Playing in a dynasty Fantasy Baseball league can be both fun and challenging. It puts you in the general manager’s chair of a fantasy team that you have complete control over. Balancing the major and minor league roster can be a challenge, especially in a deeper league. But ultimately, you are in control of your team and dictate the direction you want your team to go.
A major part of success in a dynasty Fantasy Baseball league is knowing the appropriate time to buy or sell a certain player. In a way, it is kind of like playing the stock market. If you know the right time to buy and the right time to sell, you can find yourself building a successful dynasty. While trading is not everything, it is a big part of being successful in Fantasy Baseball.
After a crazy 2020 season, it could be time to capitalize on some players who potentially overperformed in a small sample. Today we will look at several starting pitchers who might be at their peak value. Should you sell these pitchers now? Let’s dive in.
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Starting Pitchers to Sell-High in Dynasty
Trevor Bauer, Free Agent
If you saw Trevor Bauer on the list and wanted to stop reading, hear me out! I love Trevor Bauer and do not understand the hate that he continually gets. Beyond that, Bauer won the 2020 National League CY Young Award. He posted a career-best 1.73 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP in 73 innings pitched. Bauer also posted a career-high 36-percent strikeout rate and a career-low 6.1 percent walk rate.
Nearly every statistic that Trevor Bauer posted in 2020 was a career-best, including his spin rates. His four-seam fastball jumped from an average of 2412 rpm in 2019 to 2776 rpm in 2020. That kind of jump is unheard of. Bauer’s cutter, slider, and curveball all averaged over 2900 rpm, significantly higher than 2019. His constant work with Driveline Baseball could have led to these gains, but many will attest this to the use of foreign substances. It is easy to target Bauer, but many pitchers use pine tar. If Bauer did use it, it is possible he researched and found the most effective way to spin his pitches. But let’s move beyond that.
Trevor Bauer is also a known tinkerer. He loves working on and refining his pitches, which sometimes backfires. He found a good rhythm in Cincinnati under pitching coach Derek Johnson. So it is possible that he settled in comfortably with his pitches. Bauer is a free agent, and the best possible landing might be to stay with the Reds and continue to build off of his strong 2020 season.
There are several reasons that it may be a great time to sell Trevor Bauer in a dynasty Fantasy Baseball league. First, his 36 percent strikeout rate is likely not sustainable. His swinging strike rate only increased from 12.2 percent to 12.8 percent. Looking at Alex Chamberlain’s deserved stats on his pitch leaderboard, Bauer posted just a 28.4 percent deserved strikeout rate. While that is still solid, it is nearly eight percent lower than his actual strikeout rate.
Another reason to sell Bauer is his inconsistencies. His ERAs over his last four seasons are 1.73, 4.48, 2.21, 4.19. I think it is easy to see 2020 being an outlier. Which version of Trevor Bauer will we see in 2021? It is hard to say. But now is likely the best time to cash in on him while the value is at its highest.
Dustin May, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dustin May hype train began to leave the station early on in the 2020 season. May took Twitter by storm with a fastball and sinker that became viral gifs. His four-seam averaged a league-best 99.1 miles-per-hour. His devastating sinker averaged 97.9 mph with an average of 18.8 inches of horizontal movement. When you watch Dustin May pitch, it is hard to fathom how anyone gets the bat on the ball.
Dustin May's Demon Two Seamer. 👿 pic.twitter.com/vh4wRTyiE5
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 18, 2020
When you watch the video in the tweet above, you likely imagine a pitcher who posts 30% strikeout rates. Meanwhile, Dustin May posted just a 19.6 percent strikeout rate in 2020. His strikeout rate ranked just 27th percentile among pitchers, and his swinging strike rate was one of the league’s worst at 8.4 percent.
Among starting pitchers who threw 50 innings or more, only seven pitchers allowed more contact than Dustin May. His contact rate was 82.5 percent, and his zone-contact was high at 88.1 percent. It is a mystery as to how May is so filthy but misses so few bats.
Additionally, May also has some red flags that scream regression. First, while he posted a 2.57 ERA, his SIERA was 4.29, and his FIP was 4.62. These were high likely because of a high strand rate of 89.1 percent and a low BABIP of .234.
Knowing the Dodgers, it is also possible that May could swing in and out of the bullpen throughout the season. He came out of the bullpen four times during the playoffs. Two of his final three regular-season appearances were out of the bullpen as well. That is a major concern moving forward.
If you own Dustin May in a dynasty league, it could be a great time to sell. Maybe you have a league mate who is enamored by his nasty pitches. Or maybe someone does not realize his low strikeout upside and his high FIP and SIERA. I see this as the perfect time to capitalize on Dustin May in dynasty Fantasy Baseball leagues.
Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins
In 2020, Kenta Maeda looked like the pitcher we all waited on him to be in Los Angeles. After being manipulated by the Dodgers and being moved in and out of the bullpen (sound familiar?), the Twins let Maeda free as a starter. In return, Maeda provided the Twins with a 2.70 ERA and a very impressive 0.75 WHIP. Tack on 80 strikeouts and six wins in 66.2 innings, and you have the runner up in the AL CY Young award.
Maeda’s breakout season was marked by actual change. He decreased his four-seam fastball usage by nearly 15 percent and increased his slider and changeup usage significantly. In 2019, Maeda’s fastball was his worst pitch that he overused. In 2020 as his third offering, it was his best pitch.
Almost every peripheral number supports Kenta Maeda’s strong season. He increased his strikeout rate, cut his walk rate in half, and limited hard contact. His FIP was 3.00, and his deserved ERA was quite impressive at 1.60.
So the question remains; if Kenta Maeda’s breakout seems legit, why is he on the list of starting pitchers to sell high on? You may not realize it, but Maeda will be 33 at the beginning of next season. With his value at an all-time high, it would be a great option to flip him for a younger asset.
Maeda also faced a fairly easy schedule. He pitched against Detroit three times, Chicago White Sox twice, Cleveland three times, Milwaukee twice, and Pittsburgh. Outside of Chicago, every other team he faced was in the bottom six of all teams in wRC+. Assuming the 2021 schedule has more normalcy, Maeda won’t benefit from facing that easy schedule again.
While there are just minor concerns with Maeda, it is the best time to try and sell. Coming off a career season with a new team, the hype is at an all-time. I would put Maeda on the block to see if you can flip him for a younger starting pitcher who could provide similar output in 2021 and beyond.
If you play in a dynasty Fantasy Baseball league you need to read Eric Cross’s article on Triston Casas who could be a stud first basemen for the Red Sox and in your fantasy league.
Media Credits: Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Pitching Ninja
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