10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 1
Hello gang, and welcome to the 2018 fantasy baseball season! The schedule got things off to a weird start this year with games starting on Thursday, resulting in most fantasy leagues grouping the first series of the MLB season -- which started last week -- as part of the "first week" of the fantasy season.
So with most teams having played at least three games, if not four, we have an extremely small sample size with which to start off this year's weekly buy/sell column. But that doesn't mean we can't make some rash assumptions for the sake of fantasy purposes!
So, mid-way through Week 1 of the MLB season, here are your buy/sell candidates for this week.
Sell Dellin Betances
There was a time when Dellin Betances was one of the most consistent and devastating late-inning relievers in baseball, but his 1.40 ERA in 2014 and 1.50 in '15 are a long way from where he was last year, in which he posted an ERA of 4.50 in June, 4.26 in July, and 5.59 in September.
His problem? Walks and homers. In September, he allowed 7 walks and 2 homers in 9.2 innings, and those problems have continued in his first two appearances this season. He's already given up two bombs, and on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees' right-hander allowed four stolen bases, including this meltdown against Kevin Pillar.
If you drafted him in your league hoping to pile up some reliever innings and or some strikeouts, it's okay to drop him like third-period French until he's able to keep the ball in the yard and get control of the running game.
Buy Michael Conforto
Last year, Michael Conforto was finally given a chance to show what he could do playing every day, and he made the All-Star team as a result. He batted .279/.384/.555 with 27 homers and 68 RBIs in 109 games until a freak shoulder injury ended his season in September.
Many fantasy owners stayed away from him in the draft because he wasn't expected to be ready until May 1. However, he has joined the big league team and, according to the New York Mets, could be in the lineup as soon as he's eligible to come off the DL on Friday.
Conforto is a star when healthy with a walk rate that jumped from 10.3% in 2016 to 13.0% last year and an isolated power (ISO) that went from .194 to .276. He's progressed faster than they thought, which seems like good news, and he should be targeted by any outfield-needy fantasy owner.
Add Yuliesky Gurriel
One of the heroes (and most controversial figures) of last year's World Series, Yulieski Gurriel started the season on a sour note following hand surgery in February (although he would have missed the first five games of the season, anyway, due to a suspension for his antics revolving around Yu Darvish in the Fall Classic). But it appears Gurriel will be healthy enough to return to the lineup on Tuesday when that suspension is over.
Gurriel had a fine 2017 regular season, hitting .299/.332/.486 in his first full season in the big leagues. The Cuban import slugged 18 homers in 564 plate appearances and was remarkably consistent throughout the season. He actually hit right-handers (.363 wOBA) better than lefties (.298) and hit better on the road (.354 wOBA) than he did at home (.334).
If he can improve a bit in the areas in which he should be stronger, Gurriel's numbers could improve over 2017. He's worth an add if he's on your waiver wire.
Sell Matt Davidson
I wrote about Matt Davidson's opening day three-homer game last week and noted that, despite his ability to hit for power, he's really a one-trick pony with a ton of negative traits. I advised staying away from him if he was on your waiver wire, and if you are one of the few owners who does have him on your team, now's the time to try and dump him on an unsuspecting owner.
Maybe that owner won't know that Davidson struck out in 37.2% of his plate appearances last season and walked in just 4.3% of them. Or that, out of 216 players with at least 400 plate appearances, that whiff percentage was tied for second worst in baseball along with Chris Davis.
He also batted just .220 with a .260 on-base percentage, a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .297, and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 83. Among 32 third basemen with at least 400 plate appearances, only Maikel Franco's wOBA and wRC+ were worse. Stay away or sell.
Buy Jose Berrios
I think you want a guy on your team who can do stuff like this.
A quick reminder that Jose Berrios has a gorgeous curveball pic.twitter.com/I8mRH7qy3r
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) April 1, 2018
Jose Berrios is the unquestioned ace of the Minnesota Twins and, in his first start of the season, threw the Majors' first complete game shutout of the season, something that almost certainly made Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler break out into hives.
Berrios went 14-8 last year with a 3.89 ERA and a 3.84 FIP in 145.2 innings, and the 23-year-old right-hander figures to only get better in his second full season as a starter. He throws 94 miles per hour with a nasty sinker and curveball that are both swing-and-miss pitches, as evidenced by the six strikeouts and three hits allowed against the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend.
Sell Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond is the starting first baseman for the Colorado Rockies, and as long as he's healthy, or as long as there isn't an injury suffered by someone in the Colorado outfield, Desmond will remain at first. But Desmond has suffered a number of injuries in recent seasons, and after getting off to a 5-for-12 start with a homer, he had to be pulled from the game on Saturday due to left knee soreness.
Desmond played just 95 games last year and had a wOBA of just .305 with 7 homers and 15 stolen bases. If Desmond could stay healthy for a 150-game season, he could be a 20-20 player again, something he's already done four times in his career. Those stolen bases at the first-base position could be very valuable.
But Colorado would probably best be served by finding somewhere else for Desmond to play -- whether it's a different position on their team or somewhere else entirely -- because there is a young, power-hitting first baseman who is more the future of the franchise than Desmond. Besides, Desmond can't stay healthy, anyway, and we're seeing signs of that already this year.
Add Ryan McMahon
Desmond's knee problem could soon open the door for Ryan McMahon, a left-handed power hitter who put up a wOBA of .433 in 70 AAA games last year with 14 bombs and 65 RBIs.
McMahon hasn't had much run in the Majors yet, with just 24 plate appearances last year and 3 so far this season, whiffing in all 3 of them. Nevertheless, a power-hitting first baseman who plays half his games in Coors Field is a good thing to stash on your bench if you have room. He'll likely be the team's everyday first baseman before the weather gets too hot, and once he does, should be a significant source of power.
Drop Greg Bird
Look, I took the bait, too. In a couple of my fantasy leagues, I took Greg Bird, envisioning that left-handed power swing would team up with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge to pummel taters out of Yankee Stadium all season long. But I forgot that Greg Bird has the structural integrity of a crystal chandelier.
Doctors removed a coin-sized bone spur from Bird's right ankle, and as a result, he will be out for the next six to eight weeks. He also missed virtually all of last season dealing with problems in the same ankle after fouling a ball off his foot in a spring training game last March. He played in pain for the first month of the season before hitting the disabled list on May 2 and didn't return until late August when he hit .253 with 8 homers and 25 RBIs in 29 games. He also slugged 3 dingers and totaled 6 RBIs in 13 postseason games.
But until Bird can come back and prove he can stay healthy for any length of time, he's not even worth keeping on the bench unless you have plentiful disabled-list slots. Add him later or, if some other owner scoops him up before he comes back, let Bird be their headache.
Add/Buy Jose Martinez
Jose Martinez can hit. Of that, there is no question.
He's currently the St. Louis Cardinals' everyday first baseman mostly because he can rake. Last year, the 29-year-old hit .309/.379/.518 with a .379 wOBA in 307 plate appearances with 14 bombs and 46 RBIs. So far this year, he's 5-for-11 with a homer and three RBIs. He went 5-for-5 against Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom this week, which seems good to me. The only problem with Martinez is his defense, which is less than optimal.
Well Jose Martinez just lost the first base job pic.twitter.com/8Djmoyypcb
— Giannis Auntiegotapoodle (@TooMuchMortons) March 29, 2018
He's got to play a passable defensive first base in order to keep the job, no matter how well he hits. But that bat is legit and should be in your fantasy lineup if it isn't already.
Add Hunter Strickland
Strickland was excellent this spring, giving up just 1 hit in 7.1 innings of work with 8 strikeouts and just 2 walks. And even when Melancon is ready to return, it seems as if Strickland could keep keep the job for the rest of the season.
In his first three seasons as a full-time reliever, Strickland has been very good, with ERAs of 2.45, 3.10 and 2.64 last year with between 8.4 and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings each season. He's always generated strikeouts with relatively few walks, and now he's suddenly the San Francisco Giants' closer for much of the 2018 season.