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Dynasty Buy or Sell - Catchers, First Base, Second Base


As the season continues to drag closer, fantasy baseball owners are waiting, or willing, to make that first move of the year. For dynasty owners, this means trading talent for future assets or plugging those gaps that currently exist on teams hoping to compete. And yet, the other concern for owners is what players are about to drop off a cliff, and which players are ready to take the next step. As the old baseball mantra says, it is always better to sell a player too early as opposed to too late.

This article gives owners a position-by-position analysis on the hitting side of the game with recommendations and analysis on who owners should target and who they should sell. In general, owners are looking to trade aging players while adding young players, but sometimes we need to be creative. For that reason, we added in some players that might be past their prime on paper but still offer fantasy value that owners can get on the cheap.

One editorial note: most of the players' value in this piece will be connected to draft stock and ADP. Many dynasty leagues will not be drafting players, or will have different ADPs based on keepers and contract rules. Still, ADP offers a good tool for owners to see how other owners view the value of these players. Let's take a look at some dynasty buy and sell candidates at catcher, first base and second base.

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Dynasty Catchers

Buy Willson Contreras, Sell Yadier Molina

Catcher is a shallow-enough position that both of the picks come from the top of the catching pool. Still, there are opportunities for adding value at the spot with a smart buy. Contreras is a player who disappointed in 2018 but is guaranteed to get most of the starts behind the plate for the Cubs. A .249 batting average with only 10 homers will drive down the asking price, and owners who stuck with him all last year are more than willing to talk.

The main reason to buy back in would be the contact percentage, which dropped to 71% in the second half of last season. This number is well below the career norm of 76%, so there is some regression coming. Add in that Contreras's overall power output was down as well, and there is more room for value when the underlying metrics do not support a decline.

For example, his exit velocity was right at the career average of 87%, and the launch angle added a point last year. All of this points to either an injury or a slight swing change, and that should be corrected entering 2019. Defense is a bigger question than the hit tool, but for now, Contreras is the clear, best option for the Cubs.

Molina is a player that I am willing to move on from in dynasty leagues, even though he is still a top-eight option at the position, and will bring good value compared to his age and overall production. While the batting average dropped to .261 last year, this still puts him near the top at the position. He even added some power, which again, adds to the value that owners can get back. Again, this is a chance for owners to take advantage of the lack of players at this position, to sell a player for more than he is actually worth by positional value.

The issues with Molina were a slight drop in Hard Hit% and a functional decline in doubles from 27 to 20 last year. All of this adds to an aging player, and the position is taking a toll. As he slows so will the extra-base hits, and the other counting pieces that make him an offensive power. Sell now, and get out a year ahead of what will be a steep decline for a 36-year-old backstop.

 

Dynasty First Basemen

Buy Justin Smoak, Sell Luke Voit

Smoak is no spring chicken at 32 but still offers excellent value for dynasty owners over the next few seasons. With the impending arrivals of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette, the team around him will get remarkably better within the next year or two. Smoak’s value comes from his power, with 25 homers last year, and 38 the year before. Add in 77 and 90 RBI over those two seasons, and this is a counting stat machine.

The reason to buy, even when 30 points dropped off the batting line last campaign, is a surging walk rate and a declining chase rate. Smoak swung three percent less last year than he had in his career, and this allowed him to increase his OBP. The slugger is a clear buy-low with a team that will let him touch 160 runs plus RBI, even if the batting average is stuck below .250.

Voit is the hot item this year in drafts, shooting to an ADP of 177 in TGFBI. Here is why owners should be looking to sell, especially with the hype connected to the player. A 73% contact rate is not consistent with the .276 batting line, and a 41% HR/FB is never going to be sustainable. Add in a 15.2 SwStr%, and there is not enough to bet on a hot two months becoming the norm. While Voit might end up as a top-20 player at the position, he needs to recreate last season perfectly to meet those expectations and his draft value. Sell now while his value will never be higher.  

 

Dynasty Second Basemen

Buy Adam Frazier, Sell Javier Baez

Slated to start the year on the long side of a platoon at second, Frazier should get close to, if not exceed, the 454 ABs he got in 2017. Not only has last year's second basemen, Josh Harrison, moved out of town, but Frazier's bat is real. A .277 batting line with 10 homers is not sexy production, but add in the outfield eligibility, and Frazier is a crucial piece to move around with matchups.

What is also nice to see is the increasing fly ball rate, up to 31.3% last year from 26.8% the year before. All of this means that with the playing time, and games in run-friendly parks, Frazier could push 15 homers this year. Add in a seven-point jump in his Hard Hit%, and 2019 could be the breakout year for Frazier that no one is expecting.

Baez has been a fringe first-round pick this year and posted an ADP in the TGFBI of 21. This shows how much owners like him, and are willing to take the risk for the reward. Smart owners should be looking to move him ASAP, as the value will only come down after a career season, and the chase numbers are just plain scary. A 43.8 O-Swing% and 52.2% O-Swing% underlie the risk, and Baez has so far been able to stay ultra-aggressive at the plate to produce the power surge that upped his stock in 2018.

How long will pitchers keep throwing him strikes this year? With a 4.5 B%, does Baez have the patience to adjust to the Bryce Harper treatment? For a player who might never hit more than 30 homers in a year again, and has a lower batting average floor, there are other players with similar profiles, at a lower price, and without as much risk.

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