6 Players to Buy/Sell (Fantasy Baseball)
Sometimes when I’m putting together this column, I need to remember to take my own advice. That’s what I tried to do this week by acquiring Madison Bumgarner, who I featured in last week’s Buy/Sell column.
Interestingly, the deal also happened to include two players who feature in this week’s edition of Buy/Sell: Daniel Murphy, who I acquired alongside MadBum, and Corey Seager, who I traded away with Kenta Maeda. I’ve got nothing against Maeda (other than perhaps his 4.03 BB/9 rate!), but if I’m acquiring two prime buy-low candidates and only parting with one, I’m going to score that one in the win column.
If you like/hate my deal — or just want my thoughts on a trade idea of your own — I’m always all ears on Twitter. In the meantime, here are this week’s players to buy and sell.
Players to Buy
Daniel Murphy (1B/2B – COL)
I was among the most bullish in the industry on Murphy heading into the season, and I’m not about to give up on him after 59 disappointing at-bats. Murphy played in just two games before missing nearly a month with a fractured finger and has done very little since returning in late April. But his early-season struggles can largely be chalked up to a dreadful .196 BABIP and shaking off the rust after missing time — Murphy also took a little while to get going after returning from injury last season before exploding in the second half.
Even amidst his struggles, Murphy is posting strikeout and walk rates that are significantly better than his career averages, and he’s on pace to approach or surpass the century mark in both runs and RBIs over a full season. While he has sat recently against a few left-handed pitchers, the Rockies surely realize that Murphy is simply too good to platoon with Mark Reynolds. The 34-year old will still get the occasional off day, particularly in day games after night games, but expect him to get the vast majority of the playing time going forward. Remember, this is a true .300 hitter with 25-HR power who now calls Coors Field home, and the price to acquire him should be as low as it will ever get.
Starling Marte (OF – PIT)
Marte was one of just three players who hit 20 home runs and stole 30 bases last season — consensus first-round picks Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts were the others — and he’s just about on pace to do it again, with four homers and six steals through his first 28 games. But Marte’s numbers have been diluted by a brief stint on the injured list and an abnormally low .286 BABIP that has cost him about 30 points of batting average in the early going.
Marte has been heating up a bit lately, and his hard contact rate is actually up this season, so expect his batted ball results to continue to improve. It is very difficult to find players in today’s game who can provide stolen bases without hurting you elsewhere, so Marte is a very desirable trade target in roto/categories leagues if you can get even the slightest discount.
Corey Seager (SS – LAD)
Seager played in just 26 games last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he is off to a sluggish start this year. So it’s possible the Seager owner in your league is losing hope that he can return to the form he showed in 2016 and 2017 when he was a .300/25 kind of bat not unlike Daniel Murphy. If so, it could be an ideal time to buy.
It’s true that Seager is making less hard contact this year, but it isn’t a huge dropoff and is likely to end up being a statistical anomaly. Once he starts making better contact, he should again be a significant asset in batting average — his 22.0 percent strikeout rate is right in line with 2017 when he batted .295. If there is one thing that does seem different about Seager this year, it is that he has dramatically increased his launch angle, which is causing him to hit a lot more fly balls. That could prevent him from hitting for quite as high an average as he typically does, but it could also lead to more home runs.
Players to Sell
George Springer (OF – HOU)
Springer is a very good player who is completely locked in at the plate right now, but the odds are that he’s simply started the season hot rather than taken his game to a completely different level at age 29. Springer is a .269 career hitter who is currently batting .323, even though he’s striking out more often than he has the last couple of years. That’s not to say he’s just been lucky — his hard contact rate is up significantly from the past — but it does raise the question of how sustainable this hot streak is. He also currently has the third-highest HR/FB ratio in baseball at 34.1 percent, a number that is sure to plummet even if he does keep crushing the baseball.
Springer is coming off a down season where he only hit 22 home runs, but if you take the previous three years together it is clear what kind of player he is: a .270-30 guy who can perhaps reach low double-digit SBs now that he’s running a bit more. That’s a really good fantasy asset — think top-40 hitter — but it’s not the top-10 guy he’s performing like right now.
Wil Myers (1B/OF – SD)
I hesitate to call Myers a sell high because he’s one of the few players who could realistically go 20-20, if not 30-20, and he hasn’t been all that amazing this year to begin with. But the fact is, his peripherals suggest the bottom could really fall out here.
Myers is currently striking out in 35.7 percent of his plate appearances, a clip that trails only Joey Gallo among all qualified hitters. So while Myers’ .248 batting average is similar to what he’s provided in the past, it would actually be closer to the Mendoza line if not for some fortunate BABIP results. His HR/FB rate is also significantly higher than usual, even though his hard contact rate isn’t drastically different than his career norm. Myers is even running a bit less often this season, so there may not be a spike in stolen bases to make up for the likely regression coming to his batting average and home run pace.
This is a player who looks like he’s doing what he always does, but the truth is more troubling.
Josh Bell (1B – PIT)
I hate to pour cold water on Bell, who looks to be taking a legitimate step forward in his age-26 season and should be able to maintain a decent amount of mixed league value. But Bell has been producing like a first or second round fantasy pick, and if you can get anywhere close to that kind of value for him, you should probably make the move.
Bell is striking out at a career-worst 22.2 percent clip this season, but you wouldn’t know it from his sparkling .324 batting average. While he is making a ton of hard contact, his .367 BABIP and 25.0 percent HR/FB ratio are both still due for a good amount of regression. At the end of the day, Bell’s fast start could allow him to reach 30 home runs for the first time, but he probably won’t be much better than a .270 hitter going forward and won’t contribute much of anything as a base stealer. Bell could be here to stay as a top-100 type of player, but it would be unwise to expect fantasy superstardom, at least at this stage.