Dynasty Players to Buy, Sell, and Hold (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
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After about a month’s worth of baseball, there have been some big changes in the dynasty player market. As always, you can’t overreact to any single month unless you’re convinced that something substantial has changed with a player. If you’re keeping a rolling three-year window in mind for your team, one month is a minuscule sample. Player performance, injury, or playing time can all be reasons to adjust your thinking on a specific player, though. Below are six players I’m looking buy, sell, or hold in dynasty leagues.
Rougned Odor (2B – TEX)
Odor has certainly had an up-and-down career thus far, but it’s hard to believe he’s just 25 years old. He already has two 30+ home run seasons and he can pitch in some steals. He’s off to a horrible start in 2019, hitting .145/.232/.226 in 16 games sandwiched around a couple of weeks on the IL. It’s still a tiny sample, but he’s building on his walk rate (now 8.7%) gains from last season. Unfortunately, that’s coming with an ugly 37.7% strikeout rate. His contact rate is down 8.9% from his career average, but I’ll choose to believe in the 690-game sample over 16 games. Odor is chasing less and swinging inside the zone more often than last season. Those are positive developments and show a tangible reason for the increased walk rate. He’s going to start making contact soon, and when he does he’s good for mid-20s home runs and on-base ability. He should be cheap in a dynasty format right now, so out and get him if you need some upside at second base.
Caleb Smith (SP – MIA)
The Marlins’ intriguing group of young starters seems to have found its ace. The 27-year old Smith currently has a 2.17 ERA with a 33.9% strikeout rate that ranks fifth among starting pitchers this season. You’ll find him in the top 10 among starters for nearly every stat I use to judge pitchers. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all support his elite ERA. Now, he’s almost certainly not going to be this good for the rest of the season. Statcast data on Baseball Savant shows he’s due for regression in both his batting average and slugging percentage against. However, Smith is still top 20 in each of the expected versions of those stats, showing that his landing point after regression can still be really, really good. He’s striking out everyone and minimizing hard contact. The only reason you aren’t paying attention to him is because his name is Caleb Smith and he plays for the Marlins. I’m buying where I can in dynasty leagues since he’s still not being viewed as the top-30 starting pitcher that he is now.
Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF – PHI)
We all remember Hoskins’ MLB debut in 2017 when he terrorized the league for 18 homers in 50 games. He flashed extremely elite plate skills during his first foray into the big leagues and, unlike the obscene 31.6% HR/FB rate, those have mostly stuck around. The problem I have with Hoskins doesn’t involve his skills; it’s how he’s perceived in the fantasy community. He’s a power hitter who takes walks, strikes out a bit, and hits for a middling average. While he’s a high-end model for that profile, it’s not one that’s very rare in fantasy baseball. He’s currently ranked 27th on FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings for the rest of the season, which is quite a bit too high for me. His expected batting average based on Statcast data is .219 compared to his current .279. While only in his third MLB season, he’s 26 years old and wasn’t regarded as a high-end prospect. Find someone who treats him like a top-20 dynasty player and cash in while he has the illusion of a complete hitter.
Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)
So far this year, Bieber has rewarded those who drafted him early by posting a 3.68 ERA with a 27.6% strikeout rate. The strikeout rate is certainly higher than anyone projected, which is why I’m selling in dynasty leagues. His minor league numbers suggest he’s much closer to last year’s 24.3% clip. That may not sound like much, but it makes a big difference, especially when you don’t have an elite ERA. There isn’t anything in the underlying stats that point toward Bieber improving his ERA at this point. He’s running a 3.91 FIP and a 4.24 xFIP with uncharacteristically high walk rates. Statcast data shows more of the same, as he has the widest gap between his batting average and expected batting average among starters with at least 80 plate appearances and the third-widest between slugging percentage and expected slugging percentage. This tells me that Bieber’s ratios aren’t likely to improve any time soon. If I own him in a dynasty league, I’d shop him around as a top-25 arm with an elite strikeout rate and see if anyone bites.
Paul DeJong (SS – STL)
Cardinals Devil Magic is in full effect again, and it looks like they’ve created a star in DeJong. The former college catcher has turned himself into an above-average defensive shortstop, allowing his bat to play up and stay in the lineup. He’s hitting .342/.403/.607 with five homers to start the year. The most impressive aspect of DeJong’s game is the plate discipline he’s shown. He’s walking an acceptable 7.8% of the time while striking out just 17.1%. Compare that to the 28% strikeout rate from his rookie year in 2017, and he’s shown amazing growth in that department. While he’s not going to hit above .340 for the season, his expected batting average is currently .310. The reduced swings and misses are going to allow him to be a positive in the batting average category. If you’re worried he’s sacrificing power for average because he has just five homers, don’t be. He leads the major leagues with 14 doubles. Those will start to leave the yard once the weather warms up. If you own DeJong, don’t sell high. You found a really good dynasty shortstop for what was likely a cheap price.
Reynaldo Lopez (SP – CHW)
If you’re like me and you’re crazy enough to believe that Lopez is becoming the pitcher we thought he could be, now is not the time to try and acquire him in a dynasty league. He is coming off a career-high 14 strikeouts in his last start against Detroit. He managed this feat in just six innings pitched. While he’s turned in quality starts in each of his last three outings, his ERA still sits at an unsightly 6.03 thanks to a few brutal starts to begin the year. The .363 BABIP shows that he’s been getting unlucky on balls in play, though. Additionally, Statcast shows that his batting average and slugging percentage allowed should both be far lower than they are. I’m not trading Lopez if I own him, but I’m also not trading for him at the moment. You have to pick and choose your spots. Wait until after Friday night when Lopez goes 5.1 innings with four earned runs against the Boston Red Sox, then pounce.