This column is a bit different than your weekly waiver wire piece. Here we’ll examine widely owned players who are hot and cold, with the goal of identifying sell high/buy low opportunities heading into Week 4 of the MLB season. Your comments, contributions, and criticisms are welcome, both in the comments and in the forums. Let’s do this!
BULLS (Players whose stock is trending up)
Fantasy Baseball, meet your #22 overall player over the first two weeks. Carp has raked to the tune of 2 HR, 10 RBI, and 10 Runs through his first 45 AB. He’s sporting a .400 AVG to boot, and has resumed leading off for the Cardinals. He put up ridiculous numbers in 2013 before falling off in 2014 – I’m inclined to believe he’s healthy and back for good. Sell only if the return is excellent.
Recommendation: Hold – Carpenter looks healthy and ready to rake all year
After a decent 2014 campaign, my expectations for Perez in 2015 were mixed at best. He’s roared out of the gates, batting .380 with 3 HR and 12 RBI in his first 50 AB. The Royals have been scoring seemingly at will, and there have been plenty of folks on base for him to drive in. Obviously Perez isn’t going to hit .380, and I think its unlikely the Royals continue to be a top 5 offensive team. If I had the chance to deal Perez at a premium to a team that just lost Lucroy, D’Arnaud, or drafted a bust like Mike Zunino, I’d definitely take advantage of the opportunity.
Recommendation: Sell very high – Perez is the #1 overall C at the time of this article – use that to deal for a stud.
I’ll admit that I was actually of the belief that A-Rod would be a useful piece in fantasy this season…but not like this. He’s off to a blistering start, batting .486 with 4 HR and 11 RBI already. It’s almost incomprehensible to realize he’s doing this after an entire year off, and I have to say I’m impressed. He’s a top-25 player at the moment, and should be in all lineups. On the longer term, I have to say that I don’t believe in him. He’s older now, and I feel like he’s going to break down no matter how many times he gets to DH. If you can get a top 50 player for him right now, I’d make the deal in a heartbeat.
Recommendation: Sell – He’s been a strong play, but I believe the hot start is a mirage that will be dissipating soon.
Here in Washington we’ve known Souza was a top prospect for some time, and many of us observed him making an insane catch to preserve Jordan Zimmerman’s no-hitter in 2014. It was a given the kid could play defense, but I certainly didn’t know he would rake in the bigs like he has so far. He’s ranked #21 on the year so far, contributing 3 HR, 4 SB, and 10 RBI to his owners’ cause. A closer look reveals a .435 BABIP (which isn’t sustainable) as well as a 37% strikeout ratio. The book is going to get out on this kid, and where I own him I’m trying to sell as soon as possible.
Recommendation: Sell high – Target an owner who is weak in the OF slots and buy one of his underperforming studs.
Two words: ‘Real Deal’. This kid is the truth and congrats if you were so smart as to scoop him up in the middle rounds. Tampa is a pitchers park, there’s a great defense behind him, and he just shredded a strong Blue Jays lineup for 11 K’s and 0 ER over 7 innings. I think he’s up to the challenge of the AL East, and I’m not sure I’d sell him for anything less than top 30 value at this point. His breakout is nigh.
Recommendation: Hold – He’s coming of age right in front of our eyes. Enjoy the dominance unless the return is truly insane.
Through three starts, generally undrafted Edinson Volquez sits as the 38th ranked player in the fantasy game. He’s won 2 games, struck out 17, and compiled an ERA of 1.99 while benefitting from the Kansas City early-season offensive explosion. I’d continue to start / stream him as long as he’s around, but if I was able to sell him for solid value, I’d do so. His FIP is 2.62, and his xFIP is 3.48 suggesting a good bit of luck is involved here. Further supporting this is his HR / FB rate of 4.2% thus far, which is pretty low for a guy who has a career rate of 11.3%. Package Volquez with another over performing guy to buy a stud who is off to a poor start.
Recommendation: Sell high – The Buck will be stopping here, and soon.
BEARS (Players whose stock is trending down)
The Strasburger has looked quite overdone so far in 2015. He’s struggled to a 4.50 ERA and only a single win through three starts. I’m here to tell you I’m bullish, and I want you to buy him low – and it isn’t my rampant Nationals homer-ism speaking here. I’ve got a couple metrics that say better days are ahead – one being that the BABIP against him is .383, a mere 83 points above his career average, suggesting there have been a ton of lucky hits so far (which, as a Nats fan, I can confirm.) He’s also leaving men on base at almost a 10% lower rate than usual (positive regression to come) and finally has been the victim of terrible fielding behind him so far, leading to a FIP of 3.02 versus his 4.50 ERA. I see better days ahead for both Stras and the Nationals.
Recommendation: Buy low – Strasburg and the Nats are collectively much better than the first couple of weeks indicate.
I simply can’t resist including another Washington pitcher who is off to a slow start. Zimmerman was dominant in 2014 and was the ace of many rotations on draft day, but has struggled to a 6.14 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over his first few starts, fanning only seven batters over his first 14 innings pitched in the process. It’s about as bad as I’ve ever seen him, and his track record suggests things will improve quickly. Metrics would back this up: His walk rate has been double his career average, BABIP against him is up 30 points, and his K-rate is down almost 50%. And, let’s be honest, giving up 7 ER in Boston sure didn’t help any of these averages. If you can buy him low, now would be the time to act.
Recommendation: Buy low – JZimm will turn his season around, and it will happen soon.
Beltre has been absolutely terrible in 2015, and owners who invested a second-round pick are certainly panicking. This opens a window for you, savvy owner. He’s not only has a strong track record, but he’s striking out even less than usual and has gotten unreasonable unlucky on hits (BABIP .146 vs. career .299). The Rangers offense looks better this year than usual, and I think Beltre will come around. Buy low and grab a great value.
Recommendation: Buy super low – Beltre has a long track record of success, and he’ll never be cheaper.
I’m one of the owners who invested a top-five pick in Springer, and I want you to know I’m not panicking. Not at all – in fact I want you to know it will be okay, and continue to hold him. When we drafted him we knew he would be streaky – a bad streak just came at the beginning of the year. Wait it out – he hasn’t forgotten how to hit. His K-rate is about what he did last year, and his BB rate is actually improved. Springer’s BABIP is 40 points below last year, and his ISO is down 100+ points. All signs point to a turnaround, so try to resist the sell-low offers that are undoubtedly filling your inbox. The power (and more speed) are yet to come.
Recommendation: Hold – You don’t invest a high pick in a young player and then punt if they start out slow. Stay the course – the Astros offense, and Springer, will improve.
While I don’t think that the wins are definitely forthcoming for Hamels while he’s a member of the Phillies, I definitely think he has some strong upside that’s worth buying. One example would be his track record: a career 3.29 ERA and 3.52 FIP (versus 5.00 and 7.58, respectively) suggest a rebound is in order. We can also look at his HR / FB rate, which currently stands at an absolutely insane 36.8% (versus career 11.2% rate). What’s amazing is that his opponents BABIP in 2015 is a a crazy low .122 – meaning that a way higher than average percentage of balls hit against Hamels early in the season are leaving the yard. To me it looks like he’s pitching to his averages or better, and has been the victim of some really bad luck. I’d be happy to buy him for a mid-round type player and enjoy the rest of the year, especially with the possibility that he’s traded to a contender at the deadline.
Recommendation: Buy low – Hamels is a top-50 player, and will find that range by the end of the year.