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Overvalued, Undervalued Trade Targets - Buy/Sell for Fantasy Baseball (Week 9)

Pete Alonso - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

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.


Undervalued Players To Trade For

Pete Alonso, New York Mets

The home runs are certainly not missing for Pete Alonso. Nor is the power production.

The slugger has connected on 18 so far this season in 209 plate appearances, driving in 43 runs in the process for the New York Mets. His ISO sits at .311.

In fact, both Alonso’s home run total and ISO are both marked improvements on his 2022 numbers to this point last year.

Through May 23 last year, Alonso had 18 fewer plate appearances, but also seven fewer home runs and an ISO nearly .070 points lower at .235.

The only thing missing is the batting average. After hitting .288 through 191 plate appearances through May 23 last year, and logging a .271 average for the entirety of the season, Alonso is batting just .230 so far this year.

It sounds rather simple to point to a .200 BABIP and say that’s one of the primary reasons here in terms of Alonso's production not being better.

But it sort of is.

Actually, it very much is.

Alonso is making all sorts of elite contact, with a .417 xwOBA so far, not to mention a .621 xSLG. Most importantly, his xwOBAcon has jumped close to .100 points, rising from .403 to .500.

Combine the BABIP with the xwOBAcon and some of his plate discipline metrics, and you have a recipe for some serious positive regression.

Pete Alonso In 2022

  • BB%: 9.8%
  • K% 18.7%
  • Chase Rate: 33.5%
  • Whiff Rate: 24.2%
  • In-Zone Contact Rate: 84.3%

Pete Alonso In 2023

  • BB%: 11.5%
  • K% 21.5%
  • Chase Rate: 26.7%
  • Whiff Rate: 26.1%
  • In-Zone Contact Rate: 82.1%


Overvalued Players To Trade Away

Christopher Morel, Chicago Cubs

Ok, so Christopher Morel isn’t your traditional entry in the “overrated” portion of this column.

He’s off to a strong start this season, hitting .367 with a .404 on-base percentage, nine home runs, and a stolen base through 52 plate appearances as of the beginning of play on Wednesday.

With a .429 BABIP, there’s bound to be some regression coming, though Morel’s power has been legitimate so far, with a 30% barrel rate, a .710 xwOBAcon, a .450 xwOBA, and a 63.3% hard-hit rate.

The 30% barrel rate likely isn’t going to continue. Since 2015, Aaron Judge (twice) and Joey Gallo are the only qualified batters to have topped a 22% barrel rate in full season and the best Judge did was 26.2% last year. Still, Morel’s barrel rate so far, while unsustainable at 30%, is a clear sign that he’s going to continue to hit for power moving forward.

What’s more, with his multi-position eligibility – the 24-year-old is eligible at second base, third base, shortstop, and in the outfield in Yahoo leagues – he’s going to provide some serious fantasy value moving forward.

And that’s all without mentioning the stolen base upside. Morel stole 10 bases in 113 games last season and logged four stolen bases in 29 Triple-A games before being recalled earlier this month.

But, and this is the crucial bit, now might be the best time to move Morel. Of course, don’t just trade him just to trade him, but if you can get a significant, decidedly above-average fantasy performer for the versatile Cubs player, it might pay significant dividends in the long run.

Because while the power, versatility, and speed are good, the strikeouts are... not.

We’re still dealing with a smaller sample size for the 24-year-old, but he’s striking out 36.5% of the time so far after turning in a 32.2% strikeout rate in the Majors in 2022. Earlier this year at Triple-A he struck out 30.6% of the time.

So far with the Cubs, Morel has also seen both his chase rate and whiff rate rise notably.

  • Christopher Morel In 2022: 28.6% chase rate, 38.3% whiff rate, 425 PA.
  • Christopher Morel In 2023: 35.6% chase rate, 42.2% whiff rate, 52 PA.

For context, the infielder and outfielder’s chase rate finished in the 56th percentile last season. His whiff rate in 2022? That finished in the first percentile.

In short, the .367 average just doesn’t seem anywhere close to sustainable, nor does it seem likely to be anywhere close to what the 24-year-old’s batting average might look like come the end of the season. Morel hit .235 in 2022 with rather high swing-and-miss metrics across the board, and that was with a 13.4% barrel rate and a .447 xwOBAcon.

In essence, his fantasy trade value is probably at its highest right now. It’s definitely a defensible move and overall strategy to hang on to him for everything he brings to the table fantasy-wise, but if you can get a good offer for Morel, now’s the time to make a move.

Lane Thomas, Washington Nationals

Lane Thomas has provided some solid production as an outfield regular in Washington with the Nationals after being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a July 30 2021 trade for veteran starter Jon Lester.

In 950 plate appearances with the Nationals since that deal, Thomas is hitting .258 with a .324 on-base percentage, a .175 ISO, and a 108 wRC+. Those metrics include 196 plate appearances this season in which the outfielder is batting .294 with a .347 on-base percentage, a .351 wOBA, a .371 BABIP, seven home runs, and four stolen bases.

Just like with Alonso, the BABIP (while not the entire story) is especially key here – although unlike Alonso it points to some regression coming for Thomas.

Regression considering the outfielder isn’t hitting the ball particularly hard on a consistent basis. He’s sporting a 38.9% hard-hit rate, a .379 xwOBAcon, and a .308 xwOBA as of the start of play on Wednesday. Elsewhere his barrel rate has risen only 0.4% from 6.5% last year to 6.9% this year.

In fact, most of Thomas’ underlying and quality of contact metrics are fairly similar to his 2022 numbers, when he hit .241 with a .301 on-base percentage, a .308 wOBA, and a .291 BABIP in 548 plate appearances.

  • Lane Thomas In 2022: 548 PA, .286 xwOBA, .339 xwOBAcon, 34.5% hard-hit rate, 6.5% barrel rate, 7.5 BB%, 24.1 K%, 45.3% ground ball rate.
  • Lane Thomas In 2023: 196 PA, .308 xwOBA, .379 xwOBAcon, 38.9% hard-hit rate, 6.9% barrel rate, 6.1 BB%, 25.5 K%, 46.6% ground ball rate.

Now, Granted Thomas did collect 17 home runs and eight stolen bases last year, providing quality fantasy numbers in both categories. Still, if he keeps making this type of contact, his overall production will likely take a serious dip from where it is now.

It is also worth noting that a significant chunk of the outfielder’s production, including four of his seven home runs, has come against fastballs. Fastballs have accounted for 57.3% of the pitches Thomas has seen, and he’s hitting .320 with a .361 wOBA against them. However, his expected numbers aren’t quite as good comparatively against fastballs, with a .272 xBA and a .316 xwOBA.

There’s also the fact that due in part to the production and Washington’s struggling lineup, Thomas has hit in the top third of the Nationals batting order more often than not, with 115 of his 196 plate appearances either coming as the leadoff hitter or second hitter.

Speculatively speaking, if the rebuilding Nationals trade Thomas this summer, he likely wouldn’t get nearly as many plate appearances near the top of the order on a contending team. Of course, that’s again all entirely speculative, but not hitting near the top of the lineup with the added plate appearances that come with it would put a dent in Thomas’ rest-of-season fantasy upside.

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