Fantasy baseball roundtable: Selling high on McCullers

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9575/" data-ylk="slk:Lance McCullers">Lance McCullers</a> currently sits as top 10 fantasy pitcher, and owners should look to capitalize on that success. (Getty)
Lance McCullers currently sits as top 10 fantasy pitcher, and owners should look to capitalize on that success. (Getty)

The 2017 baseball season is nearing the conclusion of its second month, but it’s still early enough that fantasy owners should remain vigilant on the waiver wire. The Yahoo fantasy baseball crew is here to help identify the players to go after:

Q: Which infielder, owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?

Brandon Funston:  DEVON TRAVIS. He was drafted in 98% of Yahoo leagues in the spring, so you’d think that now that he’s put an awful April behind him by compiling one of the league’s best months of May at the dish (.351 BA, .985 OPS, 14 2B, 2 HR, 2 SB – leads MLB in May extra-base hits) that he’d be scooped back up a little more quickly than he has.

Andy Behrens: I’ll take all the MATT ADAMS shares I can get. There’s nothing fluky about his post-trade binge; he hit 16 homers in just 297 at-bats last season. 

Scott Pianowski:  JUSTIN BOUR is a little too owned to qualify here, but that 44-percent tag makes no sense. Please fix that, fixers. I also approve of the colleague choices. In the interest of offering a different name, how about DIDI GREGORIUS? He had a breakthrough year last season, he’s off to a .330-13-3-17-1 push this year (since coming off the DL), and the Yankees have, by far, the American League’s best offense. Fun, fun, fun.

Dalton Del Don:  LOGAN MORRISON. He has 12 homers with 32 RBI and is batting cleanup for the Rays. Tampa Bay has somehow scored more runs than Boston this year despite playing in Tropicana Field. Morrison is hitting just .163 with RISP, so there’s actually room for him to be even better moving forward.

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SELL HIGH: What sizzling infielder would you be looking to unload for a profit right now?

Funston:  RYAN ZIMMERMAN. He’s still sitting as a top 5 bat in the Yahoo game, but he’s gone homerless in his past 16 games and his batting average has dropped nearly 75 points in that span. But it’s not I don’t believe in Zimmerman as a hitter, it’s more that I don’t believe in Zimmerman’s ability to maintain health for the long haul – he’s averaged 115 games played in his past six seasons.

Behrens: Nothing in the career of EUGENIO SUAREZ makes me think he’s going to hit .290-something with 30-plus homers. I’d happily cash out. 

Pianowski:  My first rule with these things is you have to try to mention a fun name that some will disagree with; that’s how we can be confident the sell-high is actually executable in the first place. MIGUEL SANO hits the ball awfully hard, so he’s making some of his batted-ball fortune. But no one is supposed to carry a .459 BABIP around. Sano has pop, sure, and the connections go an awfully long way. But he also strikes out over a third of the time, and his career average is .258. I bet you can find a Twins sympathizer in your league, somewhere. It’s not that you’re trying to sell Sano at all costs, but the timing is probably right for a godfather offer.

Del Don: MARK REYNOLDS is off to a huge start (.319/.396/.575) but this is still a career .237 hitter who strikes out a lot (albeit less than usual so far this season). His HR/FB% (33.3) is completely unsustainable, and you can play up the Coors Field angle too.

Q: Which outfielder, owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?

Funston:  MAX KEPLER. I was a fan of his coming up in the minors because of his plate discipline and nice blend of pop and speed. He’s been a top 40 roto commodity in the Y! game over the past couple weeks, so he’s got it rolling right now, but his past 145 MLB games shows nicely, as well (22 HR, 84 RBI, 9 SB).

Behrens: MAX KEPLER is a nice power/speed combo player who does his hitting in the heart of Minnesota’s batting order. Nothing about his play to this point seems unsustainable. Before long, I like to think he’ll be 60-65 percent owned. 

Pianowski:  I feel like we’ve been promoting Jayson Werth since the 1980s, which is probably when Werth’s career started. Let’s opt for a similar player, only a younger version — JOSH REDDICK, in Houston. Like with Werth, with Reddick you get patience, you get pop, you get a slot in a strong lineup, and you (most of the time) get some crazy hair. We can work with this.

Del Don: Despite missing seven games, JAYSON WERTH is on pace to finish with 25 homers and 90 runs scored. It also helps to bat second (with a .384 OBP) for a team that’s scored by far the most runs in baseball.

SELL HIGH: What sizzling outfielder would you be looking to unload for a profit right now?

Funston:  KEON BROXTON. I think Broxton is the perfect  dump-deal candidate. Just look at the recent deals being made for him in Yahoo leagues. There are one-for-ones for the likes of Anthony Rendon, Zack Greinke and Aaron Altherr. I’d take those guys over Broxton in a heartbeat. Broxton currently owns the third-highest BABIP mark (.430) and is neck-and-neck with Joey Gallo for the MLB lead in K% (38.1). He also hits a ton of ground balls, which is going to limit his HR upside, and his lowly 5.8 BB% means that the SBs won’t be coming quite so fast and furious when his inflated BABIP starts to normalize.

Behrens: I didn’t invest in AVISAIL GARCIA anywhere, but if I did, he’d be on the move. He’s actually less patient than ever (3.3 P/PA, 4.5 BB%), but the batted balls are landing in play (.382 BABIP). Nothing special has happened with his line-drive rate, either. A correction is on the way. 

Pianowski:  Again, the key to a sell-high ticket is you must start with someone your opponents are excited about, someone they believe in. And sometimes you can package some FOMO into the mix, some Fear Of Missing Out. With that in mind, it’s the right time to shop AARON JUDGE. I don’t think he pumpkins, but a 42.9 HR/FB rate is not meant to be maintained. And heck, the guy slashed .252/.343/.443 during his 670 plate appearances in Triple-A. Someone knows how to get him out.

Del Don: BRETT GARDNER has never hit more than 17 homers in a season during his 10-year career, and he hit seven over 547 at bats last year. He already has nine this year thanks to a 23.7 HR/FB% that’s more than triple his career mark of 7.8. See if you can sell him.

Q: Which starting pitcher, owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?

Funston:  BRAD PEACOCK. This is a bit of a cheat since Peacock has started only one game this season, but it was his most recent outing, in which he threw 4.1 shutout innings, fanning eight Tigers and allowing just one hit. His start was basically a continuation of what he has been doing all year in relief, which is slamming the door on opposing hitters – among pitchers with 20-plus IP, he’s top 5 in ERA, seventh in K/9 (13.1) and owns a sub-1 WHIP. 

Behrens: As I type, ARIEL MIRANDA has the Nationals lineup flummoxed. Miranda has struck out a batter per inning this season, and he’d piled up 17Ks in his prior two starts entering Thursday’s game. I’m interested. 

Pianowski:  Get BRANDON MCCARTHY for the Tweets, MATT ANDRIESE for the catwalk, or ZACK WHEELER for (fill in pithy reason here). I won’t endorse all of these arms for every possible matchup, but in the pitching drought of 2017, you take what you can get (yes, you take what you can get).

Del Don: TYSON ROSS. He’s in a tougher environment now in Texas and away from Petco Park, and coming off the surgery he had can be tricky, but Ross owns a career 8.49 K/9 rate. He looked dominant during his last minor league start, and if you pick him up now you can stash him on your DL.

SELL HIGH: What sizzling pitcher would you be looking to unload for a profit right now?

Funston:  LANCE MCCULLERS. Here’s another player throwing some serious weight around in the Yahoo Trade Market. There’s recent one-for-ones for Robinson Cano and J.D. Martinez in there. If I could get anything even close to the ballpark of a deal like that, I’d be all over it. Only 23 years old, McCullers has already missed significant time in his young career because of elbow and shoulder injuries. He has to be treated with kid gloves still, which explains why he’s pitched no more than seven innings in any of his 10 starts this season (a shutdown bullpen also makes it easier to give him the early hook).

Behrens: Washington has gone through closers this season like Spinal Tap went through drummers. If I won the race to the wire for KODA GLOVER, I’d put him on the trade block today. I still think the Nats add veteran help for the ‘pen. 

Pianowski:  Again, I’m going to try to shoot high here, shoot buzzy. We need someone the other owner is excited about. Every preseason blurb on LANCE MCCULLERS included some version of “if he can stay healthy.” So far, so good — he’s in the Cy Young discussion. But let’s not forget all the breakdowns in previous seasons, not to mention the occasional control issues. He’s never made it to 160 innings in a season. Maybe someone will chase a best-case scenario, back up the truck. 

Del Don: ERVIN SANTANA is the obvious choice here. He’s been the No. 3 fantasy pitcher so far, posting ridiculous ratios (1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP). No one but maybe Clayton Kershaw can keep that pace, but his peripherals suggest possibly a big crash coming, not just normal regression, as he owns a pedestrian 50:27 K:BB ratio over 70.0 innings. Santana’s BABIP is .136, which is more than 50 points lower than the next starting pitcher. 

Follow the Yahoo crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, Brad Evans, Brandon Funston, Liz Loza and Scott Pianowski

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