Fantasy Baseball: Buy Low and Sell High

Here are a few names to consider buying low and selling high on.

by Mike Kurland

I cannot believe the season is already two weeks in. The even more unbelievable part is that it’s already time to buy low and sell high. Even though it is still VERY early, people are panicking and looking to jump ship on players. This is the time to take advantage of that panic. 

First, here are a few helpful hints. 

There is an art to the buy/sell game. You need to recognize what is and isn’t sustainable. Easier said than done, I admit, but it is possible. You don’t want to just sell high on hot players for the first thing that comes your way but you also don’t want to hold on too long that you get burned and stuck with them if they don’t sustain. It is a fine line and you try your best to toe the line just right.

Buying low is exactly what it means. Buying a player you believe in that is performing below expectations and has a good chance at turning things around. It is easier to find players to buy low on and easier to land said players in a trade. This is due to fantasy owners recency bias and panic caused by a mix of social media and the ever ongoing chase for instant gratification. Selling high, however, I feel is far tougher.

When I attempt to sell high,  I sell a player for another player I think will out produce them the rest of the season. Ultimately, my goal is to get a player in return that if the player I dealt does sustain what they were doing after they’ve been dealt I won’t have as much regret because it’ll likely be in line for who I got in return anyway. 

For example, (also a spoiler alert) I traded Pete Alonso and Brad Hand for Carlos Correa and Tyler O’Neil. If Alonso does sustain this torrid pace I don’t think I’ll regret this trade as much because I expect a great year from Correa. Correa also has a track record and in this deal I may have taken the lower ceiling but I got rid of the lower floor as well. I took on a guy I believe will be safe and a stud this year. So I won’t have much, if any, regret regardless of Alonso’s rest of season production because of the return I got for him. 

I hope that helped explain things. Now let’s jump into this list, shall we?

First we will start with the buy low options. 

BUY LOW

Chris Sale-SP, Red Sox

It is no secret he is struggling. It is still early and I expect him to bounce back and return to form, but until then, now is your time to pounce on owners who are worried. There is still some concern to be mindful of. Since returning from injury last year his velocity has dropped and he has not been the same pitcher. To start the year he has thrown an increased amount of changeups and sliders and less fastballs. His velocity across the board on all pitches has dropped. I still believe he hasn’t just fallen off a cliff yet and better days are ahead. Until then, however, if you have the chance to take a shot at buying low I wouldn’t hesitate. 

Josh Donaldson-3B, Braves

It wasn’t long ago that Donaldson was a first round talent. I think it’s fair to say his best days are behind him, but he was already a solid value coming into drafts and now is the perfect buying opportunity. He is starting slow but there are plenty of reasons to have optimism. He’s still hitting 2nd in that solid lineup and he’s will continue to see pitches with the players around him in the lineup. Not to mention his underlying metrics are encouraging as well. He has a solid O-Swing% and an above average walk rate. He also has great average exit velocity and a career high hard hit percentage as well. It appears that his barrel % is where the issue lies. It is far lower than his career average and even far lower than his previous career low. He may be trying too hard at the plate and once he settles in I expect a solid turnaround. 

Zach Wheeler-SP, Mets

Wheeler was a top 100 pick and a SP2 for some teams this draft season. I’m here to tell you that’s you should expect a solid turnaround. Because pitchers are volatile, and there have been a few hot arms to start the year that there may even be a chance Wheeler has been dropped. If that’s the case, make sure you snag him up. I think you could go out right now and strike a favorable deal for Wheeler. People may have even been skeptical on draft day and took him anyway so you may be able to get for cheaper than expected. His walks are way up compared to last year, which I expect to reverse course. He has faced an underrated National’s squad twice already. He has a .321 BABIP against him, a very low strand rate of less than 50%. Both of which should normalize to league average or better. Some positive signs are his ground ball percentage (GB%) of 55.2%, his home run to fly ball percentage (HR/FB%) is 12.5% and his Hard Hit percentage (HH%) is only 31%. This sluggish start is a reminder that’s it’s still really early in the season and slow starts are common. The fantasy baseball community as a whole is a pretty reactive one. Take advantage of it and go out and strike while the iron is hot. 

Mike Moustakas-2B/3B, Brewers

If you have seen any of my previous tweets or heard any of my ramblings on previous episodes of my podcasts, then you won’t find me telling you to buy low on Moustakas surprising at all. Moustakas appears to having a slow start. The struggles are mostly in the batting average department, being that he’s hitting a lowly .217 right now. I don’t believe this will continue. He has a HH% of 48.5% which is fantastic. The big cause to his low batting average is his BABIP only being .172. That is very low and positive regression is coming. He is seeing the ball very well which is why he has a 12.2% walk rate and a OBP of .327 which is great considering his batting average is barely over .200. His expected batting average (xBA) is .278 to give you an idea of how unlucky he’s been. His barrel rate is absurdly high at 21.2% as well. He’s seeing the ball well and hitting the ball hard so there should be some positive regression coming his way. My fight for Moustakas continues!

SELL HIGH

Mariners Offense 

Right now as I write this, the Mariners offense has two players in top 10 of standings and 8 total in the top 50. The team as a whole has been on absolute fire. The two names in the top 10 are Domingo Santana and Tim Beckham. I believe in Domingo Santana and I truly believe he is going to be close to the version who was a legit asset to fantasy teams and if you sell on him, it needs to be a top 50-60 player in return. Anything less, you are just better off on holding onto him. Beckham was a first overall pick in the draft and has the prospect pedigree. He was also relevant and solid for fantasy owners as recent as 2017. With all this being said, if you can get solid return for them then jump on it. Maybe you could even pair these players with another piece and shoot for an injured or struggling solid player. They have some eye-popping stats and could look very appealing to an owner who is concerned about their slow start or have a roster full of injured players or a mix of both. These Mariners players value will likely never be higher so if you have the opportunity to flip one I’d do it. But in that same breath, don’t just settle for anything. Make sure the return is something worthwhile or you’re better off holding and riding them out. If you don’t get a player you think will provide better numbers the rest of the way then keep your player you have. Sell high doesn’t mean sell at all costs.  

Pete Alonso-1B, Mets

Shiny new toy, plus hot start, equals an amazing potential return on investment. At least in theory. I honestly believe he will be a solid fantasy asset this season. A great player comp is Rhys Hoskins. Alonso has less on base skills and more swing and miss in his game, but I think .260 to .270 batting average with 30 or so home runs is very achievable. He’s currently hitting over .350 and off to possibly the hottest start any player could ask for. With all that said, there still will likely be some growing pains and rookie blues along the way as pitchers figure him out and more tape is studied. He’s another player I’d only sell if were able to land a top 60-70 player or pair with something small to get a top 30-40 guy. I think he will sustain some of this but his struggles have not occurred yet and his value could climb a bit more but this could also be his high point in value. Would be wise to dangle him out there and see what gets offered your way, but remember, don’t sell just to sell. Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.  

Cody Bellinger-1B/OF, Dodgers 

Here is your current #1 ranked fantasy player in the early parts of the season. Key word there is early. The Dodgers as a whole have been hitting the cover off the ball. Bellinger looks poised to potentially breakout and be what he was drafted to be last year. If you drafted Bellinger you can’t be happier with his return so far. I mean, he was a top 50 pick for a reason. The Dodgers have shown he is going to get full run and not be part of a platoon. His stock is up and he could be a great get this year in fantasy leagues. The reason I say sell high is because I think he’s the perfect name to float out there for a first round pick or top 20 pick who is struggling right now. Anything less, I wouldn’t accept that offer and I’d stick with Bellinger. 

Shane Greene-RP, Tigers 

This one seems obvious, but he is not going to sustain this. He is off to an impeccable start to the year and is a perfect 8/8 on save opportunities. I didn’t expect the Tigers to win 8 games this fast let alone Greene have 8 perfect innings for 8 saves in said wins. I cannot envision this holding up. The Tigers and Greene have gotten off to a great start and there is no denying that. With all this said, I’d sell as high as possible on Shane Greene. Saves are a pretty valuable commodity in roto leagues and his numbers look very flashy. One concern is that he has a k-rate of less than a K per inning. Which is very bad for any rp let alone a closer. He’s also a trade candidate come the trade deadline and it’s doubtful he closes anywhere he ends up. He did introduce a change up so there might be some reason for optimism but he only throws it 3% of the time. Otherwise no real change in pitch mix or velocity. His FIP and xFIP indicated regression is coming as well. He’s been a great boost for saves to start the year, but if you can find a buyer in need of a closer I wouldn’t think twice about making a deal and getting anything of value in return.