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This article is the second in our series on trade targets for the second half of the season. Part 1 focused on players generally ranked in the top 50. This installment focuses on offensive players ranked outside the top 50. Part three will focus on pitchers. After that, we'll focus on players to target for specific categories rather than positional improvement.

Most of the players below have suffered injuries, uncharacteristically disappointing first halves, or shifts in the prevailing attitude about their talent and ability. None are perfect and model players. If they were, their cost would be far higher. Each one represents an opportunity to buy low in advance of the fantasy baseball homestretch.

After each player listed, I’ve tried to include an account of one-for-one trades that I’ve actually seen. However, I’ve only done that if I’ve noticed some pattern within the market and there are examples to represent how the player is perceived. Unfortunately, some of these players have been traded infrequently or only in complex deals, which makes it impossible to provide sample trades to reflect their perceived value.

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Catcher

Evan GattisI’ve been trying to champion the cause of Evan Gattis, potential-fantasy-catcher-of-the-year, to anyone who will listen. Anytime you can get a catcher-eligible non-catcher, it’s probably a good situation. Gattis played for the Braves and Astros through some ugly times; then he missed playing time for much of last year when the Astros evolved into their current form. That left him severely undervalued coming into the season. Consider the production for two players since 2016:

PA HR R RBI AVG ISO
Player A 1123 62 136 189 .255 .238
Player B 1029 67 149 173 .260 .274

Player A has generated 325 R+RBI during that timeline. Player B has 322. The HR and average are comparable. Player A has almost 100 more plate appearances, but there’s good reason to ignore that discrepancy because player B has only played in 63 games this season and is likely to miss another two weeks. Player A is healthy and has played 79 games this season. Moreover, Player A is likely to maintain that advantage in playing time because he doesn't play catcher anymore. He is an everyday designated hitter. Player A is Evan Gattis. Player B is Gary Sanchez.

Gattis’ position as the Astros’ everyday DH and number-five hitter ensure a minimum level of production. He had an awful start to the season, so his numbers (37 Rs, 18 HRs, 62 RBI, .251 BA) don’t look amazing, but so far, he’s the top-rated catcher this season. Few managers seem to value him that way. Fortunately, Steamer has him as a top-125 player for the rest of the season, so he has a decent floor. Plus he avoids some of the classic injury risks for catchers. In one-for-one trades, he's been sold for David Peralta and Tommy Pham straight up.

Honorable Mention: Yasmani Grandal – Grandal’s peripherals are so much better this year than they were last: lower strikeouts, higher walks, the highest hard-hit rate of his career, and the lowest grounder rate of his career.

 

First Base

Matt Olson: If you are trying to figure out Matt Olson, just think about Khris Davis: dramatic power, subpar batting average, useful walk-rate. If you add Matt Chapman to the equation, it's obvious that Oakland has a type. They appear to have fully embraced the idea that batting average is white noise while power and on-base percentage are superior measures of hitter productivity. OPS leagues unite! Olson’s batted-ball data looks the same or better than it did last year when he hit 24 HRs in 59 games. His Hard-Hit rate is an extraordinary 52.7%. His groundball rate is 34.7%, ranked 25th among qualified leaders. Statcast has similar results for him (23rd in xwOBA). His walk rate is down .4%, but his strikeout rate is down 3.1%. If Olson were already an established player, the discussion would be about a somewhat disappointing first half with a price closer to Justin Upton or Marcell Ozuna than Wilson Ramos and Eric Hosmer. Here’s some perspective on Olson: In his first 162 MLB games, he has produced 84 runs, 43 HRs, 91 RBI, 2 SB, a .242 BA, and an .852 OPS. Someone is going to point out that his stats are buoyed by his 2017 season, but that would ignore the awful 11 games that he played in 2016 when he hit .118 with zero HRs. I would be targeting him the same way I do Khris Davis, but at an obvious discount because he hasn’t demonstrated Davis-like consistency yet. Trades for Kenta Maeda and Whit Merrifield represent Olson’s perceived value.

Brandon BeltIf you don’t need power from your first baseman, Brandon Belt is a worthwhile target. He’s still likely to reach the 20 HR plateau, but in 2018 that’s a low standard. Belt has been a useful player for years now, but he breaks the traditional first-baseman mold, so his value is veiled by underwhelming power numbers. Statcast has him at an elite .411 xwOBA, right between Mitch Moreland and Alex Bregman, two names which provide context to his profile. Belt should be available for a relative pittance, but don’t expect him to be a league winner. He offers solid production for minimal cost. If you are expecting a big return on investment, you’ll be better off targeting Olson, Encarnacion, or Moreland.

Honorable Mention: Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion, Mitch Moreland – Santana is perennially undervalued, and he’s getting older. Edwin Encarnacion is both old, streaky and had his usual April disaster month. His BABIP has lagged behind the rest of his rebound, so his value is still depressed. As for Mitch Moreland, he’s still named Mitch Moreland, but if he simply rebranded himself as the Mystery Cleanup Hitter for the Boston Red Sox, his stock would skyrocket. Expect Santana and Moreland to be top-100 players at the end of the season, and Encarnacion to be a top-60 player again.

 

Second Base

These three guys are all similar values (cost relative to potential performance). The order here reflects how I would rank them for the rest of the season, but it’s a bit of a crapshoot. Here’s the rundown for this trio of older, baggage-laden second basemen. Any of them could be a top-50 player in the second half, or they could all finish outside the top-150 as well.

Brian Dozier: With Dozier, it’s been a bit of a similar situation to Goldschmidt earlier this year. If that sounds like a prompt to buy low, it is. Dozier has some peripherals that concern me: a drop in his line-drive rate, a four-year incremental increase in his groundball rate, and a .046 difference in his xwOBA from 2017 (.347) to 2018 (.301). None of those are making me avoid him altogether. And there are plenty of his other peripherals that look solid. He is currently sporting the highest hard-hit rate of his career, for instance. The guidance here is simply that you should not buy him as a guaranteed top-50 player. He’s been traded for Cole Hamels, Miguel Andujar, Albert Pujols, and Willson Contreras.

Daniel Murphy: For the last two years, Daniel Murphy has been a tremendous asset at second base. Even in 2014 and 2015, when he didn’t provide the same degree of power, he was useful. After knee debridement and microfracture surgery, Murphy had planned to be ready for opening day, but that was pushed back and then pushed back again. He played his first game on June 12 but has struggled since his return. The Nationals report that he has been healthy and the knee is structurally sound. After returning, Murphy continued to feel discomfort, but the team maintained that was a normal part of the process for recovery. In the meantime, Murphy has hit .257 with one HR in 24 games. It’s possible that 2018 is a lost year for him, but Murphy has looked better of late. The team continues to give him days to rest and recover, and it’s encouraging that the Nationals don’t seem to be actively scouting utility players to fill his spot, the way the Red Sox are with Pedroia. Moreover, Murphy’s exit velocity is up by two MPH since the start of July. However, that’s an extraordinarily small sample size, and it’s still two MPH lower than his 2017 average. On the other hand, Steamer projects Murphy as the second most offensively valuable second baseman for the rest of the year. He went 4-for-4 with two doubles on Tuesday night, and the Nationals sat him for a rest on Wednesday night. I’ve seen him traded for Michael Brantley and Kevin Kiermaier.

Robinson Cano: Cano comes back August 14th, and he’s currently available in 60% of leagues. The Mariners have said that Cano doesn’t have a defined place to play because Dee Gordon is entrenched at second base, and he’ll have three months of rust that he has to shake off. I would guess he reclaims second base quickly. Cano has something to prove, and he’s not eligible for playoffs, so there’s a good argument that he’ll leave everything he has on the field in August and September. If he’s on your waiver wire, you can probably wait until the all-star break to claim him. If he is still rostered and you want him, feel free to make an offer now or wait until he comes back and hope that he flounders in the first week.

Honorable Mention: Max Muncy: If you’re looking for a younger, healthier player who may still have some unexposed value, Muncy is a viable option. Plenty of managers are looking to sell high, but most of Muncy’s 21 HRs, 41 Rs, and 39 RBI have come while batting either seventh or eighth. Muncy was recently promoted to the two-hole, and his run and RBI totals should improve even as his power regresses to more human levels. I’ve seen him go straight up for Joakim Soria, Kyle Tucker, Walker Buehler, and A.J. Pollock. That’s a huge range, so his value will depend on his owner.

 

Shortstop

Paul DeJongIn the case of Paul DeJong, owners are acquiring a guy who was a no-name prospect last year, but still put up 38 HR across AAA and the majors. He was undervalued to start 2018, and then a broken hand sidelined him for two months. He is owned in only 60% of leagues, but he’s only been so-so since his return. A broken hand is the type of injury that could sap his power and performance for the entire season, but he hit well in his rehab stint, and his batted ball profile has been fine in the four games since his return. More recovery time, acclimation to major league pitching, and the all-star break should allow him to pick up where he left off. I'm targeting him aggressively, especially after I saw him go straight up for Jake Odorizzi in one trade and Masahiro Tanaka while Tanaka was still on the disabled list.

Elvis AndrusAndrus is in a similar situation to DeJong. He suffered a fractured elbow after being hit by a pitch. He’s hitting only .195 since returning in June, but his BABIP is a miserable .232. Like DeJong, it’s the type of injury that could haunt him all season, but Andrus offers a longer track record of success. His price appears minimal with straight up trades in exchange for Jesse Winker, Nathan Eovaldi, Tim Anderson, and Jeremy Jeffress.

Honorable Mention: Chris Taylor

 

Third Base

Mike MoustakasMost fantasy owners think Mike Moustakas has been an elite power hitter since only 2017, but Moustakas’ power surge truly began back in the second half of 2015 when he put up a .253 ISO. Then he generated a .260 ISO in 2016, but most of us missed it because Moustakas’ season was cut short at 27 games with a season-ending knee injury. He managed a .249 ISO in 2017 and came into the season as one of the more underrated players at a deep third base. Currently, Moustakas is on pace for 32 HRs, 71 Rs, and 98 RBI with a .255 BA. He’s largely being traded like a player ranked around 100, but he’s performing like a top-75 player. His free agency debacle and purgatory sentence to Kansas City have depressed his trade value, but the most enticing thing about him is the likelihood that Kansas City trades him away. The Yankees have already scouted him as a first base option, and Moustakas recently played four games there. Bear in mind, that Moustakas hits the majority of his home runs to right field, where Yankee Stadium has a little-league sized 314-foot fence. If Moustakas were moved to New York, he’d be a strong candidate to hit another 20 HRs in the remainder of the season. Even if he is simply moved to a stronger offense, his R and RBI numbers improve meaningfully. You can’t buy him on the assumption that he will be traded, but it does change how to calculate his ceiling, which is significantly higher in a place like New York. Moustakas is getting traded for everyone from Adrian Beltre to Willson Contreras to Dee Gordon to Jose Abreu. Abreu is the only guy I’d value to equal or outperform Moustakas.

Anthony RendonI see fantasy owner’s frustration with Anthony Rendon’s season the same way that I saw the frustration with Alex Bregman’s season three weeks ago, as an overreaction. Rendon has been fine even if he hasn’t been outstanding. His batted ball data is meaningfully better than last year, and his plate discipline numbers are similar, except for his O-Swing rate which is 30%. If you’re looking for top-50 upside, it’s worth messaging the Rendon owner in your league to see if he’s interested in selling. Rendon has recently been traded for Brandon Nimmo and Jose Martinez.

Honorable Mention: Travis Shaw, Matt Chapman, Jeimer Candelario: Shaw simply tends to be undervalued while playing in a decent offense. His peripherals look fine, but his BABIP is 50 points below his career average, so you should expect him to regress positively towards his career mark of .293. Chapman was crushing the ball until a wrist injury sapped his power. He played with it until the Athletics sent him to the DL. He’s back and available in most leagues. Keep an eye on him to see how he progresses in the next week or so. Candelario has been up and down on waiver wires because of a combination of injury, cold streaks, and his status as a relative unknown. He's only 24 and has already been a solid MLB player in his 123 career games. His minor-league track record gives reason to be hopeful about his ability to be a player who hits better than .300 with more than 20 HRs.

 

Outfield

Gregory Polanco: Polanco was given up for dead by a number of teams. On June 6th, Polanco made a stance and approach change that allowed him to achieve better plate coverage with a simpler swing approach. He has particularly improved against lefties, which had been a weakness for him for his entire career. His ownership had sunk into the 50s but has been rising for the last two weeks. Since making the change, Polanco has hit .305 with 5 HR, 14 R, 22 RBI, a .293 ISO and a .408 OBP. Expect pitchers to adjust, but Polanco has finally been producing at a level commensurate with his talent. He’s currently going in exchange for players like Jurickson Profar and Johnny Cueto.

Wil MyersImagine this scenario: A player blows past 20-20 for two straight years while playing over 150 games on both occasions. That player also has a .302 ISO, a .348 OBP, and a 153 wRC+ this season. That’s a player that you want to own correct? Wil Myers is getting traded straight up for Sean Manaea, Josh Hader, and Matt Carpenter. That’s the state of the world. Myers’ talent is mercurial, but his ability to stay on the field does remain in question. The Padres wanted to avoid any lingering injury, so they took their time bringing back their star outfielder. Myers just repaid them with a three-dinger game against the Nationals and has now homered in four straight games. If you can still get him, the window is closing.

Shin-Soo Choo: Choo is 35 years old now, and he’s been mediocre or injured for much of the last two years, but he’s hitting the ball harder and in the air far more often this season. His StatCast data has him at 16th in xwOBA, right between Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez. Given Choo’s injury history there are reasons to be concerned, but he’s also improved his approach at the plate this year. The heat map of his swings is far more focused on center-center and center-away, where Choo hits the ball best. Conveniently, it looks similar to his heat map in 2015, which was the last time he was a truly excellent player.

Marcell Ozuna: It’s hard to believe that Marcell Ozuna has been a below-average hitter for the first half of this year. So much of his profile looks good that it’s difficult to determine what is going on. Whether we’re looking at Barrels/PA, xwOBA, his batted ball profile, or plate discipline, Ozuna’s numbers look similar to last season. The two minor points of concern are his ground-ball rate, which is two percent higher than last year and his infield-fly rate, which is four percent higher than last year. Those differences explain the dip in his BABIP, but not his ISO. It’s fair to expect his power and production to bounce back, but unless he makes a clear adjustment, don’t expect an improvement in his batting average. Ozuna has been traded for Daniel Murphy, Brandon Morrow, and Matt Olson. Obviously, I like Murphy and Olson, but neither at the same level as Ozuna, whose ceiling is top 30.

Honorable Mention: Khris Davis
For the last three years in a row, Khris Davis has been a model of consistency. He hit 42 HRs this year. He currently projects to hit 36 HRs this season, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get to 40. He’ll also probably finish the season with 100+ RBI and 85 Rs. Fantasy owners don’t tend to buy Davis for a variety of reasons, but his batting average, which is now above the MLB average is the number one reason. He’s a top-60 player, but seems to get valued as a guy in the 75 to 80 range.

Honorable Mention: Juan Soto
Believe it or not, Steamer likes Juan Soto as the eighth most valuable offensive outfielder for the rest of the season. That is ahead of George Springer, Charlie Blackmon, Rhys Hoskins, and Andrew Benintendi. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that most Soto owners would accept less than those players in exchange for Soto. Soto’s appearance here isn’t a suggestion that he will outperform those players or even be a top-10 outfielder, but the data suggests he’ll be an excellent outfielder to own, and there are still owners looking to sell high on Soto. He’s been involved in a ton of complex trades without any clear pattern, so his perception around fantasy baseball is all over the place.

 

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