10 Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 6
The 3,000 Hit Club just got bigger! Albert Pujols, you’re its newest member! #Pujols3000 pic.twitter.com/hatWVJblga
— Angels (@Angels) May 5, 2018
There's no doubt Pujols is one of the all-time greats and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but right now, he's nowhere near the player he was when he won multiple MVP awards with the St. Louis Cardinals a decade ago. Nevertheless, he still plays a prominent role in the Los Angeles lineup.
Is he worth having in fantasy? In deeper or American League-only leagues, the answer is yes.
If you play in a league that uses on-base percentage, his 3.6% walk rate and .286 on-base percentage aren't going to do anything for you. His OPS of .729 isn't phenomenal, either, but he does have 6 home runs, 20 RBIs and 6 runs scored so far this season, giving him a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 97. That's almost league average.
And while you shouldn't necessarily go out and buy Pujols, he does still have some fantasy relevance. He's not a "bad" hitter, just a much different one than he used to be. In deeper or AL-only leagues, Pujols is worth having around on your bench in case injury situations develop.
Below are nine other players to buy, sell or hold for Week 6.
Buy Jorge Soler
When the Chicago Cubs traded Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals last year in exchange for relief pitcher Wade Davis, I wrote about how it was a high price to pay for a closer. Soler then proceeded to play in just 35 games for Kansas City, hitting .144/.245/.258 and spending most of the season (74 games) in Triple-A, making me look very dumb. Davis, meanwhile, helped the Cubs reach the playoffs once again.
#Tigers @ #Royals
Jorge Soler sits on one and hammers a solo home run over the left-field wall, putting the Royals on top 6-5 in the bottom of the 5th inning (00:30)
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/EqHopXVqo6 pic.twitter.com/wpwiDFprud
— Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) May 3, 2018
Turns out I was just a year early. Soler has emerged as a star for the Royals in 2018. In 30 games (127 plate appearances), he's batting .308/.425/.510 with 4 homers, 12 RBIs and 13 runs scored, with a wOBA of .407 and a wRC+ of 157.
His peripherals show improvement across the board. His strikeout rate is down from 32.7% last year to 25.2% this season, and his walk rate is up, from 10.9% to 15.7%. His 42.5% hard-hit rate ranks 27th out of 172 qualified Major League players, and his plate discipline has improved, too. His first-pitch strike percentage is at a career-low 59.1%, he's swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone (22.8%) and making more contact in the zone (83.6%).
He's been particularly devastating against left-handers, hitting .410/.500/.795 with 3 of his 4 dingers coming against southpaws. The 26-year-old has apparently figured some things out.
Sell Matt Kemp
Back in 2011, Matt Kemp was the runner-up MVP in the National League, putting up an 8.3 fWAR season, with 39 bombs and a slash line of .324/.399/.586. In the six years that followed, injuries and age caught up with the outfielder as he bounced to a few different teams. But now he's back with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he's turning back the clock.
The 33-year-old has been rejuvenated and has been the Dodgers' best player thus far. In 32 games (103 plate appearances), Kemp is batting .333/.369/.552 with 5 homers, 16 RBIs and 13 runs scored. Among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, his .921 OPS is tied for 21st out of 191 players.
Much of Kemp's success is due to getting in shape this off-season, when he reportedly dropped 40 pounds off his frame. And while I would love to believe he can keep up this level of play the entire season, the stats say otherwise.
His walk rate and strikeout rate remain about the same as they always have (5.8% and 23.3%, respectively), and while he is hitting more fly balls (34.2%) than he did last year (28.2%), it's still less than his career rate (35.8%). His .397 BABIP is well above his .339 career average, and his homer-per-fly-ball rate of 20.0% is tied for a career-best clip.
Sell high on Kemp while he's hitting like this.
Buy Caleb Smith
Don't look now, but the Miami Marlins may have found themselves a real, live baseball pitcher.
Caleb Smith has gotten off to an excellent start in 2018, with a 3.67 ERA, 3.36 FIP, and 3.51 xFIP through his first 7 starts (34.1 innings), and he's getting a ton of swings and misses in the process. He has a strikeout rate of 33.8% so far this season, with opponents hitting just .184 against him. The left-handed rookie has generally had good strikeout numbers in the minors, so his ability to miss bats is not some newfound skill.
#Rockies @ #Marlins
Caleb Smith is brilliant on the mound as he tosses 7 shutout innings, while striking out 9 and only allowing 2 hits vs. the Rockies (01:03)
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/AbtkQMSdkB pic.twitter.com/jmrDl1Of8M
— Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) April 29, 2018
In his last three starts, Smith has logged 18.2 innings and given up 7 hits, 2 walks and struck out 26 batters, albeit against some struggling offensive teams in the Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds. But he throws hard for a southpaw (average fastball of 93.3 miles per hour) and combines it with a pretty nasty slider and changeup that has generated a nice amount of swings and misses. Most importantly, he's held right-handers at bay, with a .174/.283/.337 slash line so far this season.
Don't sell everything to get him, but he's a nice buy for a pitching-needy team.
Buy Jacob deGrom
We all know how good Jacob deGrom is, so the New York Mets dodged a major bullet when the team announced he had escaped serious injury with his hyperextended right elbow. deGrom will spend a 10-day stint on the disabled list, missing two starts in the process.
He was one of the few players not to miss any time with the team last year, making 31 starts and pitching 201.1 innings. He won't cross the 200-inning threshold this year, but owners will still get their money's worth once he comes back as long as the Mets are telling the truth about his injury. DeGrom is striking out a career high 11.22 batters per nine (K/9), up from his career 9.76 K/9, and has done a great job keeping the ball in the yard, with a home-run-per-nine inning mark of 0.42.
DeGrom is a stud, and if any fantasy owners are looking to move him due to a roster crunch, now's the time to make an offer.
Buy Kris Bryant
This is kind of a no-brainer. Of course you should buy Kris Bryant. If the opportunity arises, one should always buy Kris Bryant, but his numbers this year indicate he could become even more valuable in fantasy than ever before.
The former MVP has been far less strikeout-prone in 2018, part of a years-long trend for him. In his rookie season back in 2015, he struck out 30.6% of the time. That number fell to 22.0% in 2016, 19.2% in 2017 and this year it is all the way down to 15.9%, in a time when the rest of the league has seen strikeout rates explode.
The reason for the drop is Bryant is making more contact on pitches outside the strike zone. He is over his career average of 58.6% this year, making contact on a whopping 71.3% of pitches out of the zone. While making contact is generally better than swinging through pitches, it's hard to get solid contact on pitches outside the zone.
Bryant's slash line of .272/.397/.515 isn't a whole lot different than in years past, and so far in 2018, he's hit the ball on the ground a bit more -- 40.5% ground-ball rate, up from his 34.5% career mark. That's the main reason why he's slugged just 4 dingers so far this season, and even when he does get the ball in the air, his home run-per-fly ball ratio of 13.8% is a career-low mark.
One of Bryant's main selling points is power, and so far this year, it hasn't been there, but it appears as though it still lies beneath after this mammoth shot against the St. Louis Cardinals last night.
After a few rain delays in St. Louis, @KrisBryant_23 provided the thunder. #Crushed pic.twitter.com/Qbix0Mo5v5
— MLB (@MLB) May 7, 2018
Now's the time to try to low-ball an offer for Bryant, using his lack of power as a lure.
Sell Tyler Chatwood
When Tyler Chatwood became a free agent after last season, it was hoped getting him away from Coors Field would help fix the control issues that plagued him during his time with the Colorado Rockies. So far, that hasn't happened.
Somehow, despite walking 7.44 batters per nine innings (BB/9), Chatwood has a 3.31 ERA in 6 starts this season. Those 7.44 BB/9 is way up from his already-high 4.69 BB/9 last year and career mark of 4.33 BB/9. His FIP (4.26) and xFIP (5.03) indicate a regression is coming, and he doesn't strike out enough hitters (8.82 K/9) to compensate.
Chatwood has so far gotten away with those walks thanks to an unsustainably low home run allowed total, having given up just one dinger so far this season. Use that low ERA to sell him to someone else before the regression hits.
Sell Sean Manaea
Sean Manaea was named the American League pitcher of the month for March/April and threw the season's first no-hitter this year, all of which are phenomenal accomplishments. In the season's first month, he went 4-2 with a 1.03 ERA and 0.62 WHIP, with that no-no thrown in there.
He's continued to pitch pretty well in May, with an ERA of 1.63 that is the fifth-lowest clip among qualified starters. But while his production is likely to continue to be decent in real-world baseball, in fantasy, now is the time to sell high.
Manaea has allowed a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of just .167, way below last year's .318 and far beneath the league average (.292). He's also managed a completely unsustainable strand rate (LOB%) of 89.7% (the league average is 72.9%), and he doesn't strike out a lot of guys in order to get it (7.61 K/9). He has lowered his walks (1.27 BB/9 is a career low), which is good, but given that he pitches to contact so much, his .150 opponents' batting average allowed is likely to rise.
Now's a great time to sell Manaea to a pitching-needy team in your league.
Buy James Paxton
When considering who the most underrated starting pitchers are in baseball, there are two names that spring to mind. In the National League, it's Aaron Nola, and in the American League, it's the Seattle Mariners' James Paxton.
Paxton is off to a ridiculous start in 2018, and it's no fluke. In 2016, he was a 3.5 fWAR player in just 20 starts, with a 3.79 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.35 xFIP, and last year, before he got hurt, had a 2.98 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 3.25 xFIP, worth 4.6 fWAR in 2017. Last week, Paxton piled up the whiffs against an Oakland Athletics team that had no answers.
Incredible performance by James Paxton. He sets a career-high with 16 K's in 7 innings of work. #TrueToTheBlue #BigMaple pic.twitter.com/aPeLeogBbw
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) May 3, 2018
Paxton is striking out a ridiculous 13.97 batters per nine, the best mark in all of baseball among qualified starters. His walks have gone up a bit (3.72 BB/9) and he's gotten very unlucky so far this year, with a BABIP of .349 that helps explain his rather high ERA of 4.19. His FIP of 3.05 and xFIP of 3.10 tell a truer story of his dominance thus far.
Buy Paxton now before that ERA shoots down.
Sell Hector Neris
Philadelphia Phillies closer Hector Neris may not be long for the closer role in Philly. After blowing a disastrous save against the Washington Nationals on Sunday, Neris has a 4.15 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 4.99 xFIP in 14 appearances. He does have 6 saves, but Neris has had only two 1-2-3 innings this season and is walking 6.23 batters per nine, way up from his career mark of 3.22.
Neris had been 26 for 27 in save opportunities dating back to last June 28, but that was when he had better control. Yes, he's still striking out guys at a good clip (10.38 K/9), but his WHIP of 1.62 is out of whack, and it's possible the team could move him from the closer role if he can't reduce his walk rate.
Selling him now before the demotion comes would be the smart choice.