The difference between making fantasy baseball trades in the early part of the season as compared to the later stages of the race lies solely in the interpretation of a finite amount of results. Despite teams approaching the 15 percent mark on games played for the year – the percentage is actually greater when counting ‘regular season fantasy games’ only – players still fall into the category of ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ starts. Therefore, the sample size used in assessing the players’ value for the remainder of the season has turned nebulous. Where one manager might still consider the amount of games played too few to paint the picture of a full season, another might have been convinced.
As is the premise of the ‘buy-low’ concept, the ‘sell-high’ opportunities are only as available as the market dictates. However, there is greater risk in ‘selling high’ than ‘buying low,’ as the repercussions of the latter, by nature, involved a smaller investment. If the player that gets sold high continues his upward trend, the deal was probably a loss, overall.
With that in mind, the only way to truly make the most of the early season risers is to insist that the buyer pays an admittedly inflated premium. Have a minimum value in mind in order to ‘cash out,’ and make sure the price is met.
Here are five ‘sell-high’ fantasy baseball candidates thanks to hot starts and early season success:
Adrian Gonzalez – 1B – Los Angeles Dodgers
The ageless Adrian entered 2015 as a near-guarantee for triple digit runs batted in, but little else. A few short weeks into the year, and Gonzalez looks like the runaway National League Most Valuable Player.
Gonzalez’s hot start is incredible, but it is obviously unsustainable. As of this writing, the first baseman has clubbed eight home runs and 31 hits in just 21 games played. At this rate, 60 home runs and nearly 240 hits are within reach.
It’s obviously not happening. So, what is? 30 home runs and 160 hits seem a lot more reasonable as a basement, right now, with the upper bounds sitting at 40 bombs and 180 hits. Assuming he lands somewhere in the middle, the numbers adjust to approximately 27 home runs and a .265 batting average.
Considering Gonzalez’s value is that of a top-notch fantasy producer, despite the next few months likely returning to a more reasonable output, there may be no better time than the present to unload.
Shane Greene – RHP – Detroit Tigers
In Greene’s first three starts, he allowed a total of one earned run. Combined. Striking out eleven batters in 23 innings, the right-handed pitcher had effectively masked the loss of Justin Verlander as his team played some of the best baseball in the league.
As expected, Greene ultimately came crashing down, posting back-to-back duds to the tune of 15 earned runs in just over eight innings of work. Naturally, this helped bring Greene’s stock back to earth.
The obvious question to ask is, where does he go next? For those who believe that every trend needs a period to reset itself, Shane Greene looks like a clear candidate to bounce back and continue upwards. But a large part of this expectation stems from the perception that had built around Greene since his offseason trade to the Tigers.
Simply put, Shane Greene was already one of this year’s ‘hot sleepers.’ When he came out firing one gem after another, it only validated those predictions. Since believers existed before Greene actually proved his worth, more are sure to exist after his first few starts. More importantly, those on the bandwagon are most likely to ignore the results of the last two games.
Greene is in a pivotal position where his season could go in vastly opposite directions. While he could certainly take off and revert back to his early-April self, today’s return might not be worth tomorrow’s risk.
Nelson Cruz – OF – Seattle Mariners
File Nelson Cruz in the category of ‘Aging sluggers defying physics,’ spearheaded by the aforementioned Adrian Gonzalez. The difference between the two? Cruz also had the gravity of playing in Seattle pulling against him.
Perhaps everyone was wrong about the effects of Safeco Field on a home run hitter who previously spent his days at the relative bandbox in Arlington. Or, perhaps, Cruz is in such a zone right now that he could put up numbers anywhere.
Whatever the explanation for Cruz’s insane start, his 70-plus home run pace – yes, someone is actually projected to hit more home runs than Gonzalez – is clearly about to regress. Considering his career high is 40 home runs, Cruz is already one quarter of the way to his high watermark with over 130 games remaining.
Even if Cruz does put up career-high numbers at age 34, he is likely to suffer both a regression and cold spells throughout the duration of the year. With arguably his best 20-game stretch of baseball behind him, the future is not nearly as bright.
Nick Martinez – RHP – Texas Rangers
It’s impossible to discuss early-season success without pointing to Nick Martinez. The Texas pitcher has allowed one earned run in 26 innings over the course of four starts. Ironically, a winner in only two of the four games, Martinez sports the lowest ERA among starting pitchers to go with his four quality starts.
All this, and his team has the second-fewest wins in Major League Baseball. Shouldn’t this be cause for excitement?
Unlike most fluctuating patterns, the Rangers are not expected to turn their season around. Their .333 winning percentage is only a hair below preseason predictions, and a sudden 20-game winning streak is as unlikely as Martinez allowing only one more run in his next four starts.
Focusing on Martinez, himself, the first imbalance in his numbers appears in his low strikeout totals and relatively average WHIP. Including batters hit by a pitch, Martinez allows more than one baserunner per inning pitched, yet strikes out less than one hitter for every two innings of work. In addition, he has yet to allow a home run, a streak that seems unlikely to continue as he pitches more games in the generally hitter-friendly park in Arlington – to date, Martinez has pitched in one home game.
As hard as it is to believe, Martinez will have to actually pitch better to avoid a regression – by comparison, if he pitches a one-run complete game in his next appearance, his ERA would still go up. With nowhere to go but down, Nick Martinez is nearly guaranteed to fall well short of his April numbers going forward.
Kris Bryant – 3B/OF – Chicago Cubs
It is almost unthinkable to trade ‘The greatest thing since sliced bread,’ but the reality is that Kris Bryant’s value is at an all-time high. Even without hitting a home run, to date, Bryant has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers since his call-up. He averages nearly one run batted in and one hit per game played, and has already tallied double digit walks.
Quite frankly, the fact that he hasn’t hit a home run is encouraging, as his power is arguably his greatest asset. If someone hasn’t yet bought into Bryant, they will when he starts launching long balls.
The beauty of what Kris Bryant brings to a fantasy team is that he is clearly a candidate to continue his production throughout the entire season. He should not endure a sudden drop-off – except for, of course, a randomized slump – and he can be the foundation of any team for the next few months. But what really puts Bryant over the top is his perceived value.
Since Bryant has legitimate lasting power, considering him a ‘sell-high’ candidate suggests that he has reached his peak. Ironically enough, he hasn’t – as evident by the lack of home runs – but he has reached the top of any chart that measures value. He could be dealt for almost any other player in the game, marking the return on most investments as a major gain.
Considering Bryant could likely be ‘sold’ for a player taken over a dozen rounds earlier, he is already a lottery ticket waiting to be redeemed.