10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 2
We're entering Week 2 of the fantasy baseball season, so we are still mired in the land of small sample sizes, and probably will be for the next month or so. How much can you learn about a player in a week and a half?
For players who have burst onto the scene, sure, you could look at their walk and strikeout percentages and make some good guesses. But even though those statistics that are the quickest to stabilize itself over a small sample have only had seven or eight games in which to marinate at this point. A few players have shown some surprising pop, but for many, it's just too soon to say if it's for real or not.
So for this week's list, we're going to stick mostly with names you already know pretty well, although there are a couple newcomers in the mix. Many of the players on this list have a bit of a track record, because there is at least something to hang your heart on based off their past performances.
So, here are 10 players who you can feel safe buying or selling ahead of Week 2 of the fantasy baseball season.
Sell Shohei Ohtani
Well, it appears as if Shohei Ohtani is for real, so I realize this may sound dumb. But hear me out.
After a spring in which the young right-hander struggled a bit, Ohtani has come out firing on the mound, throwing six perfect innings in his second Major League start on Sunday. Overall, in seven incredible innings against the Oakland Athletics, he gave up just 1 hit and struck out 12, with no walks.
Ohtani’s stuff is straight NASTY.#TipOfTheCap for an amazing performance. pic.twitter.com/t4iCaBjDvV
— MLB (@MLB) April 8, 2018
And if Ohtani's pitching wasn't enough, he's also killing it with the bat, albeit in limited action. He homered in three straight games last week for the Angels, one of them off the reigning Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber. There are a number of incredible statistics from Ohtani's first two weeks in the bigs, but the most impressive may be this one.
In a span of seven days, Shohei Ohtani went 2-0, 2.08 with 18 K and 2 BB in 13 innings AND hit .462 (6-for-14) with 3 HR and 7 RBIs #Angels
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) April 9, 2018
Ohtani has been awesome so far, and he's done far better than most -- including myself -- expected this spring. Still, this hot week is probably a better argument to see what you can get for him in a trade, given that he's still facing the headwinds of pitching in a six-man rotation and that, as a hitter, he's still a part-time player, which really dings him in leagues that don't allow you to change your lineup each day.
Obviously, you're not giving Ohtani away for cheap -- try to extract someone's first- or second-round pick for him and, failing that, you hold him. But if someone is willing to give up the farm, sell Ohtani.
Buy Gerrit Cole
When the Houston Astros acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the hope was that they would get the Cole that went 19-8 in 32 starts with a 2.60 ERA, 2.66 FIP and fWAR of 5.5 in 2015, a year in which he was a top-five Cy Young choice in the National League. They were hoping they were getting the Cole who struck out 8.7 batters per nine (K/9) and walked 1.9 per nine, and they were hoping they were getting the Cole who allowed a .239 average and 1.09 WHIP that season.
Thus far, through two starts, they're getting a better Cole than they could have hoped for. In 14 innings, he has an ERA of 0.64 with a 1.50 FIP and 1.71 xFIP, striking out a staggering 14.14 batters per nine this season while walking just 1.92 with an opponents' average against of .146.
K. Cole pic.twitter.com/rzblgIo2w1
— MLB (@MLB) April 8, 2018
It's light years different from his last two years in Pittsburgh, when he had a K/9 of 7.60 and 8.69.
Gerrit Cole's first two starts:
21 swinging strikes
19 swinging strikes
21 was the most in his career. 19 tied for most in his career.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 8, 2018
Buy Giancarlo Stanton
There may never be another time as good as now to buy Giancarlo Stanton.
The reigning MLB home run king has not gotten off to the kind of start he had hoped for in the Bronx, with a slash line of .167/.271/.429 in his first 10 games. He's hit 3 home runs, which is fine, but has struck out a whopping 41.7% of the time, including two separate games in which he has struck out five times.
Giancarlo Stanton is the first player in the live ball era to have 2 games with 0 hits and 5 strikeouts in the same season.
It's April 8th. pic.twitter.com/TBy91mpYcJ
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 8, 2018
Stanton has always been a high-strikeout guy, with a 27.8% strikeout rate for his career. It's highly unlikely he continues to swing and miss at this current rate for the entire 2018 season, and the good news is his walk rate remains right in line with his career average (12.5%). He also continues to hit the ball hard when he hits it, with a hard-contact rate of 50,0%.
Stanton has simply chased more pitches out of the strike zone so far (31.5%, compared to 27.4% last year) and made less contact on those pitches, problems one would expect him to remedy over time.
It's worth sending out an offer to the Stanton owner in your league to see if you can get him for a little cheaper than he should be.
Sell Dansby Swanson
The Atlanta Braves speedy shortstop, Dansby Swanson, has looked revitalized at the plate in the first two weeks of 2018. After a weekend series in Colorado in which he sprayed the ball all over the yard and hit his first dinger of the season...
Dansby Swanson hits his first HR of the year.#VandyBoys pic.twitter.com/VEQIzD0kt4
— BC (@dbc5361) April 8, 2018
...Swanson appears to be living up to the hype as one of the best young prospects in the game. However, he was brutal last year, hitting .232/.312/.324 in 551 plate appearances, with just 6 homers and 3 stolen bases. Of course, he was just 23 and now, in his age-24 campaign, he appears to have used that season of experience to his advantage.
But there are red flags. Yes, he's hitting well, but his walk rate of 2.9% is worrisome compared to last year's 10.7% clip. He also has a hard-hit rate of just 25.0%, and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .444 is obviously unsustainable.
In season-long leagues, now might be a good time to deal him before his BABIP regresses.
Buy Didi Gregorius
Here are your leaders in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement: Gregorious (1.1), Matt Chapman (1.0), and Harper (1.0).
Gregorious is off to an incredible start, batting .375/.524/.906 in 42 plate appearances, with 3 homers, 10 RBIs, 10 runs and 2 stolen bases. This is coming off a season in which he had a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .335, a really good numbers for shortstop (.309 was league average for a shortstop last year).
The reason this feels sustainable is that Gregorious was good last year and, so far this season, is walking in 21.4% of his plate appearances. That number is unsustainable, but the fact he's showing more patience and doing more damage when he does swing makes it feel like he can carry this through for the rest of the season, even when his walk rare eventually comes down a bit. His batted-ball profile is sparkling, too, as he owns a 37.9% hard-hit rate and 48.3% fly-ball rate.
Buy Matt Chapman
You want a darkhorse AL MVP candidate? Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman is your guy.
He's second in baseball in fWAR (as mentioned above), with a slash line of .375/.444/.675, 3 bombs, 8 RBIs and 9 runs scored. He appeared in 84 games last year for Oakland and, while the underlying numbers weren't great (.234/.313/.472), he did pile up 2.9 fWAR in the second half, third-most in the American League West behind only Mike Trout and Jose Altuve.
So far in 2018, Chapman has increased his walk rate from 9.8% to 11.1% and lowered his strikeout rate from 28.2% to 20.0%. Yes, he plays in a terrible park for hitters, but the fact he's flying under the radar might allow you to make a deal for the right-handed slugger. By the end of the season, Champman may be getting talked about as one of the better all-around players in baseball.
Sell Cole Hamels
Yes, Hamels has struck out 12.94 batters per nine innings this season, which is very good. Strikeouts are king in fantasy. But the rest of the numbers paint a troubling picture. In three starts, Hamels has an ERA of 5.06 and is walking 5.06 batters per nine innings. He has yet to get through six innings in a start this season and has already given up five homers in 16 innings.
The most glaring sign of trouble is with his fastball, which is averaging 89.8 miles per hour this year. That's down from 92.3 miles per hour last year and 93.7 miles per hour the year before. He also is showing no confidence in that pitch, throwing it just 16.0% of the time this season, compared to 24.5% last campaign, a year in which he missed three months due to an oblique injury and finished with an ERA of 4.20.
Yes, his xFIP of 3.00 indicates a rebound, but given his other peripherals and his age (34), the safer course is to point out Hamels' strikeout rate and low xFIP to the rest of your league and try to get the southpaw off your hands.
Buy Rhys Hoskins
There is a reason Hoskins was going in the fifth and sixth rounds of most 12-team fantasy drafts this year, and you're now seeing why. He has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the first two weeks of the season, leading everyone in batting average (.440) and on-base percentage (.559). He's also third in slugging (.760). He has just the one homer so far, but he has walked in 20.6% of his plate appearances (up from 17.5% a year ago) and has put the ball on the ground only 10.5% of the time in 2018.
But there is a new wrinkle to his game this year that increases his fantasy value even more, and that is his apparent willingness to steal bases. He already has two swipes this season in eight games, compared to two steals in 50 games in 2017. He never stole more than eight bases in a season in the minors, so this could be a small-sample anomaly. But even though he got thrown out attempting to steal third base on Sunday, Hoskins' desire to run makes him even more valuable, especially at first base.
If Hoskins keeps this up, he could add 15 to 20 steals to his already top-notch power numbers, making him a Paul Goldschmidt-esque player in fantasy.
Sell Kenley Jansen
Relief pitchers are known to be volatile, but Jansen has been the surest thing in fantasy among closers over the last few years. But in his first four appearances, Jansen has lasted four innings and struck out just four batters while walking two. He has an ERA of 9.00 with an xFIP of 5.03, with one blown save already on the young season.
Yes, this is a small sample, but Jansen has always been immune to such things. And not only that, his lack of velocity has grown a bit concerning as he is averaging just 92.8 miles per hour on his cutter so far. That's down from 95.3 miles per hour last season.
Kenley Jansen's cutters tonight...
Did manage to make Longoria look silly on a strikeout, at least.
I don't think the velocity story is going away any time soon.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) April 8, 2018
This may be a season in which you're not going to get what you paid for from Jansen, so if you can find a fantasy owner who is still valuing him as a potential second- or third-round pick, unload the Dodgers' star and try and recoup some value.
Buy Tim Anderson
Last year, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was a deeply flawed player. In 606 plate appearances, he struck out 26.7% of the time and walked just 2.1%. He had 13 walks all season long, which seems almost impossible to do, and as a result, his slash line of .257/.276/.402 was none too impressive.
Still, he did hit 17 homers and stole 15 bases, so the hope was if he could somehow learn a little plate discipline, Anderson might leap into the conversation as one of the top-15 shortstops to own in fantasy this year.
So far in 2018, Anderson has done that, with a walk in 12.1% of his plate appearances. He's already nearly a third of the way to last year's totals, and his slash line of .276/.364/.586, with 3 dingers and 5 stolen bases is pretty darn appealing at a thin position. That makes him a very intriguing buy right now, and it may be worth buying high on him in dynasty or keeper formats as Anderson could have more room for growth.