Mid-April is a tricky time for fantasy trade talks. While some players trends are starting to take shape, the lines between fact and fiction are narrow when analyzing small samples of data.
Overall, successful owners will fall back on their preseason rankings when making trades at this time. If a deal would have made sense two weeks ago, it likely still makes sense today. However, there are obvious caveats with when talking about deals involving players who are injured or have had their role change since meaningful games began on March 29. Finally, a handful of fantasy assets are starting to emerge as prime candidates to form the basis of trade discussions this weekend.
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Paul Goldschmidt, First baseman (D-backs): Goldschmidt saw his draft stock drop but still managed to remain in the first round after the D-backs announced that they were going to use a humidor at Chase Field for the 2018 season. However, many owners of the 30-year-old are likely questioning their investment after he opened the season by collecting one hit across six contests at his formerly hitter-friendly home park. Wise owners will float the concept of a humidor-depressed season for Goldschmidt while keeping silent on the fact that the D-backs produced five homers and averaged six runs per game across their six-game season-opening homestand.
Gary Sanchez, Catcher (Yankees): Expected by many owners to have the best offensive season of any catcher since Buster Posey slashed .336/.408/.549 in 2012, Sanchez is off to a miserable start that includes producing a .278 OPS across 33 plate appearances. And with catchers generally considered risky fantasy propositions, some Sanchez owners may be regretting their strategy of making an early-round investment in the 25-year-old. This is the perfect chance for wise owners to send out a 2-for-1 offer in which they acquire Sanchez for the cost of a respectable backstop and useful-but-unspectacular second player.
Yoan Moncada, Second baseman (White Sox): With nine homers and a .226 batting average across 248 career at-bats, Moncada has continually tested the patience of owners who paid a premium price for his services at various points since he debuted down the stretch in 2016. However, those who dig a little deeper will see signs of a looming breakout for a former elite prospect who has produced a stellar 60.0 percent hard-hit rate to this point in ’18. Currently hitting atop the White Sox lineup, Moncada could soon produce a solid batting mark and earn more chances to flash the superior speed he showed when he stole 111 bases across 267 career minor league contests.
Jameson Taillon, Starter (Pirates): Owners still have time to buy low on Taillon after he turned in a solid-but-unspectacular (two runs across 5 1/3 innings) initial start of 2018. In addition to posting an outstanding 9:0 K:BB ratio during his April 2 outing against the Twins, the right-hander held Minnesota to just 9.1 percent hard contact while inducing soft contact on 27.3 percent of balls-in-play. Owners should use Taillon’s mediocre statistics from last season (4.44 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) in trade talks while expecting that he will regain his ’16 form (3.38 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) this year.
Corey Knebel, reliever (Brewers): Knebel owners who were expecting 40 saves must now deal with the news that they will be without their No. 1 closer for at least six weeks. In the minds of many owners, late May is miles away. However, those who know that fantasy baseball leagues are a marathon and not a sprint will realize that Knebel could still compile 30 saves this year. The smart trade offer right now is to request Knebel at the expense of a healthy-but-mediocre closer who may not hold his role for the full season.
Lance McCullers, Starter (Astros): McCullers is off to a stellar start (3.48 ERA, 2.05 FIP, 14.8 K/9 rate), and he has the skills to back it up. So, what is he doing on a Sell High list? Well, injury-prone players who open the season in fine fashion are some of the best sell-high candidates. No matter how well he fares in April, the 24-year-old will remain a volatile long-term asset by virtue of having made four trips to the disabled list across the previous two seasons. Additionally, the right-hander could be putting excessive pressure on his arm by throwing his outstanding curveball more often (57.7 percent) and harder (87.8 miles per hour) than ever before. McCullers owners should not be desperate to move him but could test the waters to find out if a league-mate views him as a fantasy ace.
Paul DeJong, Shortstop (Cardinals): After surprisingly producing 25 homers across 417 at-bats as a rookie last season, DeJong is already regularly flashing his plus power stroke (three homers across 30 at-bats) this year. Although the 24-year-old can be counted on to log a solid homer total, he may not provide impactful numbers in other categories due to his lack of plate discipline (career 22:135 BB:K ratio) that will likely impact his batting average and runs-scored total. Additionally, DeJong is among the only mixed-league options at his premium position who won’t produce at least a handful of steals this season.
Wade Davis, Reliever (Rockies): So far, so good for Davis in his new gig as the Rockies’ closer. With many ninth-inning options such as Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Corey Knebel having already experienced bumps in the road, this is the perfect time for owners of the 32-year-old to rid themselves of this risky fireman. Saving games at offense-inducing Coors Field is a tough task that Davis has not yet been asked to handle. Need proof? Well, in the 25-year history of the Colorado franchise, just four relievers have produced more than 31 saves in a single season. Additionally, Davis is unlikely to log a heavy workload after compiling fewer than 60 innings during each of the previous two years.
Yasmani Grandal, Catcher (Dodgers): Owners who take a closer look at Grandal will likely conclude that his stellar start to 2018 (.985 OPS) is likely to quickly fade into mediocrity. The 29-year-old has benefited from a .500 BABIP despite logging a bloated soft-contact rate of 30.8 percent. Once the good luck wears off, Grandal will likely return to his career norm of a low-average catcher with 20-homer potential. Further, with the added challenge of competing for playing time with Austin Barnes (.289/.408/.486 slash line in ’17), Grandal could disappear from mixed-league lineups at some point this year.
Michael Fulmer, Starter (Tigers): On the surface, Fulmer opened his season as well as virtually any starter in baseball when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball against the Pirates on April 1. However, there is little beyond the surface stats to support the notion that Fulmer dominated the Bucs. The right-hander held Pittsburgh to a .190 BABIP despite allowing a hard-contact rate of 42.9 percent and inducing soft contact at a rate of just 4.8 percent. Additionally, the 25-year-old continued to be a poor source of whiffs, compiling just three strikeouts after posting a meager 6.2 K/9 rate last year. Finally, he followed up his successful debut by dancing around trouble (nine baserunners across 5 1/3 innings) to hold the White Sox off the scoreboard on Saturday. Fulmer owners who act quickly may be able to convince a competitor that the righty is the solution to their early-season pitching problems.