6 Players to Buy/Sell (Fantasy Baseball)
The Atlanta Braves are currently the hottest team in baseball, winning 10 of their last 11 games, fueled by a high-powered offense that has been putting lots of crooked numbers on the board. The Braves’ pitching staff has also been pretty good, and while we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly fall apart, two members of Atlanta’s starting rotation do find themselves in the “sell” section this week. In fact, the third recommended “sell” began his career with the Braves, too.
Who are they? Read on and find out. But let’s begin as always on a more positive note with this week’s buys.
Players to Buy
Blake Snell (SP – TB)
Snell has been hit hard in two of his last three starts, rocketing his ERA from 3.06 to 3.70 and his WHIP from 1.04 to 1.17. Perhaps it’s enough to steal away a bonafide fantasy ace without paying full market price.
Snell has deserved much better results based on the number of bats he’s missing and weak contact he’s inducing. Statcast reports that Snell has one of the largest differentials between his batting average allowed (.231) and expected batting average allowed (.203), and both his expected batting average allowed and expected slugging percentage allowed are among the six best in baseball. Other advanced metrics also capture Snell’s dominance — his 2.95 xFIP and 3.28 SIERA are both ace-caliber figures well within the top-10 among qualified starters.
Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)
Bieber has already been a big help in WHIP and strikeouts, but with an ERA that is currently pushing 4.00, he hasn’t fully lived up to the breakout hype just yet. Thankfully you don’t have to be a diehard Belieber to have confidence that he will get better results going forward.
Bieber may be a bit homer-prone, but his bloated 19.5 percent HR/FB ratio is still due for some positive regression. And with a strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks among the top-10 starters in baseball, Bieber’s ERA should drop significantly once he stops giving up quite so many home runs. Perhaps Bieber’s results will always lag a little behind what his peripherals suggest is possible, but he should still post an ERA going forward that more closely resembles his 3.31 xFIP and 3.32 SIERA.
Ian Kennedy (RP – KC)
Kennedy has recently emerged as the closer in Kansas City, as I detailed in my most recent Closer Report. And although his 3.72 ERA and 1.31 WHIP don’t look great, there is plenty of reason for optimism in the underlying numbers. Kennedy’s 2.07 FIP and 7.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio are both top-10 among relievers, and his 2.83 SIERA ranks inside the top-20. He also has the single-biggest differential between his batting average allowed (.280) and expected batting average allowed (.193), according to Statcast.
Yes, the Royals won’t generate a ton of save chances, and yes, Kennedy could become trade bait. But for now, he sneakily has quite a bit of value. Kennedy is somehow owned in less than a quarter of fantasy leagues, so perhaps you can get him for a simple waiver claim. If not, he’s certainly worth trying to buy cheaply.
Players to Sell
Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Soroka is a talented young pitcher with a bright future ahead of him, but he’s not yet the fantasy superstar that his surface stats suggest. Soroka currently has the second-biggest differential between his expected (.245) and actual (.201) batting average allowed, according to Statcast, and the sixth-biggest difference between his expected (.339) and actual (.270) slugging percentage allowed. Even the expected numbers are quite good, mind you, but the point is that some significant regression is coming. His xFIP and SIERA suggest an ERA in the mid-to-high 3.00s going forward.
Meanwhile, Soroka’s 7.32 K/9 rate is well below league average. And you simply can’t expect him to continue to pick up victories in two-thirds of his starts, even with an excellent Atlanta offense supporting him.
Julio Teheran (SP – ATL)
Teheran is set to take the mound on Tuesday night against the Mets, but I’d look to move him no matter how that start goes. Teheran currently sports a shiny 2.92 ERA, but nothing in his underlying numbers indicates that is even remotely sustainable.
Teheran’s 4.32 BB/9 rate is the sixth-highest in baseball, and also happens to be right in line with the 4.30 BB/9 he posted last year. He has thus far managed to survive his bouts with wildness thanks to a highly-fortunate .231 BABIP allowed, 9.5 percent HR/FB ratio, and 79.7 percent strand rate, which are all due for some pretty major regression. Statcast data reveals that Teheran has one of the biggest differentials between his expected and actual batting average allowed, and the same holds true for slugging percentage, so it’s not like he’s inducing the kind of weak contact that would help explain his low BABIP and HR rate. He’s been fortunate, plain and simple, and we should expect his ERA to shoot up towards 4.00 or even 5.00 moving forward.
Mike Minor (SP – TEX)
Minor hasn’t been particularly lucky in terms of his batted ball results — his .288 BABIP allowed matches his career mark, his 12.4 percent HR/FB ratio is just about the same as last year, and there’s nothing out-of-whack with his Statcast data, either.
Really, the case for selling high on Minor comes down to one key stat: his whopping 87.6 percent left-on-base percentage. Perhaps you believe that certain pitchers are simply better than the rest at wriggling out of jams. There’s probably some truth to that, but consider that Minor’s career strand rate is 74.7 percent, which is only marginally higher than the league average since he made his Big League debut in 2010. If/when Minor’s strand rate reverts back to his career norm, his 2.63 ERA will skyrocket, which helps explain why both his xFIP and SIERA indicate that his ERA should be closer to 4.00.