10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 5
The Atlanta Braves were supposed to be rebuilding, but a couple of their young studs are apparently not content to throw away this season.
Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna are off to eye-opening starts to their campaigns, with Acuna's season just five days long as of Monday. Albies, who played 57 games with the team in 2017, has been with the Braves since Opening Day and has not stopped hitting, and both he and Acuna have helped Atlanta race out to a 16-11 record, putting them in second place in the National League East.
I wrote about Acuna in last week's column ahead of his call-up. Hopefully you heeded my advice, as Acuna has hit .421/.500/.789 in five games with one monster homer, four RBIs and four doubles. The 20-year-old has been every bit as good as advertised and gave fantasy owners a phenomenal week of productivity in his first week in the Majors.
However, now's not the time to buy on Acuna -- last week was -- as the price will be too high now, so if you missed your chance, you're probably just going to have to curse your bad timing, because Acuna owners aren't going to give him up.
The same could be true for Albies, who has been an extra-base machine since the bell rang on 2018. Here's how he started Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
1âƒ£ FLEX@Braves star Ozzie Albies leads off the game with an absolute rocket for a home run. pic.twitter.com/vnq1rUlCzj
â€” FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) April 29, 2018
The 22-year-old leads the NL in the following categories: runs (29), hits (34), doubles (12), homers (9), extra-base hits (22), and total bases (75), and he is second in slugging percentage (.647). He's on pace for 66 doubles, 54 dingers, 108 RBIs and 162 runs scored. Obviously, he's not going to hit those numbers, but it gives you some idea what his March and April have been like.
If it's possible to buy either player in your league, do it, especially in dynasty leagues, where these two young studs will be worth their weight in gold. They're going to be really good for a very long time, which means they're going to cost you quite a lot to acquire.
Here are nine other fantasy players to buy, sell or hold for Week 5.
Buy Mitch Haniger
As one looks at the MLB home run leaderboard, you'll notice a very familiar name at the top -- Mike Trout, who has 10 round-trippers already. No surprise there. The other two dudes whose names are right alongside him, however, are a bit of a shocker.
Players with 10 HR this season: @MikeTrout@DidiG18
And now â€¦ Mitch Haniger! pic.twitter.com/UCgUvcuvBN
â€” MLB (@MLB) April 29, 2018
Didi Gregorius is off to an MVP-caliber season thus far, but this you know. Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger, whose 27 RBIs to go along with his 10 bombs are tied with Jed Lowrie for second in the Majors, has been almost as hot with a slash line of .309/.384/.701, wOBA of .446 and wRC+ of 186.
The peripherals tell you Haniger has improved in a number of areas that make all this look legit. His walk rate is a career-best 10.7%, up from 7.6% a year ago. His strikeout rate of 23.2% is just a tick higher than last year's (22.7%), and he's hitting fewer ground balls than he did last year, 32.9% ground-ball rate compared to a 44.0% clip in 2017. His hard-hit rate has also improved, from 34.7% in 2017 to 43.8% now.
He won't continue to bash 10 dingers a month, but he should continue to out-pace his preseason projections.
Sell Evan Longoria
Those types of numbers are reminiscent of his outstanding seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays when he was a younger man. But a 4.8% walk rate during these last two weeks isn't all that good, even though it is better than his season-long walk rate of 3.1%. He's also striking out at a higher rate than ever before, going down on strikes in 25.8% of plate appearances, a career high.
One thing Longoria has going for him is he's hitting the ball harder this year with a hard-hit rate of 48.5%, way up from last year's 34.3% rate. But his 21.4% home-run-per-fly-ball ratio is completely unsustainable in San Francisco, a rough environment for offense, so when that .527 slugging percentage starts to come down, all you're going to be left with is an on-base percentage under .300 and not much else.
After a hot couple of weeks, now is the time to sell Longoria.
Buy Yoan Moncada
The top prospect in the Chicago White Sox's system is finally establishing himself as a dangerous player. In 120 plate appearances, he's batting .267/.353/.524 with 6 homers, 17 runs scored and 13 RBIs. Earlier this week, he led off back-to-back games with monster jacks.
Leadoff home run on back-to-back days for Yoan Moncada pic.twitter.com/3Q0oL1iyZj
â€” SI MLB (@si_mlb) April 27, 2018
Over the last two weeks, Moncada has put up 1.2 fWAR and is batting .339/.403/.714 with five dingers and four stolen bases. No, he won't stay this hot. His .500 BABIP over the last 14 days will regress, but his season-long 39.2% strikeout rate should also come down a bit. His walk rate of 11.7% is perfectly fine, and his speed-power combo could make him one of the more valuable fantasy performers by the time the season is over.
Sell Rick Porcello
Here are Rick Porcello's ERAs every year since 2009, his first full season as a starting pitcher: 3.96, 4.92, 4.76, 4.59, 4.32, 3.43, 4.92, 3.15, and 4.65. Not exactly what you would call calm waters.
So far this year over six starts (40.1 innings), he has a 2.23 ERA, 2.07 FIP, and 3.21 xFIP. He also is striking out 8.48 batters per nine innings and walking a scant 0.89 per nine. These are all fantastic numbers, and they're better than his Cy Young season in 2016.
His 24.2% strikeout rate is a career high, his 2.6% walk rate is a career low, and his ground-ball rate of 49.1% is in line with his career norms. Perhaps this is a situation where we are going to get the "good" Rick Porcello for the entire season, but with a 9.1% swinging-strike rate, his strikeout rate is probably going to come down, and it may be wise to sell-high on a starter with an up-and-down past rather than take the chance Porcello is going to put up another Cy Young-caliber season.
Buy Charlie Morton
Heading into his last start against the Los Angeles Angels, Charlie Morton had given up two runs in his first four starts (25 innings), and both came in a game against the Texas Rangers in which he struck out 12 and walked 1. His last start against L.A., however, didn't go well. He lasted just four innings and gave up four runs on five hits with five walks and two strikeouts.
Ordinarily, that fifth start would be enough for us to hit the "hold" sign, but Morton's 2017 season -- a year in which he went 14-7 in 25 starts, struck out 10 batters per nine, had a 3.62 ERA, 3.46 FIP and 3.58 xFIP, and performed like a postseason ace -- should be enough to convince us he's for real.
Morton's four-seam fastball is averaging 96.0 miles per hour this season, and the horizontal break on his slider is insane.
#Angels @ #Astros
Charlie Morton strikes out Chris Young swinging to end the top of the 2nd inning (00:13)
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/bqgA9Ueg51 pic.twitter.com/Rgk8XaTACR
â€” Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) April 25, 2018
No, he won't continue to strand 95.0% of baserunners this year, so the ERA will go up a bit. But he's still a strikeout machine with some of the nastiest stuff out there. As is usually the case with Morton, the big concern is health. But when he's healthy, he should deal, so if his owner is down on him after his last start, buy, buy, buy.
Sell Vince Velasquez
Philadelphia Phillies starter Vince Velasquez has been tantalizing fans for years now with stuff that often borders on the ridiculous, but the results just haven't been there. This season, it's been more of the same and if you have him in fantasy, it's time to give up.
Yes, Velasquez is striking out 10.20 batters per nine and has a strikeout rate of 25.6% this season, all while reducing his walks a bit, with his walk rate falling from 10.8% in 2017 to 6.8% so far in 2018. But on a start-to-start basis, he's a complete enigma. In his first start against the Atlanta Braves, he lasted just 2.2 innings and gave up four runs. In his next three starts, he completed six innings and gave up one, one and three earned runs. And then, in his mot recent two starts, he pitched a total of just 8.2 innings and gave up 10 earned runs.
Want an idea of how bad Vince Velasquezâ€™s location problems were today?
Here are Knappâ€™s targets, and then the eventual locations of the hits Velasquez gave up in the first three innings. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/4DuCIPfxP5
â€” Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) April 29, 2018
Perhaps the most concerning issue was a drop in his velocity on Sunday against the Braves as he was down to just 92.9 miles per hour on his fastball, a big drop from his average of 94.1 miles per hour. He also generated just two swings and misses from his fastball, a career low for any start. But perhaps this is the best reason of all to sell on Velasquez.
Today's Vince Velasquez's 45th start with the Phillies.
4.66 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 1.6 HR/9
â€” Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) April 29, 2018
You think 45 starts is a large enough sample size? I do. Sell someone on the strikeouts and the lower walk rate and get out of Dodge.
Sell Chase Utley
It pains me to write anything negative about any member of the 2008 Phillies, and this isn't necessarily anything "bad," per se, but Chase Utley just can't keep up this level of production.
#Dodgers @ #SFGiants
Chase Utley laces a pitch into right, scoring Chris Taylor and notching his third double of the game in the top of the 6th inning (00:36)
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/pVHEOJMh3t pic.twitter.com/mc8u7r7cTl
â€” Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) April 28, 2018
If you own Utley on your fantasy team, sell him now.
There's no way his slash line of .298/.406/.456 is going to hold up for much longer. His wOBA of .370 and wRC+ of 140 are his highest totals 2009, the midst of his prime. He has 1 homer and 2 steals in 69 plate appearances, with 11 RBIs and 9 runs scored, and he's walking in 14.5% of his plate appearances, by far the highest of his career, with a BABIP of .348 that will eventually fall.
Utley is still hitting the ball on the ground a lot, but he has exchanged some of his fly balls for line drives, with a line-drive percentage of 30.4%, also the highest of his career. That's likely unsustainable, and Utley will soon revert to his late career norms of a batting average in the low .200s, an OBP in the low .300s and a slugging percentage not much higher than that.
Hold Luis Castillo
Cincinnati Reds ace Luis Castillo was one the best sleeper candidates heading into the 2018 fantasy season, but so far, the results haven't been there. Castillo put up a 3.12 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 15 starts last year, striking out 27.3% of batters in the process. This year, his ERA is a staggering 7.85 with a 5.59 FIP and 4.39 xFIP in six starts. His strikeout rate has fallen to 18.3% and opponents are hitting .297 against him, nearly 100 percentage points higher than last year (.198).
Why is this happening? First, his velocity is down to 95.5 miles per hour this season after being at 97.5 last year. Second, his two-seam fastball is being left out over the plate a bit more, and the Reds are exploring the possibility Castillo may be tipping his pitches. There is also a school of thought that he may be nursing an injury as his release point and velocity on other pitches is also down.
That being said, Castillo has pitched in a lot of cold-weather games, which could account for the velocity dip. With a young pitcher like Castillo, who is still striking out a good number of hitters, it's too soon to start selling. At the same time, it's also not a good idea to buy low on a guy who might be hurt.
For now, sit tight with Castillo and hope the ace-level stuff -- and results -- returns.
Sell Greg Holland
Greg Holland got a late start to the 2018 season, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals once the season was already underway. It hasn't been good so far, and if you drafted him before the season with the expectation he'd be the Cardinals' closer and rack up the saves on a team that was expected to do well, it's probably not happening anytime soon.
In 10 appearances (7.1 frames), Holland has a 7.36 ERA, 6.32 FIP, 6.88 xFIP, with seven strikeouts and eight walks. He had a nice four-outing stretch last week in which he struck out five and walked one, but that was followed by two outings against the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend in which he gave up four runs in two outings, with just one strikeout in the span. He's also seen his velocity drop, down to 92.7 miles per hour this year (it was 93.5 in 2017).
It's fair to note that 4 of his 8 walks came in his first outing of the season, and he's only been scored upon in 4 of his 10 outings. And perhaps he'll get better as he pitches more. After all, he had no spring training. But for now, Bud Norris looks like the Cardinals' closer, and Holland doesn't appear to be getting the job anytime soon.