12 Players to Buy/Sell + Week 1 Trade Advice (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
The fantasy baseball season may only be a few days old, but with a condensed 60-game schedule to work with, it’s already time for serious competitors to be looking at ways to improve their squads via trade. In years past, the more cautious fantasy managers among us may have wanted to give their team a few weeks — or even months — to see how it rounds into form before trying to swing a deal. But we’re already little more than a month out from the trade deadline in most leagues, so such patience simply cannot be afforded this time around.
As the season goes along, I’ll try to dig into advanced stats to uncover undervalued players to acquire and overvalued ones to deal away. For now, though, the sample sizes are much too small for that, so I’ll instead mostly be focusing on players that I was already high/low on coming into the season — or those whose circumstances have significantly shifted recently.
If you’d like my input on a deal of your own, reach out to me on Twitter @andrew_seifter and I’ll do my best to advise you. Now here are your Week 1 buys and sells
Hitters to Buy
Charlie Blackmon (OF – COL)
Blackmon was just the 37th player off the board in fantasy drafts this summer, likely stemming from the fact that he tested positive for Covid-19 several weeks before the season. But Blackmon was never really in any doubt of missing Opening Day, so perhaps sheer ageism was also a factor here (he turned 34 years young on July 1). Whatever the case may be, Blackmon hasn’t finished outside the top 30 players in overall 5×5 fantasy value since 2013, an impressive run of excellence for one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the game.
Blackmon is off to a 1-for-12 start this year, but that is far too little evidence to suggest he’s suddenly on the decline. Rather, it could create a small window of buying opportunity. He’s yet to play a game in the friendly confines of Coors Field, and once he does, expect his numbers to improve in a hurry.
David Dahl (OF – COL)
Let’s keep it going with Colorado outfielders because my first buy/sell of the year wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Dahl, my favorite breakout pick of 2020. As I mentioned in the preseason when I dubbed Dahl a “league winner,” if you extrapolate his career numbers to one full season, they look like this: .297 average, 25 home runs, nine steals, 93 runs, and 89 RBIs. Those are sneaky-good fantasy numbers in standard 5×5 leagues, and he should only improve from there in his age-26 season. It’s true that Dahl has had a variety of maladies to this point in his young career, but it’s too early to simply dismiss him as “injury-prone,” and besides, he only needs to stay healthy through 60 games this year. He’s off to a pretty decent 4-for-13 start at the plate, but those aren’t the kind of eye-catching numbers that will massively shift the perceived value of a player who routinely went in the 12th round of fantasy drafts. Perhaps you can even convince the Dahl owner they are selling high.
Howie Kendrick (2B – WAS)
Kendrick is another “oldie-but-goodie” who is being wildly discounted because of his age. Batting average is a rare skill in today’s game, but Kendrick has it in spades. He’s hit at least .293 in six of the last seven seasons, and over .300 in three straight. At 37 years old, he’s no longer the stolen base threat he once was, but he’s more than made up for that with increased power, smacking 30 home runs over his last 791 at-bats dating back to 2017. Last season marked a career-year for Kendrick, but keep in mind that his numbers were fully supported by his peripherals, including his exit velocity, hard contact rate, and strikeout rate. He’s off to a slow 2-for-12 start but should turn it around soon. He’s hitting cleanup in a solid lineup, is eligible at the weakest position other than catcher, and is virtually assured of regular playing time with the addition of a designated hitter in the National League.
Pitchers to Buy
Tyler Glasnow (SP – TB)
Time may already be running out to acquire Glasnow, who hurled four innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts against the Braves’ loaded lineup on Monday. But it was just four innings, so perhaps the price has not yet skyrocketed on a pitcher who went 70th overall, on average, in fantasy drafts this year. After several lost years in Pittsburgh, Glasnow was delivering on his potential in a huge way in his first season in Tampa — before missing nearly four months with a forearm strain. But Glasnow came right back and resumed dominating last September, and he looks to be picking up right where he left off. Yes, there is some injury risk here, but Glasnow has been a completely different pitcher under the Rays’ tutelage, and he has all the makings of a Cy Young winner if he can just stay healthy. I’ll gladly take that chance for the cost it will take to acquire him in most fantasy leagues.
Rich Hill (SP – MIN)
Hill has not yet made his first start of the 2020 season, so I’ll stick with what I said about him in the preseason when I identified him as a potential league winner. He’s been nothing short of fantastic on a per-start basis since transitioning back to a starter in 2015, averaging an ERA right around 3.00 and nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Granted, he never topped 136 innings in any of those seasons, but fantasy owners should gladly take 60-70 great innings from him over this year’s 60-game slate. Add in the fact that Twins pitchers look to be the single-biggest winners of this season’s regional schedule, and Hill is poised to have his most impactful fantasy season yet.
Shohei Ohtani (SP – LAA)
It’s safe to say that Ohtani’s first start of 2020 did not go according to plan, as he allowed five earned runs to the A’s without retiring a single hitter. Yes, most fantasy managers realize they shouldn’t overreact to one bad start, but this one may just have been bad enough to do the trick. All of the reasons to like Ohtani as a pitcher coming into the season still apply; he’s got great swing-and-miss stuff and the support of a strong Angels lineup, and he’s had more than enough time to fully recover from his Tommy John operation. He’s going to pitch a bit less often than other starters, but we knew that already. Ohtani clearly has the ability to produce as a top-30 starting pitcher in fantasy leagues, and one rough start doesn’t change his outlook.
Hitters to Sell
Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
Altuve is still a very strong fantasy asset, particularly in the batting average department, but his appeal is beginning to wane in certain respects. After stealing 30+ bases in six consecutive seasons, his stolen base total dipped to 17 in 2018 before cratering down to six last year. He mostly made up for it in 2019 with a career-best 31 home runs, but that was fueled by a 23.3 percent HR/FB ratio that was far higher than he’d ever had before. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate continued to climb, making it unlikely he hits .330 again anytime soon. He can still hit around .300 and score plenty of runs, but he could underwhelm in both HRs and SBs as he did to some extent in 2018.
Depending on how you’ve constructed your team, it may be difficult to part with Altuve. Second base is a pretty scarce position, so you’ll certainly need a capable fill-in. But assuming you have another good option at the keystone, it absolutely makes sense to float his name in trade negotiations to see if anyone is willing to pay for his past elite production. The fact he’s off to a strong start — seven runs, a homer, and a steal through four games — could make it a bit easier.
George Springer (OF – HOU)
Like his teammate Jose Altuve, Springer is a good fantasy player whose perceived value could well exceed his actual value. Springer is coming off of a career year, but that was due in large part to an unsustainable 29.5 percent HR/FB ratio that was the fifth-highest in baseball. If some of those long balls had turned into outs, it not only would have cut into his career-high 39 home runs and 96 RBIs; it also would have significantly reduced his .292 batting average, which was also a career-best. With a strikeout rate that has been creeping back up the last few years, Springer profiles as a player that can hit .265-.270 with 30 HRs and 5 SBs over the course of a full season. Those are fine numbers, but not worthy of a player that went among the top 40 picks in fantasy drafts this year.
Matt Olson (1B – OAK)
With 90 home runs through his first 1,283 career at-bats, Olson has shown that his power is absolutely legit, and he deserves a lot of credit for recovering his power stroke so quickly after breaking his hamate bone last season. The problem is his deficiencies in other areas, namely batting average and stolen bases. His 25.1 percent career strikeout rate isn’t obscene, but when combined with his perennially high fly ball rate, it’s enough to ensure he’ll only hit around .250. Considering he only has two career stolen bases, that makes him a two — or perhaps three-category player in standard 5×5 leagues. Given how easy power is to come by these days, even at the weaker-than-usual first base position, Olson is a player who can be rather easily replaced in many leagues and formats.
Pitchers to Sell
Trevor Bauer (SP – CIN)
Bauer is a guy who can look like the best pitcher in the game if you catch him on the right day, but the consistency just hasn’t been there to be considered an elite fantasy ace. Outside of his dominant 2018 season with the Indians, he’s never posted an ERA under 4.00 or a WHIP lower than 1.25. He’s undoubtedly a much better strikeout pitcher than he was earlier in his career, but his walk rate has stubbornly remained higher than you’d like to see, and the home run ball has also been a significant thorn in his side, particularly last year. Bauer seems to defy every expectation, but at 29 years old we should accept him for what he is: a third or fourth starter in standard fantasy leagues. You can likely find someone in your league who believes he’s something more.
Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Soroka has had nothing but success since he joined the Braves’ rotation in 2018, but he’s fast becoming a player that is destined to be better in real life than in fantasy baseball. The cold hard truth is that fantasy managers need pitchers who strike batters out, particularly in leagues with an innings cap.
Through his first 206 1/3 Big League innings, Soroka has a cool 2.70 ERA, but just a 7.24 K/9 rate. The lack of strikeouts means that Soroka needs to post a truly elite ERA and WHIP to fully deliver for his fantasy owners, something he managed to pull off last year but will be exceedingly difficult to keep up. For example, Soroka had approximately the same amount of fantasy value last year as Luis Castillo, whose ERA was 0.72 runs higher. Given his low whiff rate, Soroka profiles as a pitcher who will post a mid-3.00s ERA and WHIP around 1.20 — solid numbers for a pitcher who strikes out over a batter per inning, but not so much in Soroka’s case. At the end of the day, Soroka is a pitcher who appears to be on the Kyle Hendricks career trajectory, but many fantasy managers will value him much more highly than that because of his youth.
Players to target: Brandon Woodruff, Carlos Carrasco, Shohei Ohtani
Robbie Ray (SP – ARI)
It may sound strange to those who remember Ray’s dominant 2017 season, but this is a pitcher who severely lacks upside in standard fantasy formats. The reason for that is his consistently ugly walk rate, which corresponds with an equally ugly WHIP. Yes, he will get you over 12 strikeouts per nine innings, but he is unlikely to be of much help anywhere else, limiting his value to that of a fourth or fifth fantasy starter that you would need to account for elsewhere by emphasizing ratios with the rest of your staff. I suppose a combination of Soroka and Ray could theoretically work out alright, but both are flawed fantasy assets who are going to be overvalued in a lot of fantasy leagues.
Week 1 Trade Advice
This section of the article is new for 2020. The idea is to give you some more general advice on how to approach trades as the season goes along.
For this week, I’ll just repeat what I said at the top: don’t wait too long to explore the trade market in this shortened season. If your team has flaws, you’re going to have much less time to fix them, and making trades from an area of strength to address your weaknesses is always a more surefire way of plugging holes than just hoping to strike gold on the waiver wire. So get out there and start making some offers!
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.