Buy Low, Sell High: Francisco Lindor, Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Each week in this column, we will continue to look at players through the lens of advanced metrics and various statistical trends to discover which players are underachieving or overachieving in the hopes of identifying potential trade targets or those worth selling at peak value.
Some of the data can be used to acquire a player at a lower price point because he has lost value or sell players when they peak in value for a larger return on your investment.
Find stats showing that a player’s value is actually on the upswing and acquire that player at a fair price, knowing his value is almost sure to keep increasing anyway. Conversely, sell players who hold widely held perceived value but for whom underlying stats show may be on the verge of seeing the floor collapse and get out now.
Thus far, the data sample is starting to stabilize, and while more time is still needed to truly gather which players look like premium buys or sunk costs, we have enough to guide our decisions.
This week features a star-studded cast of buy low candidates all hitting under .200, and perhaps quite a few surprising sell high ones as well.
Always remember, every ball hit and thrown still tells a story, and if you want to review previous Buy Low, Sell High suggestions from prior weeks, you can view them here.
Francisco Lindor has not enjoyed the best start to his new tenure in New York, slashing just .207/.329/.276 and just one HR as of this writing. However, postponements have kept him from really finding his groove at the plate. A deeper dive reveals that his BB:K (1.25) is at a career-high (absurdly small sample size, I know!), but Statcast shows a Max Exit Velo (112 mph) that would rank as the third-best of his career, and the xBA and xSLG are better than his actual numbers. Find the impatient Lindor manager in your league and him or her a deal and a bag of peanuts for good measure.
On second thought, hold the peanuts (and Lindor, if you have him).
It’s unlikely that the brutal start against Boston (one IP, seven ER) has Giolito’s manager ready to bail, but the surface stats (just one Win, 5.79 ERA) through four starts makes this the perfect time to send out an offer. Before the catastrophe that was Boston, Giolito struck out at least eight in all three of his previous starts. Perhaps the recent news of Giolito having his start pushed back due to a cut on his finger will elicit a deep enough groan from his manager to open the door just enough to entertain the right deal.
Now let’s take a look at a string of hitters batting under .200 to start the year.
Albies will continue to be in this space until he turns it around and then becomes off-limits again. The K%, BB%, and absurdly low BABIP (.163) all show a sound approach at the place. He’s not going to hit .163 forever. Moreover, Statcast data (.320 xBA, .536 xSLG) means liftoff is imminent.
Since 2017, Suarez has the most home runs in the National League. His Barrel% (14.3 is right in line with 2020 and even better than 2019. His maxEV is down a bit (110 mph), but it’s still top 60 in baseball and better than teammate Nick Castellanos, who is up to seven HRs already. Once Suarez starts squaring the ball up again, it’s going to leave the yard early and often. THE BAT projected Suarez for 41 dingers this year.
Earlier today, David Bell spoke about his confidence in Eugenio Suárez. pic.twitter.com/bC3hN8eqer
— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) April 21, 2021
Oakland has been on fire lately, but Chapman hasn’t been able to contribute much to the party (not at the plate, at least). The slugger is hitting a paltry .162 with three home runs (after hitting ten in 57 games last year). Much of his struggles can be attributed to a .200 BABIP that’s more than 80 points below his career norms. The maxEV is down, but his Barrel% is even higher than it was in 2019 (when he mashed 36 bombs).
Asked Matt Chapman about his early-season slump at the plate: pic.twitter.com/1VUO1uW0EC
— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) April 25, 2021
Dansby Swanson was drafted as a value play for those waiting on a shortstop. The former blue-chip prospect is slashing just .183/.266/.310 to begin the year, and I’m sure that has many of his managers hoping for a .270 season with 15/15 upside now debating whether he’s a drop candidate. Like with many on this list, Swanson’s BABIP is below his career average, but it’s not egregiously low. His BB% is down, and his K% is up, suggesting he’s likely pressing now. Those looking for silver linings can point to an xBA of .240, and though that’s hardly inspiring, the 48.9% HardHit%, would be eight points greater than his previous career-high. With only one dinger and no stolen bases to his credit, Swanson has probably worn out his manager’s patience, so he’s a nice MI target to acquire on the cheap.
The late bloomer managed to pull his average above .200 over the weekend. With any luck, he will stop pressing, and we will see that career-high K% (32.6%) decrease. The BB% is similar to what he’s produced since San Francisco dusted him off Baltimore’s scrap heap and turned him into an All-Star. He homered over the weekend, and his 109.4 maxEV would be a career-high. The fact that he left Sunday’s game with oblique tightness should make him even cheaper to acquire, especially if you have some depth to cover. Buy the dip on what should be a highly productive third outfielder moving forward.
— James Donohue (@Cool_Hip_Jim) April 24, 2021
Like Yaz above, Marcus Semien is finally hitting above the Mendoza line. Shrew drafters who waited on second base during draft season knew that Semien would eventually gain access at the keystone, but the production has not yet met expectations. A paltry .232 BABIP is partly to blame, and Semien already has five blasts to go along with five steals after taking just four bases in twice the amount of games last year for Oakland. He could legitimately finish as a 20/20 player if this pace holds, so pounce now if the ugly average has been too unsightly for his manager to handle.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is another Blue Jay who crossed the Mendoza line this past weekend. The abysmal 2.9% BB% and goose egg in the dinger department definitely has many of his managers thinking about bailing before it gets any worse. However, Gurriel’s BABIP currently sits 60 points lower than his career average, and Statcast shows an xBA of .249. The underlying Statcast metrics aren’t as good as 2019 or 2020, but they aren’t alarming either. You can probably use that as part of your pitch to buy low, insisting that you still believe despite what the numbers show. His manager may have already lost patience.
Michael Conforto showed he could hit lefties last year (.284 average vs. lefties with a .203 ISO that was better against lefties than righties), but the trend may not hold up this year (.091 v L, .244 v R), and Statcast paints a concerning picture (109.7 maxEV would be a career-low, as would 24.3% HardHit%). Maybe he’s hurt, and maybe he turns it around. Regardless, outfield is deep enough that you can move him if you have other needs. His name value carries enough weight that you can still sell high enough.
Matt Olson is a quality slugger, but he’s playing at an MVP level right now with six bombs and a .320 average. His BABIP is .308, but he held a .300 BABIP in 2019 as well. His Brls/PA% (14.1) is top 4 in all of baseball. So why sell now? Well, for his career, Olson has never had a strikeout rate below 24.7%, and last year it was as high as 31.4%. So far in 2021, Olson’s K% is just 15.2%. I don’t expect that to hold. Olson doesn’t have the profile of a .300 hitter, with .267 being his previous career-best average. I think he will continue to remain a productive slugger, but a regression to the mean is likely, making him a prime sell-high candidate. I love the stats he’s putting up during this hot streak…
Javier Baez’s plate discipline has never done him any favors, but this year it has reached catastrophic levels. Baez is currently walking just 1.2% of the time but striking out a whopping 42.7% of his plate appearances. It’s worth noting that this is a trend – Baez’s BB% has been steadily declining since 2018 while his K% has risen each season. He has six home runs and five steals as of this writing, so a manager in need of power and speed would make a perfect partner here. The underlying skills make it highly unlikely he hits anywhere close to .280 or .290 as he did a few years ago.
Brewers pitching has experienced a bit of a renaissance this year, but Freddy Peralta looks like one most likely to turn into a pumpkin. His manager has to be loving the 2.45 ERA and K/9 over 15.0. Unfortunately, a 5.32 BB/9 tells the story of a pitcher who keeps putting runners on base when he isn’t striking them out. Eventually, those free passes are going to bite back, and when they do, that ERA will probably have a floor of 3.45 instead. For now, another manager could be viewing Peralta as a breakout ace in line with teammates Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Find that manager and say…
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.