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Fantasy Baseball Trade Targets - Buy/Sell for Week 1

josh lowe fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers waiver wire MLB injury new

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 third 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 if they presently occupy a spot on your roster. 

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Undervalued Players To Trade For

Josh Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

Maybe someone in your league thinks the Rays outfield is too crowded. On paper, it might be. Even after trading Austin Meadows, they still have Lowe along with Randy Arozarena, Brett Phillips, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, and Harold Ramirez on the active roster, with Vidal Brujan and Luke Raley also on the 40-man roster as options. Elsewhere on the active roster, second baseman Brandon Lowe has experience playing in the outfield corners. 

If someone else in your league thinks that Lowe’s fantasy value isn’t as high as it should be due to the crowded position group or that he might hit a rookie wall eventually, now is your last (and first really) chance to make a move. His value is only going to go up from here. 

The 24-year-old has already made an early impact for the Rays, logging three walks, a triple, three runs scored, and an RBI in his first 22 plate appearances. He’s also hitting in the middle of their lineup. 

The Rays didn’t add a traditional designated hitter to replace Nelson Cruz this winter, leaving plenty of opportunities for outfielders to rotate in. Case in point, Lowe was in the Opening Day lineup as Tampa Bay’s designated hitter last Friday.

The reality is, Tampa Bay didn’t trade Meadows just to have Lowe play a part-time role. The 24-year-old is going to be a big part of the Rays’ potential success this season and he could be a big part of fantasy success as well. 

Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander was quoted in a Tampa Bay Times article by Marc Topkin on April 5 saying the following about Lowe:

“He has the potential to be an All-Star player. That’s how we see him.”

And it’s not hard to see why. FanGraphs gives Lowe a 60 grade for both current and future raw power and speed. His current game power grade, per the publication, is 45, but the future grade is 55.

Lowe also had at least 18 home runs and 26 stolen bases in each of his last two minor league seasons, and similar double-digit totals in both categories aren’t out of the question for his rookie campaign. 

FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have Lowe achieving a similar feat in 2022:

· 496 PA, 15 HR, 20 SB, 63 runs scored, 57 RBI, .233 average, .308 OBP

Lowe’s speed and power combination alone give him exciting fantasy upside. If he can even hit .250 he’ll be an above-average fantasy contributor.

He has slightly more value in on-base percentage leagues, but it’s hard not to like the upside here right away, especially with the power/speed combination and a regular role in what should be another top-10 run-scoring unit in Tampa Bay.

 Andrew Kittredge, Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t exactly operated with a set closer as of late. During the 2020 season, 12 different relievers logged a save, with five different pitchers notching multiple saves. Last season, 14 different Rays converted a save opportunity, with three different relievers having at least five saves. 

So far this season, two different Tampa Bay hurlers have already logged saves. So, you and any other fantasy manager in your league can be forgiven for thinking we’re heading down the same path again. We might, to a degree, but the reality is that Andrew Kittridge seems like the favorite for most save chances moving forward.

Far and away the team’s best reliever last season, Kittridge posted a 1.7 fWAR in 65.1 innings of work, converting eight saves and finishing with a 1.65 ERA and a 2.56 FIP to go along with 77 strikeouts and 15 walks. His 16.2% swinging strike percentage as a reliever was the 11th best among all bullpen arms last season. 

With Diego Castillo in Seattle, Collin McHugh in Atlanta, and Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks on the 60-day injured list, Kittredge would seem like the most likely bet to be summoned should a high-leverage situation arise for what should be a 90-win (or better) team. 

That may lead to a handful of saves being distributed to a few other relievers as Kittridge might pitch earlier than the ninth inning in some wins, but when the game is on the line in a save situation for the Rays, the 32-year-old looks like the favorite. 

Michael Fulmer played a similar role on the 77-win Tigers last season and finished with 14 saves. It isn’t unreasonable to think that Kittridge could finish with 20 to 25 saves on a Rays team that could once again push for 100 wins. 

Still, some fantasy managers might view Kittridge as a secondary source of saves in Tampa Bay. You shouldn’t. He’s a potential top-10 fantasy closer. 

Tommy Pham, Cincinnati Reds

Even if on-base percentage isn’t used as a scoring stat in your fantasy leagues, it can be useful when considering a player’s run-scored and stolen-base potential. 

Elsewhere xwOBA certainly isn’t a fantasy scoring stat, but it too can be useful in determining how well a batter is doing at the plate from a production standpoint. In other words, if a batter’s xwOBA is higher than his actual wOBA, there’s probably some form of positive regression coming across the board statistically for said batter.

Tommy Pham has an OBP of .340 or higher in each of his last four full seasons. He’s also logged an xwOBA of .350 or better in each of those four seasons – five if you count the 2020 campaign. Most of the fantasy baseball world may be severely undervaluing Pham right now, creating the perfect time to acquire the outfielder and benefit later from the transaction.

Per NFBC, the veteran’s ADP was 247.12 the day before Opening Day. Pham signing with the Reds late in Spring Training probably had something to do with this, but he’s also started the season hitless in his first 19 plate appearances in a Reds uniform.

The fact that he hasn’t hit above .230 since 2019 could also play a part in dampening his perceived fantasy value, but don’t let that stop you from acquiring the outfielder. He has the track record to produce. Plus, it isn’t just the expected stats, it’s some of the more fantasy-relevant (at least from a scoring standpoint) metrics as well. 

In the last four full seasons prior to 2022, the 34-year-old has reached double digits in both home runs and stolen bases.

Tommy Pham’s HR and SB totals:

  • 2017: 23 HR, 25 SB, 530 plate appearances
  • 2018: 21 HR, 15 SB, 570 plate appearances 
  • 2019: 21 HR, 25 SB, 654 plate appearances
  • 2021 15 HR, 14 SB, 561 plate appearances 

He should get plenty of plate appearances in a much-changed Cincinnati outfield that no longer includes Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, Shogo AkiyamaOh yeah, his home plate appearances will come at Great American Ballpark, which is generally good news foremost hitters’ production – Pham especially. Since the start of the 2019 season, Pham has 41 home runs. His expected home run total for the Reds’ stadium during that span? 55. 


Overvalued Players To Trade Away

Emilio Pagan, Minnesota Twins

The Twins bullpen, now minus Taylor Rogers, is a bit of a mystery. They have plenty of options for ninth-inning work in longtime Twin Tyler Duffey, Emilio Pagan, who was acquired in the Rogers deal, as well as promising young relievers Jorge Alcala (who was recently placed on the injured list) and Jhoan Duran

To date, Minnesota has had one concrete save opportunity this season. They went to Duffey with a one-run lead in the third game of the season and the veteran promptly blew the save against the Seattle Mariners. Then, in the series finale against the Mariners, Duran was summoned to protect a four-run lead in the ninth and closed the door. 

Of the group, Pagan has the most experience in the ninth inning, with a 20-save season for the Rays in 2019 under his belt. The problem is this is looking like a committee approach. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli more or less confirmed as much in an article by Betsy Helfand in an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on April 8. Baldelli was quoted as saying the following about the bullpen and the closer’s role:

“It’s not a situation where we’re just going to fill that role with someone and say, ‘That’s how it’s going to work,’” Baldelli said. ‘We will use the quality arms in the back end of our ‘pen to match up, try to put them in position to get outs.”

This is nothing new for Baldelli. Since he’s been the manager in Minnesota, a closer committee, or rather a dispersing of saves, has been the norm. 

Twins’ Top Closing Options Since 2019:

It’s possible a reliever separates themselves from the pack and has a larger save total than the other relievers, a la Rogers in 2019, but that Twins team won 101 games. This current iteration of the Twins, even with Carlos Correa, doesn’t quite have that type of ceiling. 

Given the scarcity of saves, it’s possible someone might pay a relative premium for Pagan given his experience and the unsettled nature of the Minnesota bullpen. He might lead the team in saves as that reliever who separates himself from the pack. The reality is that there’s probably another Twins reliever available on waivers in your league who’ll finish with a similar save total at the end of the season. 

Capitalize on Pagan’s value and name recognition now and trade him for help elsewhere now and pick up one of Minnesota’s other high-leverage relievers off waivers.

David Robertson, Chicago Cubs

Another closing option to potentially trade is David Robertson. Saves are saves, and by nature immensely tricky to find, so you might feel inclined to hang on to someone like Robertson if you picked him up. Certainly, if you’re hurting for saves on your roster. If you’re not, there’s definite potential here to capitalize in a trade. 

Robertson certainly has plenty of experience, with 139 career saves, including two already this season. But the Cubs just simply might not be that good this year.  This is the same Chicago team that lost a monumental amount of talent at the deadline last season in trades sending Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, Joc Pederson, Andrew Chafin, and Jake Marisnick to different teams. David Ross and company finished with 71 wins after the trades.

While they’ve added Marcus Stroman, Seiya Suzuki, and Wade Miley, the win total ceiling isn’t all that high this season either. FanGraphs’ rest of season projections have the Cubs winning 75 games this year. That’s notable because – last season at least – closers on bad teams generally don’t record upwards of 20 saves. 

Of the 19 relievers who finished with at least 20 saves in 2021, just one (Colorado’s Daniel Bard, who had exactly 20) spent the entire season with a club that won less than 75 games or fewer. Robertson also sticks out as a speculative trade candidate come July given his experience. If he’s dealt to a contender with a set closer then, his fantasy trade value is only going to decrease over time. 

Deal Robertson now when his value is high and get back a quality contributor to help elsewhere on the roster and then play the odds with a reliever off waivers pitching in a bullpen in Seattle, Detroit, or Minnesota where some saves might be somewhat spread around. Diego Castillo, Michael Fulmer, and Jhoan Duran could all finish with upwards of 10 or 15 saves while not serving as their team’s primary closer. 

This is all without mentioning Chicago also has Mychal Givens, Chris Martin, and Rowan Wick on hand as other potential ninth-inning options. 

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