6 Players to Buy/Sell (Fantasy Baseball)
This week’s edition of Buy/Sell leads off with a couple of top-10 outfielders in standard 5×5 leagues last year who have disappointed so far this season. I’ll then give you my recommendation for a catcher to buy low and another to sell at his pinnacle. And we’ll close this one out with two hot-hitting outfielders who are producing way over their heads.
Players to Buy
Andrew Benintendi (OF – BOS)
Typically when I put these lists of buy-low candidates together, I look for players who have been unlucky based on metrics like BABIP or Statcast data. Benintendi does not qualify. His .339 BABIP is actually higher than it was in either of his first two full seasons in the majors. This bit of good fortune has mitigated the damage from his increased strikeout rate and prevented his subpar .266 batting average from being even worse. Meanwhile, Statcast notes that his expected batting average is a paltry .238 based on the quality of contact he’s making.
No, the case for buying low on Benintendi isn’t about what he’s done at the plate this season. It’s about his prior track record and future potential. He is still just 25 years old and is still hitting in the middle of a loaded lineup and favorable home ballpark for left-handed hitters. Last year, Benintendi was the seventh-most valuable outfielder in standard 5×5 leagues, according to Baseball Monster, despite not really excelling in any one statistical category. That sort of profile can result in a seemingly uninspiring line when things go south even a little like they have this year, but the upside is still there for the stretch run.
Khris Davis (OF – OAK)
In this age of juiced baseballs and three true outcomes, it’s easy to view hitters that provide power without stolen bases or batting average as a dime a dozen. But there is still value to be found in the very best power hitters, and Davis is unquestionably one of those. His 48 long balls led the league just last year, and he is the only MLB player who has topped 40 home runs in each of the last three seasons. With just 16 round-trippers through an injury-plagued first half, he’s got his work cut out for him to get to 40 again this year. But I wouldn’t bet against him. Davis was a top-50 hitter in standard 5×5 leagues each of those last three seasons, and there’s no reason he can’t provide that kind of value down the stretch and stand out even in this ultra homer-friendly environment.
Danny Jansen (C – TOR)
Jansen’s season-long numbers are pretty poor, and he’s cooled off again recently after a torrid 12-game stretch from June 28 to July 15 in which he hit .356 with five home runs. But now is not the time to bail on Jansen — it’s the time to buy. The 24-year-old backstop has a solid prospect pedigree and demonstrated the ability to hit for a plus batting average with decent pop in the minors. He’s also playing almost every day in Toronto, an increasingly rare attribute for major league catchers. Then there’s the Statcast data. Among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, Jansen ranks among the top-five unluckiest hitters in terms of both batting average and slugging percentage. He could easily be a top-five catcher from here on out, and you can likely acquire him and another quality piece in exchange for an over-performing catcher like Omar Narvaez.
Players to Sell
Omar Narvaez (C – SEA)
I was among the highest in the industry on Narvaez coming into 2019, and he’s rewarded my confidence to this point with a terrific .295 average and 16 home runs. However, now may be a good time to sell. Among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, Statcast reports that Narvaez has the third-most inflated batting average and 19th-most inflated slugging percentage. In other words, he’s unlikely to keep this up unless he starts making better contact. While Narvaez has to be viewed as a top-12 starter at the position over the rest of the season, his value is likely at its high point.
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL)
We’ve been down this road before with O’Neill, who has all kinds of power but is destined to be an extreme batting average liability if he doesn’t learn to make more consistent contact. The 24-year-old has sent 14 baseballs over the fence through his first 233 major league at-bats between last year and this season, but he has also fanned nearly 40 percent of the time. Although he’s currently hitting .287 thanks to a .426 BABIP, Statcast pegs his expected batting average at just .231. His playing time could also become an issue once Marcell Ozuna returns from the injured list or simply if O’Neill endures a prolonged slump.
O’Neill was likely a recent waiver-wire pickup in most fantasy leagues, so don’t go asking for the sun, the moon, and the stars. But he’s absolutely a player worth shopping if you can add a more reliable piece with a higher probability of helping over the season’s final two months.
Danny Santana (2B/OF – TEX)
Santana is a threat on the base paths and plays his home games in a great hitting environment, so it’s not like he’s totally void of fantasy value. Yet he’s nowhere near this good. Santana’s .394 BABIP is the third-highest among all hitters with at least 250 plate appearances this season, and Statcast’s batted-ball data suggests he’s among baseball’s most fortunate hitters in terms of both batting average and slugging percentage. Strikeouts are a bit of an issue for him, and a 21.0 percent HR/FB ratio probably isn’t sustainable for a 28-year-old who has already matched the 13 home runs he hit over his first five seasons in the big leagues.