Sell High, Buy Low: Justin Upton, Eduardo Rodriguez, Kevin Gausman (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.
Justin Upton (OF – LAA)
Justin Upton is only hitting .237, but no batter in baseball has seen a greater increase in xwOBA (.302 then to .521 now) over his last 50 plate appearances than Upton has. Well, except for Evan Longoria, but he is shelved through most of July with a shoulder injury. Upton’s Max EV (116.5 MPH) is the highest of his career at age 34, as is the HardHit%, Barrel%, and BB%.
Justin Upton walked yet again. He’s walked 14 times in 50 plate appearances (28 percent) in the month of June.
Oh and he’s homered four times this month as well.
— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) June 15, 2021
Alex Kirilloff (OF – MIN)
Kirilloff’s season has been quite a rollercoaster in terms of production, but he is starting to hit his stride again. Sporting a 50% HardHit%, .315 xBA, and 14.8 Barrel%, Kirilloff just needs to stay healthy to start producing like a solid power-hitting outfielder. Ignore the .254 average. Focus on the damage that he is doing in the zone.
Alex Kirilloff since returning from the IL on May 21st:
• .276 BA
• 43.1% hard
• 76.6% Z-Swing
— Fantasy Central (@FantasyCentral1) June 14, 2021
Alec Bohm (3B – PHI)
Alec Bohm has largely been a disappointment this season, hitting just .220/.263/.308. However, Bohm’s xBA (.269) is evidence that he has been much better than that. Bohm’s HardHit% and Max EV are both in the 80th percentile, and his sprint speed should produce a BABIP higher than .289.
Alec Bohm now with 6 straight games with a hit. Getting out of the sophomore slump. #ringthebell
— Clay Thomas O. (@coberholtzer52) June 15, 2021
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS)
ERod has been downright brutal for fantasy managers this year (6.03 ERA, .490 SLG against, .356 wOBA), but his expected stats tell a different story. Rodriguez’s xERA (3.59) is more than respectable, and that differential between ERA and xERA is the fourth-highest among qualified pitchers.
Adolis Garcia (OF – TEX)
Garcia has been a fine story, and his Barrel%, Max EV, and HardHit% are all elite. That said, no hitter in baseball has seen a greater decrease in xwOBA over his last 50 PA than Garcia (.450 then, .265 now). The window to sell high on him is closing.
Jared Walsh (1B – LAA)
Walsh continues to be a regular in this spot, but I swear that I have no ax to grind with him. Admittedly, he is a Max EV stud (92nd percentile), but there isn’t anything special about his HardHit%, and his xwOBA, xSLG, and xBA are all rather pedestrian. Walsh is still running a 27.1% strikeout rate, and the .361 BABIP figures to regress some.
Kevin Gausman (SP – SF)
Gausman looks like a Cy Young candidate so far this year (1.43 ERA, 10.69 K/9). However, the BABIP against (.213) isn’t sustainable, and his HR/9 (o.66) is below 1.21 for the first time 2014. Gausman is limiting hard contact and getting hitters to chase; unfortunately, the HR/FB rate (7.9%) is also absurdly low, and it’s the first time that number has been below 13% since… you guessed it, 2014. Gausman’s SIERA (3.07) is evidence that he has been good, but he is living on two pitches, and the return you could fetch for moving him now probably outweighs what he will likely provide over the rest of this season.
Adding on the great Kevin Gausman story written by @SlangsOnSports: After last night, Gausman now has two of the four most valuable pitches in @MLB, his 4-seamer and splitter. https://t.co/DD2DVLS7cp @SFGiants @MLBNetwork @MLBStats
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 20, 2021
Cedric Mullins (OF – BAL)
Like Adolis Garcia, Mullins continues to be a good story. Also like Garcia, he is another sell-high candidate. Aside from his sprint speed, nothing about Mullins’ Statcast profile stands out. His Max EV is actually lower this season than it was in 2020 or 2019. His .373 BABIP, if it actually holds, would be the highest of his career at any level. What Mullins has going for him is that he has increased his BB% and lowered his K%, evidence that he is an improved hitter. He fits the profile of a 20/20 hitter, but one that is likely to hit .250 rather than .320 the rest of the way, as the projections suggest. Mullins has a .390 wOBA, but his xwOBA sits at .340. That 50 point difference is the seventh-largest in baseball right now. The rest of his counting stats figure to suffer due to poor team context as well.
Cedric Mullins gets on base as the potential tying run with nobody out in the 8th and steals second base … just for Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander to go down on strikes.
Then Mullins steals third!
Followed by a DJ Stewart strikeout to end the inning.
— Dillon Atkinson (@DillonTAtkinson) June 15, 2021
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.