Buy Low, Sell High: Cedric Mullins, Trevor Bauer, Zach Eflin (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.
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.
Freddie Freeman (1B – ATL)
Freeman has largely underperformed this season, and the power output has not been enough to put the frustrations and concerns of his fantasy managers at bay. That said, Freeman keeps making this list because nearly all of those frustrations can be attributed to the fact that he is only hitting .229, but that .227 BABIP will start correcting itself soon. Freeman’s wOBA is .345, but his xwOBA sits at an elite .412.
Anthony Rizzo (1B – CHC)
Rizzo is currently sporting a 1.04 BB-K rate, which would be a career-best. His .255 average doesn’t speak volumes, nor the meager five home runs, but a low BABIP and deflated 8.3% HR/FB rate have not helped. If that rate climbs closer to his career norms, Rizzo will be n for a very productive second half.
Zach Eflin (SP – PHI)
Guess who the top four starters are in K/BB rate. Fine, I’ll tell you. Your top three are, unsurprisingly, Corbin Burnes, Jacob deGrom, and Gerrit Cole, but Zach Eflin rounds out the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse for now. It’s not the only stat that makes Eflin an appealing buy, either. His 4.10 ERA surely doesn’t have any of his managers gushing, but it comes with a 3.28 xFIP and 3.45 SIERA. The dude is pitching better than you think.
Carlos Santana (1B – KC)
Carlos Santana has long been a value in OBP leagues, but the move to Kansas City, with its spacious home park and poor surrounding cast, had many fantasy managers fading Santana this year. Despite that, Santana continues to score bunches of runs, and his 30-homer pace this year makes him a fine slugger to park in your 1B slot.
WALKING MAN UPDATE: In the first 55 games of his Royals career, Carlos Santana has walked 43 times. That is the most walks in *any* 55-game stretch by any Royal this century. (The previous high was 42, by Mike Sweeney in 2003.)
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) June 5, 2021
Cedric Mullins (OF – BAL)
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to hold onto Mullins. A quick look at the surface stats shows he’s rapidly morphing into a franchise-caliber stud (.322/.390/.533 on a 20/20 pace). Nonetheless, we should remember that Mullins (who turns 27 this month) has never hit more than 14 home runs as a professional before. While projections are optimistically pegging him to cross the 20/20 threshold this year (barely), most have him hitting closer to .245 the rest of the way. None of this means that Mullins won’t be productive, but selling at peak value would offer a prime return on a minimal investment.
John Means (SP – BAL)
The no-hitter is a nice story, but the 2.28 ERA is really just a mask for a 4.17 FIP. Even if we go with xFIP (3.95), Means is a prime sell high as long as regression hasn’t quite reared its ugly head yet. The 8.75 K/9 is respectable, but nothing in his profile says this run is sustainable. While the injury hurts his value, if you can find a believer in your league, then make a move. It’s time to say thank you and goodbye.
Trevor Bauer (SP – LAD)
Hear me out on this one. Bauer has been outstanding. His 11.26 K/9 and 2.40 ERA are elite. However, his 3.79 FIP represents a 1.38 differential, which is the third-highest in baseball right now. The argument to sell now is that you might be able to fetch a premium hitter in return before Bauer starts to look a bit more mortal. All projections have him posting an ERA in the 3.50 range rest of the season.
Jared Walsh (1B – LAA)
Jared Walsh has been exceptional, and he looks poised to hit 30+ home runs this year. My concern is with the fact he’s rocking a .390 wOBA that puts him among the game’s elite when his .335 xwOBA actually slots him in an xwOBA tier with Hunter Renfroe, Yermín Mercedes, and Kyle Schwarber. His .360 BABIP isn’t overly egregious, but for a player devoid of speed, we should expect it to drop enough that selling high now makes sense if the return is great.
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.