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Buy Low, Sell High: Gerrit Cole, Anthony DeSclafani, Pete Alonso (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Paul Ghiglieri | @FantasyEvolves | Featured Writer
Jul 13, 2021
Pete Alonso

Buy low on Pete Alonso if you still can.

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.

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Buy Low

Ian Happ (OF – CHI)
Ian Happ was impressive last year, hitting .258/.361/.505 with 12 home runs in 57 games last year. He has been far less impressive this season, but his BB% and K% aren’t dramatically different. The real culprit behind his .183 batting average lies with his .231 BABIP, absurdly low when you consider he’s never posted a BABIP below .286 in the big leagues before now. Assuming some positive regression there, Happ should be able to add some power, a nice OBP, and another 50-60 combined runs and RBIs.

Gerrit Cole (SP – NYY)
Gerrit Cole had been inconsistent at best following MLB’s sticky stuff crackdown, and at times, he had been downright dreadful. Facing one of the better offenses in baseball in the Houston Astros, Cole threw 129 pitches, refusing to come out en route to a complete game shutout complete with 12 strikeouts. All of this came after his shortest outing of the season against the Mets, in which Cole lasted just 3.1 innings. It was an ace performance against Houston from an ace that some actually considered dropping during his rough spell, as unfathomable as that may have seemed. Cole is unlikely to be as consistently dominant without the aid of foreign substances to increase his grip on the ball, but he’s plenty good enough to be a top-tier starter rest of the season. If his manager is looking at this start as a chance to finally find a taker, now would be the time to buy. Heading into the All-Star break, Cole still spots a 2.68 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 147 Ks across 113 IP.

Pete Alonso (1B – NYM)
I recommended Alonso as a buy-low candidate three weeks ago, and all he’s done since then is mash seven home runs and post an OPS over .840. His overall slash line (.250/.328/.478 with 17 bombs) does not look that impressive yet, but his 47.1% HardHit%, 15.7% Barrel%, 92.7 MPH average EV, and 16.3-degree Launch Angle are all the highest of his young career, while he’s striking out less than he ever has. There’s also this meaningless (or strangely foretelling?) tidbit:

Michael Conforto (OF – NYM)
Another Met to target here, as a hamstring strain is a primary reason his offensive production has mostly hit the skids this season, costing him six weeks earlier this year. Although Conforto is only hitting .202, his xBA sits much higher (.264). His Barrel% has dropped to 8.5%, much lower than the 10+% rate he posted in 2019 and 2020’s shortened campaign, but Conforto also boasted an 8.5% Barrel% in 2018 when he mashed 28 home runs, and his BB/K rate is better in 2021. If Conforto can remain healthy, expect the power numbers to increase as he puts the hamstring strain further in the rearview mirror.

Sell High

Hunter Renfroe (OF – BOS)
Hunter Renfroe is nearly 30, and while he’s always provided some pop, it typically came with a low average and OBP, making his production just as much of a drain ad a boon. Renfroe is having a career season this year, hitting .263 with an OBP over .320 for the first time in his career. Renfroe has also dramatically cut down on his K%, striking out less than 22% of the time for the first time in his career. All of this makes him a nice sell-high candidate. The BABIP (.296) isn’t overly egregious, but it’s also the highest of his career. Most projections have him hitting .240 in the second half with roughly a dozen more dingers and a strikeout rate five percent higher.

Jared Walsh (1B – LAA)
I suggested selling high on Jared Walsh back on May 18th. Did you? If not, now would be a good time. He’s hitting .282 with a .340 OBP, 22 homers, and 64 RBIs. However, he’s hitting less than .250 since May 18th, and his K% (27.7%) dwarfs the 13.9% K% he posted in 2020 that helped contribute to the hype. Walsh should still be good in the second half, but he’s unlikely to be as good, meaning we should expect him to hit closer to .250 with maybe 15 more dingers. Trust me, a 37 home runs season makes him an amazing asset, but if you have Walsh, you’ve already likely enjoyed the best -part of the ride. Selling him now to fix an area of need makes the most sense.

Marcus Semien (2B/SS – TOR)
I recommended you sell high on Marcus Semien on June 1st, so hopefully, you cashed out already. If not, take advantage of the 22 home runs he has at the break and hope no one notices he’s hitting just .240 since June 1st. His K% is the highest since 2014, and his xwOBA (.328) pales compared to his actual wOBA (.372).

Anthony DeSclafani (SP – SF)
Tony Disco is the latest reclamation project turned ace in San Francisco, and it is a truly remarkable story. The 31-year-old is having the best season of his career with a 2.68 ERA and 10-3 record. I expect him to continue to be a solid starter in the second half, but it should be noted that his xERA (3.41) is significantly higher than his actual ERA. Moreover, the 81% LOB% seems unsustainable, even though the new pitching philosophy and spacious ballpark in San Francisco mean the career-high GB% and HR/9 probably stick. DeSclafani’s K/9 (8.30) isn’t that remarkable, and he’s likely going to see some regression in the second half. If you can sell him now at the price of an ace, do it.

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Paul Ghiglieri is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Paul, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyEvolves.

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