Buy Low/Sell High: Starting Pitchers

We are still in the very early portion of the season, and yet April is almost over.  You could have potentially lost a few close matchups in H2H and be in dire need of a boost.  Your roto team may have some chinks in it’s armor that you didn’t see until now. Making a deal can jump-start your season, and buying low and selling high is the best way to effectively do that.  Here’s a few names that jump out at me as worth targeting or selling.

Buy Low

Mike Minor

If he’s not owned, just pick him right up.  In deeper leagues he will be owned though, and he’s worth targeting as a “throw in” for a deal with larger names.  I’m starting to really like this guy. Nearly wrote about him last week, but he had an impending matchup with the Astros that worried me a bit.

Minor so far has a 23% K rate as well as a 7% walk rate, which are pretty solid numbers for someone who is still not close to universally owned.  He also has a whopping 11.9% swinging strike rate, which means that batters are whiffing their fair share against him. Minor has also maintained some of his velocity gain from the bullpen.  This is the kind of development that has previously helped guys like Luis Severino, Danny Duffy, and Alex Wood. Just last year, Wood was the SP of former Braves notoriety making a play for renewed fantasy relevance.  Like Wood, Minor was once a top 20-ish fantasy SP with the Braves. Maybe this year Minor can do a miniature version of what Wood did last year. The skills and stats look good enough that I definitely want him at the back-end of my rotation.

Minor is not widely owned and you can pick him up in many leagues so check to see if you can do that. Otherwise, I would suggest using him as the cherry on top of what might otherwise be an even trade.

James Paxton

This one is going to depend on the current Paxton owner’s level of belief.  Many owners are ardent Paxton-ites (like myself) and they will tell you to shove off with any low ball offers you might have.  I still very much believe in Paxton and am annoyed to not own him in many leagues this year due to his cost in my home leagues.

Paxton pitched like an ace from the end of 2016 right on through 2017.  The only issue is his tendency to land on the DL. I love betting on these kinds of guys  simply because playing more can lead to a breakout, and I much prefer this kind of breakout prediction to the ones where you need skills growth. James Paxton from 2016-2017 put up the following line:

IP 251
ERA 3.44
K 264
BB 61

Paxton is still throwing gas with an average of 95.7 MPH on his fastball.  His K rate and whiff rate are even better than they were last year. And his swinging strike rate is a nasty 13.4% and has helped him accumulate a 29.6% overall K rate.  This is all very promising news. The only things that look off right now are his walk rate is way too high at 10.4% and his HR/9 is more than double the last two years.  I don’t think Paxton suddenly forgot how to throw strikes, and the homers will level out as neither of these things has been a big problem for him in the past. Let’s also not forget that he has an elite outfield defense that should help him as well.

Paxton is pretty close to a name brand commodity at this point so it may not be easy to pry him away from the owner.  At the same time, a 5+ ERA can be terrifying for a team that started 0-3 or 1-2. I wouldn’t be shocked if you could flip him straight for someone like Bauer or Snell.  Love both of these guys too, but prefer the top 5 potential of Paxton. You can even incorporate my Mike Minor advice into a very fair kind of deal – something like trading Nola for Paxton and Mike Minor.  This guy is a stud and the only thing that should derail him is injury so get your offers in to the Paxton owner before it’s too later.

Sell High

Jake Arrieta

A monster start against the Pirates and a decent overall start to the season might have some people thinking that Jake Arrieta is back.  I don’t think he is. I was pretty low on him coming into the season. His name brand from former Cy Young years will vastly inflate his value in trade talks; dealing him now after his last start will only inflate that value.

Arrieta is still throwing over 2-MPH softer than he did during his peak years.  His swinging strike rate is still below 10% at just 9.1%. The K rate is holding steady at 23%, but the walk rate has ballooned to a robust 8.7%.  Normally I point out that aces don’t forget how to throw strikes, except Arrieta has had problems with walks each of the last two years. The one promising development is that he is getting an insane 65.2% ground ball rate.  That’s Keuchel level, except vintage Keuchel doesn’t really walk many people. There are reports of his sinker wiggling more than it has in years.  Maybe there’s something to this development, but I’m still selling.

I would definitely trade Arrieta for Paxton and I reckon you can earn yourself Paxton+ in most leagues.  If I could get top 20 SP value in return for Arrieta, I’m not even thinking about it before hitting accept.

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea just threw a no-no.  That’s generally the peak of any starter’s value.  Throw in the fact that he’s actually pretty good and has been a sexy breakout pick for several years now and I think you have an opportunity to strike it rich with a juicy sell high.

Again, Sean Manaea is good.  He just had 15 swinging strikes in his no-hitter, even if there were a couple of dubious calls to keep the Red Sox hitless (see Benintendi running out of the base paths).  He has an 11% swinging strike rate as well as a 23% K rate. That said, he’s still striking out less than a batter per inning. His control finally seems to be better with just a 4.6% walk rate, but it has been a big issue for him in the past.  He lost a tick of velocity, but that might not be a big deal given that velocities are often a bit lower in April. Still, he’s not a fireballer at 91 MPH average.

He plays in Oakland, which is an amazing park, but they may not win too many games. The A’s defense is not exactly as good as the Red Sox or Twins either,though they do seem to have improved a bit from a couple of years ago when they were one of the worst defenses in history.  It’s also worth mentioning that Manaea has had a 100% strand rate. His FIP and xFIP suggest his sparkly 1.23 ERA should be closer to 3.55.

Manaea is and has been good, just probably more of a top 35-50 guy rather than the top 3-5 guy he has been so far.  Just like with Paxton and any other young talent, there are “Manaea guys.” You can probably fleece an owner like that, but even a normal owner is going to be intrigued by a young lefty appearing to have a breakout in one of the best pitcher’s parks.  Aim for a top-10 SP return, but I would definitely settle for top-20 return. I wouldn’t go any lower than that because he is young, exciting, and there’s still plenty of room for growth.

*****

Remember, the goal is not to trade guys away just to trade them.  The goal also doesn’t have to be a home run trade every time. The primary goal is to improve your team from the one you drafted.  If you can trade a late round flyer for a struggling stud that’s more bonafide – do it.

 

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Mike Sheehan

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Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.