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Midseason Buy Low and Sell High Infielders

Midseason Buy Low and Sell High Infielders
Chris Mitchell July 2, 2018 4:32PM EDT

Midseason Buy Low and Sell High Infielders

With the All Star game right around the corner, I have focused my last few articles looking back at the breakouts, busts, surprises and disappointments. There are plenty of players still deserving of attention like Jesus Aguilar and Max Muncy to name two. Instead of another article focused on that, I thought Fantasy owners would be better served looking ahead at who they should look to acquire going forward rather than looking back at who they missed on.

We have enough of a sample size at this point that owners can no longer afford to shrug off a struggler and say, “They’ll turn it around. I am going to wait.” Paul Goldschmidt was awful for awhile. I recommended benching him for a week or two, but he has turned it around and was a monster for a two or three week stretch recently. Joey Votto was awful, and while he has made a comeback of sorts, he still isn’t slugging home runs. At some point, even in a small sample size, there is enough evidence to come to a conclusion and make a decision.

There are a variety of ways to compile a list like this. There are players who have been what we expected them to be, while there have been surprises that may or may not continue to perform going forward. These two groups have “buys,” “sells,” and “sell high’s.” There are busts that are in the midst of a full decline, as well as busts that still have time to turn it around, or the “buy lows.” In this week’s article, I plan to discuss the buys and sells and a few “sticks” at each position, sort of an “All-Star projecting forward” list.

CATCHER

It’s easy to identify the “sells” at catcher because most don’t deserve to be in Fantasy lineups to begin with, but it can be difficult to identify the “buys” because the position is so weak and inconsistent. What makes it tricky is determining what makes a catcher a “buy,” “sell,” or a “stick,” which is my term for “staying put as is.” Just because I expect a player to improve, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is a “buy,” and even if I expect a catcher to decline, that doesn’t mean owners should automatically sell. It is difficult to receive a return worth accepting from a catcher, making it more often than not a smart plan to “stick.”

Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

2018 Stats: 14 HRs – 41 RBIs – 36 Runs Scored – .190 Batting Average – .290 On-Base Percentage

Sanchez is killing owners in batting average and OBP, but he is still the class of a bad position who would be on pace for a 25-30 home run season if not for his recent addition to the disabled list. If I thought owners could receive something equivalent to his draft-day ADP of No. 24, then I would be screaming sell because Sanchez is too good to continue to hover below the Mendoza line (.200). I expect the power to continue, and I suspect the Yankees will provide him some at-bats as the designated hitter when he returns from his groin strain. That will enhance his offensive potential, but what is an August of potential upside worth in trade?

Owners that have him should stick with him rather than sell low, while owners that have already booked tickets to the Fantasy playoffs should explore the price to acquire him. Having the best power source at a thin position that is known for hitting homers in bunches could be a great player to have in those key late-season, head-to-head, series for the prize pools.

Second Half Projection: STICK and BUY

Wilson Ramos, C, Tampa Bay Rays
2018 Stats: 11 HRs – .39 RBIs – .285 BA

Ramos is every bit the 2018 performer without the sexy sizzle of a Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey or even Yadier Molina. Playing for the Rays doesn’t enhance his persona, but it enhances his “buy low” profile. Ramos is a significant upgrade from the mediocre and the miserable at catcher without the trade cost.

Second Half Projection: BUY

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants

2018 Stats: Five HRs – Three SBs – .285 BA – .364 OBP

Buster Posey is still a name that garners respect, stats be damned, and that’s why he is a “sell.” If his statistics were attached to “Joe Blow-Huffnagel” he would be on the waiver wire, but that isn’t his name and that’s not his perceived stature. Another feather in his relatively pedestrian cap is that catchers are notoriously atrocious in batting average and even though .285 isn’t impact number, it’s a significant upgrade from most starters behind the dish. That’s a selling point for owners trying to trade him.

Second Half Projection: SELL

FIRST BASE

First base can be a difficult position to project because there are a lot of players that hit enough home runs to be a viable option, both stars and sleepers, but the demands are high. The priority is home runs, while stolen bases are a nice bonus for a players resume at the position. The cutoff for making the grade is batting average. How bad is the average compared to the home run totals, and then how good is the average compared to the lack of top-tier home runs relative to their peers are the factors you need to consider. That’s the balancing act at Fantasy baseballs deepest position.

Jose Abreu, 1B Chicago White Sox

2018 Stats: 12 HRs – 47 RBIs – .268 BA

Abreu is about as stable an option as you find at any position. He has hit 25 home runs or more in all four of his major league seasons and has a career .301 batting average. That kind of consistency should reward his owners in trade talks, but instead it seems to muffle the buzz and diminish his value.

2018 has to be considered a down year, especially in batting average. Abreu is still likely to finish the season with 25 home runs and owners should expect an uptick in performance and an improvement in his batting average going forward. His second half should be better than his first, and his first hasn’t been all that bad.

Second Half Projection: STICK

Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF Philadelphia Phillies

2018 Stats: 14 HRs – 50 RBIs – 44 BBs – .260 BA

Hoskins had a brutal May where he batted .161 with only two home runs, but he has torn up June (eight home runs, .324 BA, 1.123 OPS) and is primed for a strong summer.

He had a career minor league batting average of .280 as well as an on-base percentage of .375. He is on pace to match that OBP this season and owners should expect improvement in his batting average in the second half. Qualifying as an outfielder could increase the cost to acquire him, but it enhances his value as well. Hoskins has better days ahead in July and August.

Second Half Projection: BUY

Joey Votto, 1B Cincinnati Reds

2018 Stats: Eight HRs – One SB – .297 BA

Votto is still taking walks, getting on base and hitting for average, but the power isn’t there and it doesn’t look like its coming. His .386 wOBA (weighted on base average), .451 slugging percentage, .154 ISO (Isolate power), and 11.4 HR/FB (home run to fly ball ratio) are all at their lowest in four years and he has only two home runs in June.

His batting average is still one of the best in the league, and it’s easy to see how he could be a “buy low,” which is why there could be enough trade value to make Votto a sell. I don’t want an empty batting average with half as many home runs as C.J. Cron starting at first base for the next two or three months. If owners can avoid giving him away, a reduced return is better than a seven home run summer at a corner position.

Second Half Projection: SELL

SECOND BASE

Second base isn’t typically seen as deep, but the skill set profile of the position provides multiple opportunities for contributions that make a wide array of players viable. It isn’t easy to find a star, though there are a few, but it’s deep enough to find a viable player at an affordable price.

Ozzie Albies, 2B Atlanta Braves

2018 Stats: 17 HRs – Eight SBs – 46 RBIs – 62 Runs Scored – .270 BA

Albies early season power was a surprise, and he is a Fantasy darling in most circles. His skill set profiles ideally for owners in leagues with minor league prospects, or at least until major league baseball stops juicing the ball, but that’s a Dynasty league consideration. Combine a plus hit tool with the proper launch angle, and you end up with a lot of fly ball contact, and with the juiced ball, that results in home runs.

All that being said, Albies home runs and batting average have declined in every month since his eight blast, .320 batting April. He is a potential future star who is hitting for surprising power while also stealing bases for a contender. He reeks of “sell high.”

Second Half Projection: SELL

Javier Baez, 2B/SS Chicago Cubs

2018 Stats: 16 HRs – 13 SBs – 57 RBI – 49 Runs Scored – .284 BA

The knock on Baez has always been his over-aggressive approach and excessively high swing-and-miss rate. The opinion owners have come to is that he is a risky player, which has made him an underrated Fantasy contributor who provides both home runs and stolen bases with a batting average that doesn’t actually drag down teams in the category. He has batted .273 in back-to-back seasons and is on pace to match or improve on that in 2018.

The peripheral numbers are comparable to previous seasons while his home runs and stolen bases are on pace to be career highs, and he qualifies at both shortstop and second base. I would argue that Baez’s power and speed with his acceptable batting average makes him the most valuable middle-infielder in Fantasy. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor both have a strong case, but regardless of whether Baez is the best or not, he is the most reasonably priced of the elite bunch.

Second Half Projection: BUY

SHORTSTOP

Trevor Story, SS Colorado Rockies

2018 Stats: 16 HRs – 10 SBs – 58 RBIs – 43 Runs Scored – .273 BA

Story is the Rodney Dangerfield of Fantasy baseball. The dude has game and yet he gets no respect. The Coors Field effect or not, he hits home runs, steals bases and the batting average doesn’t kill you.

Story’s 2018 season is insignificantly different than Francisco Lindor (better than Alex Bregman) and slightly less impressive than Manny Machado. Lindor and Machado are either untouchable or exorbitantly expensive. Story is likely available and affordable.

Second Half Projection: BUY

Tim Anderson, SS Chicago White Sox

2018 Stats: 13 HRs – 17 SBs – .248 BA

Anderson is another middle infielder with speed and power who rattles a Fantasy owner’s confidence because of his contact issues. His batting average has been a slight drag without being prohibitive, but his home runs and stolen bases far outweigh his batting average deficiency.

The counting stats – home runs and stolen bases – make Anderson a comparable producer to the top shortstops at a fraction of the trade cost. The batting average is below his career norms, suggesting he could improve in the second half of what is already a career year.

Second Half Projection: BUY

Didi Gregorius, SS New York Yankees

2018 Stats: 15 HRs – Nine SBs – 43 RBI – 48 Runs Scored – .259 BA

Gregorius has batted .230 on the road and only three of his 15 home runs have been away from Yankee stadium. On top of that, 13 of his 15 home runs have been against right-handed pitching.

Gregorius drastic splits make him an intriguing daily Fantasy play, but it can make him a weekly league landmine that owners are best avoiding. In that Bronx Bombers lineup with those early season numbers, Gregorius is likely to be a relatively expensive acquisition or a profitable “sell.”

Second Half Projection: SELL

THIRD BASE

Third base is one of the weakest while possibly one of the deepest positions in Fantasy baseball. Few enhance their Fantasy value with stolen bases, many are a drag on a team’s batting average and not enough of them provide top-tier home run production to overcome the limitations. This fact creates an opportunity for owners to acquire an affordable, yet uninspiring contributor. Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado owners would be smart to stick with their guy, but the rest should cast a wide net and close on the most reasonably priced option.

Alex Bregman, 3B Houston Astros

2018 Stats: 15 HRs – Seven SBs – 51 RBIs – 51 Runs Scored – .277 BA

Bregman was flying up draft boards as the season approached and he rewarded owners that bought in by hitting one home run in April and four in May. However, he hit 10 home runs and batted .308 in what has been a comeback month of June. It’s likely too much to expect him to continue on his June pace, but July, August and September are primed to be better than April and May.

Bregman is a buy, not because he is a great value, but because he should be a more reasonably priced acquisition than elite alternatives like Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado, while being a meaningful upgrade from potential buys like Ryon Healy, Yangervis Solarte or Eduardo Escobar.

Eduardo Escobar, 3B Minnesota Twins

2018 Stats: 12 HRs – One SB – 48 RBIs – .279 BA

Escobar isn’t on most owners’ radar, but he provides comparable home runs with one of the better batting averages at the position. He lacks the stolen bases to enhance his value, but he is a relatively unknown who could finish the 2018 season as one of the five best third baggers in Fantasy.

Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

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