Overvalued, Undervalued Trade Targets: Week 5

Making the right trades can be crucial to championship success in fantasy baseball, almost as much as the draft, if not more. While most trades can have a significant impact on your fantasy team, it’s the deals where you acquire undervalued players and then see their production improve that can really tip the scales in your favor where the standings are concerned.

The same can certainly be said about trading away players at the right time when they have the most fantasy trade value. Those deals could happen in the second week of April or the last week of August, but they’re impactful all the same.

Here are some undervalued candidates to pursue in trades and some overvalued ones who you should consider dealing with, if they presently occupy a spot on your roster.

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Undervalued Players To Trade For

Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals

Gallegos’ placement on this list is primarily down to two reasons. One is his underlying metrics from him, which we’ll get to momentarily. The other is the presence of Ryan Helsley in the St. Louis bullpen.

Helsley has been excellent so far this season, striking out 20 of the 31 batters he’s faced while allowing just one hit in eight appearances spanning 10 innings. The right-hander has also logged three holds and a save. He’s certainly emerged as a late-inning impact reliever for St. Louis, but if the Cardinals’ bullpen management this season is anything to go by, this is still Gallegos’ gig.

The 30-year-old peaces all St. Louis relievers in high-leverage bullpen appearances with seven. Nick Wittgren is the next closest with three. Perhaps most crucially is the fact that all seven of those high leverage appearances have come in the ninth inning. No other Cardinals bullpen arm has logged a high-leverage ninth-inning appearance this season. Helsley could certainly nab a few ancillary saves as the season progresses, but it’s the veteran Gallegos who looks like Oliver Marmol’s preferred closer.

If the manager in your league is concerned about Helsley and isn’t thrilled with Gallegos’ 4.50 ERA and 7.20 strikeouts per nine innings, now is the time to make a move. Because while those surface-level metrics might look unideal, a deeper look shows Gallegos is just as effective as ever. His 2.37 FIP from him is right in line with his 2021 (2.75) and 2020 (2.06). Furthermore, his underlying, bat-missing metrics from him have actually improved.

  • Giovanny Gallegos in 2021: 34.6% whiff rate, 16% swinging strike percentage
  • Giovanny Gallegos in 2022: 37% whiff rate, 17.7% swinging strike percentage

Michael Brantley, Houston Astros

Brantley has always provided quality batting average production. From the start of the 2014 season through the end of the 2021 campaign, the outfielder hit .311 in 3,653 plate appearances.

So far this season he’s off to a solid start, both in real life and in fantasy, hitting .275 with a .339 on-base percentage and two home runs in 113 plate appearances. Brantley’s production of him, at least based on expected metrics, should be more in line with what he did from 2014 leading up to this season.

The outfielder’s xBA currently sits at .320. If he can maintain that for an entire season, it would be the highest xBA he’s ever logged, topping the .312 metric from last season. Elsewhere, there are a few other statistical signs of note that point to more production being on the way for the 34-year-old.

Most notably, he’s making more hard contact than he has at any point in the last seven years, with a 47.2% hard-hit rate that’s nearly 5.0% higher than his previous best during that run. There are also reasonably healthy gaps between his wOBA (.326) and xwOBA (.385) and 2022 BABIP (.302) and career BABIP (.317) that suggest he’s been unlucky. He also might have a slightly more productive year where power numbers are concerned. After hitting eight home runs in 508 plate appearances in 2021, Brantley has collected two in 113 plate appearances this season with an elevated barrel rate (7.9%, up from 5.8%). It also doesn’t hurt that he’s consistently hitting second in Houston behind Jose Altuve and ahead of Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez.

Jesse Winker, Seattle Mariners

Primarily a righty-masher, Winker has been one of baseball’s best against right-handed opposition. In 1,305 career plate appearances against righties entering play on Wednesday, Winker is a lifetime .304 hitter with 59 home runs, a .323 BABIP, a 40.2% hard-hit rate as well as a 12.1% walk rate, and a 14.9% strikeout rate.

However, his numbers against right-handers have been markedly different on the surface this season. The outfielder is batting .173 with no home runs in 85 plate appearances so far against righties during the 2022 campaign. As with Brantley though, more production might be on the way.

It’s easy to say the BABIP is the main culprit, but that might just be the case here. Winker’s BABIP against right-handed pitchers this season is just .194. Otherwise, his metrics are mostly within a career norm. His hard-hit rate against right-handers is down to 26.9%, but he’s also walking more (13.6% walk rate) than he’s striking out (10.2% strikeout rate) against right-handed pitchers this season. What’s more, just like his career BABIP and current BABIP against righties, there’s a stark difference between a number of Winker’s actual stats and expected stats.

Jesse Winker in 2022:

  • .202 average, .305 xBA
  • .275 slugging percentage, .458 xSLG
  • .274wOBA, .372xwOBA

I’d try trading another outfielder like Brandon Nimmo for Winker, or a useful streaming option from the rotation like Jameson Taillon.

Overvalued Players To Trade Away

Myles Straw, Cleveland Guardians

Straw continues to get on base at a high rate with a .248 batting average and a .344 on-base percentage through 131 plate appearances. That certainly helps when you’re one of the league’s best stolen base threats.

After swiping 30 bags last season, Straw is already up to seven in a little over a month’s worth of games this season. However, that’s more or less where Straw’s fantasy value stops. He certainly has more fantasy upside in leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring, but the lack of power, and more specifically hard contact, is suboptimal.

Entering play Tuesday, Straw had a 20.9% hard-hit rate, the third-lowest in the league among qualified hitters. He’s also ranked near the bottom of the league in barrel rate (0.0%, first percentile), xSLG (.282, third percentile), and average exit velocity (84.3 MPH, fifth percentile). That’s all without mentioning a .281 xwOBA that is much smaller than his actual wOBA (.306). Because of that xwOBA, and the lack of consistent hard contact, it’s possible some regression is coming from a production standpoint.

Of course, that might not impact Straw’s stolen base metrics too much, but it will impact his production in other categories. I’d look to trade him now, especially if you have other players on your roster like Julio Rodriguez, Harrison Bader, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Kyle Tucker, and Robbie Grossman, who can also get you stolen bases. I’d try trading him for a quality rotation option like Luis Garcia, or Triston McKenzie – or even a starter like Sonny Gray if another fantasy manager is desperate for steals.

Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks

There’s plenty to like about Gallen’s early-season success. He’s been masterful at limiting hard contact and walks, with just a 31.1% hard-hit rate, a .261 xwOBAcon, and a 3.7% walk rate through his first 28.1 innings. He’s also yet to surrender a home run and has collected a pair of pitcher wins in his five starts. And that’s all without mentioning a sparkling 0.95 ERA and a 1.81 xERA

So why is he in the “overvalued” portion of this column? Simply put, the production might not be sustainable. Now, that’s not to say that Gallen won’t finish the year with a strong ERA, but it’s unlikely to be this low for an entire season.

In the last 10 years, only five qualified starting pitchers have logged a sub-2.00 ERA in a full season. In fact, it’s only happened six times during that span. Zack Greinke, Jacob deGrom, Jake Arrieta, and Blake Snell all accomplished the feat once while Clayton Kershaw did it twice.

Gallen also isn’t missing an overwhelming number of bats either, with 8.26 strikeouts per nine innings and a 20.2% whiff rate. Those numbers are fine in a vacuum and look better when coupled with the starter’s lack of walks, but it certainly would be more ideal if he was registering more strikeouts, at least in terms of maintaining that low ERA. Relatively fewer strikeouts are eventually going to lead to more balls in play.

That’s also not ideal considering he pitches in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants, with the occasional road matchup at Coors Field, which makes sustaining this low of an ERA just that much more difficult.

Similar to Owen Miller in last week’s column, it’s an entirely reasonable and defensible strategy to keep Gallen on your roster, but the sub-2.00 ERA might not continue. If you have the pitching depth, I’d try moving Gallen with a useful position now in a deal for an underperforming fantasy star with elite underlying stats like Luis Robert.

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