of both. It doesn’t help that Swanson was previously tabbed a safe talent with a limited ceiling, but a safe floor.
Some may not envision enough reward to merit a buy-low gambit. After all, look how Ron Swanson responded to seeing Dansby’s 2017 numbers. But some modest progress should at least persuade opportunistic managers to monitor his diminishing popularity.
Although no power followed, he at least took some baby steps by slashing his ground-ball rate and posting a 12.0 walk percentage after the All-Star break. He’ll only be 24 on Opening Day, and owners could net dual-position eligibility if he switches spots with double-play partner Ozzie Albies.
Don’t abandon hope in Swanson rediscovering past projections of a high-contact hitter with decent power and speed. Not every youngster takes a clear path to stardom without detours, so see if the 2015 No. 1 pick is available for a discount.
Joc Pederson (OF – LAD)
Joc Pederson investors entered 2017 anticipating a giant leap forward. Now they’d settle for a return to 2016 form.
Despite dropping his strikeout percentage to a career-low 21.1, the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder batted .212 with 11 homers in 102 games. He made more contact, but that progress came in the form of a bloated 46.6 ground-ball percentage. And about those steals everyone expected from someone who swiped 113 bags from 2011 to 2014 in the minors? He stole four bases in seven tries.
Relegated to bench duty for most of the summer and playoffs, the 25-year-old made amends-for the Dodgers, not fantasy owners, on the grandest stage by smacking two doubles and three home runs in the World Series. While the Dodgers will remember his late-October heroics come Opening Day, the lefty’s .599 career OPS against same-handed pitchers should limit him to a platoon with Enrique Hernandez. Pederson must then earn his keep with Alex Verdugo clamoring for major league reps.
Replicating 2016’s .246 average and 25 homers without significant steals looks reasonable given his steady contact gains. His ceiling, however, no longer looms much higher. A keen batting eye makes him an intriguing buy-low in OBP or OPS formats, but his allure has waned in 5X5 leagues due to the surplus of low-average power bats.
Verdict: Buy in OBP/OPS leagues, Sell in 5X5 leagues