Early Trading Guide: Sell Rays’ Blake Snell, Acquire Angels’ Kole Calhoun
Your Early-Season Guide to Fantasy Baseball Buying and Selling
The final week of April is suddenly upon us, and we realize that the baseball season is here in earnest. The time for days off, and early-season weather is over, with the meat of the season now at hand. The first few weeks are a time to fill holes and pick up missed free agents. With May coming, the time for self reflection begins. There is now enough of a sample size to make decisions about your team. If you’re honest with yourself, you should be able to look at your team and determine, “Can I win?” Is your team good enough, as currently constituted, to be there for the long haul? Although it’s impossible and irresponsible to think you’re team is ever good enough, you should know if your team isn’t, and where you need to make improvements.
One of the classic aspects of Fantasy Baseball is the art of trading; knowing when to dump that player who is playing out of his head. And conversely, knowing when to pick up that player that everyone else has completely given up on, takes a special gift. This is the time of season when trades begin to materialize. During the first few weeks, everyone loves their team, and nobody wants to part with their guys. But, after a 2-28 stretch from your $35 stud outfielder, or two consecutive starts where your starter can’t get out of the second inning, players become available.
Here’s a list of five players who are hotter than Hades and possibly ready for a downturn. If you have them, you may want to trade them away. And five players who are underperforming that may be able to be snagged for 75 cents on the dollar.
Jed Lowrie: He’s a nice player. He’s always been a nice player. But, he’s no Carlos Correa, which is who his stat line looks like. Right now, only Mookie Betts is a higher-ranked AL offensive player. Lowrie is currently tied for the most HRs with six; and leads the Al with 21 RBI. He has a DiMaggio-esque .346 AVG, to go along with a Bonds-like 1.020 OPS. Those numbers are a mirage. If you own him, be grateful and seek out a competitor struggling offensively, and trade him away, because he’s never hit over 16 HRs, or batted .300. The correction is coming; let someone else suffer through it.
Shohei Ohtani: This is a hard choice, but I think the right choice to move him. It’s impossible for there to be more hype around Ohtani after the start he had. He’s ranked near the top of the offensive and pitching lists, even after his dud the other night against the Red Sox. He developed a blister which forced him to leave after the second inning. Blisters can be funny things, just ask Aaron Sanchez. Could Ohtani win 20 games while hitting 30 bombs? Not likely. He’ll probably settle in and win between 12-14 games to go along with 15-20 HRs. You’ll obviously net more for pitcher Ohtani than hitter Ohtani.
Sean Manaea: Flash quiz; who’s the seventh-ranked starting pitcher right now in the AL? Yup, it’s Oakland’s Sean Manaea. Three of his four starts have been quality, and he boasts a 1.63 ERA to go with a tiny 0.72 WHIP. Pitchers with good ratios are like gold. Although he doesn’t strike out enough batters for my liking, less than seven per nine innings, those ratios should be enough for a team who needs pitching to take notice. It’s clear Oakland is looking for Manaea to take the next step in his development, which means an increase to his innings. Last season he pitched 158.2 innings. This season he’s on pace to pitch 235.2. There may be enough of a sample size to pawn him off onto some unsuspecting neophyte.
Jarlin Garcia .096
Matt Boyd .132
Reynaldo Lopez .150
Jameson Taillon .160
Sean Manaea .169
Jake Junis .170
Tanner Roark .180
Chase Anderson .193
Aaron Nola .194
Carlos Carrasco .203
Corey Kluber .206
Jose Berrios .209
Steven Matz .211
Justin Verlander .211
— Matt Modica (@ctmbaseball) April 19, 2018
Jake Junis: Junis, like Manaea, cannot sustain his start. Their numbers are eerily similar. His ERA is 1.93 and his WHIP is 0.80. And his innings situation is even more stark than Manaea’s. Last season Junis pitched 98.1 innings, and this season, he’s on pace to throw over 200 innings. He’s on a terrible Kansas City team, so wins will be tough to come by. If you can get someone to bite on him to fill a hole you have, you should personally drive Junis to the other team’s house. It feels like you are on borrowed time, and every start could potentially turn into a 2.2 inning, seven earned run situation.
Blake Snell: The last player I have this week for you to consider is Snell. He, Junis and Manaea are all so similar this year. Of the three, Snell has the best pedigree, but he’s just on a terrible team, in the buzz-saw division of the AL East. I always love drafting young pitching prospects, but I’m always leery of them too. The likelihood that Snell maintains his pace of 18-9, 2.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 234 Ks is unlikely. The same position for trading away Manaea and Junis, holds true for Snell. As the weather starts to improve and get warmer, so will hitters. Trade these mid-range arms away before it’s too late.
James Paxton: On the other end of the spectrum are the players who have started the season scuffling. Paxton is one of those. He only has one win to show for his four starts thus far. And, his ERA is a bloated 4.57. Much is expected of Paxton this season. He’s coming off a career high of 156 strikeouts in 136 innings, and he’s expected to slot in behind King Felix, and finally get beyond the 150-inning plateau. At age 29, he should be in the midst of his prime seasons, but his career just hasn’t materialized that way. If his current owner is getting frustrated with his start, you may be able to snag him and hope this is the year he puts it all together.
Lance McCullers: The biggest knock against McCullers has always been his health. It’s also the factor which has allowed owners to get him for far less than aces like Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. Although he appears to be healthy to start the 2018 campaign, something just isn’t right with McCullers. In four starts he has a career high ERA of 5.57 to go along with a 1.43 WHIP. Pitching for the Astros, he still may get wins with those numbers, but those ratios will kill your Fantasy team. His current owner may be beginning to worry that something is wrong with him, and might be looking to dump him. If you can get your hands on him at a discounted rate, you should do a deal. His stuff is too good and the team he pitches for is too dominant.
Eddie Rosario: The 26 year-old Rosario had a breakout season in 2017. In 151 games, he batted .290, to go with 27 bombs, 79 runs, 78 RBI, and nine steals. And, playing for the up-and-coming Minnesota Twins, who boast a potent lineup that includes Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Brian Dozier, 2018 seemed liked more of the same for Rosario. The start of the season has turned into a nightmare for him. He’s only on pace to hit 12 home runs and drive in 62; to go along with an OPS of under .600. Although last season could have been an aberration, I think that’s more in line with the player Rosario is. Try to pry him from his current owner. Remember, teams are looking at the players they were banking on to carry them. If those key pieces aren’t performing for them, they may be ready to move on and regroup. Ultimately, the worst thing to do in Fantasy is waiting too long to act.
Kole Calhoun: If you look up consistency in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Calhoun next to his last four seasons of stats. He’s been the model of consistency, which is what makes the start of this year so unusual. In the past four years, he’s hit 17, 26, 18, and 19 HRs, and scored 90, 78, 91, and 77 runs. He’s consistently been a .250-.270 hitter. When you consider that the Angels bolstered their lineup with Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and Ohtani you’d assume there’d be more opportunities for Calhoun to perform; scoring and driving in runs, but it hasn’t turned out that way yet. His OPS is under .500, and his average is hovering at .200. And he’s only on pace to hit eight home runs, while striking out a career high of 170 times. In many ways, Calhoun is considered a JAG (Just Another Guy), so you’ll most likely be able to get him if you’re in need of outfield help. My bet is that Mr Consistency returns.
Whit Merrifield: Merrifield also had a breakout season in 2017. He belted 19 home runs to go with an even more impressive 34 steals, and .288 AVG, making him the ultimate sleeper pick last year. He only has one home run thus far, which is still more than Jose Altuve, but more alarming is that he only has one theft thus far this season, too. As an owner, you can live with Merrifield’s home run production to dip, but if he’s not stealing, he may as well be Devon Travis. It may be tougher to acquire him because of the constant threat of him to start running, but again, this is the type of player an owner may be down on, that you can capitalize on acquiring.
Work the phones, and get the players you need to put you in a position to compete going forward. And then, in a couple of weeks, re-evaluate and see where you’re at. Go through the exercise again. No doubt, in a few weeks, they’ll be a new crop of players you can sell high, or try to buy low.
Blake Snell Featured Image: (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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