10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 10
As we enter week 10, we're nearing the midpoint of the MLB season. By now, most owners are reaching decisions regarding their teams.
Maybe your team has been plagued by injuries and it is time to cut bait on guys you would have preferred to hold on to because you're in win-now mode. Perhaps you find yourself with a comfortable lead in the standings and can afford to take a chance on some buy-low players in hopes of a bounce back heading into the later stages of the season.
Regardless of where your team sits right now, you should always be looking to take advantage of market inefficiencies on players.
Perhaps a slow start is just a product of bad luck and a small sample size. Maybe the reason you're in first place is due to the stellar but possibly unsustainable play of some players you can sell high on. If you're not sure whether you should hold or fold on a player, don't sweat it. That's why we're here.
The following 10 players have seen a perceived change in their fantasy stock, and we'll attempt to decipher which warrant taking action.
Buy Jacob deGrom
Outside of aliens named Chris Sale sent from other planets to strike humans out, there might not be any pitchers who've been nastier than Jacob deGrom this year. Opponents have posted just a 68.5% contact rate against him, which is second only to Sale among current starting pitchers. He also has induced swinging strikes at a 15.2% mark, which trails only Sale and Max Scherzer.
DeGrom also boasts a 3.07 xFIP, which is the eighth-best mark among qualified starting pitchers, but despite this, his ERA sits at 3.97. That inconsistency can be largely traced back to his opponents' .338 BABIP against him, which is the 11th-highest in the league, and his 9.9% walk rate.
When deGrom starts to see better luck on balls put in play, his ERA should begin to more closely resemble his career 2.89 mark. If that indeed happens, and he maintains his third-ranked strikeout rate (31.5%), deGrom has a chance to turn into one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Even with an ERA near 4.00, deGrom isn't going to be cheap. It may be enough to keep him from being valued where his underlying numbers suggest he should, though.
Sell Mark Reynolds
After a recent cold stretch, Mark Reynolds isn't necessarily going to be an easy player to sell high on, especially with a fairly limited track record over the past few years. However, his season-long numbers are solid enough that you still might be able to get more value back than what he will provide over the remainder of the season.
Before we dig into the numbers, it is important to note that with Ian Desmond back in the lineup, and with David Dahl likely to return sometime in July, there might only be a month or so left of high-end day-to-day production for Reynolds. That is, assuming he maintains his seemingly fluky start.
For starters, let's talk about his 14 home runs. They're already the most he's hit since 2014, which has him on pace for 39 long balls this season. Now, it is true that Reynolds boasted elite power as a much younger player, but he also was a much different hitter back then. In his four seasons for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Reynolds maintained a 37.7% hard-hit rate and 47.4% fly-ball rate, which is much more in line with what you'd expect from a home-run hitter. This season's 32.9% hard-hit rate and 32.9% fly-ball rate, on the other hand, don't suggest his power outburst is sustainable. A quick explanation for his home run total and fly-ball rate not aligning is his sky-high home-run-to-fly-ball rate of 29.2% -- the fourth highest among active players.
Reynolds is the owner of a .295 batting average, which is a far cry from his career .237 mark. While moving away from his fly-ball-happy ways is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of raising his batting average, most of the credit is likely due to his inflated .341 BABIP. He also has the league's ninth-lowest contact rate (69.4%), which certainly is not conducive to a near-.300 batting average.
He also has a xwOBA, or expected wOBA, of .321, as opposed to his actual wOBA of .383, making him one of the most likely candidates for regression in that category.
If you have ridden Reynolds' early-season production this far, now is the time to dump him. Regression is likely to catch up to him soon, and if it does, there are plenty of capable players the Colorado Rockies have waiting to steal his playing time.
Buy/Add Sean Manaea
Sean Manaea allowed 10 runs in his first two starts, but in his seven starts since, he has a 2.92 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Why is he still owned in less than half of ESPN leagues, then? Well, his first two starts have skewed the overall numbers, leaving him with a 3.91 ERA. Also, his recent hot streak was interrupted by a shoulder injury that sidelined him for just over two weeks.
We haven't even discussed his elite strikeout potential yet, which is arguably his most attractive quality for fantasy owners. If not for just missing the innings limit to qualify, Manaea's strikeout rate (27.4%) would rank 12th-best among starting pitchers. It should come as no surprise, then, that his swinging-strike rate of 14.3% would rank sixth among qualified starting pitchers and his contact rate against of 68.5% would tie deGrom for the third-highest mark. The dude has been filthy.
Manaea is still a young and fairly inexperienced pitcher, so there are going to be bumps in the road. However, at this point in his career, the former prospect has shown the ability to be a valuable fantasy asset. If you are in one of the 50-plus percent of leagues in which he is available, be sure to add him to your roster now. If not, see if his owner is willing to deal him.
Sell Aaron Judge
Before you angrily exit out of the article, this is by no means a recommendation to dump Judge. The dude has massive power and could be one of the league's premier home run hitters for years to come. I totally get it if you're an Aaron Judge truther. Few things are more enjoyable than watching the 6-foot-7, 282-pound behemoth destroy baseballs.
However, if you will, please allow my inner nerd to push the glasses a bit further up my nose as we judge (sorry) some of these daunting numbers.
Judge has upped his batting average from last season's .179 mark (in just 95 plate appearances) to an uncharacteristic .324 through 219 plate appearances. He is also on pace for 54 home runs, up from last season's 24-homer pace. His 47.1% hard-hit rate (the third-highest in the league) is nearly identical to last season's 48.8% though, while his fly-ball rate is down from 51.2% to 38.0%. So, with a similar hard-hit rate and depleted fly-ball rate, how can the huge spike in homers be explained?
Well, to be fair, he is making contact more frequently (although his 70.4% contact rate is still the 15th-lowest in the Majors). Most of the credit should go to his ridiculous 39.1% home-run-to-fly-ball rate, though. The next-highest rate is 33.3%, and there are just four other batters with a rate above 30%.
Judge also has the league's second-highest BABIP (.408), trailing only Miguel Sano. His xwOBA would point towards some regression coming Judge's way as well, as it suggests his wOBA is 18 points higher than it should be.
The young outfielder is going to be a productive fantasy asset this season. He has made great progress in cutting down his strikeout rate (down from 44.2% to 29.2%) while also walking much more often (14.6%). However, regression is almost certainly coming. He doesn't profile as anything near a .326 hitter and it will be nearly impossible for almost 50.0% of his fly balls to continue leaving the yard. If you can get an owner in your league to trade elite-tier value for him, you have to consider it.
Hold Johnny Cueto
After posting a sub-3.00 ERA in five of the past six seasons, Johnny Cueto's ERA sits at 4.38 through 12 starts in 2017. However, his 3.43 xFIP is nearly identical to last season's 3.42 mark and down from a career average of 3.77. What gives?
Well, Cueto's BABIP is up from a career .279 mark to .305 to start the year, and he has been surprisingly susceptible to the long ball. His home runs per nine innings is up to 1.42 this season, thanks in large part to a bloated 16.4% home-run-to-fly-ball rate. That number is especially surprising considering he calls AT&T Park his home, but a look at his game log shows that just one of the homers he's allowed has come there.
Cueto has been unlucky to have seven of his 12 starts come on the road, including a windy game at Wrigley and a start at Coors Field. He gave up a combined 10 runs and 5 homers in those starts, which has gone a long way in skewing his numbers. He has a respectable 3.55 ERA at home and should see his season ERA drop with some more home starts and better luck on balls put in play.
He's also upped his strikeouts this season, fanning a career-high 9.12 batters per nine innings, while also posting a career-best 12.4% swinging-strike rate. If his ERA drops and he is able to continue to miss bats at this increased clip, Cueto could return to ace-level status quickly. Don't trade him for less than what you invested in him at the draft.
Drop Aaron Altherr
Aaron Altherr was a popular May pickup, but has crashed back to Earth recently. Despite still boasting the league's 13th-highest BABIP (.365), Altherr has seen his batting average fall to .291, thanks to his .212 batting average over his past 10 games. He also has just one extra-base hit during that time, which gives him just four (no homers) over the past three weeks.
Altherr's recent power outage makes a lot of sense -- even with his complete lack of power over the past few weeks, he still has a top-25 home-run-to-fly-ball rate (23.5%) on the year. He doesn't profile as a power threat, with a career 46.7% ground-ball rate and just a 30.5% fly-ball rate, so his early-season dingers were likely an outlier.
To make matters worse, Howie Kendrick has returned, which gives the Philadelphia Phillies a four-man rotation in the outfield. With his playing time possibly on the downswing, it is hard to justify using a roster spot on Altherr outside of deep leagues.
Buy Rick Porcello
After winning 22 games and posting a 3.15 ERA that was a full run below his career mark last year, it wasn't crazy to expect 2016 AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello to take a step backwards this season. His .269 BABIP suggested regression was coming, and it certainly has.
The question is, however, has Porcello's luck overcorrected so far this season, offering us a chance to buy low on last year's ace? A look at his BABIP would sure say so, as no pitcher has a higher BABIP than Porcello's .367 mark. His 3.95 xFIP, while not great, is not far off from last year's 3.89 mark and also suggests that lady luck has not been kind to the right-hander in 2017.
There have certainly been issues for Porcello this season, though -- he's allowed more fly balls (40.4%) than last year, while also walking more batters (4.3%). However, he has also posted a career-best contact rate (78.9%), swinging-strike rate (10.8%), and strikeout rate (22.2%). If his owner is ready to panic after a rocky start, take a chance that his peripherals normalize. As long as you don't expect last year's Cy Young caliber play, the numbers suggest you likely will not be disappointed.
Sell Dylan Bundy
After outperforming his peripherals to extreme levels to begin the season, it appeared the window to sell high on Dylan Bundy might have been closing when he was bombed for six runs against the Detroit Tigers, but he bounced back with three straight starts of just two runs allowed each. As a result, he is just one of 13 qualified starting pitchers with an ERA below 3.00.
As a much-awaited top prospect, Bundy's 2.93 ERA might not seem out of place, but a deeper look at the numbers suggests that is nowhere near representing the pitcher he has been this season. His 4.83 xFIP is among the league's worst 20 starting pitchers and suggests serious regression is headed his way. He also has been hittable this season, with a 79.7% contact rate and 9.9% swinging-strike rate ranking in the bottom half of the league. In addition to his low swinging-strike rate, Bundy has struggled to collect strikeouts with any regularity, posting a pedestrian 6.22 strikeouts per nine innings.
Bundy also has a troublesome 44.8% fly-ball rate this season, which is the 11th-highest mark among starting pitchers. Only Jordan Montgomery has given up fewer homers per nine innings than Bundy among 15 starters with at least a 44.0% fly-ball rate.
The numbers suggest Bundy quite possibly is in for a rude awakening to what has thus far been a smooth sailing first year as a full-time starter. Don't dump him, but see if there is an owner willing to overpay for him based on his prospect pedigree and sub-3.00 ERA.
Buy Manny Machado
It was another frustrating week for Manny Machado owners, who saw the career .280 hitter drop his batting average to .219 for the year. This might provide a perfect opportunity to trade for him, who has been possibly the most disappointing first-round selection in fantasy drafts this year.
While he continues to crush the ball (41.2% hard-hit rate), Machado has the league's seventh-lowest BABIP (.229). No other player with a BABIP that low even has a hard-hit rate above 35%. His xwOBA also suggests that Machado has some positive regression headed his way, as only 20 of 211 qualified batters have a larger negative difference between their xwOBA and their actual wOBA than the young third baseman.
Everything points towards Machado being the top-10 fantasy asset he was drafted as in most leagues over the remainder of the season. If you can get a discount on him based on his slow start, be sure to take advantage.
Hold John Lackey
After outrunning his age and peripherals for the past two seasons, has father time finally caught up with the 38-year-old John Lackey? His 4.90 ERA certainly would suggest as much. His 3.95 xFIP and career-best 9.23 strikeouts per nine both offer reason for optimism, though.
There are definitely reasons to believe Lackey has been unlucky through the first couple months, namely his .302 BABIP and ballooned home-run-per-nine rate (1.96). Despite a 36.4% fly-ball rate identical to last seasons and a 44.4% ground-ball rate that is up 3.4% from last season's, Lackey's homers-per-nine is almost double, thanks to a pesky 20.6% home-run-to-fly-ball rate that would easily be a career-worst and should go down as the season goes on.
Lackey is coming off one of his best starts of the season and even with an ERA near five, he is not worth dropping in the majority of leagues. In deeper leagues, don't be tempted by buy-low offers either, as you aren't going to get return anywhere near your investment. The wise move is to sit tight and wait for the peripherals to correct themselves on the traditionally solid pitcher.