Dynasty Players to Buy, Sell, and Hold (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
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Patience is imperative if you want to be a successful dynasty league owner in fantasy baseball. You can’t overreact to partial seasons, small samples, or new skills until you’ve done enough digging to ensure that the player is actually different. It’s OK to buy high on a player who you feel has made tangible changes to improve. It’s also OK to sell low if you don’t like what you’re seeing in the player’s profile. Just remember to dive deep before completing any transaction in a dynasty league.
Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN)
Finally locked into the rotation for the first time in his career, Tyler Mahle has impressed in his first 51.1 innings of 2019. The 24-year old righty has a solid 3.51 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. While he’s not a hard-thrower, he’s racking up strikeouts and using elite command to limit baserunners. His 20.7 K-BB% is 20th among all qualified starting pitchers.
Mahle is distancing himself from the volatile pitcher he was last season by pounding the zone and limiting hard contact. Though his 9.3% swinging-strike rate doesn’t support his 26% strikeout rate, his zone-attacking mentality should allow him to limit the regression. He also owns a 3.26 xFIP, which shows that he’s actually been a bit unlucky in regards to his ERA. Go out and get Mahle on the cheap before owners realize this young hurler is turning into a solid fantasy option.
Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW)
Lucas Giolito could be described as a stud prospect, an enigma, disappointment, and a reclamation project all within the last three seasons. Yet here we are wondering if this is the time he’s put it all together after he has posted a 3.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a fantastic 28.6% strikeout rate to begin 2019. Skeptics will point toward his 2018 struggles. While those are hard to defend, this is a new pitcher.
Giolito reverted back to the mechanics he used in high school by shortening his arm swing. He’s now able to repeat his delivery better than before, and it’s led to better control and an elite strikeout rate. Similar to Mahle, there’s regression due in the strikeout rate thanks to an 11.7% swinging-strike rate, but it should still be high. Although he may not ever be the full-blown ace we thought he could be, he’s got the potential to be a great pitcher. Find the skeptical owner in your league and pounce while you can.
Brandon Lowe (2B/OF – TB)
Who could have predicted Brandon Lowe would have a higher strikeout rate than Joey Gallo in late May? While Lowe’s 35.2% strikeout rate is far too high, he’s made up for it by slashing .283/.333/.553 with 10 long balls. So why do I suggesting selling high on the 24-year old second baseman? It’s not just those pesky strikeouts. His 6.7% walk rate is down from last season’s 10.8%. He’s also running a .388 BABIP, suggesting a big drop in batting average is coming soon.
Statcast data on Baseball Savant shows even more evidence of that impending drop. His expected batting average is just .244, and that’s closer to the kind of hitter I see Lowe as. He’s got plus power for a second baseman, but it comes at a cost that’s currently not showing up in his “back-of-the-baseball-card” numbers. See if you can sell Lowe as a former top prospect who has put it all together even though he absolutely has not.
Willson Contreras (C – CHC)
During my preview series before 2019, I wrote about Willson Contreras and his peculiar 2018 season. I came to the conclusion that his power output was a result of a measly 9.3% HR/FB rate and what had to be an unreported injury. He just wasn’t hitting the ball hard. Well, you can certainly call his 28.2% HR/FB rate a bounce back in that department. I’m choosing to believe that a fair amount of luck is going into his home run totals. Yes, he’s hitting more fly balls and yes, he’s hitting the ball a lot harder than last year. He’s a good player! But Statcast data shows us that his true talent is much closer to his .271 career batting average than his current .317 average.
The reason I’m looking to move Contreras has more to do with my overall outlook on catchers in dynasty leagues. Anytime a catcher is having the kind of season that puts him into the top-150 overall conversation, I’m trying to sell. Catchers get hurt far too often and can have big swings in production at the plate. It’s also important to note that Contreras is already in his age-27 season. He’s likely to set a career high on home runs, but see if you can sell him as a top-100 overall player. He’s currently at 133 in FantasyPros’ rest-of-season Expert Consensus Rankings.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE)
I’ve been holding out on including Jose Ramirez in this space for a while now. I figured a quick bounce back was coming for him after a slow start, but here we are in late May, and he’s still slashing .194/.297/.303 with just four home runs. He is still contributing with 12 steals, but this is far from the player who challenged for a 40/40 season in 2018. The truth is, Ramirez’s divulgence into a power-first hitter began last season. While we were all so happy about the 39 homers, we failed to recognize the significance of the 48-point drop in batting average it took to achieve that power output.
Many who did notice likely chalked it up to an unusually low .252 BABIP. The problem is that Ramirez is hitting more and more fly balls each year, causing his batting average to tank. He’s also swinging more often and making less contact than prior years of his big league career. It’s not pretty, but you can’t give up now with Ramirez considered a top-10 dynasty player coming into the year. He still has a ton of potential, and I wouldn’t sell for anything less than a top-25 overall player. Something isn’t quite right with Ramirez, but I believe he’ll figure it out soon.
Daniel Vogelbach (1B – SEA)
One of the hardest parts of fantasy baseball is adjusting your expectations for a player who has far exceeded them. Daniel Vogelbach is one of those players who seems to have taken a huge jump forward in 2019. It might seem like a sell-high situation, but here’s why you should hold on to the big lefty slugger. Vogelbach’s .264/.396/.643 slash line is certainly better than it should be considering the Statcast data, but even when he regresses to his expected statistics (.257 xBA, .519 xSLG), he’ll still be a solid player.
The power is likely to regress a bit, as well, because he currently has an unsustainable 28.6% HR/FB rate. My favorite part of Vogelbach’s profile, besides the obvious plus power, is the plate skills. He’s currently got a 17.6% walk rate and just a 22.6% strikeout rate. He’s especially valuable in OBP leagues. You probably won’t get any great offers for Vogelbach because of the bias against late-blooming power hitters, so keep him on your squad and enjoy the 30+ homers per year.