We’re coming up on two months down in the 2023 MLB season, which means “it’s still early!” is rapidly becoming a less compelling excuse for fantasy managers trying to decide whether to hold onto struggling stars or cut bait. It’s also the point at which you decide whether you’re in it to win it this year, and what you might need to make that happen.
Which is where our weekly trade value rankings come in. Not only do we rank the top 200 players for fantasy baseball (5x5 roto), but we also break down who’s rising, who’s falling and who we recommend targeting on the trade market.
- If there’s such a thing as a hitter being too passive, Gunnar Henderson is that guy. The former No. 1 overall prospect has always been willing and able to draw a walk, but he’s taken that to the extreme so far in 2023: He’s swinging at balls in the strike zone less than 60 percent of the time, nearly 10 points lower than the league average, and you almost wonder whether someone with the loud physical tools Henderson has wouldn’t be better off letting it rip a bit more often.
There’s still a lot to like here, from an average exit velocity in the 85th percentile to a barrel rate in the 61st percentile to a stark decrease in his ground ball rate, all of which suggests that the Baltimore Orioles third baseman remains plenty capable of making good contact. A six-game hitting streak has him back above the Mendoza Line, and given his market right now he’s an ideal buy-low candidate. He can be had for relatively cheap in redraft leagues, while his power/speed combination gives him a very high ceiling.
- I’ve been skeptical on Dylan Cease for basically his entire career, thinking that his spotty command made him far too risky of a proposition for where he was going in fantasy drafts. He was due to come back to Earth a bit after his breakout 2022, but the Chicago White Sox ace is better than the high-4s ERA he’s posted so far this year. Yesterday’s dominant effort against the Cleveland Guardians made it two strong starts in a row, and even more encouragingly, Cease’s fastball — the key to so much success last season — shined again. The righty’s stuff is so electric that he really only needs two of his slider, heater and curve to succeed on any given day, and there’s no reason to think he won’t round into form given his still-very-good whiff rate and spin rates.
- Cease isn’t the only White Sox starter worth kicking the tires on to see if an owner in your league has grown tired of him. Lance Lynn got off to a truly abysmal start this season, with a 6.66 ERA even after throwing seven strong innings against the Guardians this week. And yes, Cleveland isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse, especially without Jose Ramirez. But there’s ample evidence to suggest that Lynn is still roughly the solid SP2/3 he’s been for the last three or four years — he’s just gotten horribly unlucky.
The big righty has posted an elite K-BB differential, while he’s among the league leaders in whiff rate on pitches in the strike zone, a sign that his stuff is still more than good enough to get outs consistently. So what’s gone wrong for Lynn? His strand rate — a notoriously fluky stat — is a whopping 14 points below the MLB average, and his .360 batting average on balls in play is some 60-70 points higher than the norm. Bottom line: Lynn still has gas left in the tank, he’s just been subject to a ton of batted-ball noise. With an easy schedule coming up, expect more starts like the last one soon.
- Look, I’m not saying Gerrit Cole is cooked, or that he’s not still a very good starting pitcher, or that the New York Yankees should regret the megadeal they gave him a few years ago. Put your pitchforks down, please. All I’m saying is that there are some signs that the righty — who will turn 33 in September — is starting to decline a little bit.
Cole’s expected ERA is more than a run and a half higher than his actual mark. His line drive rate is up, while his whiff rate, strikeout rate and walk rate are all the worst they’ve been since he was a Pittsburgh Pirate. His fastball velocity is down a full mile per hour and inducing significantly fewer swings and misses. His HR/FB is a goofy low 7.5%, a huge overcorrection from the homer problems of the past couple of years. Simply put, Cole isn’t blowing people away anymore; he looks less like a dominant ace and more like a very solid starter — still very useful, but if you can convince an owner in your league to value him like a first-round pick, it might behoove you to pull the trigger a year early rather than a year too late.
- Matt Chapman was quite possibly best player in fantasy baseball for the first month-plus of the season, but the Cinderella story now appears to be turning into a pumpkin before our eyes:
When your xwOBA graph looks like a roller coaster, that’s never a good sign. The bottom has fallen out for the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman this month, with a .551 OPS and 20 strikeouts in 15 games. Really, though, is anyone surprised? Chapman had shown us who he was through the first few years of his career: a good hitter capable of making very loud contact but whose swing-and-miss issues would always keep his average hovering around .210-.220. It’s always possible a guy could have a post-30 breakout, but the smart money was always on water finding its level, and it appears that process is underway. If you can still bail for something of value, get on it before it’s too late.
- This isn’t so much a “sell high while you can” as much as it’s a “just sell, period”. Carlos Correa has gotten off to an abysmal start to his second go-round with the Minnesota Twins, with six homers, zero steals and an average hovering around the Mendoza Line. That bagel in the speed column is important, because it underscores the main point here: Even in the best of times, Correa was a far better real-life player than a fantasy one. He’s not going to give you much of any speed, even with the new rules, and when you combine that with a ceiling of 20-25 homers, the juice becomes very much not worth the squeeze.
Especially with how deep middle infield is this year, there’s no point in holding on to Correa in the hope that he eventually returns to form — that form simply doesn’t have enough upside to be worth it. His name recognition should fetch you something of value, even a closer or something, and then you can mine the waiver wire for a roughly-equivalent solution at shortstop.
Fantasy baseball trade value rankings: Week 8
Week of 5/19