Buy and Sell Fantasy Trade OF Guide for the Upcoming Second Half
When I analyze whether a player is on the rise or the fall, in a decline or just a slump, I examine recent statistics and compare them to a player’s career norms. For offensive players, I look at 14-day sample sizes to project what is reasonable to expect for the next week or two and 30-45, sometimes 60-day sample sizes coordinated with career norms to project what to expect for the next two or three months. This two-pronged approach helps predict who I should start or sit in weekly lineups as well as who to target, buy or sell, going forward.
Owners shouldn’t buy or sell a player because he is having a hot or cold series, but the data may tell owners whether they should start or sit them during the upcoming week. Didi Gregorius is a star at Yankee Stadium against right-handed pitching, but he is barely a starter in a series where they are on the road against a flurry of left-handers, for example.
In this week’s article I continue to look back at 2018 so far with a goal of projecting whether to buy, sell or stick with some outfielders for the remaining three months of the Fantasy season. There are top-tier buys and sells as well as deeper league targets with small sample size analysis and long-term predictions. The first half All Star game is almost here, my goal is to predict the second half Stars and Scrubs.
Top Tier Buys and Sells
Charlie Blackmon, OF Colorado Rockies
2018 Stats: 15 HRs – Five SBs – Three Caught Stealing – .275 Batting Average
Last 30 Days: Three HRs – One SB – .236 BA
Blackmon may be one of the most misunderstood players in Fantasy Sports. I was approached by an owner in an Expert Dynasty League scurrying to sell him at a discount prior to signing his extension with the Colorado Rockies out of fear that if he left Coors Field his play would diminish, or at least his trade value would. The fact of the matter is that leaving Coors Field wouldn’t have hurt him as much as owners may have feared. In 3,213 at-bats and 833 games played Blackmon has a significantly higher batting average at home (.343 vs. .263) and his runs scored (328 vs. 217) and runs batted in (227 vs 166) have been better as a result, but he has hit 65 home runs in Coors while he has hit 61 on the road. Blackmon only has a 111 runs scored, 61 RBI home/road split over a span of 833 games played and the home runs are essentially the same, while his batting average, well, that is significant. When you examine the size of that sample, the data shows that Coors Field has been a relatively minor factor in his actual value, while it has been a significant factor in his perceived value. That is something to capitalize before the trade deadline.
That same Expert League Fantasy owner, after Blackmon re-signed with the Rockies, immediately escalated his trade demand, but didn’t stop shopping him. I said no at the discounted price and no again at the escalated one. Not because of the cost, but because Charlie Blackmon is in decline and Coors Field isn’t going to prevent it, just like it didn’t manufacture the quality player that Blackmon has become.
In 2018, Blackmon has only attempted to steal eight times and he has been caught three of those eight. In 2016 and 2017 he only stole 17 and 14 bases after stealing 43 in 2015 and 28 in 2014. That is where Blackmon is declining most significantly. He has lost his five-tool appeal and become a pure hitter, and even those numbers are declining. He is batting .275 as opposed to a career batting average of .305, after 2016 and 2017 seasons when he batted .324 and .331 respectively. To punctuate the point and to make it more current and more applicable to whether he is a buy or sell right now, he has only three home runs and is batting .236 in the last 30 days. And in May, he also hit three home runs while batting .272. Coors Field is enhancing Blackmon’s Fantasy profile, but his lack of stolen bases and decline in batting average is why he is a Sell, both in yearly and keeper leagues.
Second Half Recommendation: SELL
Aaron Judge, OF New York Yankees
2018 Stats: 24 HRs – Six SBs – 57 RBI – 61 Runs Scored – .281 BA
Last 30 Days: Eight HRs – .297 BA – Three SB
Owners that didn’t project some regression after a 52 home run rookie campaign had to be delusional, drunk, or both, but the drop-off hasn’t been drastic and he has an outside chance to find 52 again. His batting average is right there while the home runs, runs scored and RBI are comparable to his monster 2017 season as well.
Judge’s home run production has been consistent month-to-month while his batting average has been somewhat erratic. But that is to be expected from a slugger with such a large strike zone and so much swing-and-miss in his game. 2017 may have been a career year for the 26 year-old, but owners can feel confident that that ’17 Judge is also this year’s Judge and more than likely next year’s Judge and beyond. He is worth the lofty price if you need a big bat to make a playoff push.
Second Half Recommendation: BUY and STICK
Cody Bellinger, OF Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 Stats: 17 HRs – Five SBs – .239 BA
Last 30 Days: Seven HRs – Three SBs – .271 BA – .380 OBP
Like Judge, owners should have projected some regression after Bellinger’s 39 home run rookie season. He has some swing-and-miss in his profile that results in sub-par batting averages and we saw it impact his Fantasy value during parts of 2018. He batted .306, but with only three home runs in 25 April games before a .180, five home run May. June has been better, as he has batted .259 with eight home runs, suggesting that he has worked out some of the kinks.
As long as he qualifies in the outfield, 30-35 home runs and a handful of stolen bases overcomes his poor batting average, but he is a fringe Fantasy first baseman because he isn’t a guarantee to consistently provide 35 home runs per season. Without that his sub-par batting average makes him an acceptable, but not special corner infielder. Bellinger’s value in keeper leagues is closely tied to his outfield eligibility and he has secured that for 2019 in most leagues with his 29 games played at the position.
He was a strong buy low in mid-June and remains a reasonable one now, but he is at the end of his buy low availability. A range of 15-20 home runs, five to 10 stolen bases and a .260 batting average isn’t an outrageous ask for the rest of 2018 and that makes Bellinger a buy.
Second Half Recommendation: BUY.
Nelson Cruz, OF Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats: 22 HRs – .276 BA – .365 OBP
Last 30 Days: 11 HRs – .320 BA – 1.159 OPS
Cruz continues to successfully beat down Father Time. He has hit 39 home runs or more in four consecutive seasons and is on pace to possibly do it again in 2018. From 2014-2017 he had batting averages of .271, .302, .287 and .288 to go along with those home runs and he was still only drafted as the No. 52 overall player according to FantasyPros.com. That was after players like Rhys Hoskins, Marcell Ozuna, and only four spots before Buster Posey.
Cruz qualifies at designated hitter or first base as opposed to outfield, where he was once a stolen base threat as well, but 40 home runs and .280-.290 batting averages plays anywhere. He is consistently undervalued while continually overperforming and owners are likely to find him both available and affordable on the trade market. He is a buy.
Second Half Recommendation: BUY.
Underappreciated Buys and Sells
There are a lot of outfielders in Major League Baseball, so it isn’t a shock that a few go unnoticed or underappreciated. Trending and NoteWorthy is written to bring attention to what these players have already done and more importantly, to project what they are going to do. Here are few to put a good eye on going forward as we approach league trade deadlines.
Eddie Rosario, OF Minnesota Twins
2018 Stats: 18 HRs – Six SBs – .307 BA
Last 30 Days: Five HRs – .314 BA
Plenty of players hit home runs in today’s game and a fair amount of those steal a few bases as well, though fewer than in the past. What surprises me about Rosario is the lack of recognition for a player who bats over .300 while also hitting home runs and stealing bases. Rosario has an outside chance to hit 30 home runs, steal 15 bases and hit .300. Eighteen outfielders stole at least 15 bases and hit at least 15 home runs in 2017 and only three of them batted over .300 – Lorenzo Cain, Tommy Pham and Mike Trout. That’s rare air.
I understand how an underpublicized player on a relatively ignored team outside the East Coast media echo chamber can fly under the radar during draft season (ADP of #124, No. 36 outfielder taken) even though he hit 27 home runs, stole nine bases and batted .290 in 2017. But he is having a great follow-up season in 2018. And if his June numbers are any indication, Rosario is getting better. The lack of buzz suggests to me that he is likely to both be available and affordable. Owners should be checking in on the price tag. There may be sticker shock, in a good way.
Second Half Recommendation: BUY.
Michael Brantley, OF Cleveland Indians
2018 Stats: 11 HRs – Five SBs – 48 RBI – 45 Runs Scored – .306 BA
Last 30 Days: One HR – One SB – .275 BA
Brantley plays on a good team surrounded by a strong supporting cast – Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. He provides a little bit of flavor in all of the Fantasy categories, including RBIs and runs scored, two categories rarely discussed when evaluating a Fantasy player’s value. He isn’t a trade target that will elevate a borderline playoff team into a championship contender, but he deepens the quality of a Fantasy team’s starting lineup and minimizes a mediocre team’s weaknesses at an affordable cost.
Second Half Recommendation: Lukewarm BUY.
Max Muncy, OF Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 Stats: 20 HRs – Two SBs – .280 BA
Last 30-Days: 11 HRs – .308 BA – 1.237 OPS
Muncy isn’t a new name to Daily Fantasy Sports players, but he has gone mostly unmentioned in yearly league commentaries and Twitter posts. He qualifies at first base, third base and on some less demanding sites, second base as well as the outfield.
In the last 30 days Muncy has the fifth most at-bats, the most home runs, the best batting average and the highest OPS of any Dodger. The Dodgers have primarily platooned Muncy against right-handed pitching, and he has hit 15 of his 20 home runs against them. But he has a higher batting average against left handed pitching and with his hot June (.289 BA) bleeding into July (.467 BA) Fantasy owners could see more full time at-bats and less platooning. The Dodgers have a crowded lineup, but Muncy has improved month-to-month in every meaningful offensive category, the hot bat and the defensive versatility to remain a full time member of it.
It’s not always a good thing when the only Fantasy participants that appreciate a player are the ones that own them. Muncy doesn’t steal bases, he has no track record of this kind of success, he will have to earn at-bats every week for the rest of the season and his current owners may not be willing to sell so easily. That’s not a great narrative for a BUY recommendation.
Second Half Recommendation: SELL.
Andrew Benintendi, OF Boston Red Sox
2018 Stats: 13 HR – 16 SBs – 53 RBI – 58 Runs Scored – .279 BA
Last 30 Days: Three HRs – Six SBs – .248 BA
Benintendi is the American League’s Christian Yelich with fewer underappreciated years on the back of the baseball card. He checks all the Fantasy boxes and has a 25 home run, 25 stolen base, .290 ceiling with a five-tool Fantasy tool set.
Benintendi is one of the better pure young hitters in the game while playing amongst a strong supporting cast in a friendly hitter’s ballpark. He shouldn’t be an overly expensive acquisition, but he is a reliable contributor in every Fantasy category. Look at the lopsided way that Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton contribute to their Fantasy teams and then try to convince me that most teams aren’t better off with Benintendi at half the price. He is one of the better all-around ways to upgrade a potential Fantasy contender in a meaningful way.
Second Half Recommendation: BUY.