Buy-High, Sell-Low: Week 2 (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Don’t look now, but the quarter-point of the 60-game season has arrived. Looming right behind it is the Trade Deadline. Seriously. It’s right there.
We’re running out of time. The good news is that we aren’t the only ones.
For each candidate we have on this list of “Buy-High, Sell-Low,” we could conceivably make the argument from the other side of the equation. People will expect rebounds from certain players, and we can salvage some value by selling a low point. Lower than we would like, anyway.
People will also look to profit from a player they grabbed on the waiver wire. Let them profit. It’s you who can still make the most of the remaining 50 games.
This is, after all, a sprint. There’s no time to slow down.
Below is a list of players to buy at a premium or sell at a discount as well as some suggested offers and targets. To avoid suggesting like-player-for-like-player, pitchers were often paired with hitters and vice versa.
Hitters to Buy
Trent Grisham (OF – SD)
I’ve now written about Trent Grisham in three or four articles over the last few weeks, but each passing day becomes more important and more impressive for the young outfielder from the San Diego Padres. As of this writing, he ranks fifth in the league in Offensive WAR and has four home runs and two stolen bases. Most importantly, he should remain near the top of a solid lineup where he is protected by Manny Machado and has Fernando Tatis Jr. ahead of him.
It’s possible that someone in your league grabbed Grisham as a flier and wants to turn a profit by expecting a regression. Buy into Grisham anyway and pay a decent premium to do so.
Players to offer: Kenta Maeda
Yoan Moncada (3B – CWS)
Yoan Moncada was one of my top targets throughout the entire offseason, but his stock slid right before Opening Day — the delayed edition — because of a positive COVID-19 test. Moncada has proven that he is not only healthy but rounding out into the hitter many expected for the past few years. The Chicago White Sox have a deep lineup, but Moncada is entrenched firmly in the middle — or first-half — of it.
Chicago is trailing behind in terms of games played, so there is plenty of time to get the best of Moncada. He won’t be cheap, but you could try to keep the price down by making the argument that third base is extremely deep. Still, he is worth the investment.
JaCoby Jones (OF – DET)
This is a fun one. Nobody expected JaCoby Jones to explode for three home runs and a .379 batting average through the first nine games of 2020, and even fewer expect it to continue. Maybe they’re right, and maybe Jones completely flops.
Or maybe he’s taking advantage of a short season and pushing all of the metaphorical chips to the center of the table. If so, we should do the same and be ‘all-in’ with Jones.
JaCoby Jones is never one to walk, as he finished all but one season with a walk rate lower than 6.0 percent. The key here is league format. If you need on-base percentage, then Jones is probably not worth a target. If on-base percentage doesn’t matter, then Jones is a prime candidate for a trade.
The fact that Jones rarely walks — to date, he has one walk in 31 plate appearances — means he can continue to deliver counting metrics. He’ll swing the bat and remain aggressive, which is exactly what we want in most fantasy leagues, and even more in the shortened 2020 season.
The Detroit Tigers will be sidelined for a few games due to their opponent — the St. Louis Cardinals — dealing with positive COVID-19 tests. Now would be the time to pounce where an owner might be looking for the layoff to negatively impact Jones.
Players to offer: German Marquez
Pitchers to Buy
Chris Paddack (SP – SD)
It doesn’t take much to convince most fantasy owners that Chris Paddack is a solid, trustworthy pitcher. The question is usually about what comes next. “Where can Paddack go from here?” Therein lies the value in targeting him now.
At 2-0 and with a sub-3.00 ERA, Paddack is technically improving on his rookie season. In fact, his FIP in 2020 is currently lower than his ERA from 2019 — 2.98 versus 3.33 — further suggesting that Paddack won’t suddenly crumble. The enticing part is that his strikeout rate is lagging behind the rest of his numbers. He’s actually one of only four players whose strikeout rate is lower than one-per-inning with a FIP below 3.00 and at least two starts.
There’s still room for Paddack to increase his value while holding one of the more stable floors in his price range.
Players to offer: Eloy Jimenez
Luis Castillo (SP – CIN)
It won’t be easy, but it’s worth paying up for Luis Castillo. There’s a small chance that you can use some of his numbers against him, but a savvy owner will see through it. Be that savvy owner.
Castillo is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts. Not impressive, right? Not on the surface, anyway.
Everything changes when we look under the hood. Castillo’s FIP is an incredible 0.70, second in the league to only Shane Bieber — if you want to learn a fun fact, Bieber’s FIP is currently negative. Castillo’s strikeout rate ranks ninth as of this writing, and he has not allowed a home run. Why, then, is the ERA so bad?
In a word, Castillo has been “unlucky.” We don’t like to use luck as an excuse, but Castillo is striking out batters at a high rate and keeping the ball in the park. The problem is that he has allowed the second-highest BABIP in the league. Hitters are finding holes, and Castillo is paying the price.
This won’t continue forever. Buy Castillo now before his price rises dramatically.
Players to offer: Gleyber Torres
Julio Urias (SP/RP – LAD)
Much of what was written about Chris Paddack can be applied to Julio Urias, as Urias is one of the four aforementioned pitchers with at least two starts, a FIP under 3.00, and a strikeout rate of less than one-per-inning. Also like Paddack, Urias has a strikeout potential much higher than what he is currently delivering.
Urias’ win potential remains strong thanks to the team for which he pitches, but the reality is that he is crafting his own resume quite nicely. His ERA is almost identical to where it finished in 2019, but his FIP is even better. As soon as his strikeout rate increases, his price will, as well. Don’t wait for that to happen, as he is already growing more valuable with each start.
Players to offer: DJ LeMahieu
Hitters to Sell
Christian Yelich (OF – MIL)
Yes, it’s crazy to sell Christian Yelich, but, as you’ll see with one of the pitchers listed, the goal of this column is to find players who are sinking and move them before their value gets lower. In Yelich’s case, we might have hit the bottom of his value. A rebound is likely. The reality, however, is that we paid a top-five pick for a player who has a long way to go to deliver on that price. If possible, why not pull the trigger and swap him for someone who is already performing?
Yelich will fetch a nice haul simply because it’s unlikely that he remains so cold. Someone will buy at a relative discount, but you would also be gaining a player of current equal value. In a 60-game season — now less than 50 for most teams — that’s crucial. If it takes Yelich another week or two to get back on track, it might actually be too late.
Be aggressive and see what return you can get for the former National League MVP.
Players to target: Max Scherzer
Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN)
Like Yelich, people will buy Eugenio Suarez. Now. That might not be the case if he continues to underperform, especially in the power department.
Suarez hit 49 home runs in 2019 and was an ideal candidate for regression — 49 home runs were 15 more than his prior career-high. Regression-or-not, we should have seen some power from Suarez in the first ten games of the year, and he has disappointed massively. Let someone else wait for the turnaround in a season in which patience is limited.
Josh Bell (1B – PIT)
We can’t totally be surprised by Josh Bell’s slow start to 2020. He completely fell off-the-map at the end of 2019, where he batted .233 with a .429 slugging percentage in the second half after hitting .302 and slugging .648 in the first half. It makes sense that pitchers might have adjusted.
It’s also possible that pitchers are simply avoiding Bell. Other than Colin Moran, no other hitter — including Bell — from the Pittsburgh Pirates has more than one home run. Granted, Moran frequently bats behind Bell, but it clearly doesn’t matter.
The good news is that Bell’s value hasn’t evaporated. He is a source of power at a position that is not as deep in 2020 as we have seen in the past. He serves as viable trade bait even with his struggles.
Players to target: Jordan Montgomery
Pitchers to Sell
Mike Clevinger (SP – CLE)
It feels wrong to put Mike Clevinger on this list, and it’s blatantly obvious that he could burn me by dominating for the rest of the season. Still, if the goal is “selling low” to still get some value in return, then Clevinger must be included.
To date, Clevinger ranks dead last in Major League Baseball in WAR among qualified starting pitchers. He’s second only to Caleb Smith in terms of the highest FIP.
The goal here is to target an owner who believes a turnaround is coming with Clevinger. As previously stated, it’s possible. Given the time constraints of the season, however, we can’t afford to hold onto a depreciating asset much longer. Someone will pay for Clevinger now, and there’s no guarantee that will still be the case in a week. Remember that he did have knee surgery earlier this year, and a down season is not impossible.
Players to target: Keston Hiura
Dallas Keuchel (SP – CWS)
Admittedly, there won’t be much of a market for Dallas Keuchel. The only play, therefore, is to direct a possible buyer’s attention to Keuchel’s history and his new team’s win potential — thanks to the Chicago White Sox boasting a rather impressive offense.
Keuchel can still complete five innings of work and be eligible for a win on a regular basis, but he won’t give much else. He’s never been a strikeout-heavy pitcher — in his eight prior seasons, he finished with a strikeout rate of less than one-per-inning every year — and it doesn’t look like he’ll suddenly gain this ability. Find someone who needs wins and can afford to give a bat.
Hansel Robles (RP – LAA)
Like Keuchel, Hansel Robles won’t have a lot of buyers. Also like Keuchel, there is a built-in sales pitch behind Robles: he currently gets saves. Can that change at any moment? Of course. By the time this article publishes, it might already have changed. Still, saves are finite and Robles is one path that leads to them. Use that to avoid dropping the closer without getting anything in return.
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.