Let’s Make a Deal – Fantasy Baseball Second Half ‘Sells’
As we enter the final stretch of the fantasy baseball season, we need to be diligent in maximizing the perceived value of every player on our team. Check out my colleague Gerard Martin’s awesome 3×3 piece today, and find out how you can do just that. With that said, I wanted to dig a little deeper into some of the 1st half’s top performers, all of which are highly owned, and tell you why I think you should trade them ASAP.
Alfredo Simon, SP Cincinnati Reds
I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop here for quite some time, so it’s worth noting that Simon has been fantasy relevant for longer than I anticipated. Tied for the league lead in wins with 12, Simon has been quite the waiver wire find for his owners so far in 2014. His 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are elite ratios, and season- to-date is the 13th ranked pitcher in fantasy according to Yahoo! Rankings. When a undrafted pitcher puts together a first half like that, selling high is the easy thing to say as a fantasy analyst. I don’t even want you to sell ‘high’, I just advise that you sell. Sell him for anything you can get because I’m afraid this isn’t going to be pretty. For starters, Simon has already exceeded his career high in innings pitched, and after throwing just 87 innings last season, asking him to throw nearly 200 this season is a big ask. Then you pop the hood and it gets even uglier. He’s like the car you keep bringing in for an oil change and the mechanic gives you this huge list of things to do time after time. You procrastinate and eventually it costs you. Wait, am I projecting? This happens to you too, right? Well trying to ‘drive’ Simon down the stretch is going to cost you a chance at fantasy glory. He has the third lowest BABIP-against in all of baseball at .233. He’s stranding runners like he’s Randy Johnson. His 83.9% strand rate is 11% higher than the league average. You can carry a high strand rate if you’re an elite strikeout pitcher, and Simon’s 5.84 K/9 is far from elite. It’s actually far from league average. SELL!
Matt Adams, 1B St. Louis Cardinals
I really liked Matt Adams coming into the season, and after a bumpy start, he’s been quite good of late. Over the past month Adams has been a top 25 player, hitting for both power and average, as was expected. In limited duty last season, Adams showed some major power and a popular narrative early this season was that he was sacrificing some of that power for a better approach which was resulting in a bump in batting average. Well, I can comfortably say today that’s false. It’s actually the complete opposite. His 2.9 walk rate is down from both last season and his minor league numbers, and his advanced plate discipline metrics show a much more aggressive hitter. I think Adams will continue to produce and be valuable in the 2nd half, but I expect the .367 BABIP to drop enough to make him hit below .300, which would obviously cut into his counting stats as well. If you need batting average help down the stretch, I’d look to move Adams because he’s likely to hurt you more than help you over the final two months.
George Springer, OF Houston Astros
The ultimate ‘three true outcomes’ hitter, Springer does not put the ball in play very often. Walks, strikeouts, and home runs dominate his game, and he’s been an exciting player in his rookie season. A 20 home run debut would be great, and we’re just past the All-Star break! Do you know who else loves exciting young players? Your league-mates, that’s who! In his first 295 at-bats, Springer has struck out 114 times. That’s remarkable. He’s a human windmill. He’s also hitting home runs at an incredible clip, with a HR/FB rate of 27.8%, more than double the league average. Look, he’s obviously a talented kid, but with such little experience I suspect the next few months will only be more difficult. Pitchers are learning how to attack him and clearly if they miss their spot, he’ll make you pay. He just won’t continue to make you pay at a 27.8% clip. We expected a bit more speed out of him too, since he ran so successfully in the minors. There will be a time for Springer, but it’s not this fall.
Adam Wainwright, SP St. Louis Cardinals
What? Wainwright? Please, let me explain. This isn’t a 2nd half ‘bust’ piece; it’s a ‘sell’ piece. Adam Wainwright is and has been one of the best pitchers in the game for years, with a dramatic uptick over the past year and a half. Due to Clayton Kershaw’s early season injury, Wainwright was an easy choice to start last week’s All-Star game. Guess you could say he lucked out. While we’re at it, let’s see how else Wainwright has lucked out this season. I say that half jokingly, because obviously a skilled pitcher like Wainwright can make his own luck quite often, more than say Alfredo Simon, but Wainwright’s been lucky so far as well. His .250 BABIP-against is way below his .291 career number, and even further below the .315 and .305 he’s produced the past two seasons. He’s paired that with a nearly 10% improvement in his strand rate, while his K-BB% has dropped from 19.3 to 16.6. He has only given up four home runs this season, after three consecutive seasons of giving up 15. Again, let’s remember to keep it in perspective, as his 16.6 K-BB% against the league average of 12.6 is still elite, but all of these pieces together tell the story. He’d bring back quite a package in a trade, and I wouldn’t move him unless I got blown away. If I owned Wainwright and had some holes in my lineup, I’d be ok with trading him to help patch them.