Stats Say Buy Low on Phillies’ Carlos Santana, Sell High On Yankees’ Didi Gregorius
A Sabermetric Trading Guide and the Latest Prospect Arrivals
The weather is finally breaking, and Fantasy Baseball is in full swing nearly a month into the season. We have the players that have surprised us and also those which have disappointed us so far this season.
But when is the right time to give up on a player? Is the player really doing as poorly as they seem to be doing, or should you hold on to them or even look to buy a player from another team who is struggling?
One of the best ways to identify buy-low players in Fantasy is to look at the advanced metrics to see players that have the good peripherals, but their actual numbers haven’t translated over yet.
On the offensive side, let’s look at Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA) and Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) differences to identify some players who haven’t quite gotten into the full swing of things.
Now, to further explain, wOBA, in its most simplistic form, is a stat that measures a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance. But like many statistics, the actual number doesn’t tell the entire story. That’s where xwOBA comes in. It’s the true measure of what a player’s wOBA should be, and subsequently measures their overall offensive contributions per plate appearance.
Brighter Days Ahead
The players with the biggest different between their xwOBA and wOBA are:
Carlos Santana (.426 xwOBA, .270 wOBA)
Randal Grichuk (.342 xwOBA, .200 wOBA)
Joey Votto (.406 xwOBA, .272 wOBA)
Adam Duvall (.365 xwOBA, .240 wOBA)
Francisco Lindor (.387 xwOBA, .272 wOBA)
Yonder Alonso (.420 xwOBA, .308 wOBA)
Jose Abreu (.466 xwOBA, .354 wOBA)
Corey Seager (.402 xwOBA, .291 wOBA)
Those are some pretty big names in terms of expected Fantasy contributors. And for the most part, the aforementioned players have all struggled throughout the first part of the season.
Santana is traditionally a slow starter, and he’s seemingly one of the best buy-low candidates in Fantasy each year. He’s in the perfect park in Philadelphia, and it’s only a matter of time until he gets it going. He’s actually hitting the ball harder than he has in any year since 2010, and he’s hitting fewer groundballs. The rest of his numbers are in line with his 2017 numbers. Along with having the widest margin between his xwOBA and wOBA, Santana has a .150 BABIP, which is more than 100 points lower than his career norm.
There’s no better buy in Fantasy – especially in points leagues - than Santana. Make your offers now while you still can.
Another player that Fantasy owners should hold out hope for is Grichuk. I’m hesitant to call him a buy, because the Blue Jays have so many options to plug in that Grichuk could lose playing time if his surface stats don’t soon turn around. Not only is his xwOBA and wOBA differential second only to Santana, but he’s among the Barrel leaders yet again. Grichuk’s nine Barrels are tied for the sixth-most in baseball, and that’s on just 36 batted ball events. If you have a bench spot to stash a player, you can get Grichuk for pennies at this point.
Time To Sell?
Just as you can identify buy-low players with xwOBA and wOBA differential, you can use it to identify players that are overachieving early, too.
The top overachievers in wOBA so far are:
Joey Wendle (.265 xwOBA, .369 wOBA)
Brian Dozier (.312 xwOBA, .384 wOBA)
Mallex Smith (.310 xwOBA, .378 wOBA)
Jonathan Villar (.220 xwOBA, .280 wOBA)
Didi Gregorius (.407 xwOBA, .465 wOBA)
Ryan Flaherty (.360 xwOBA, .411 wOBA)
Eddie Rosario (.251 xwOBA, .300 wOBA)
Eduardo Nunez (.281 xwOBA, .328 wOBA)
Odubel Herrera (.308 xwOBA, .355 wOBA)
Asdrubal Cabrera (.368 xwOBA, .414 wOBA)
For the most part, the above players are proven Fantasy contributors, so there’s not a huge takeaway with these names. Just expect regression to come, especially for players who have been red-hot like Gregorius. A few other names in the Top 25 that stood out to me were Jed Lowrie (0.31 difference), Dansby Swanson (.038 difference) and Christian Villanueva (.043 difference). All have vastly overachieved so far on the year, and Lowrie is the only one that has a chance to keep up his production. It’s worth dangling any of the three right now to see if you can capitalize before the regression kicks in.
Time for the Kids to Play
Prospect hounds loved Sunday morning, as news broke that three big prospects – no, not Ronald Acuna, folks – would be joining their Major League teams this upcoming week. With Adam Wainwright on the DL, Jack Flaherty returns to the St. Louis rotation, while Gleyber Torres and David Dahl look to add offensive sparks to their respective lineups.
For Flaherty, it’s preposterous that it’s taken this long for him to make his return to the Cardinals’ rotation. He had a lights-out start in the first week of the season, but we’ve learned that skipper Mike Matheny is loyal – to a fault – to guys like Wainwright. Well, the opening is there for Matheny to again right his wrong, as Flaherty is returning to the rotation after Wainwright hit the disabled list.
Wainwright has downplayed the injury, saying the only concern you should have is if he’ll make 30 starts instead of 31. But since his Achilles injury, Waino has been a shell of his former self. Meanwhile, Flaherty has been tearing up Triple-A with a 2.25 ERA and a 9.90 K/9 in three starts. He’s a better pitcher than Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Miles Mikolas, so there’s no reason that Flaherty and his beautiful slider shouldn’t be in the rotation for good. He won’t be getting the start Tuesday, but look for him to join the rotation this weekend against the Pirates. He needs to be added in all leagues regardless of size.
As for Torres, he received a standing ovation Sunday in his Yankees’ debut, but went hitless on the day. Torres is going to be a very good real-life baseball player, but I have doubts that he’ll ever be a top option for Fantasy owners.
Torres’ best feature is his hit tool, as he’s displayed a near-.300 average throughout the minors, including hitting .347 in Triple-A this season. The problem with Torres is he doesn’t excel at one thing, which caps his Fantasy ceiling. He has 10-15 home run potential and 10-15 steal potential. You can look back at his 2015 A-ball numbers and point out that he stole 22 bases, which is fair. However, he was also caught 13 times on the basepaths that year. He seemingly just runs but has no clue what he’s doing when attempting a steal.
With SS eligibility and soon to get 2B to add to it, Torres has value in deeper leagues, but I wouldn’t count him as a Top 15 option at either position for this year.
As for Dahl, there’s seemingly always a setback for him – whether it’s a fluke injury, a real injury or a crowded outfield. With Carlos Gonzalez on the DL and Gerardo Parra serving his suspension, Dahl has to make the most of his opportunity to stick around. Having three home games against the San Diego Padres and three road games against a less-than-average Marlins’ rotation is a good start.
When healthy and when he gets the playing time, Dahl is a five-category contributor for Fantasy teams. But if Dahl is unable to capitalize on his opportunity this week, he’ll be back down in Triple-A so he gets regular at-bats. He needs to be owned in all 12-team leagues.
Carlos Santana Featured Image: (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
Graphic Table originally published on fangraphs.com.
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