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Fantasy Baseball Trade Targets - Buy/Sell For Week 17

whit merrifield fantasy baseball rankings second base draft sleepers

Making the right trades can be crucial to championship success in fantasy baseball, almost as much as the draft, if not more. While most trades can have a significant impact on your fantasy team, it’s the deals where you acquire undervalued players and then see their production improve that can really tip the scales in your favor where the standings are concerned.

The same can certainly be said about trading away players at the right time when they have the most fantasy trade value. Those deals could happen in the second week of April or the last week of August, but they’re impactful all the same.

Here are some undervalued candidates to pursue in trades and some overvalued ones who you should consider dealing for if they presently occupy a spot on your roster.

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Undervalued Players To Trade For

Jordan Montgomery, St. Louis Cardinals

One of the league’s preeminent ground ball artists this season, only 17 qualified starters have a higher ground ball rate than Montgomery, who has utilized his sinker-fronted arsenal expertly this year. The now former Yankee has registered a 46.4% ground ball rate entering play on Wednesday, but that’s not the full story with the 29-year-old.

He’s been excellent at limiting walks as well, which certainly doesn’t hurt from a fantasy standpoint. Among qualified starting pitchers, just nine have a lower walks per nine inning rate than Montgomery’s 1.81 metric. Just six qualified starters have a lower overall walk rate than Montgomery’s 4.9% number.

The lack of walks certainly helps offset a somewhat modest amount of strikeouts (97 total and 7.61 per nine innings), but there’s reason to believe the left-hander has the stuff to miss more bats.

For starters, both of his primary non-sinker offerings – the changeup and curveball – sport whiff rates north of 40% at 41.5% and 43% respectively. Those two pitches have been key in helping the veteran generate swinging strikes both in the zone and out of the zone.

Only 24 starters have generated more in zone swing-and-misses than Montgomery, whose 117 total in zone swing and misses currently is more than the likes of Zack Wheeler, Charlie Morton, Julio Urias, and Joe Musgrove. Elsewhere, the 29-year-old is currently in the 76th percentile in overall whiff rate and hasn’t had trouble getting hitters to miss outside the zone either, with a 33.4% chase rate. A 33.4% chase rate that sits in the 91st percentile league-wide.

Pair all that with the elite ground ball numbers and you have a starter who can thrive, both in real life and in fantasy, in the right environment. For Montgomery, that might be with the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Cardinals fielders rank third in the league in overall Def (22.7) and have combined for the sixth-best collective DRS (+41) in the sport. Montgomery’s former team had strong fielding metrics too, pacing baseball in both Def (23.7) and DRS (+65), but the combination of the Cardinals fielders and Busch Stadium is key here.

Only three ballparks, per Statcast, have a lower Park Factor in the last three years. In terms of Park Factor for home runs, Busch Stadium once again checks in with one of the lower metrics in the league.

This time, only four stadiums have a lower Park Factor where home runs are concerned. Where was Yankee Stadium in these rankings you might ask? The ballpark was tied for the sixth-highest Park Factor in terms of home runs.

Raisel Iglesias, Atlanta Braves

Iglesias has appeared in this column twice before. Once in May when he was in the “Undervalued” section due to some promising underlying metrics. He appeared a second time last week, this time in the “Overvalued” portion because the Angels might plummet further down the standings if they traded away veteran players, leaving fewer save opportunities for Iglesias. Things could’ve changed for the Angels.

Things did change, except that instead of hanging on to Iglesias, the closer was one of the veteran players the team traded, sending him to Atlanta for veteran reliever Jesse Chavez and left-handed starter Tucker Davidson.

Now Iglesias is a part of an Atlanta bullpen that already includes a set closer in Kenley Jansen, leaving save opportunities potentially few and far between. Because of that, managers in your league may be looking to trade Iglesias. They might even be looking to cut him given Jansen’s role in the Atlanta bullpen.

If that’s the case, now’s the time to acquire Iglesias. His fantasy value might not be what it was with the Angels, but he immediately becomes the best backup closer in fantasy baseball. Atlanta’s bullpen trails only the Brewers in total saves with 36 as of the beginning of play on Wednesday. That includes 24 from Jansen, five each from A.J. Minter and Will Smith, and two for Jackson Stephens.

Jansen previously spent time on the injured list due to an irregular heartbeat this season, opening the door for Minter and Smith to collect saves. If the former Dodger struggles or misses time due to injury, Iglesias would be the most obvious candidate to step in, especially with Smith having been dealt to Houston on Tuesday.

If that were the case, Iglesias would immediately be a top-five closer or better for however long he remains in the role given the significantly better team around him in Atlanta than the one he used to be a part of in Southern California.

Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins

Able to fill a need for fantasy managers at either shortstop or second base, the two positions he’s eligible at in Yahoo leagues, Polanco is once again having a strong season. His ISO might be down .050 points from last year, and his batting average might have dropped .030 points from the 2021 season, but there’s plenty to like here if you’re in search of a middle infield option.

Polanco is batting .239 with a .350 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, and three stolen bases in 363 plate appearances. While the batting average certainly isn’t ideal, the infielder continues to get on base at a high rate and is ticking plenty of boxes at the plate in terms of quality of contact.

He’s one of just 13 qualified batters league-wide to currently be in the 80th percentile or better in walk rate, xSLG, xwOBA, and barrel rate. Elsewhere, it doesn’t hurt that the veteran is also chasing pitches considerably less often. He’s dropped his chase rate from 29.7% in 2021 – the second-highest chase rate of Polanco’s career – to 24.8% this year.

Perhaps most crucially, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is hitting Polanco near the top of the lineup. Entering play Wednesday, the infielder's last 39 plate appearances had come hitting either fourth, third, or leadoff.

Based on his advanced metrics alone, Polanco is someone to consider trading for, but his role potentially hitting ahead of or after Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa regularly only helps his fantasy upside.

 

Overvalued Players To Trade Away

Whit Merrifield, Toronto Blue Jays

On paper, Merrifield would seem to be going to a more fantasy-friendly environment after being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays from the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays lineup is the definition of “very good” with top six rankings league-wide in runs scored, on-base percentage, wRC+, and home runs.

The Royals, meanwhile, have struggled to plate base runners this season. Only the Pirates, A’s, and Tigers have scored fewer runs and Kansas City as a team also ranks in the bottom third of the league in on-base percentage, wRC+, and home runs.

The problem is that the Blue Jays lineup might actually be too good for Merrifield to carve out a regular role. Able to play both second base and the outfield, it isn’t easy to see where the 33-year-old plays regularly. It’s probably not in place of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field next to George Springer and Teoscar Hernandez. Gurriel is hitting .312 with a 123 wRC+ and a .364 on-base percentage.

Second base could be an option, but Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio have been perfectly fine there seeing the bulk of the starts. Toronto second basemen have combined for a 2.6 fWAR, the 11th-best in the league. That’s not a particularly fantasy-relevant number, but it is relevant in how the Blue Jays determine how to divvy up playing time.

It might be a different story if Merrifield were producing at the level he has in the past, but the veteran has struggled this season, especially when compared to Toronto’s incumbent options.

  • Santiago Espinal In 2022: 382 PA, .265 average, .315 on-base percentage, 93 wRC+, .111 ISO, 6 HR, 5 SB
  • Cavan Biggio In 2022: 183 PA, .216 average, .341 on-base percentage, 101 wRC+, .137 ISO, 2 HR, 2 SB
  • Whit Merrifield In 2022: 420 PA, .240 average, .290 on-base percentage, 80 wRC+, .112 ISO, 6 HR, 15 SB

The former Royal is still making plenty of contact, as evidenced by a 14.5% strikeout rate and an 18.9% whiff rate. He just isn’t making much loud contact, with just a 30.7% hard-hit rate, and a .324 xwOBAcon.

Still, the Blue Jays acquired him to help them down the stretch. He’s going to play some kind of role, but it’s hard to see it being a regular one. If that’s the case, it limits his fantasy upside considerably, even with his stolen base upside.

Tanner Houck, Boston Red Sox

Houck’s inclusion in the “Overvalued” portion has less to do with how he’s fared as a late-inning reliever this season and more to do with Garrett Whitlock’s return to the bullpen. The 26-year-old seemed to have settled in as Boston’s primary closer, pitching to a 3.15 ERA, a 3.30 FIP, 56 strikeouts, and 22 walks in 60 innings this season. He’s sporting a 2.70 ERA as a reliever and currently paces the Red Sox with eight saves.

Houck should continue to get ninth-inning opportunities moving forward. He just might not get all of them. Since Whitlock returned to the bullpen on July 15, the Red Sox have logged a total of five saves. Ryan Brasier has one of the saves, but both Whitlock and Houck have two each.

It is worth noting that during that span, Houck has more high-leverage, ninth-inning appearances (four) than Whitlock (one) has, but this looks like a bullpen where both pitchers will continue to get ninth-inning looks depending on the situation.

With that in mind, keeping Tanner Houck on your fantasy roster is a perfectly sound strategy for the rest of the season. If you’re looking for a more stable source of saves, now might be the time to try trading Houck in a larger deal that nets you another closer before Whitlock logs a few more saves of his own.



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