Buy-High, Sell-Low: Week 5 (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
For the past four weeks, we have looked at players whose value has risen or dropped so sharply that a move must be made. Unlike the usual approach where we want to capitalize on said moves that are likely to regress, this column has focussed on the trends we expect to continue in their current direction.
The task of “Buying High” or “Selling Low” was enhanced in 2020, as the short-season made every possible move that-much-more critical. As a result, we were constantly looking to be aggressive on either side of the trade market.
Now, we’ve reached the end of the trading period. For most leagues, the Trade Deadline is arriving, and we need to make one more set of snap decisions to give us the necessary push into the playoffs.
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
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD)
If the goal is to “buy high” on a player whose stock has risen, then the obvious starting point is Fernando Tatis Jr. His stock has consistently been the highest of all hitters throughout 2020, and he entered this week with the league lead in home runs, stolen bases, runs scored, runs batted in, and, of course, offensive WAR.
The problem is that, despite Tatis being an obvious “sell high” candidate from the other team’s position, it’s not likely that anyone would move him right now. Tatis is tearing through the league and carrying every one of his fantasy teams. Still, if there is one player worth overpaying to get, it’s Tatis.
Jose Abreu (1B – CWS)
While fantasy owners will struggle to part with the aforementioned Tatis, it always seems like Jose Abreu is an easy player to overlook. He has absolutely no “perception value” to the point that he rarely gets the credit he deserves. Still, he hits in the heart of a deep Chicago White Sox lineup and quietly has a .322 batting average and 11 home runs.
Abreu sits in the top-ten for most major categories, and, if not for Tatis, would lead two of them — runs batted in and home runs. It’s likely that others would look to cash in on Abreu’s current price, but the reality is that there is more room for steady production. He’s hit below .284 only once in his career and has four 30-home run seasons to his name.
Players to offer: German Marquez
Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
While Paul Goldschmidt has generally been viewed through a positive lens in the past — people can easily recall how great of a fantasy asset he was in Arizona — his age and sudden decline in 2019 lower his overall value. At least, in the eyes of others.
We should see through it.
Not only is Goldschmidt leading all qualified hitters in on-base percentage — at .507, he is getting on base in more than half of his plate appearances — but his team has not even played 20 games on the season. That means the St. Louis Cardinals have at least 40 more contests and opportunities for Goldschmidt to shine. Take advantage of the scheduling quirk and grab Goldschmidt now.
Players to offer: Patrick Corbin
Pitchers to Buy
Zack Greinke (SP – HOU)
We should not forget that Zack Greinke once had three consecutive seasons — and four total in his career — with an ERA under 2.75. Therefore, Greinke sitting at a 2.21 ERA roughly halfway through his 2020 starts is not overly surprising. More importantly, it is sustainable in this short season.
Greinke’s strikeout rate is down, but it historically sat below 1.00-per-inning for much of his career. Instead, Greinke thrives on limiting hard contact.
It might be hard to pry Greinke away from another team, but he is an ideal candidate for a fantasy roster during a playoff push.
Players to offer: Bryce Harper
Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
I have knocked Lance Lynn countless times in 2020, but he continues to prove his worth. It’s to the point where he is no longer a risk to fail, and, as evidenced by his appearance in this column, a player to target for the home stretch of the season.
Lynn has been a dominant workhorse, leading the league in innings pitched and batters faced. The key, however, lies deeper than the volume.
Lynn has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his seven starts. Most impressively, he capped opponents to two earned runs while throwing a complete game in Colorado, then allowing a season-high two home runs in his following outing. He’s thriving in every situation imaginable, and he has converted me into a believer. I’m paying a premium to acquire Lynn.
Players to offer: Brandon Lowe
Max Fried (SP – ATL)
I mentioned the ability to limit hard contact in Greinke’s writeup, but the pitcher who actually leads the league in inducing soft contact is Max Fried.
Fried had spent quite a long time developing as a prospect, but it looks like he is finally approaching his true potential. He currently ranks in the top-ten for ERA, FIP, soft-hit percentage, hard-hit percentage, and WAR among qualified pitchers. It may not be easy to convince another team to part with Fried, but he should continue thriving for the remainder of the season.
Players to offer: Freddie Freeman
Hitters to Sell
Daniel Murphy (1B/2B – COL)
By virtue of playing his home games in Colorado, Daniel Murphy typically carries value in the trade market. Said value is dropping as Murphy has only three home runs and a .124 ISO through 25 games. He’s not hitting enough to be viable in any ballpark, but it’s even more concerning that he’s struggling with his home field being so friendly to hitters. Moving him would require another owner seeing Murphy’s potential in Colorado.
Players to target: Nathan Eovaldi
Shohei Ohtani (UTIL – LAA)
I was practically driving the Shohei Ohtani bandwagon for any fantasy league that allowed him as a two-way player — without drafting him as two “separate” players — in a daily league, but he has reached the point where he may not be playable anywhere. Pitching has been out of the question for weeks, but Ohtani’s bat was still expected to be a force. It hasn’t, as he is batting a paltry .172 on the year with only five home runs.
Players to target: Jose Berrios
Nolan Arenado (3B – COL)
When I started writing these columns, I didn’t set out to list at least one “big name” player in the “Sell-Low” section, but the opportunity continued to present itself. By now, I was actively looking for someone who fits the mold of the prior installments — Christian Yelich, Jose Altuve, and Cody Bellinger. Each time, I qualify my comments by admitting that we could easily be burned by trading away someone with this pedigree. I then stress how important it is to make aggressive moves if we want to win this sprint.
Trading away Nolan Arenado is an aggressive move. Like his aforementioned teammate, Arenado already carries value from his home ballpark. He also has a history of routinely delivering top-ten fantasy baseball seasons. This will help make him attractive to a prospective buyer.
Why sell? Because Arenado’s offensive WAR of -4.8 ranks eleventh-lowest among qualified hitters. He simply isn’t hitting like the Arenado we’ve known for years.
Players to target: Luis Castillo
Pitchers to Sell
Ryan Yarbrough (SP – TB)
For anyone who has ever argued on behalf of Ryan Yarbrough in the past, the supporting claims were always the same. That is, even if Yarbrough didn’t pitch deep into games or deliver a high innings total, his per-inning output would be excellent. Maybe that was true, but this season’s numbers are telling a different story.
Yarbrough has gone comparatively deep into games, pitching into the sixth inning in half of his six starts. The problem is that he has allowed at least four earned runs in three-of-his-four games in August. He has also struck out two batters or fewer in three starts. If we were buying him for efficiency, then we have to be ready to sell at his current pace.
Players to target: Gary Sanchez
Alex Cobb (SP – BAL)
It will be admittedly difficult to find buyers for Alex Cobb, but he does have enough history to make him mildly enticing on the trade market. Regardless, we’ve reached the point where we can’t wait for Cobb to have a sudden spike in production.
The good news is that Cobb’s ERA is quite good — as of this writing, a respectable 3.73. The bad news is that his strikeout rate is pitiful and his FIP is more than one run higher than his ERA. Try to move him now by highlighting the ERA while knowing that regression is clearly a possibility in the coming weeks.
Players to target: Miguel Cabrera
Mike Clevinger (SP – CLE)
Where do we begin with Mike Clevinger? He started the season with a dominant performance against the Royals, allowed four earned runs through four innings against the Twins, held Cincinnati scoreless through five-and-two-thirds innings, and we have not seen him on the mound since. That’s it. Three starts.
Of course, the Clevinger saga goes much deeper than his statistics. His absence from the mound is due to a violation of the Cleveland Indians’ protocols regarding COVID-19, and there are now rumors that Clevinger might be on the trade block. The conclusion to this story could be anything from extraordinary outings with the Cubs or a handful of mediocre starts with the Indians. The point is, there are countless possible endings.
Every day that passes without Clevinger in your fantasy team’s starting rotation is one more with a lowered value. Take the chance now and move him for someone currently producing.
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.