6 Players to Buy/Sell (Fantasy Baseball)
More than any other sport, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind in fantasy baseball. We need to always be on the lookout for players who are unlikely to keep up their current production, whether due to statistical regression, the likelihood of injury, or as I’ll discuss this week, an anticipated innings cap.
But before we get to that, a quick programming note. Going forward, for each name I suggest buying low or selling high, I’ll be including a short list of players that you could consider offering/targeting on the other end of the deal. If you’re curious about a name that didn’t make my list, I’m also always happy to field trade-related questions on Twitter @andrew_seifter.
Players to Buy
Chris Sale (SP – BOS)
This is likely the last call to buy low on Sale after he spun six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts against the White Sox on Friday. Maybe it’s already too late, but his ERA still sits north of 5.00, so it’s worth at least inquiring.
Sale still isn’t throwing quite as hard as he typically does, but his velocity has noticeably spiked over the last several outings — coinciding with better results. Sale’s current trajectory looks an awful lot like last season when his velocity steadily increased over the course of the summer. The diminished stuff also doesn’t fully explain his low strand rate and high HR/FB ratio allowed — some positive regression would have been on its way even if he wasn’t regaining lost velocity.
Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
Flaherty has quietly been making strides this season in terms of velocity, strikeout rate, walk rate, and soft contact generated. Unfortunately, all that progress has been undone by the simple fact that a quarter of the fly balls he’s given up have landed on the wrong side of the outfield fence, leaving his ERA at an unimpressive 4.17. But if Flaherty can maintain those improvements, particularly his 2.45 BB/9 rate, he’s bound to have more success as his HR rate normalizes. With an xFIP and K/BB ratio that are among the best in baseball, Flaherty is an ace in the making — and his owner in your league may not realize it.
Madison Bumgarner (SP – SF)
When we were asked last week to name one underlying player stat that fantasy owners should take note of, I opted to go with Bumgarner’s sparkling 7.0 K/BB ratio. As I pointed out then, over the last three seasons, every pitcher with a K/BB ratio of 6.5 or better has finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. Of course, MadBum went out and screwed up my narrative by walking two batters in his next start, dropping his K/BB ratio to 6.14, but the fact remains that he is still among the top-five pitchers in baseball in both strikeout-to-walk ratio and BB/9 rate. When you pitch half your games in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park, avoiding free passes makes a huge difference. Bumgarner’s ERA is 3.92 right now because his 60.5 percent strand rate is the fourth-lowest in the league, but once that normalizes he should be able to at least match the low-3.00s ERAs he’s posted over the last couple seasons.
Players to Sell
Chris Paddack (SP – SD)
If you happen to own Paddack, this may sound like sacrilege. He has been every bit as dominant as advertised. But while Paddack has all the makings of a future fantasy ace, he’s unlikely to deliver top-12 starter numbers this season.
Why? Well, for one thing, Paddack has a potential innings limit hanging over his head. So far, the Padres are taking an innovative — and fantasy-friendly — approach to limiting Paddack’s workload by working in extra days off in between starts, but MLB.com reports that Paddack “almost certainly” won’t reach the 167 innings he’s currently on pace for and the Padres “might skip Paddack’s turn entirely” on some occasions, even if they don’t shut him down completely.
There’s also the matter of the incredibly fortunate batted ball results Paddack has been getting. His 1.55 ERA is obviously unsustainable, but his minuscule .176 BABIP allowed and 5.3 percent HR/FB ratio allowed suggest he’s in store for more ERA regression than his fantasy owners might realize.
Domingo German (SP – NYY)
German is another young starter who is off to a fantastic start but will reportedly be subject to an innings limit this season. Like Paddack, German has also benefited from some unsustainable batted ball results, including a .204 BABIP allowed and 5.1 percent HR/FB ratio that are both among the six-lowest marks for qualified starters. Those numbers would be due for regression for any pitcher, but they are even less likely to hold for a pitcher who has to make half his starts in a ballpark that was the sixth-most friendly for both home runs and total offense in 2018. German has a bright future ahead of him, but his 2019 fantasy value is likely at its peak.
Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
There seems to be a lot of love for Musgrove in the fantasy community, but I’m not exactly sure what he’s done to deserve it. Sure, his 2.63 ERA and 1.04 WHIP look nice, but they are being held up by an unsustainable .266 BABIP allowed and an absurdly-low 2.8 percent HR/FB ratio, the latter of which is currently the lowest among all qualified starters. Once his home run rate normalizes, Musgrove will likely revert back to the low 4.00s ERA he’s had in the past, and that simply isn’t going to cut it in mixed leagues for a pitcher with a thoroughly mediocre strikeout rate.