10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 3
In the movie For The Love Of The Game, Kevin Costner plays an aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who miraculously pitches a perfect game in Yankee Stadium. In the film, Costner is easily in his 40s, although exactly how old he is is not made known. But suffice it to say, he was at the end of his career.
Last night in Houston, 44-year-old Texas Rangers starter Bartolo Colon, who by this point in his career is simply an aging, overweight, just-lucky-to-be-there starting pitcher, was on the verge of becoming the oldest hurler in baseball history to throw a perfect game. He went seven perfect innings against the world champs before a leadoff walk and then a double in the 8th inning ended his run of 21 straight retired in an eventual 3-1 Rangers win over the Houston Astros.
Since being signed by the Rangers late in the off-season, Colon has been pretty good, giving up just two earned runs on eight hits in his 13.2 innings as a starting pitcher and, overall, he has a 1.45 ERA, 2.25 FIP and 2.69 xFIP in two starts and two relief appearances. He has struck out 25.8% of hitters faced this season, which is up dramatically from 13.7% last year and far above his career average of 17.5%. The temptation may be to add him to your fantasy roster, because chances are he's not owned in your league (2.1% ownership on ESPN).
Resist the urge, friends. Colon's strikeouts are not likely to stay at this level for much longer. He throws his 88.1 miles-per-hour fastball/sinker 86.0% of the time, and it was just last season that he was one of the most hittable starters in the bigs (.314 batting average allowed, 6.48 ERA, 5.14 xFIP). It's just not reasonable to think he's going to be a true fantasy option moving forward.
So, while it was cool to see his Costner-like performance for seven innings last night, he's not likely to be much help for fantasy owners the rest of the way in 2018.
Here are nine other players to buy or sell (or hold) ahead of Week 3 of the fantasy baseball season.
Sell Chris Archer
Fantasy owners have long salivated over his career 25.8% strikeout rate, his mid-90s fastball and devastating breaking stuff. He generally doesn't allow hitters much of a batting average against (.234 for his career), and his xFIP 3.49 indicates he's better than the 3.72 ERA he's posted in his career.
In 2016 and 2017, Archer's baseball card numbers didn't correspond to the peripherals at all. He posted a 4.07 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 3.41 xFIP in 2016, and Archer followed that up with a 4.07 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 3.35 xFIP last season. In four starts this year, the difference is even more pronounced as he is sporting a 7.84 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 3.79 xFIP.
In his last outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, Archer got torched for seven earned runs in four innings of work, fanning two and walking two while giving up eight hits.
His big problem appears to be his use of the slider against left-handed hitters.
Chris Archer vs LHB the past few seasons. This season is off to a horrendous start.
2012-2017 LHB vs the slider: .190 avg, 19% SwSTR%
2018 LHB vs the slider: .368 avg, 16% SwSTR%
The heatmap shows too many sliders finding the heart of the zone pic.twitter.com/lrDfHGOOuX
— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) April 15, 2018
Perhaps Archer finds his slider location against lefties, but that hasn't been his only problem in recent seasons. And while his strikeout numbers indicate he's got elite-level stuff, that hasn't translated to, you know, not giving up hits and runs over the last three years.
So now's the time to use that strikeout data to extract some value for a pitcher who simply hasn't performed like anyone expects him to if you can find someone in your league who values him as the mid-tier ace he was expected to be a month ago.
Buy Jameson Taillon
With Gerrit Cole traded to the Houston Astros this offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates were supposed to struggle. But Pittsburgh has raced out to an 11-4 record thanks in large part to a new ace stepping to the forefront of the rotation, Jameson Taillon.
In 20.1 innings, Taillon has an 0.89 ERA and has allowed just 9 hits -- just 1 one which has gone for extra bases -- across 75 batters faced. The 26-year-old appears to be entering his prime, with a strikeout rate of 24.0%, up from 21.3% and 20.3% the two years before. He's also lowered his walk rate from 7.8% to 6.7%, and opponents are hitting a meager .130 against him.
That's mainly because Taillon's sinker has forced hitters to smash the ball into the ground 58.8% of the time so far in 2018, way up from last year's ground-ball rate of 47.3%. Taillon is also fully healthy for the first time in a long time. He missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery and all of 2015 with a sports hernia.
The talent has always been there, and now he's finally putting it all together. He looks like a breakout player who is worth buying-high on.
Buy Scott Kingery
Kingery hit his seventh double of the season in the Phils' win over the Rays on Sunday, a bases clearing shot that gives him a slash line of .280/.315/.540 in 54 plate appearances, with 2 homers, 2 steals, 12 RBIs and 8 runs scored. Not only that, he plays four different positions for fantasy owners: outfield, second base, third base and shortstop.
#Phillies' Scott Kingery smashes a bases-clearing double in T3. @Phillies No. 2 prospect now has 11 RBIs in his past 6 games. No. 35 on @MLB's #Top100Prospects list: https://t.co/TuTZgd5PTS pic.twitter.com/AA1HPWs2jW
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 15, 2018
Oh, and there's this.
Scott Kingery leads the Phillies with 8 extra-base hits — and has more so far than Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, the list goes on. What a start.
— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) April 15, 2018
That positional flexibility, plus the fact he's on pace for about 80 doubles this season, means he should continue to play virtually every day for the Phillies, and he's worth buying in season-long formats.
Sell Andrew McCutchen
Everyone loves Andrew McCutchen. He's one of the more personable players in the game and has been one of the game's best players for the last decade or so. But in fantasy, you're likely looking for something a little better that what 'Cutch can offer right now.
He had a great bounceback season for the Pirates last year in which he put up a wOBA of .360 with 28 homers, 11 steals, 94 runs and 88 RBIs, but the trade from Pittsburgh to the San Francisco Giants was never going to be good for his offensive numbers. San Francisco is a difficult ballpark for hitters and, one six-hit game aside, McCutchen has struggled to get going here in 2018.
In 66 plate appearances he's hitting .203/.288/.339 with 2 bombs, 8 RBIs and 8 runs scored. If you throw out his 6-for-7 performance on April 7th, McCutchen has six hits in his other 52 at-bats (.115 average).
You're not going to get much for him now, so it may be worth sitting tight and seeing if McCutchen can sustain his 40.9% hard-hit rate and bounce back to respectability. Or, the next time he puts up a couple good games together, you can put him on the hook and toss out the line to see if anyone in your league will bite on a headline name.
Buy Starling Marte
The Pirates' outfielder is having a nice little start to his season here in 2018 after a 5-for-5 performance, which raised his season-long slash line to .305/.388/.559. In 67 plate appearances, he has 3 homers, 6 RBIs, 10 runs scored and is 4-for-6 in stolen bases.
This is coming off a season in which he played in only 77 games and posted a wOBA of .312. Marte appears to be playing better than ever, and his patience at the plate is a clear reason why. Coming into the season, Marte had averaged a 5.0% walk-rate in his career, and that number was 5.9% last year. This year, he's walking in 12.9% of his plate appearances -- by far a career high -- and is whiffing in just 16.1% of his trips to the plate, a career-low clip. Over his career, he has swung at 36.5% of pitches outside the strike zone, but this year, that number is down to 22.2%, and he's increased his swing percentage in the zone from 68.1% to 79.1%.
These are the types of things we look for when trying to decide if a hot start is for real, and Marte's scorching start appears to be legit.
Hold Javier Baez
-Gets engaged ✅
-Second HR on the night ✅
-Fourth HR in the last two games ✅
Javier Baez, folks. So fun to watch. pic.twitter.com/pi7F8NllKy
— Cubs Live (@Cubs_Live) April 12, 2018
While Baez is a ton of fun to watch in real life, he historically hasn't been a ton of fun to own in fantasy. But that may be changing.
Baez's walk rate has jumped dramatically in this admittedly small sample size of a 2018 season, from a career mark of 5.3% to 10.9% in his first 55 plate appearances. His batting average (.191) isn't great, but the walks have kept him on-base percentage (.309) in a fairly respectable range, and his slugging percentage (.571) and wOBA (.351) are both outstanding.
He has 14 RBIs and 11 runs scored in 14 games played, and he has reduced his always-high strikeout percentage from a career mark of 29.0% to 23.6%.
Has Baez learned a little plate discipline? Well, his swing percentage on pitches out of the zone (43.8%) is close to his career norms (42.9%), but his swing percentage on pitches in the zone (82.9%) is way up over his career average (68.6%). And when he does swing out of the zone, he's making a bit more contact (62.3%) compared to his career average (54.3%).
Honestly, I'm not sure if this is sustainable, but if the walk and strikeout rates remain the same, his batting average is going to come up. If that happens and Baez adds a decent average and on-base percentage to his power numbers, he'll be a valuable fantasy commodity. So, hang tight for a little bit longer with Baez.
Buy Aaron Hicks
When Aaron Hicks plays, he is a stud. He came into his own last year when he hit .266/.372/.475 in 88 injury-shortened games for the New York Yankees, notching 15 homers and 10 steals in what was essentially half a season. He started the 2018 season on the disabled list, but Hicks is back and doing good baseball things.
Sometimes, keeping it inside the walls works too...it's an inside-the-park two-run homer for Aaron Hicks! #YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/6WK4PjQ0FB
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 13, 2018
In just three games since coming back, he's already got two dingers, one of the inside-the-park variety (as seen above) and this blast that was of the more traditional kind. Hicks walks a lot (14.1% of plate appearances last year) and doesn't whiff all that often (18.6%), and if he can just stay on the darn field, he's one of the more productive and unheralded outfield options in fantasy. Buy now before the numbers go up.
Sell Freddy Galvis
Don't believe the hype.
As someone who has followed the Phillies religiously since the late 1980s, I can tell you what Freddy Galvis is. He's an outstanding defensive player who can show some occasional pop at the plate, but he never walks and makes a ton of outs, which is why I'm warning you that his suddenly outrageously high walk rate of 17.4% (career 5.6%) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .405 is completely unsustainable.
Yes, it's great that Galvis is hitting .316/.435/.421 this season. It's also great he has a wOBA of .386. He's been one of the best offensive shortstops over the first two weeks of the season.
Sell him now, because it's not going to last.
Hold Jed Lowrie
While we're at it, let's throw another overachieving infielder log onto the bonfire.
Oakland Athletics second baseman Jed Lowrie is currently the No. 4 rated fantasy second baseman according to our rankings, and ranks No. 31 in overall value (pitchers and hitters). And while he's not going to maintain a slash line of .348/.403/.576 all season, and his BABIP of .396 is unsustainable, his walk rate of 8.3% is down from both his 11.3% mark last year and his career 9.4% walk rate. In addition to that, his strikeout rate of 19.4% is up from his 15.5% mark from last year and his 16.2% strikeout rate for his career.
Lowrie isn't a bad player, and he is having an outstanding fantasy season so far, with his 40.4% hard-hit rate looking impressive. But his 4 jacks -- courtesy of a 21.1% homer-to-fly-ball rate, when his career average is 6.7% -- and 14 RBIs in 16 games may be fuel you can use to get a better player on your team, provided you have another answer at second base either on your roster or available on the waiver wire. It might be best to give him another week or two to see how this all shakes out.