Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: Buy, Sell or Hold

by Howard Bender on May 13, 2013

seguraThis is an important time in your fantasy baseball season as the hot starts of April are cooling off and the cold starts are beginning to thaw. It’s time to clean up your roster a little bit and start trimming the fat. You need to cut ties with the dead weight, sell high when appropriate and start putting out those buy-low trade offers. As players numbers regress to the mean, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you need to start setting your roster up for the long haul. The following is a list of the most often asked about players and whether there is real value for the rest of the season or if you should part ways with them now.

Salvador Perez, C KC — He’s a high-contact hitter who’s not making as much contact as usual right now and his strikeout rate is a few ticks higher than where it normally sits. Not to mention, when he is making contact, he’s mashing it into the dirt nearly half the time. Based on his minimal track record in the majors and his minor league totals, he should start to turn things around and increase his fly ball rate while maintaining his current line drive rate. That should translate into more home runs, at least more than the one he has right now, and a maintenance of his current .330 BABIP. He won’t post an ISO as tasty as last year’s, but he should still post respectable totals and hit for a high average.

Chris Davis, 1B BAL — While most will point to Davis’ May numbers and immediately scream drop-off, I don’t think that’s really the case here. For those who point to his .354 BABIP and say it’s unsustainable, I say yes, it is, but he also has a career .337 BABIP, so how hard is that drop going to be? People want to say his 13.1% walk rate is too high? Yes, it probably is. But his career walk rate is just over 7.0% and suddenly this year he’s swinging at fewer pitches. His swing rates tell me that his plate discipline has improved and he’s being more selective. Hence the decrease in strikeout rate and the fact that his swinging strike rate is down 4.0% and has now dropped three straight years. It’s not that he won’t regress, it’s that the regression will not be as great as someone thinks. He’s not going to lead the league in strikeouts and he’s certainly not going to hit .230. Even if his floor this year is a duplicate of last season’s totals, you’d be a fool not to take it. I think he’s figured it out and therefore you should hold onto him.

Yuniesky Betancourt, 2B MIL — Come on, seriously? Someone in one of my leagues actually tried to sell me on Betancourt the other day. I did one of those Danny Thomas spit takes and had to fake a seizure just to get off the phone with him. If you look at Betancourt’s numbers, you’ll see that he is doing the exact same thing he has always done. Always. Save for one category — ISO. Betancourt hasn’t changed one bit except for the outlandish power he has shown and all that means is that you’ll be seeing less of that as the season progresses. He’s hit eight home runs and his career best is 16 set in 2010. His numbers have been down in the two years since. So unless he’s the new A.J. Pierzynski, you have to figure that here at the age of 31, he’s probably got another five homers left in him; eight at the most. That is not something you look for in a player — hit .250 and give me five home runs. It’s time to move on and move him…if you can.

Jean Segura, SS MIL — Since we’re talking about the Brewers, let’s move on over to their shortstop and talk about one of the hottest players in the game right now. Segura was a “sleeper” on my radar this year, not for anything but the fact that he was a strong contact hitter with what is usually a high batting average and solid stolen base total. That’s all I was really looking for and suddenly this big power/speed combo falls into my lap. But while my friend and colleague Ray Flowers was dogging him on the airwaves yesterday, I say that he’s definitely someone you hold onto. Is he goign to continue to hit for power? No. But he will continue to steal bases and if you notice his high BABIP numbers throughout the minors, you’ll see that he has a track record that says it won’t come down as dramatically as you may think. If you’re looking for a guy who will go 20-20, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. But if you can handle .285 with 10 home runs and 30 stolen bases well then he’s your huckleberry.

Mark Reynolds, 3B CLE — As much as I love using Reynolds right now, I’m afraid that the good fortune will soon wear off which makes him a great sell-high candidate. Yes, even with Lonnie Chisenhall being sent down and the job is looking more and more secure.His power is, obviously, for real and I think he’s likely to clear the 30-HR barrier this season, but the .291 average just isn’t going to last. If you can withstand a serious drop in average, then by all means, hold onto him, but if you want to fill your roster with more well-balanced players, I would trade him while you can. For a more detailed look into the numbers and why my thought process runs the way it does, check out this piece I did on Fantasy Alarm.

Nate McLouth, OF BAL — To be perfectly honest, I just traded McLouth in delicious sell-high fashion as part of a package that landed me a struggling Cole Hamels. But as I sift through his data, from his swing rates to batted ball numbers, I have to say that there’s nothing outlandish about what he’s doing right now. He’s making great contact and his walk rate is right around his career average. The strikeouts are much fewer and that is likely to go up a bit, but only by a few ticks. The problem is, and the reason his numbers probably won’t change too much, is because he’s not playing against most, if not all, left-handers. He’s been left in against a lefty coming from the bullpen but he’s not starting. For my particular league that doesn’t work. If you can platoon him in a league where roster moves are free, then he’s probably worth the hold, but if you need him in there day in and day out, then you may want to try selling.

Jason Heyward, OF ATL — Yes, the slow start sucked. But everything in his batted ball data says that he will be just fine. He’s being more selective at the plate, he’s striking out less, and he’s walking more. The only thing that is killing him right now is the high fly-out percentage. He';s making contact but it’s not solid enough and his BABIP is atrocious right now. He just needs to hit the ball a little more square and that’s something that will click once he finds his groove. Perhaps this appendectomy off-time has helped him clear his head and after a week or so back in the bigs, he’ll be ready to go. Again, the start was horrible, but do I still believe in this? Yes. Yes I do.

Daniel Nava, OF NYY — He’s a 30-year oldĀ  who has yet to play a full season in the majors and is notorious for getting off to a strong start only to suffer from massive decline once pitchers get the skinny on him. He’s usually good for about 30-40 games and from there it gets a little ugly. I did a quick write-up with a breakdown of his previous years’ numbers over here on FanGraphs which should give you more than enough reason to sell on him fast.

Travis Wood, SP CHC — So Wood lands himself a rotation spot because Matt Garza and Scott Baker are hurt and the team wanted to keep the replacements in-house. No one expected much to begin with, but he’s been performing so much better than what his ownership percentages dictate. Strange. Perhaps no one believes in him. Maybe because his xFIP, tERA and SIERA all say that he should be pitching in the low4’s and not at the current 2.33 ERA he is proudly sporting. Maybe because all of his numbers look pretty similar except for that .198 BABIP which just screams regression. There is definitely someone in your league who doesn’t look all that closely at the rates I’ve just referenced here, so maybe he needs a mid-level pitcher (that’s how you sell him) and you just get yourself an ok outfielder back. How’s that sound?

Gio Gonzalez, SP WAS — Ah, the double-edged sword. You made a fairly solid investment in his services but what you’re getting back isn’t working and while you want to sell him, no one is really offering enough to cover what you invested. There’s no good to come in selling low. He went through a stretch like this midway through the season last year and then came back with a very strong second half except for the strikeouts. He saw his K/9 drop from 10.45 to 8.20 in the second half. His current strikeout rate sits right in between but his walks have increased and so has the number of home runs he’s allowed. There was talk of him changing release points and arm angles throughout the second half of last season and there’s been talk of a possible injury being hidden, so while I don’t recommend selling too low on him, I’d might try and cut my losses now before I get stuck holding the bag at the end.

I’d throw a reliever out here for analysis, but come on….seriously? Yet another mess of a year. You know who you can trust and who you can’t, so don;t overpay should you need saves. The carousel looks like it’s moving quickly this year.

 

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