This space will be a weekly look at players you should be buying, selling, or holding in fantasy baseball season-long leagues.
I’ll take a deeper look into the value of players that are trending up or down by looking at the underlying statistics to help you decide if you should stick with a cold player or pick up a player trending upward. I will mostly focus on standard 5X5 leagues (AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB, ERA, WHIP, K, S, W) for 12 team leagues.
To start the season, we have only projections, hype, and spring training stats to inform our decisions. So with no real relevant data to work with for week 1, this week will be a bit arbitrary.
Bryce Harper, OF, PHI
I am all aboard the Bryce Harper hype train for 2019. I think he’s primed to have a career year playing in Philadelphia. Harper should see a boost in home runs now that half of his plate appearances will be in lefty-friendly Citizens Bank Park. For comparison, Nationals Park was exactly league average in home runs to right field whereas Citizens Bank Park had the second-highest number of homer runs to right field.
Harper also will hit for higher average this year. Harper batted .249 last year in large part because of a sluggish first half. However, his batted ball numbers suggest an improvement. His Hard% (percentage of balls hit hard) improved from 34.3% in 2017 to 42.3% in 2018. Yet somehow his BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) fell from .356 to .289. This screams a positive regression for batting average.
I see Harper finishing as a top 5 player, rejuvenated by being on a new team and a lefty-friendly park. Also, it’s easy to forget but he’s only 26 years old. He still is improving and hasn’t reached his peak yet.
Tommy Pham, OF, TBR
Pham burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 2017, batting .306 with 23 home runs and 25 SB. Splitting time between St. Louis and Tampa Bay, Pham had a slightly disappointing final line, batting .275 with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
He has fallen all the way down to an ADP of 73. I’m buying all the shares of Pham as he is healthy and poised to put up numbers in all five categories. Pham batted .331 in the second half last year, energized by the trade to Tampa Bay. Additionally, in 2018, Tampa Bay led the league in stolen base attempts per game. In the fantasy game, stolen bases are becoming harder and harder to find. Pham should easily eclipse 20 stolen bases and continue to be a solid contributor in all five categories.
Ian Desmond, 1B, OF, COL
If for some reason you have rostered Ian Desmond, you are much bolder than me. Desmond has continued to decline over the last few years, despite playing in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
He has had an amazing stint in Spring Training this year, posting a .366 batting average with 9 walks in 50 plate appearances. For reference his OBP was a pathetic .307 last year.
Call me a pessimist, but I’m not buying that he has suddenly undergone a career renaissance at the age of 33. Desmond batted .236 last year, as his propensity to hit the ball on the ground (62%) is a waste of the Mile High City altitude effect. The fact that he is taking a bunch of walks in meaningless games doesn’t convince me that Desmond, who has averaged three times as many Ks as walks in the last two years, has suddenly learned plate discipline.
Desmond’s ADP of 148 is highly optimistic. The Rockies bevy of young talent will ultimately push him to the bench.