Fred Zinkie

Trading Tips

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Trading Tips: May 13

Sunday, May 13, 2018


With the middle of May upon us, even the most patient fantasy owners are starting to have their doubts with disappointing players. That means the time is right for those with a wider perspective to go big-game hunting on the trade market. This week’s quintet of buy-low candidates includes some of the best players in baseball and the five-pack of sell-high names contains some players who have posted truly stellar stats thus far.
 

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Buy Low
 
Paul Goldschmidt, First baseman (D-backs): Simply put, everything is wrong with Goldschmidt, who has fueled his own slump rather than being the victim of batted-ball misfortune. The slugger is striking out more often than ever before (30.7 percent), which has been fueled by an 11.3 percent swinging-strike rate. Further, when he does make connect, he is producing a rate of hard contact (37.9 percent) that is more than six percent lower than last year. However, the good news for Goldy seekers is that the rationale for a buy-low bid is plentiful. With a lifetime .923 OPS, the 30-year-old has a sky-high ceiling if he can get back into form. Although most of the buy-low picks in this space are fueled by underlying stats, sometimes owners need to believe that talented players will eventually find their way out of a dry spell.
 
Giancarlo Stanton, Outfielder (Yankees): Stanton presents a similar case to Goldschmidt – a first-rate talent who should be in his prime but is instead showing diminished skills this year. The slugger is showing respectable power skills (nine homers), but he is providing a disappointing .238 batting average while logging the highest strikeout rate (32.3 percent) of his career. Nevertheless, Stanton is continuing to apply hammer to baseball when he makes contact (45.7 percent hard-contact rate) and has all the additional perks (hitter-friendly home park, outstanding lineup support) that were present when he was a first-round pick in March. Wise owners will understand the roller-coaster ride that accompanies this all-or-nothing slugger and expect that a scorching stretch will be part of his 2018 season.
 
Clayton Kershaw, Starter (Dodgers): The consensus No. 1 starter less than two months ago, Kershaw can be acquired for a significant discount right now. After all, the southpaw is currently sitting on the disabled list with a biceps injury while possessing his highest ratios (2.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) since way back in 2010. With his velocity down at the outset of this season, the 30-year-old is giving his owners reason to believe that he is no longer a mixed-league ace. Still, for those who need to make a bold move with their pitching staff, adding Kershaw at a significant discount right now could be the kind of trade that turns around a season.
 
Jose Altuve, Second baseman (Astros): While Altuve remains a batting-average asset (.323), he has certainly been underwhelming in other areas. The diminutive superstar has collected just two homers and a pair of steals, and he is on pace to compile fewer than 70 RBIs despite occupying a premium spot in one of baseball’s best lineups. Nevertheless, with his underlying plate skills nearly identical to recent seasons, the 28-year-old – who has compiled at least 30 steals in six straight seasons – likely just needs a little HR/FB luck and a green light to run more aggressively in order to return to the form that made him the consensus No. 2 pick in 2018 drafts.
 
Kris Bryant, Third baseman (Cubs): Bryant is a fascinating fantasy phenomenon. After all, the slugger has boosted his OPS in two straight seasons since winning the NL MVP in 2016, but his fantasy value has surprisingly plummeted along the way. You see, while the Cubs are likely pleased with Bryant’s consistently improved ability to manage the strike zone and make contact, those who evaluate him through a fantasy lens are unhappy with any trade-off that decreases homers and RBIs. Nevertheless, Bryant has cemented his status as one of the most consistent stars in the Majors, and he still has the booming bat (43.6 percent hard-contact rate in 2018) that spurred a 39-homer season two years ago. The 26-year-old simply needs to raise his launch angle (36.2 percent fly-ball rate in ’18) in order to turn a few more of his base knocks into round-trippers.

 

Sell High
 
Odubel Herrera, Outfielder (Phillies): While Herrera should remain a shallow-league lineup fixture throughout 2018, his greatest fantasy value could be as a sell-high asset right now. The 26-year-old is legit as a high-average hitter, but his eye-popping .360 average has been partially fueled by a .398 BABIP. Further, his improved power skills (six homers across 136 at-bats) have been spurred by a higher-than-usual 16.2 percent HR/FB rate despite logging fewer fly balls (31.6 percent) and hard-contact (27.2 percent) than in recent seasons. Owners who can package Herrera with another player to acquire a real superstar should be willing to make the move.
 
Dee Gordon, Outfielder (Mariners): To be clear, Gordon is a terrific fantasy asset who is likely going to be very productive throughout 2018. However, owners of the speedster would be wise to float his name on the trade market, as he might fetch a massive return. Although a legitimate .300 hitter, Gordon has definitely benefited from a .397 BABIP that ranks ninth among all qualified hitters. So far this season, he is producing his typically low rate of hard contact (16.0 percent) while also logging an alarming 0.09 BB:K ratio. The inevitable batting-average regression that awaits Gordon will also take away some of his opportunities to steal bases at such an impressive rate. Overall, owners of the 30-year-old may be able to get a huge haul from an owner who is falling behind in swipes.
 
Yoenis Cespedes, Outfielder (Mets): The injuries are piling up for Cespedes, who missed time with quad and hamstring injuries in the previous two seasons before dealing with minor ailments to his wrist, thumb and quad during the past two months. However, the 32-year-old has somehow managed to show respectable power skills (seven homers across 133 at-bats) while appearing in every Mets game to this point in 2018. Still, his strikeout rate has skyrocketed to an alarming 33.1 percent this year, and his owners have to wonder if the extra whiffs are a reflection of a body that is slowly wearing down. The wise move might be to trade Cespedes now, before he eventually lands on the disabled list and his value really plummets.
 
Carlos Martinez, Starter (Cardinals): Martinez appears in this space for a second time this season, as he is likely the best sell-high candidate among the pitcher pool. The right-hander entered the season with the name value to provide a large return, and his status has continued to grow while posting a 1.62 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP across his initial eight starts. At this point, owners of the 26-year-old can easily make the case that he has finally ascended to being a mixed-league ace. However, a closer look at his underlying numbers shows that Martinez has benefited from excellent luck (.237 BABIP, 2.6 percent HR/FB rate) while showing diminished control skills (10.5 percent walk rate). Overall, this is not an ace, but rather the same pitcher who entered this season as a No. 2 starter in mixed formats. Wise Martinez owners will wait for him to return from a DL stint that is expected to be close to the minimum and then peddle his services as soon as he has 1-2 effective starts.
 
Nomar Mazara, Outfielder (Rangers): Mazara opened May in scorching fashion, producing seven homers and a 1.406 OPS across 44 plate appearances. The hot streak will spur some owners to believe that the 23-year-old is arriving as a power-hitting stud, but he is likely not there yet. You see, while Mazara makes plenty of hard contact (41.1 percent), his launch angle is too low (23.2 percent fly-ball rate) to consistently rip round-trippers. Mazara owners could fetch a massive return by dealing the red-hot outfielder to a competitor that doesn’t notice his unsustainable 38.5 percent HR/FB rate.



Fred Zinkie is a baseball writer for Rotoworld and BaseballHQ. You can find him on Twitter @FredZinkieMLB.
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