Buy-High, Sell-Low: Week 3 (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
We are about to reach a new checkpoint for the 2020 season.
In previous weeks, we had to balance making snap decisions with a player’s starting value. We cared about where someone was drafted and how they were perceived in the offseason. This is still the case, but it’s drawing to a close. It’s at the point where it hardly matters what price we paid for a player because everything is vastly different.
In a normal year, we can take a few calculated risks in the first weeks of the season. Sometimes a hot start will turn into a hot year. In 2020, the hot start essentially is the hot year. Therefore, we are about to cut ties with most players’ reputations and, where possible, look for other managers still using outdated values.
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
Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)
It won’t be easy to convince someone to part with Aaron Judge, but such is the task if we want to “buy high” on a player whose value shouldn’t decrease. Like his teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, Judge is not exactly exempt from the injury bug. He carries high risk. He also carries high reward.
Judge was arguably the hottest hitter in baseball last week, and he isn’t slowing down. He now leads MLB in home runs and is tied with Charlie Blackmon for first in RBIs, and his .290 batting average remains high. What’s most interesting is that Judge is hardly walking, which is uncommon for him. In his three prior seasons, Judge’s lowest walk rate was 14.3 percent. Currently, it’s at 4.4 percent. This is the lowest of all 18 hitters who have at least five home runs on the year.
I made this claim for another hitter in recent weeks, but the fact that Judge isn’t walking makes it possible that he is being more aggressive at the plate. It’s hard to blame him with his current hot streak, and there’s little evidence to suggest it’s about to end.
Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)
No one should be surprised by what Nick Castellanos is doing. He can hit. We know he can hit. He hardly ever does it enough to be considered “elite,” but he is a steady fantasy producer now in a position to thrive. And thrive, he will.
As of this writing, Castellanos is tied for Mike Trout in third with seven home runs with solid numbers in every other category. His ballpark is great for hitters — fourth-best in terms of home runs according to FantasyPros — and the Reds’ lineup is deep. Castellanos had some question marks about finally emerging as a legitimate top fantasy option earlier this season, and it seems we have our answer. Don’t be afraid to buy.
Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN)
It’s almost a running joke that Nelson Cruz can continue to deliver at any age, but the joke’s on us if we don’t believe in him. Cruz has four home runs and is batting a whopping .328/.392/.552. Yes, it’s a short season and numbers can be wild, but his average ranks 11th among all qualified hitters. He’s also scoring and driving in runs at a frantic pace — his team’s lineup is perfect for his skill set.
Cruz has been a consistent producer for years, but the risk is always that Father Time will step in and cause a steep decline. As he continues to prove, Cruz is not about to fall off the map. He can help stabilize most fantasy lineups for the remainder of the short season.
Players to offer: Aaron Nola
Pitchers to Buy
Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)
Brandon Woodruff entered this season as one of the top sleeper picks. Now, he’s one of the top pitchers of the year.
The loss of the “sleeper” tag does not help his price, but we must pay it anyway.
Woodruff is delivering everywhere. His sports a 2.53 ERA and 10.97 K/9 and has completed five innings in three of his four starts. If there’s some hope for a lower asking price, you could make the argument that he isn’t winning games. A smart fantasy player would know better. Wins are certainly in Woodruff’s future if he continues to pitch this well.
Aaron Civale (SP – CLE)
Give credit to those who bought into Aaron Civale’s small sample size from last year and believed he would carry his success into 2020. He has. Now, if we want him, we have to pay a premium.
Civale’s price shouldn’t be extraordinarily high, but it has risen to the point where he won’t be easy to acquire. A 2.84 ERA and 2.29 FIP are impressive in most timeframes, and the fact that he’s held those numbers through the first quarter of the season probably means fantasy managers will rely on him for the foreseeable future. You should do the same.
Players to offer: Giovanny Urshela
Dylan Bundy (SP – LAA)
This one is a bit unfair. I’ve advocated for Dylan Bundy for months, and it’s only now that I get to use him as a “buy-high” candidate. The good news? Most people would view him as a “sell-high” option where implosion is likely. Not so fast.
One of Bundy’s best assets prior to this year was his durability. In a league in which starting pitchers are filled with fragility, Bundy had made at least 28 starts in three consecutive seasons and 61 combined over the last two years. He’s going to keep getting the ball for the Los Angeles Angels, and they finally can lean on someone to take control of the rotation.
Bundy might revert toward the mean only because he’s been so brilliant in four outings, but we now have confirmation of what he could be. Buy into the potential. It’s finally realizing itself.
Players to offer: Michael Brantley
Hitters to Sell
Gleyber Torres (2B/SS – NYY)
Last week, I wrote about Christian Yelich as a “sell-low” candidate and how easy it was to be burned by him. I stand by it. Why? Because in this short season, we have to cut bait quickly and try to turn nothing into something. Right now, Gleyber Torres is giving us nothing, and we know he is much more valuable than his going rate.
What value is there if he keeps struggling and the playoff race approaches? Worse, what happens if we find out that he’s hurt or opting out of the 2020 season?
The latter examples are a bit extreme, but they highlight how quickly we have to make snap judgments. Someone will pay for Torres, so it’s best to get a return now before none exists.
Players to target: Jose Berrios
Andrew Benintendi (OF – BOS)
While people will pay for Torres, it may not be the case for Andrew Benintendi. He has slid so far down the pecking order in terms of fantasy baseball targets that his value might be too low. Still, it isn’t zero, and that’s the pitch we have to make to a buyer. Someone will view Benintendi as a “buy-low” candidate, and that’s the type of leaguemate we need to find.
The good news for Benintendi is that he is still walking at a high rate, so he’s not a complete lost cause at the plate. He also hasn’t hit a home run in 14 games, but we know the power potential is there.
Players to target: Brady Singer
Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
Name value alone should be enough for someone to take a chance and pay for Jose Altuve. Like Torres, there’s a chance the seller can be burned. So be it.
Altuve is batting .187 and, while his history suggests that brighter days are ahead, we have seen a decline in his production over the years. His average has decreased in each season since 2017, and there’s no guarantee he gets close to .300 in 2020, let alone eclipses it.
Altuve should never fully lose his trade value, but it is lowering by the day.
Players to target: Jon Gray
Pitchers to Sell
Madison Bumgarner (SP – ARI)
Madison Bumgarner heading to the injured list will further deplete whatever trade value was left for the former star pitcher, but we have a small opportunity to capitalize.
People have given up on Bumgarner, and many may drop him. Maybe. But, before you send him to free agency, kick the tires around the league and see if someone wants to “buy low.” He can rebound, and, even though it won’t be to his prior levels, a workhorse like Bumgarner would do wonders in a playoff race. At least, that’s the selling point.
Players to target: Scott Kingery
Johnny Cueto (SP – SF)
If Bumgarner is a tough sell, then Johnny Cueto might be impossible to move. Still, Cueto has value as the ace of a pitching staff. We can’t say that about everyone, and we can say it about even fewer on the trade market.
The ask can’t be huge in return for Cueto, but the goal is to find someone who values quantity over quality and needs the volume of starts that Cueto will bring. As of now, he’s also faced a relatively tough schedule with two starts against the Dodgers and one in Colorado through only four games.
Players to target: Justin Upton
Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW)
Of the three pitchers listed, Lucas Giolito is easily the one that will perk the most ears. People loved Giolito after his 2019 breakout, and there’s no reason why they would be scared away after only a few starts. Play on that. Use the fact that people still believe in him to your advantage and sell before it’s too late.
This season’s regression is not entirely surprising for Giolito. Basically every single number spiked to career bests in 2019, and, if he didn’t immediately continue on his new trajectory, there wouldn’t be enough time to recover. This is an example of how the short season can work against a player, and we’re seeing it come to fruition.
In order for Giolito to be worthy of the high round in which he was drafted, he needs to immediately start delivering like a top-notch ace. Otherwise, we’ll always be aiming for pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, we already are.
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