10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 14
We are entering our 14th week of fantasy baseball, which offers owners their first break as All-Star weekend is just days away. 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. Maybe you have 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.
Add Jon Gray
Jon Gray, a popular sleeper heading into this season, finally returned from the disabled list after a nearly three-month stint. In his first start back, he reminded us all why he had so much hype going into the season, allowing just two runs and striking out 10 batters in a tough assignment against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
His incredible swing-and-miss stuff in this start (15.7% swinging-strike-rate) displayed exactly what makes him so enticing -- even for a pitcher who calls Coors Field his home stadium. Gray posted a 12.1% swinging-strike-rate in 2016, along with just a 75.1% contact rate and 9.91 strikeouts-per-nine-innings (K/9). All three of those marks ranked inside the top-12 among qualified starting pitchers, and when paired with his 15th-ranked xFIP (3.61), show how dominant Gray can be.
Gray's still available in over 50% of ESPN leagues, and while his next start is at Coors, it is worth noting that he actually pitched better at home last season, posting a sparkling 3.07 xFIP in Denver.
Buy Manny Machado
Manny Machado's disaster season continues, as he is the owner of what would be a career-worst .217 batting average and 20.4% strikeout rate and is on pace for 30 homers after crushing 72 in the past two seasons. While it is clear that he has been the victim of some bad luck, his owner might be ready to sell him for what they can get at this point, after having to exercise patience for close to four months.
A big reason for Machado's batting average woes, in addition to what would be a career-low contact rate (75.4%), is his horrible luck in the BABIP department. He is the owner of the league's sixth-lowest BABIP (.227), a number which would easily represent a career-worst for the holder of a career .301 BABIP. Among players with a BABIP that low, none has a hard-hit near as high as Machado's 39% mark, which would actually be a career-best.
Another clear indicator of Machado's bad luck is found by looking at his expected wOBA (xwOBA) compared to his actual wOBA. Only a pair of players have a larger discrepancy between the two than Machado, whose xwOBA (.351) is much more in line with his career average.
Buy him now, while his value is at an all-time low.
Sell Gio Gonzalez
Perhaps no pitcher has been more of a beneficiary of good luck this season than Gio Gonzalez, who boasts a 2.77 ERA in spite of a 4.30 xFIP.
Gonzalez possesses the league's eighth-lowest BABIP against (.255) and the third-highest strand rate (85.4%), both of which scream regression is coming. His ridiculously high strand rate has helped him mask his control issues, as the traditionally wild lefty has posted a walk rate (3.94 BB/9) that would be his highest since 2011.
He's been even luckier in the BABIP department over the past 30 days, ranking sixth with a .209 BABIP during that time. This has helped him to compile a 2.31 ERA during that six-start span, making this a perfect time to sell-high on him.
Buy Matt Carpenter
After months of underperforming his peripherals, Matt Carpenter experienced a 10-game hot streak in mid-June in which he posted a .447 batting average and .947 slugging percentage that teased that his bad luck might finally be over. Since then, he has fallen back to earth and is continuing to frustrate his owners.
Similar to Machado, Carpenter has been destroying the baseball this season, posting a 44.2% hard-hit rate that ranks 13th in baseball and tops among second-base eligible players on ESPN. Despite this, Carpenter's .250 BABIP ranks 14th-lowest in the league.
He's also posted a much higher xwOBA than wOBA, ranking just behind Machado in terms of the difference there. In fact, his .402 xwOBA ranks 11th and again leads second-base eligible players.
Everything has been there for Carpenter in the power department -- he is on pace for a career-best 29 homers -- the only issue has been his batting average. With some positive regression on balls put in play, he should soon see his average start to climb near his career .279 mark.
Add Patrick Corbin
Patrick Corbin started the season on a good note, posting a 2.29 ERA over his first six starts that was reminiscent of his 2013 form. Things then went downhill following an eight-run bombing at Coors Field, as Corbin posted a putrid 9.00 ERA over his next six starts. His past four starts have looked more like the Corbin we saw earlier in the season, as he has pitched to a 2.96 ERA.
So, which Corbin is the real Corbin? It is tough to say, but a look at his xFIP indicates that he has been at his best during his most recent stretch, as his 3.30 xFIP is a lot closer to his ERA than his xFIP was during the other two six-start samples. He's also been recording much stronger strikeout numbers recently, with an 8.88 K/9 over his past four starts.
Corbin has been able to post strong numbers during that time in spite of a .342 BABIP against, which is hard to do. He has been a victim of bad luck on BABIP all season long, as his .334 BABIP against ranks 10th-worst on the season among qualified starting pitchers.
Corbin's most recent numbers suggest he could be a difference maker in fantasy, and his season-long numbers suggest positive regression has to be coming soon, as he has an xFIP that is nearly a full run above his ERA. Corbin is still widely available, being owned in just 15.1% of ESPN leagues, so it isn't going to cost you much to buy in on a second-half bounce-back for the talented lefty.
Sell Javier Baez
Luckily for Javier Baez, the Chicago Cubs have dealt with injuries and the incompetent play of Kyle Schwarber, which as forced them to put Baez in a more prominent role. What has the hyped-up Baez done with the additional playing time?
Well, not only has he contributed a horrendous .290 on-base percentage, Baez has struck out at a 26.1% clip, while hitting nearly half (48.1%) of his balls into the dirt. He also has just a 32.3% hard-hit rate, which is right in line with his career mark. When paired with his high ground-ball rate, it makes his power potential seem like more of a myth than reality. Even with an inflated 16.7% home-run-to-fly-ball rate thus far, Baez has hit just 10 long balls.
Baez also is the owner of the fifth-worst contact rate (65.2%) in the league, along with the third-worst swinging-strike rate (19.4%). He's swung at an astounding 43.9% pitches outside the zone, which is the third-highest rate in the league, making contact on just 48.9% of those swings.
If you can sell Baez based on the hype and his place in a potentially dangerous Cubs lineup, do so now.
Add Michael Wacha
Michael Wacha profiles very similarly to Corbin, in that he started the season red-hot, struggled for a bit, and is beginning to find his footing again. He's went six innings in back-to-back starts for the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing just one combined run and posting a 3.12 ERA over his past five starts.
Also similar to Corbin is the fact that Wacha has struggled with bad luck on balls in play all season. Even in his recent run of success, Wacha dealt with a .363 BABIP, despite inducing ground balls at a 51.3% clip. On the year, Wacha's .342 BABIP against is the eighth-highest mark among qualified starting pitchers.
Wacha's 3.93 xFIP indicates that more positive regression might be coming, while his 8.66 K/9 -- his highest mark since his rookie campaign -- suggests that he could be a valuable fantasy asset if he does begin to see better luck on balls in play. He's still available in over 60% of ESPN leagues, but he won't be for long if he continues to turn his season around.
Buy Jeff Samardzija
This may be the last week Jeff Samardzija is able to be featured in this article, because the window to buy-low appears to be closing. The talented righty has posted three straight starts of three or less runs allowed and appears to be turning the corner on a first half plagued by bad luck.
Despite ranking fifth in the league in xFIP (3.04), Samardzija has an ERA of 4.54 thanks to an extraordinarily unlucky start to the season. Some better luck lately has his BABIP down some, but it still sits at what would be a career-high .322 mark.
Samardzija's elite xFIP is backed by some incredible peripherals, namely his strikeout-to-walk rate (K/BB) of 9.38. The next-highest mark among starting pitchers is Chris Sale's 7.55.
Everything about Samardzija's profile -- outside of his bloated ERA and BABIP -- points towards him being an ace-level pitcher. If his owner still values him based on those numbers and not his underlying peripherals, be sure to take advantage.
Buy Brandon Belt
Samardzija isn't the only San Francisco Giants' player experiencing some extreme bad luck this season, as Brandon Belt has dealt with his fair share of misfortune. The owner of a career .333 BABIP and .268 batting average, Belt has posted a .265 BABIP and .235 batting average in 2017.
It hasn't all been bad for the first baseman though, as he has already belted 16 homers, just two shy of his career-high. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as his 37.7% hard-hit rate and 44% fly-ball rate are both decent improvements over his career marks.
In fact, over the past two weeks, only two players have maintained a higher hard-hit rate than Belt's 51.4% mark. Despite this, he still has just a .242 BABIP during that stretch.
With some better fortune on balls in play, Belt would profile as more of a mid .200's hitter. If he is able to get his batting average to resemble his career norms, paired with his newfound power stroke, Belt could be a valuable fantasy asset.
Sell Ariel Miranda
While his 5.31 xFIP isn't pretty, he's been even worse over the past month, posting the league's third-worst xFIP (5.87) during that span. Nobody has noticed though, thanks to his .167 BABIP against during that time, the lowest among qualified starters. That's down from his .218 BABIP against on the year, which is just two points away from Ervin Santana's previously-thought untouchable throne as the league's luckiest pitcher.
Miranda isn't providing much in terms of strikeouts either, with just a 6.73 K/9 on the year and a 4.87 K/9 over the past 30 days. When his peripherals begin to catch up and his ERA normalizes, Miranda's lack of strikeouts will make him a hard pitcher to own. If you can sell him now based on his shutout and sub-4.00 ERA, do so.