Dynasty Players to Buy, Sell, and Hold (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
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This week’s list of market movers for dynasty baseball leagues consists of a wide array of ownership percentages. Mitch Haniger, Shohei Ohtani, and Eduardo Rodriguez are owned in most leagues while Griffin Canning, Michael Chavis, and Caleb Smith can still be had. Should you buy these players, or is it time to move on and extract as much value out of them as you can? While making trades early in the season can prove profitable, don’t be afraid to sit tight on both struggling or over-performing players for now.
Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP – LAA)
To be fair, the day after Ohtani returns to the DH role from Tommy John surgery isn’t the optimal time to buy. The reason I’m buying is because I truly believe that he will be the number one player in fantasy baseball for years to come starting in 2021. Buying now is especially a good move if you aren’t expecting to contend this season in your dynasty league. In his first season stateside, he slashed .285/.361/.564 with 22 home runs and 10 steals over 114 games. I don’t see any reason that he can’t repeat most of those numbers this season. The only stat that I see regressing is the stolen bases. I highly doubt the Angels will let him run while rehabbing that prized right elbow. He’ll likely be platooned and he may have some rust to knock off, so maybe it’s wiser to wait and see if he starts off cold. Regardless of timing, I’m doing whatever I can to get Ohtani on my dynasty league roster before he gets back to full strength on the mound. A 25-year-old who strikes out 30% of the hitters he faces on the mound and has 30-home run power at the plate? All of that value from one roster spot will win you dynasty leagues for years to come.
Griffin Canning (SP – LAA)
Ranked as the number 76 prospect in FantasyPros Expert Consensus Prospect Rankings, Canning started off the season in Triple-A with 16 strong innings that earned him a promotion to the majors. He showed elite control and strikeout ability with a 25% K-BB rate before the call-up. I’ve watched every pitch of the soon-to-be 23-year-old’s short MLB career, and I’ve come away very impressed. In his first 9.2 innings, he’s struck out 13 while walking just two. He gave up some runs toward the end of each outing, but I think part of that is just fatigue. He generates tons of whiffs with a slider that he throws about 87-90 mph. His four-seam fastball has good ride and he throws it up in the zone at 93-94. The curve needs some work, but he throws it hard with sharp downward action. Although it’s mostly used as a spike curve right now, he’ll eventually be able to throw it in the zone. He’s sitting at a ridiculous 20.8% swinging-strike rate and should be a plus strikeout pitcher for many years to come.
Michael Chavis (2B/3B – BOS)
Chavis is off to a dream start in his big league career. He’s hitting .293/.423/.638 with six homers in his first 17 games. Statcast data on Baseball Savant shows that he’s getting a little lucky in both the batting average and slugging percentage departments, though. He’s also working with a very unsustainable 31.6% HR/FB rate that’s sure to regress. The reason I’m suggesting selling Chavis isn’t just the inevitable regression, though. Now is a great time to sell because his value is so high. He’s still a talented young hitter, but I don’t think the Red Sox are committed to him playing second base every day right now. With Eduardo Nunez back, Chavis could lose some playing time or even be demoted if he cools down. While he’s likely the third baseman of the future in Boston with Rafael Devers moving over to first, you can likely get something of great value for Chavis right now in your dynasty league.
Mitch Haniger (OF – SEA)
Haniger has eight home runs so far this year, but he’s hitting just .236 in his first 36 games. Although his career average of .273 should point toward some improvement in that category, I don’t see it happening. His expected batting average, according to Statcast, is just .203, and the difference between his expected and actual slugging percentage is the 14th largest in MLB. His exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are both down significantly from last year while his strikeout rate is up 6.1 percent. These are not good signs for a player entering his age-28 season. He was a very solid outfielder last year, so don’t sell him for just anything, but now is the time to get out on Haniger.
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS)
Rostering Rodriguez is not for the faint of heart. The oft-injured starting pitcher owns an unspectacular career 4.21 ERA with a 23.5% strikeout rate, but he flashes ace-like ability from time to time. While that’s not an elite strikeout rate, it’s been closer to 26% over the past three seasons. We are definitively talking about a plus strikeout pitcher. His start to 2019 has been much like his career: up and down. There are some signs that the arrow is finally pointing toward the top-20 starter we’ve been waiting for the last few years. Statcast data tells us that now is a good buying opportunity, as his 5.40 ERA has been unlucky. Both his expected batting average and slugging percentage are far lower than the actual results he’s gotten this year. There’s always injury risk with Rodriguez, but that should only help to tamp down his value. Don’t give him away on the cheap and watch him flourish into a stud on someone else’s team.
Mallex Smith (OF – SEA)
Nobody could have foreseen Smith’s awful start to begin the 2019 season. He was so bad in Seattle — hitting .165 with a 30% strikeout rate — that the Mariners shipped him off to Triple-A to figure things out. The fact that Smith managed to steal eight bases while he was in the big leagues is exactly why you should hold on to him if you have room on your bench. Stolen bases have never been harder to find in fantasy baseball, so anyone with a profile like Smith’s is intriguing. Last year he hit .296 and stole 40 bases in his age-25 season, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t do that again. He has only played four games in the minor leagues, but the early results (9-for-19, 4 SBs) suggest he’ll be back in Seattle soon. When he is, expect him to get on base and run wild.