Buy Low, Sell High: Jorge Soler, Joey Gallo, Max Kepler (Fantasy Baseball 2021)
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.
Jorge Soler (OF – ATL)
It has not been pretty owning Soler this season. He’s hitting just .200, and the 13 bombs have hardly resembled a power assault on opposing pitchers. However, expected statistics show he’s been unlucky. His .238 xBA is at least a bit more palatable, and the .471 xSLG dwarfs his .375 SLG by comparison. Go deeper, and you’ll find his Average EV and Max EV all sit in the 90th-plus percentile range. In fact, his 51.4% HardHit% is actually the highest of his career. Traded to the Braves at the deadline, Soler is hitting .262 over the last month and .324 over his last two weeks. Soler could easily be the low-key acquisition you make at the deadline that pays dividends.
Max Kepler (OF – MIN)
Kepler is another under-the-radar type of target that could provide a nice profit moving forward. He’s only hitting .206, but his xBA (.243) is closer to league average. His teammate, Alex Kirilloff, has been featured here more than once as a buy-low candidate for many of the same reasons surrounding expected stats. Kepler’s wOBA (.310) falls below his xwOBA (.332), and the power has shown up recently as he’s hit eight homers in the last month.
Sonny Gray (SP – CIN)
Sonny Gray is sporting an uninspiring 4.26 ERA. That said, the quality of contact against has told a different story. Gray’s .326 wOBA looks better when you realize the xwOBA is .295. Furthermore, his xERA sits at 3.66. Expect a much better stretch run for Gray.
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) August 2, 2021
Kenta Maeda (SP – MIN)
Many expected the Twins to move Maeda at the deadline, but a deal never came to fruition. His 4.40 ERA and 1.30 WHIP are rather unsightly, but he has pitched to a 2.15 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over the last month. His xERA is 3.77, and the xSLG against sits at.385 instead of his actual .435 mark.
Kenta Maeda has been named the #MNTwins Player of the Month for July!
11.0 K/9 pic.twitter.com/Obh2Nrxukp
— Twins Gems (@TwinsGems) August 1, 2021
Joey Gallo (OF/1B – NYY)
According to Statcast’s rolling xwOBA leaderboard, Gallo’s xwOBA has dropped from .608 to .218 over his last 50 plate appearances. This metric is invaluable at helping us spot which players have turned around their performance (in either direction) from the period directly preceding it. Gallo hitting .149 over the last month and just .217 on the season. Nonetheless, Gallo’s power stroke is tailor-made for the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. The trade from floundering Texas, where Gallo has endured a losing season every year since 2016, to a signature franchise in New York fighting for a pennant, surely has fantasy managers believing the transition will invigorate Gallo. He will be impossible to pitch around, given the star-studded lineup around him. An argument can be made that Gallo’s ability to take a walk should result in more runs scored, and the power should remain prolific. However, the drop in his xwOBA could lead to a rockier or at least slower transition than many expect.
Trea Turner (SS – LAD)
Turner will gain 2B eligibility soon with Corey Seager returning, and the MVP candidate will join the most loaded roster in all of baseball as the rich only get richer. Why trade a stud at his peak when he’s hitting .322 with a 20/30 season all but guaranteed? Well, like with Gallo, Turner’s xwOBA has actually dropped from .507 to .311 over his last 50 PA. It wouldn’t be the first time a star was traded to LA only to struggle under the pressure of the bright lights and elevated expectations of trying to match up with some of the league’s best players. The peripherals suggest Turner hasn’t been as good as the numbers suggest over the last few weeks, and the big trade may generate enough excitement to extract a treasure trove of value in return if you’re a team needing to fill a few holes to make a push for playoffs.
Justin Turner (3B – LAD)
Sticking with our rolling xwOBA leaderboard, Justin Turner is another name in the top five of xwOBA, trending in the wrong direction over the last 50 PA. Turner has seen his xwOBA drop from .449 to .260 during that span as the Dodgers struggled to keep pace with the surging Giants in the NL West race. Now, it’s possible, added reinforcements from the biggest deadline deal in recent memory will help every Dodger regular relax and play better baseball. However, Turner has been living off the long ball the last two weeks, as his .244 average pales compared to his .297 season-long mark. His HardHit% is down a few ticks from recent seasons, and the overall .364 xwOBA would be his lowest since 2016. None of this suggests that Turner won’t continue to be a valuable fantasy asset during the final months of the season. However, if he starts to slump as the expected statistics become actualized, it may be harder to move him as fantasy trade deadlines for most leagues approach in the coming weeks.
Yuli Gurriel (1B/3B – HOU)
Yuli Gurriel has been remarkable this season, hitting .324/.388/.490 with 12 homers and 66 RBI thus far. It’s all the more remarkable when you consider he hit .232 in 2020, and at age 37, appeared to be cooked after last year. Alas, Gurriel’s xBA sits at a still solid but far less stellar .269, and that 0.055 difference qualifies as the greatest in all of baseball, and therefore, the most likely to correct itself. If your deadline is this week, make it a point to unload him to a team needing help with AVG if the return is high.
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.