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Fantasy Baseball Trade Value: Dwight Smith Jr., Kenley Jansen among buy-low, sell-high candidates

Sporting News — customerservice@sportingnews.com (Sporting News)

We're right at the point in the season where we can really begin to evaluate players, both for the short-term and long-term. Our sample size is getting bigger, and we can use trends and advanced stats to decide what to do with under- and over-performing players. Waiver wire pickups and free agent adds/drops become more on point and less about hot and cold streaks. Moreover, players' trade values are constantly fluctuating, and staying on top of opportunities is key for making fantasy baseball championship runs.

As always, we'll look at a few players worth watching, both for good and bad reasons. We'll also include a player or two who may be worth targeting if you're looking to sell the player. Leagues come in all shapes and sizes, but it never hurts to gauge of where you should be valuing player.

MORE: Fantasy Alarm PRO tools

Fantasy Baseball Trade Value: Stock rising

Dwight Smith Jr., OF, Orioles. Smith Jr. got off to a hot start and still hasn’t slowed down. I get it, he plays for the Orioles, but good players on bad teams can still be useful fantasy assets and Smith Jr. is one of them. Through 37 games and 147 at-bats, he is hitting .286 with eight home runs, 27 RBIs, 25 runs, and four steals. Pace that out to 550 at-bats and you have a guy with 30 home runs, 101 RBIs, 94 runs, and 15 steals. That’s an elite fantasy player, and while he may not reach those marks, he should continue to be a very solid fantasy asset. This is a former first-round pick and talent was never the issue. The issue was always playing time, and even in his brief stints he played pretty well with a .293 average and two home runs through 92 career at-bats prior to this year. His .304 BABIP is sustainable and actually 24 points lower than his career average. His 30.8-percent hard-contact rate is the highest of his career (a slightly above league average mark), and his 23.5-percent line drive rate is strong. I buy him being for real. Possible trade targets: Mike Moustakas or Shane Bieber.

John Means, SP, Orioles. Back-to-back Orioles in the stock up section? I know, right, but Means has also been great. Through 38.2 innings, Means has a 2.33 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and five wins. He also has 33 strikeouts, which, while not fantastic, is not a bad number considering the rest of the surrounding numbers for him. He is giving up hard contact at a pretty solid mark of 24.3 percent, but there are other indicators that show regression coming. His .234 BABIP against is a low number that will likely rise, and his 4.17 FIP, 4.26 SIERA, and 4.70 xFIP all say that he’s had a good bit of luck on his side. That being said, in his past two starts he held the potent Red Sox lineup to just one run over seven innings and followed that up by holding the Angels to one run over six innings. Deeper leagues should be in on this guy, and it doesn’t hurt that his next start comes against the Indians, who are 26th in overall runs scored and 26th in batting average against lefties. Possible trade targets: Amed Rosario or Jake Arrieta.

Oscar Mercado, OF, Indians. The Indians outfielder doesn’t have the biggest of bats (eight home runs and 47 RBIs last year across 485 minor league at-bats) but he does possess elite speed and had already stolen 14 bags this season in AAA. Over the four seasons in the minors he has stolen 37, 44, 33, and 50 bases, respectively. If in need of speed (who isn’t these days?), Mercado is your guy. He should move right into the Indians everyday starting lineup, but don’t be surprised if he starts out near the bottom of the lineup. That being said, the Indians really needed a boost from their outfield, and the former second-round pick is lightning in a bottle.

Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers. Hiura is the Brewers top prospect and is worth an immediate add in all formats. While Mercado is more of a one-tool asset, Hiura can provide help across the board of categories. Through 129 at-bats in AAA this season, Hiura had 11 home runs, 26 RBIs, 23 runs, four steals, and a .333 batting average. Last season, across 485 minor league at-bats, the second baseman had 13 home runs, 15 steals, and a .293 average. He is a consensus top-20 prospect, and his power appears to really be developing. He should slot into an everyday starting role at second base for the Brewers with Moustakas sliding over to third base while Travis Shaw is on the IL. Being a part of a deep and talented Brewers lineup also doesn’t hurt, and it should make runs and RBI easier to come by for the rookie.

Fantasy Baseball Trade Value: Stock falling

Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies. Nola got off to a terrible start this year, but it seemed like he had finally turned the corner after allowing just one earned in three straight starts prior to Monday night. However, on Monday he was bombarded for five hits and three runs across just three innings of work, and his ERA now stands at 4.86 on the season with a 1.55 WHIP. Batters are swinging it at a .287 clip against Nola this year. All three of those numbers are a far cry from what he produced last season when he had a 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a .197 batting average against. So, what is going on? Unfortunately for Nola owners, when we take a look under the hood it doesn’t get prettier. He is giving up hard contact at the highest rate of his career (33.3 percent) and inducing soft contact at the lowest rate of his career (16.3 percent). He is giving up line drives about five percent more often than his career average, while inducing ground balls about five percent less often. His 5.05 FIP, 4.32 SIERA, and 4.13 xFIP are not promising either. Nola is too talented not to improve on all of this, but it doesn’t look like fantasy owners are going to get anywhere near what they hoped for out of him when they drafted him. Possible trade targets: Anthony Rendon  or Noah Syndergaard.

Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers. Jansen has been a mess this year with a 4.42 ERA and two blown saves. This comes after a 2018 season in which he produced the worst numbers of his career across the board. Is he a player in decline? Simply put, yes, but not quite as big of a decline as he has shown thus far. His .238 BABIP against is actually lower than his career average (not a good sign), despite the fact that he is giving up hard contact at a higher rate than ever at 39.1 percent (also not a good sign). He is also getting ground balls about four percent less often than his career average. The velocity on his fastball and slider are both down about 0.5 mph from last season, which was already down a bit from 2017. If none of that sounds good to you, you would be correct, because it’s all alarming. However, his 2.65 SIERA and 3.37 xFIP, both show he should be doing better, but personally there are too many negative signs here for me. Possible trade targets: Edwin Encarnación or Masahiro Tanaka.

Miguel Andújar, 3B, Yankees. Andujar is a mess, there is no way around it. His shoulder injury has completely derailed his 2019 season, and it’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone who drafted him. Since his return from his first stint on the IL, Andujar hit a measly .088 (3-34) with zero XBHs, zero RBIs, zero runs scored, and nine strikeouts. That “production” made it very clear that he was still not right and he has been placed on the IL once again. A torn labrum is tough to play through, and at this point, it is really hard to expect much of anything out of him this season. His soft-contact rate this season is an absurd 37.8 percent (19.4 percent in his fantastic rookie season), and he has hit an infield fly ball at a ridiculous 25-percent clip. If someone is willing to buy low on Andujar, just take what you can get and move on.

Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: Potential waiver wire pickups

Mallex Smith, OF, Mariners. Smith fell out of fantasy favor after an awful start that got him sent to AAA, but he has tore it up there (.333 and seven steals in 45 at-bats) and now his stock is one to watch. If Smith is sitting on your wire and you’re in need of speed, he is worth an immediate add, as he is expected to rejoin the Mariners very soon. Sure, his .165 batting average through 97 at-bats was terrible and way off his .296 average from last season, but most of the numbers point to it being unlucky more than anything to worry about. His soft-contact and hard-contact rates were right in line with his career averages, but his BABIP was terrible; he had a .234 BABIP at the time of his demotion, a terrible mark for anyone, but even more so for a speed guy who has a career .339 BABIP. He should hit just fine upon his return and could add another 30 or so steals this year.

Danny Duffy, SP, Royals. Duffy has pitched well through three starts (17.1 innings) with a 3.06 ERA. You would think his stock would be up, but that’s a small sample and the surrounding numbers point to a big regression coming, so for now he lands in the neutral category. The positives: Ground-ball rate (48.1-percent), soft-contact rate (19.2-percent), and hard-contact rate (28.8-percent) are all better than his career averages. The negatives: 6.11 K/9, 85.6 LOB-percent, 1.36 WHIP, 4.58 FIP, 4.90 xFIP, and 5.08 SIERA are all worse than his career averages and point to regression coming. A small sample with mixed results makes it more difficult to form any kind of real opinion, but it doesn’t appear that we are looking at a return to 2013-2016 Duffy (3.29 ERA across that timeframe) here, it looks like we will be getting more the 2018 version of Duffy (4.88 ERA).