6 Players to Buy/Sell (Fantasy Baseball)
Last week, we went over some pitchers to buy and sell, so this week we’ll focus on some hitters. And yes, I still consider Mr. No-No himself Sean Manaea to be a sell-high — you can probably get even more for him now!
I’ve tried my best in this column to avoid obvious sell-high candidates that are unlikely to return much value on the trade market. The names you’ll see in the “sell” section below are all players who have at least some realistic shot of having a huge season, but in each case, there are underlying reasons to doubt that will happen. Those are the kind of chances you’ll have to take to “sell high” in competitive fantasy leagues with knowledgeable managers.
Players to Buy
Edwin Encarnacion (1B – CLE)
Look, maybe Encarnacion is just washed up. At 35 years old, he’s not hitting for his usual power, he’s striking out much more than usual, and he’s walking much less. But the problem with that theory is that we’ve seen this too many times before from Encarnacion, a notorious slow starter. If you’re scared off by his 28.6 percent strikeout rate, just take a look at last April, when his K rate was 33 percent. If it’s his 7.1 percent walk rate that concerns you, check out April 2016, when his walk rate was 6.7 percent. Or if you’re turned off by his .149 batting average, take a glance at his career splits; April is easily his worst month for batting average — and the month he’s hit his fewest home runs.
Encarnacion has been a top-30 hitter in 5×5 roto leagues for six straight seasons. We shouldn’t completely ignore his age, but it isn’t the most likely explanation for his early-season struggles. If the Encarnacion owner is convinced Father Time has caught up to him, it could be a nice buying opportunity.
Carlos Santana (1B – PHI)
Santana is a points league specialist who I felt could be overvalued in roto league drafts, as I explained while laying out the 2018 first basemen tiers back in March. But after his putrid start, Santana has become a worthy buy-low target — even in roto formats. Santana has walked more than he’s struck out so far this season, which has protected his value in CBS points leagues, but his .150 BABIP has completely sunk his fantasy value in standard roto and categories leagues. Plus, his hard contact rate and fly ball rate are both up a lot this season, and yet he has just two home runs to show for it so far.
Santana has been a top-13 first baseman in standard 5×5 leagues for three straight seasons and probably will perform like one again from here on out. His upside in roto leagues is limited, but if you are hurting at first base and need a reliable option, he shouldn’t cost too much to acquire.
Adam Duvall (OF – CIN)
The season is still young, but the Reds currently have the worst record — and one of the lowest-scoring offenses — in baseball. So while most of us would presumably still like to own Joey Votto, there aren’t many other Reds hitters that fantasy owners are eager to acquire. But Duvall is worth a look.
Duvall has gone at least .240-30-100 in back-to-back seasons, finishing as the 13th-most valuable (2016) and 26th-most valuable (2017) outfielder in standard 5×5 roto leagues, according to Baseball Monster. This year, his .200 BABIP and the Reds’ overall struggles are killing his fantasy value, but there’s some reason for optimism on both fronts.
Duvall is making more hard contact this year — and even hitting a few more ground balls — so if anything, his batting average should be creeping above .250, not hovering below .180. He’s also pulling the ball a lot more, but otherwise, he looks like the same hitter he’s been the last two years. As for the Reds’ offense, well, it can only get better from here. There are still some solid bats in the lineup and they play in a favorable hitting environment, so while he won’t lead the league in runs scored, Duvall’s run production numbers should improve soon.
Players to Sell
Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
It’s unclear how much of a market there is for Swanson in most fantasy leagues, but if you own him, you should see if there are any Swanson believers in yours. While Swanson generated a lot of prospect buzz as a minor leaguer, a large part of that was for defensive skills that don’t translate to fantasy baseball. Swanson doesn’t project to be much more than a .260-10-10 kind of hitter, and while he’s young enough to defy expectations, nothing he’s shown so far this season drastically changes his outlook.
Swanson is riding high off a massive .417 BABIP that is sure to plummet soon. He doesn’t make enough hard contact or hit enough fly balls to be a 20+ home run hitter, hasn’t yet shown that he has 20+ steal speed, and lacks the elite contact skills to be a major asset in batting average. There’s no shame in riding out his hot streak if you can’t find a trade partner, but it’s probably worth doing your due diligence first.
Matt Olson (1B – OAK)
Rather than naming an obvious sell-high candidate like his teammate Jed Lowrie, I suggest exploring the trade market for Olson, who was a popular name on a lot of breakout lists coming into the season.
Olson hit 47 home runs between Triple-A and the Majors last season, so there’s no doubting his power — and you could even argue the three homers he’s hit so far this year is a low number given the amount of hard contact he’s making. But Olson’s .282 batting average is a complete mirage, driven by his .438 BABIP. Olson has struck out in 35.8 percent of his plate appearances so far this season, a rate that would have been the third-highest in baseball last season. Chris Davis and Joey Gallo were the only hitters last year who struck out more often than Olson is striking out this year, and neither hit above .215.
Olson should approach 30 home runs if he plays a full Major League season. But if someone in your league sees the .259 average he posted last season and his current .282 mark and becomes convinced he can provide a decent batting average along with his power, you could be able to exchange him for a more complete player.
Gleyber Torres (2B – NYY)
Torres is an elite prospect who has just been called up to play in the country’s biggest media market, so the hype over his call-up is understandably considerable. But it could also be the perfect selling opportunity if someone in your league believes Torres is going to be the next Carlos Correa from day one (of course, this one doesn’t apply in keeper/dynasty formats, unless the return is considerably higher).
Torres has yet to top 11 home runs or 22 stolen bases in any year of professional baseball. He did post seven homers and seven steals in 55 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year, before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery (which isn’t a big deal for hitters), but you can’t simply extrapolate those numbers and expect him to go 20-20 as a 21-year old rookie. He also tended to have a fairly high strikeout rate upon first joining a new level of competition, so he may struggle in the batting average department initially.
Realistically, if Torres can hit 15-20 homers, steal around 15 bases, and bat .245, that will be a very successful rookie season. But someone in your league may be willing to pay for much more than that, particularly if Torres puts up a big game or two in his first week in the Majors.