6 Players to Buy/Sell (Fantasy Baseball)
After a brief hiatus for the All-Star Game festivities, it’s time for another pitcher-focused edition of Buy/Sell. The MLB trade deadline is right around the corner, so I’ll try to help you get ahead of the game with a few closers you may want to sell before they’re potentially dealt into a setup role on their new teams. But let’s begin this week with a couple of under-appreciated starters to buy high.
Players to Buy
Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)
It wasn’t that long ago that I considered Woodruff an excellent buy-low candidate, but now I view him as an equally appealing buy-high. While he currently checks in as the 22nd-most valuable starting pitcher in standard 5×5 leagues, according to Baseball Monster, I still firmly believe the best is yet to come for the flame-throwing 26-year old.
There’s nothing wrong with Woodruff’s 3.67 ERA, but his 2.91 FIP indicates that his ERA should be even lower. In fact, as he heads into a Tuesday start against Atlanta, he currently ranks among the top-13 starting pitchers in a whole host of advanced metrics, including strikeout-to-walk ratio, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. Woodruff’s Statcast data doesn’t indicate that he’s been particularly unlucky in terms of batted ball results. With 10 victories already, he’s been a bit fortunate in the win column. But the fact remains that he is showing the potential to be a true fantasy ace down the stretch, and it’s quite possible that the Woodruff owner in your league doesn’t value him quite that highly.
Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
At first glance, Lynn looks the part of a player you should try to sell high. At 32 years old, he’s had a solid but unremarkable career. Coming off a career-worst 4.77 ERA in 2018, he is now playing his first full season in the American League and hitter-friendly Globe Life Park. That 3.69 ERA and 12 wins have to be a mirage, right? Not necessarily.
Lynn is posting easily the best strikeout and walk rates of his career and sports the fourth-largest differential between his ERA (3.69) and FIP (2.87). It’s fair to question whether he can maintain his 8.2 percent HR/FB ratio while pitching his home games in a homer-happy ballpark, but at the same time, his Statcast numbers suggest he’s deserved better results than he’s gotten so far, not worse. It’s wise to keep your expectations in check with a player like Lynn. But last year was the first time he posted an ERA over 4.00, so it seems pretty clear that was the true outlier. Lynn simply isn’t a sexy name in fantasy circles, and he represents a sneaky mid-rotation fantasy starter who can probably be acquired cheaply in most leagues.
Edwin Diaz (RP – NYM)
This one certainly comes down to risk tolerance. With a hideous 5.35 ERA, the consensus top closer at draft tables will likely never come cheaper than he is right now. Diaz’s velocity and strikeout rate are just fine, as I mentioned in a recent edition of the Closer Report, but he’s been undone by an obscenely-high .418 BABIP allowed and 21.9 percent HR/FB ratio. Relief pitchers’ numbers are subject to a lot of statistical variance due to the low number of total innings they throw. There isn’t much in Diaz’s profile to suggest he’s a worse pitcher than he was last year, when he dominated hitters on his way to a 1.96 ERA and 57 saves.
I moved Diaz way down the closer rankings to account for the ugly numbers he’s given fantasy owners, but he’s a good player to gamble on if you’re purely looking ahead to rest-of-season value. I’d gladly take him over a closer who’s been better so far but lacks his bat-missing skills and is at risk of being dealt into a setup role at the trade deadline.
Players to Sell
Will Smith (RP – SF)
Smith has been simply lights out as the Giants’ closer, and his performance is no fluke. His underlying stats fully back it up, and he was similarly dominant last year, too. But while Smith shouldn’t be expected to regress in terms of strikeout rate, ERA, or WHIP, one place he could fall off dramatically is saves. He is widely considered one of the most likely players to switch uniforms at this year’s trade deadline, and some of the teams reportedly interested in acquiring his services — such as the Dodgers and Brewers — already have elite closers. Of course, Smith’s value could actually increase if he heads to a good team in need of a closer (think Minnesota or Boston), and perhaps the Giants’ high asking price will turn off teams that want to use him as a setup man. The risk he loses out on save chances still needs to be incorporated into Smith’s rest-of-season outlook.
Alex Colome (RP – CHW)
Like Smith, Colome is another closer having an excellent season who is quite likely to get moved at the trade deadline. Colome lacks the dominating stuff that Smith possesses, which means he should cost considerably less for an MLB team to acquire. It also arguably makes it more likely that he serves in a setup capacity on a new team. Even if Colome manages to remain a closer over the rest of the season, his statistical profile points to some pretty major regression going forward. He is not striking batters out at nearly the clip he used to, but a completely unsustainable .130 BABIP allowed has bailed him out.
Shane Greene (RP – DET)
Greene is yet another closer who could be on the move by July 31 as the Tigers look to add pieces to aid in their rebuild. His $4 million salary is very affordable and he has another year of arbitration ahead, so Detroit doesn’t necessarily need to unload him. However, the Tigers may also recognize that his trade value will never be higher.
Despite his incredible 1.06 ERA, Greene isn’t the kind of dominant arm who is destined to close for another team if dealt. And like Colome, the advanced metrics suggest he is currently performing way over his head. His saves pace has predictably slowed since he recorded 10 in April, and his 4.03 xFIP suggests his ratios could be next.