Dynasty Players to Buy, Sell, and Hold (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
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We’ve made it through one-quarter of the 2019 fantasy baseball season, and we’ve already seen some surprising results. The Boston Red Sox are just three games over .500 while the Minnesota Twins have the second-best record in the AL. Cody Bellinger leads MLB with a .401 batting average after hitting .260 last year. The Marlins are in last place in the NL East, and Joey Gallo has a 36.3% strikeout rate. Okay, so some things are more surprising than others, but it’s important to remember that we’re still just a quarter of the way through the year. If like me, you focus on a three-year timeline when building your dynasty league roster, you’re just about 8% of the way there. Keep that in perspective as you make moves for this year and the future. Below are some players to take action on in dynasty leagues.
Corbin Martin (SP – HOU)
Martin was very impressive in his big league debut over the weekend. He took the place of the struggling Collin McHugh in the Astros rotation and made a strong case to stay in it. The newcomer sat 94-96 with his four-seam fastball, even touching 98 at one point. He’s also got a nasty curve and mixes in a changeup. In his debut, he produced a well-above-average 36.3% CSW (Called strikes+whiffs percentage), a stat from Pitcher List that I love using to evaluating pitchers. Martin was the number 105 prospect entering the season in FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings, but his status in the fantasy community has changed a bit since the beginning of 2019. He had an excellent 1.48 ERA with a 29.8% strikeout rate in 24.1 Triple-A innings before his promotion. Now it appears he’s got a good chance of sticking with the Astros for the time being. Go out and buy Martin after he struggles against the Red Sox later this week.
Pablo López (SP – MIA)
Things haven’t gone well at all to begin 2019 for this very popular draft sleeper. López currently runs an unsightly 5.93 ERA through 41 innings. Despite the rough start, there are some signs that he can still be the pitcher we thought he’d be in the preseason. His xFIP is a much more tolerable 3.77, indicating that he’s getting unlucky with his current ERA. He’s also got a solid 23.7% strikeout rate with only a 6.2% walk rate. Missing bats and not walking hitters is obviously a positive for a young pitcher, and it’s much more predictive than ERA. Statcast data on Baseball Savant shows that he is currently underperforming his batting average (.263) compared to his expected batting average (.234). That’s the eighth-biggest difference among starters in baseball. López is just 23 years old, so acquire him now in your deeper dynasty league while his ERA is still ugly.
Domingo German (SP – NYY)
German has exceeded everyone’s expectations while filling in for Luis Severino to start the 2019 season. He’s got a 2.70 ERA through 43.1 innings for the Yankees, striking out 25.4% of the hitters he’s faced. However, the underlying stats behind those numbers tell a completely different story. His xFIP is at 3.94 and he’s got an 8.1% walk rate. His current batting average against is a minuscule .170 while his expected batting average is .234. Look familiar? Compare those numbers to López’s above. The difference between these two pitchers is so much smaller than it appears from the outside. You can trade German for López plus a solid hitter at this point. These peripherals in his profile have me selling German while he’s still viewed through the lens of his sparkling ERA.
Brent Honeywell (SP – TB)
Unlike the pitchers above, my evaluation of Honeywell in this space has nothing to do with statistics. He underwent Tommy John surgery in spring training prior to the 2018 season and was expected back in action around this time in 2019. Unfortunately for Honeywell, his dynasty owners, and the Tampa Bay Rays, he suffered a setback and was shut down from throwing in April. The elbow discomfort that he was experiencing was recently diagnosed as nerve irritation. While this diagnosis is certainly better than the surgically repaired ligament giving out again, I’m still really concerned because there’s no timetable for his return. Tommy John isn’t seen as dire as it once was, but it’s still not 100% successful. He has big strikeout upside with his screwball and was the number 20 overall prospect in FantasyPros’ prospect ECR, but I’m selling if I can. Although I still expect Honeywell to be back on a mound sometime during this season, I’m not counting on it anymore. If you own him in a league with a shallower minor league system, I’d move on.
Austin Meadows (OF – TB)
It’s hard to make a bigger impression on your new team than Meadows has made in his first 35 games with the Rays. He’s hitting .327 with nine homers in that span and has shown a major increase in walk rate. The former top-50 prospect saw injuries and ineffectiveness end his stint with the Pirates when they traded him in a package to Tampa Bay for Chris Archer last summer. He immediately went off in Triple-A and earned himself a 10-game audition in the big leagues. This season he’s crushing the ball, sitting in the top 30 in the MLB in average exit velocity. Will there be regression from his .348/.426/.697 slash line? Absolutely. But I don’t expect he’ll fall off as much as some think. His expected batting average is far lower than his current number, but it’s still .318. As a prospect, he was known for his hit tool, so Meadows becoming a perineal .300 hitter isn’t a stretch. Don’t make the mistake of selling high on this future star when his “future” isn’t too far away.
Jorge Polanco (SS – MIN)
Unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind when Polanco is mentioned is his 80-game PED suspension that wrecked most of his 2018 season. Still, fantasy baseball is a game and it’s not our job to pass judgment on players suspended for PEDs. Our job is to win the league. It’s valid to think that his power could drop upon his return, but so far this year he’s blasted eight dingers in just 40 games. He’s slashing .331/.398/.624 in that span and seems to be fully breaking out. The 25-year-old former top prospect was actually showing signs of this breakout before the suspension, though, as he smacked 13 homers in 2017. Now it seems this switch-hitting shortstop is coming into his power while walking 9.7% of the time. Like Meadows, there will be some regression in his batting average. But Polanco has a very reasonable 12.1% home run to fly ball rate, showing that he can keep up this level of power production. If you own Polanco, hold on to him and enjoy this power surge.