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July 30, 2014

Dynasty Dynamics

Who We're Selling at the Deadline

by Ben Carsley and Craig Goldstein

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Last week we brought you six players we’re buying in a dynasty format, so naturally, we thought it prudent to bring you another six-pack of players, this time focusing on who we’re selling, using the same long-term perspective.

Ben: Brock Holt, Everything, BOS
Brock Holt is a pretty decent baseball player. He can play both corner infield spots, both corner outfield spots and second base, and he can fake it in center or at short for a few games. He’s fast enough to be an occasional threat on the bases, he has a patient approach at the plate and he has the bat speed necessary to barrel up good velocity. There are lots of nice things you can say about Brock Holt (o/), and I think he’ll be a unique, valuable major leaguer for a long time.

But if you’re looking for Holt to sustain the success he’s had through the first three-fifths of the season, you’re going to be disappointed. Holt’s rocking a .373 BABIP even after a recent slump has seen his season average fall from .327 on July 13 to .304 today. Holt might not be due for quite as much regression as you think, as his well above league-average line-drive rate of 25.3 percent portends higher BABIPs. But regression is coming nonetheless, and as Brooks Baseball’s player card for Holt notes, he has a tendency to chase fastballs and offspeed pitches outside the strike zone.

As mentioned above, I think Holt will hit enough to remain a major leaguer in the long run—he’s almost always hit well in the minors and the physical tools (sans power) are there. But he’s more likely to emerge as an oft-played super-utility guy than a true starter, and he’s certainly not going to hit leadoff for most of his career. If someone wants to overpay for Holt, you should most certainly let them.

Also, if you notice that my portion of Dynasty Dynamics missing next week, it’s because Red Sox Twitter found this analysis and has drawn-and-quartered me in my Boston apartment.

Craig: Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM
I’ve already given the side-eye to Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi, and Rick Porcello in Fantasy Freestyles, but while there were strong statistical/pitch usage cases, or anomalies in each of those situations, there really isn’t one against deGrom. He’s got a beautiful strikeout rate, paired with a solid walk rate. His ground ball percentage isn’t out of line, and while his HR:FB is a little low, a small bump there wouldn’t make him significantly less valuable. Even his BABIP is at a normal figure, so there’s not balls in play luck messing with the stats.

So why sell, is the obvious question. The answer is to say, with all due respect to deGrom, that he’s pitching a bit over his head. He’s not pitching over his peripherals or anything like that, it’s the straight up production that seems, at least a bit, hard to buy. Don’t get me wrong, I like deGrom as a pitcher and as a fantasy asset, but given his hot start, the peripheral stats that back up that hot start, his sweet hair, and his relative youth (he’s 26), people are buying what deGrom is selling. I don’t think there’s more there for deGrom—there isn’t another gear for him to shift into—and his current production outpaces anything he’s done in the minors, save for a stretch in Low-A where he was 24 years old.

If deGrom is a league-average pitcher, that’s pretty good. I think he can be something slightly above that, especially given his home park and pitching in the National League. That said, he’s currently far better than that, and if someone is willing to pay you in spades because he’s the new hotness, you should be open to letting that happen. There’s always another hotness around the corner.

Ben: Henderson Alvarez, RHP, MIA
Bear with me for a moment here, because I’m not trying to argue that Henderson isn’t good. He’s clearly much better than I thought he’d be as a prospect, he’s throwing as hard as he’s ever thrown, he keeps the ball on the ground and he doesn’t walk anyone. That’s a winning combination, especially when you put a pitcher with that profile in a park like Marlins Park.

But for everything Alvarez has going for him, he’s not as strong a fantasy pitcher in standard leagues as he is an MLB asset. Alvarez’s ERA may sit at 2.62 now, but his FIP is nearly a full run higher. He generates a lot of ground balls (54.2 percent compared to 45.2 percent league average), which means he’ll always be prone to some BABIP fluctuation, so maybe FIP underrates him here. But Alvarez doesn’t strike anyone out and he gives up over a hit per inning, leading to a 1.23 WHIP and an underwhelming fantasy profile.

Add it all together, and you get a pitcher whose ERA is about to rise, whose WHIP is merely average, who doesn’t generate strikeouts and who won’t rack up wins at a particularly exciting rate. Alvarez is certainly worth owning in just about every format right now, and I think he’ll be a valuable fantasy pitcher moving forward. But his upside is very limited and he already has a checkered past when it comes to arm injury scares. If someone wants to treat him like an SP. 3 in mixed leagues, deal him away.

Craig: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Chisenhall is having a career year, and selling is a fairly obvious move at this point. I’m not sure it’s obvious enough though. I think back to our discussion on TINO about Chisenhall and there was a lot of “he was a highly thought of prospect”, and “he’s only 25.” These things are both true, but they don’t have much bearing on Chisenhall’s value. It’s highly unlikely that he’s magically figured it out, though we do have examples like Ben Zobrist, Jose Bautista, and J.D. Martinez to give us pause.

Those three though underwent various mechanical adjustments at the plate that have resulted in huge differences in their production. I’m not dismissing any adjustments from Chisenhall, but I am dismissing in part, their affect on his production. Chisenhall has a .359 BABIP, and while it’s gauche at this point to suggest that BABIP is purely luck (it’s not), I’d still contend that Chisenhall is getting lucky. He is hitting more line drives than he did last year, but is sporting a lower ISO, so he’s not getting more extra bases out of it. He’s walking more, and striking out less, both good signs.

If we give Chisenhall the league average BABIP of .299 though, his batting average drops all the way to .265. I’m not smart enough to adjust the OBP/SLG portions of his slash line, but it doesn’t take a wizard to figure out that much of his value dissipates with that big a drop in average. He’s not useless in deeper leagues within this context though—he’d be similar to his 2012 slash line (.268/.311/.430) which is serviceable as a corner guy in 20-team leagues. In more moderate leagues though, that’s likely a player best left on the waiver wire. I don’t intend to say he’ll revert to this iteration of himself for the rest of the season, but the idea here is that if you can get something worth 85 percent of 2014 Chisenhall, you’re making a profit when he turns back into 2012 Chisenhall.

Ben: Chase Headley, 3B, NYY
I’d anticipate most Internet Fantasy Baseball Analysts (official title) will encourage you to buy Headley right now. He’s moving from an awful home ballpark and an awful supporting case to a great home ballpark and a good supporting cast. We’ve seen him perform as a wildly successful fantasy player before in the not-so-distant past. And while many disagree on where Headley’s true talent level lies, I think we can all agree it’s above the .239/.299/.369 he’s produced so far this year.

That being said, I think the fantasy community as a whole has been too willing to invest in Headley now that he’s in New York. People love citing Headley’s career home and away splits, which saw him hit .245/.331/.375 at Petco and .286/.359/.444 elsewhere. That’s a wide gap, yes, but let’s look at what he’s done recently. Headley has hit just .210/.289/.350 in 143 PA away from San Diego this year, and he hit .247/.337/.394 away from Petco in 297 PA in 2013. You have to go back to Headley’s breakout 2012 campaign to see the last time he was a fantastic fantasy asset away from San Diego, and I don’t think Headley’s the player we saw in 2012 any longer.

None of this is to say that Headley won’t be better in New York than he was in the National League; I think he will be. But there’s such a “Headley will be great now!” vibe coming from many that I think it would be prescient to sell him now, before the reality of his lackluster performance dawns on more owners. Maybe he’ll challenge for 20 homers in a full season in kinder home digs, but his days of hitting .280 and swiping double-digit bases are likely behind him.

Craig: Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU
Similar to deGrom, there’s no arguing with what Altuve has done. He’s been phenomenal at the exact things you acquired him for, namely batting average and stolen bases. The idea here is that speed is almost always worth selling at the deadline, especially in roto leagues where teams are looking to make up ground. Combine that with selling high on Altuve—he’s good, but likely not this good going forward—and it’s likely you can really put another owner over a barrel and show ‘em all 50 states if you know what I mean.

Speed might not be getting rarer, but it is getting more concentrated, with a ton of value hogged by players like Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, and of course, Altuve. While this creates a dilemma on draft day, it also creates a category vacuum come the trading deadline that an enterprising owner can and should take advantage of. This is especially the case when the player in question is putting up career numbers. Again, this is less about insulting Altuve’s talents (he’s immensely talented), but more about selling at peak value.

We’ve already seen what a bad Altuve season can look like, and it’s still good from a speed and batting average perspective. I don’t think it’s likely Altuve reverts to 2013 form overnight, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. Something more in the vein of 2012 seems reasonable from this point (or next season) on, and if you can get better value than that on the trade market, pull the trigger, because his .367 BABIP (38 points over his career figure) won’t last forever.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

Related Content:  Trades,  Fantasy,  Trade Deadline,  Dynasty Leagues

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