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Is It Too Good To Be True? Buying and Selling Hot Starts


Normally, after only one full week of the fantasy baseball season, we're casually taking stock of our teams, seeing which guys are settling into lineup spots, which teams look like they might be surprising, and generally feeling pretty good about where we're at now. However, there is nothing normal about this season.

After one full week of baseball, we're over 15% done with the season, more FAAB dollars are being spent than ever before, and everybody feels like their team is hanging on for dear life. Which is why it's more important than ever to take stock of the hot starts and see which guys are for real and which guys are fakes. A legitimate hot start could lead to two to three weeks of elite-level production and a championship, but, similarly, holding onto a week one hero who tanks your offensive categories for two additional weeks could be the difference between fantasy glory and defeat.

Below, I took a look at some of this year's most surprising hot bats to decide what was real or phony enough to offend Holden Caulfield. Then I gave some recommendations on how I would handle each player if he was on my team. All stats and metrics are up to date as of the morning of August 3rd. 

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!

 

Kyle Lewis - OF, Seattle Mariners

10 games, .425/.477/.650, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R

Since Summer Camp began, there has perhaps been no player as hot as Kyle Lewis. As evidenced by the statline above, he's carried that over into the regular season and became a true fantasy darling. While the power numbers are great, and his xBA supports his high average. There are a few warning signs here.

The first thing that jumps out is his 36.1 K%. That's alarmingly high, especially considering he's had a high strikeout rate throughout much of his minor league career (most recently, 29.4% in AAA in 2019). He's also striking out this much despite a drop in O-Swing% and SwStr%, but is making less contact when he does swing out of the zone and is being less aggressive overall, perhaps to his detriment. If a player is striking out that often, it's incredibly hard to keep amassing these types of stats.

The other worrying metrics are the poor Exit Velocity and Hard Hit%. He's simply not hitting the ball hard, as evidenced by a Soft% of 26.1% after last year's 11.6%. Yes, we've seen an impressive home run or two, but his average exit velocity is 87.1 MPH and his Pull% is only 17.4%. It's incredibly hard to hit home runs if you're making that level of contact and not pulling the ball.

VERDICT: Sell high

I like Kyle Lewis, and think he could have a long future in the Major Leagues, but his approach at the plate is still raw and there are some kinks to iron out. His value is sky-high right now, and the underlying metrics are pointing at significant regression in the near future. I'd float some offers and see if I could grab a reliable SP or a bat with more positional versatility to weather the chaos ahead.

 

Dansby Swanson - SS, Atlanta Braves

10 games, .368/.400/.605, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 9 R, 3 SB

Ah, Dansby "Statcast" Swanson. The shortstop was a Statcast darling before the season began due to his performance last year before an ankle injury in the summer tanked his second-half stats. Well, that love is only spreading farther now that the shortstop is off to a hot start.

Similar to Kyle Lewis, Swanson has a concerning;y low exit velocity at 87.3 MPH and his K% is even worse than the Seattle rightfielder; however, Swanson has never had a K% over 22.9% in his MLB career, so I don't view the current 35% rate as being legitimate. What is legit is the 91st-percentile barrel%, 80th-percentile Hard Hit%, and 92nd-percentile xSLG. The 26-year-old is peppering the ball right now while maintaining the launch angle growth from the last two years. That's good news for fantasy value considering the talent of the lineup around him.

VERDICT: BUY HIGH

Just to clarify, you shouldn't overpay for Dansby, but I think this is real. He could easily finish the season (if the season finishes) with 10 HR, 10 SB, and a .300 average in a strong lineup. You should see if the owner in your league is looking to "sell high" and lock in a long-term answer at SS.

 

JaCoby Jones - OF, Detroit Tigers

9 games, .379/.419/.793, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R

JaCoby was one of my bold predictions this year, so you know I'm a fan. He's always had an intriguing blend of power and speed (well, stolen base ability), but he seems to have taken another step early this season.

The 21.1% barrel rate is clearly not sustainable, but he doubled his barrel rate last year, so there's no reason to assume this isn't continued growth to a certain extent. Same thing with his exit velocity, which improved from 88.8 mph in 2018 to 91.6 mph in 2019 and now 92.1 in 2020. The quality of contact appears to be real, and if his spot in the lineup improves, so could his contribution in counting stats.

VERDICT: HOLD 

I'm not ready to say that Jones will be a season-long asset for you, but I think you should hold him while he's contributing, especially with Cameron Maybin now on the IL. I'd love to see the Tigers move him up higher in the order to maximize his contributions in the counting categories, but he could provide 12-team value even if he remains at the bottom of the order.

 

Mike Yastrzemski - OF, San Francisco Giants

10 games, .343/.500/.657, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 10 R 1 SB

Yas burst onto the scene last year after a relatively average minor league career and seemed like a passing novelty: the grandson of Carl Yasztremski doing the family name proud. However, he's started 2020 on a tear, and it's definitely time to take him seriously. His Statcast profile is red pretty much everywhere you want it: 92nd-percentile wOBA, 86th-percentile xSLG, 81st-percentile barrel%, and 81st-percentile sprint speed, just to name a few. However, what has me more intrigued is his approach at the plate. He's only seen 208 pitches over 10 games, but his K% is down from 26% to 19.5%, his SwStk% is down from 11.5% to 9%, O-Swing% is down from 29.2% to 18.1%, and his BB% is up from 7.8% to 23.9%. Now, again, these are small sample sizes, but the improved plate discipline is clear and appealing.

VERDICT: HOLD 

With Yas the Younger going after better pitches, he's able to do more damage while maintaining a relatively average exit velocity. The key will be these plate discipline metrics. He doesn't hit the ball hard enough to be a consistent factor if he's not getting the right pitches to hit. However, with his new approach, I think he can be an impact bat in all 12-team leagues.

 

Colin Moran - 1B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

9 games, .273/.314/.758, 5 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R

Not only is Moran's Statcast page red, but it's, like, ALL THE WAY red.

Those are metrics that you simply can't ignore; Moran is absolutely crushing the baseball. However, the crazy part is that it should be better. His .222 BABIP is a stark change from the .341 last year and .316 the year before, and pitchers have been attacking Moran with fastballs this year 76.5% of the time (up from 59% last year) because he's hitting only .167 on fastballs. Only, his xBA on fastballs is .302, his xSLG is .757, and his average exit velocity against fastballs is 97.8. One major difference seems to be that he's hitting fastballs at a 9-degree average launch angle and breaking pitches at a 17-degree average angle; yet, three of his five home runs have come against fastballs, so if he were to iron out the launch angle discrepancy, there might be even more power there.

VERDICT: BUY HIGH

There are many people who likely think Moran is a flash in the pan and are trying to sell him before the bubble bursts. You can take advantage. Remember, Moran was a solid prospect for the Astros before coming to Pittsburgh and is still only 27-years old. There's no reason to think this simply isn't a good player finding his peak.

 

J.P. Crawford - SS, Seattle Mariners

10 games, .333/.455/.472, 4 RBI, 10 R, 2 SB

It feels like J.P. Crawford has been on the prospect radar for a decade, but he's still somehow only 25-year-old and in his first full season as a starter. He finds himself hitting at the top of a young and intriguing Mariners lineup, which has given him fantasy appeal as a high average hitter with the ability to score a fair amount of runs each week. I'm just not convinced that it's built on the most stable foundation for fantasy success.

Crawford is a solid real-life player with good defensive ability, but a skillset that doesn't really lend itself to fantasy success. He has a strong eye at the plate (15.9 BB%) and doesn't have a lot swing-and-miss in his game (95th-percentile Whiff%), but he also hits the ball on the ground a lot (45.2% GB%) and only has league average speed (230th in home-to-first time). While his batting average will likely always be solid because he makes a lot of contact (96% Z-contact and 77.3% O-Contact), it'ss not relatively hard contact with an 86.9 mph exit velocity and 3.2% barrel rate. That, plus a .387 BABIP tells me that the average the average is a little inflated right now.

VERDICT: SELL HIGH

I don't see any way that Crawford is an impact fantasy bat in categories other than average and runs. Additionally, his average will likely come down to the .270 range, and his run totals are going to be hard to bank on with Seattle being a young and inexperienced team that will likely run hot and cold. I'd see what you can get for him, perhaps offering him to the Tim Anderson owner who might need a SS.

 

Donovan Solano - 2B/SS, San Francisco Giants

9 games, .484/.500/.710, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 5 R

Last but not least, the most out-of-nowhere name on the list. Solano is a 32-year-old journeyman who played 81 games last year after not appearing in a Major League game since 2016 when he played nine games with the Yankees. He's come out of the gates on fire in 2020; however, there aren't many noticeable changes to his profile.

Between 2019 and now, he's making better Zone Contact and has a better Chase%, but a50th-percentile exit velocity and 39th-percentile Hard Hit% don't excite me about the contact he's making. He's also registering a much higher Pull%, which is interesting, but his FB% is still absurdly low, and the Barrel % and Solid % don't indicate that he is making strong contact to get much use out of that higher Pull%. His Whiff% is basically the same as last year, and he's swinging less overall and making more contact; however, nothing in the profile supports his current 8.8 K%. He's being a little more aggressive early in the count and chasing fewer pitches out of the zone, but he's swinging and missing close to the same as normal and his SwStrk is identical to last year at 8.8%, so his K% should climb back towards the 21.5% he registered in 2019.  All of the above and his absurd .500 BABIP have me thinking this could burn out in a matter of games.

VERDICT: HOLD 

Ideally, you would sell high, but I'm not sure anybody is really going to be buying. Just hold him while he's hitting well, but have a quick trigger when the magic fairy dust wears off and the hits start to dry up.



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Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More