Remember how I examined whether you should sell high on 12 streaking pitchers just a few days ago? Be sure to check it out if you haven't already. The advice still holds.
Evaluating hitters this early in the season is even trickier because the skill indicators themselves are susceptible to the small sample. All the batted-ball data provided by Statcast can lead us to believe we know more than we actually do. Slumps and hot streaks are rarely just a matter of luck. Quality of contact rises and falls over the course of the season just like production does.
It's all the more reason why if you do try to cash in on a streaking hitter, you should remember that the goal is to sell high. You're looking to lock in the perceived value, not dump a productive player out of paranoia.
Here are 12 players who are performing above expectations in the early going. Six of them I think you might consider selling high, six of them not so much.
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TOR Toronto • #27 • Age: 22
The inevitable has come. With a ground-ball rate under 45 percent, his lowest ever, Vladimir Guerrero has learned to elevate the ball just enough for his preternatural bat-to-ball skills and top-of-the-scale exit velocity to have their say. The results so far have been breathtaking, and the best-case outcome is too transformational for you to defer to prudence, shopping him out of fear he'll go back to hitting everything into the ground.
Eric Hosmer 1B
SD San Diego • #30 • Age: 31
Why would Guerrero go back to hitting everything into the ground, you ask? Old habits die hard, as Eric Hosmer is proving. Granted, his habits are a lot older than Guerrero's, but he acknowledged the need to put the ball in the air more last year and was able to do so for a few weeks, leading to the best power output of his career. His launch angle regressed in September, though, and is now the worst it has ever been, giving him virtually no chance of measuring up as a power hitter. As production normalizes across the league -- and at first base in particular -- he'll end up looking pretty ordinary.
BOS Boston • #28 • Age: 33
I've been getting a lot of questions about whether we can trust in J.D. Martinez's hot start, and to me, the answer is obvious. If you look at the balance of his career, one of these things is not like the others, and it's not what he's doing right now. We've seen a number of hitters bounce back to their typical production after the weirdness that was 2020, and Martinez may be the poster child. He, after all, raised the biggest stink last year about losing in-game video access, which has since been restored. Just enjoy the second-round production, because it's very likely to last.
Byron Buxton CF
MIN Minnesota • #25 • Age: 27
This sell-high recommendation only flies, of course, if you're dealing with a True Believer. Byron Buxton's Statcat page is lit up like a Christmas tree, flashing numbers like a 26.8 percent barrel rate, 63.4 percent hard-hit rate and .841 xSLG, so it's no surprise that he's taken the Fantasy Baseball world by storm. But he's a six-year veteran. Never has he had an xSLG higher than .415 or an xBA higher than .247. Only once has he been healthy enough to play even 100 games. There's just too much history that suggests things will go wrong for him, so if you can capitalize on the hype with a legitimate haul, let someone else roll the dice on the upside.
Kris Bryant 3B
CHC Chi. Cubs • #17 • Age: 29
Seemed like most everyone, including myself, was out on Kris Bryant coming into the season. His quality-of-contact numbers had been in steady decline, helped by a string of nagging injuries, and I was beginning to worry he may never amount to anything in Fantasy again. One month in, he's already alleviated that concern. My worst-case outcome had him struggling to hit six homers all season. Maybe there was no cause for hysterics in the first place seeing as he hit .282 with 31 homers and a .903 OPS as recently as 2019. Seems like he's back on that track.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #10 • Age: 36
It really shouldn't surprise anyone that Justin Turner is off to the kind of start he is. He's hit .298 with an .884 OPS over the past six years, including .307 with an .860 OPS last year, and his Statcast numbers so far look the same as they always do. So why did he stick around so long in drafts? At 36 and on a team with unmatched depth, he tends to sit once or twice a week, which means his totals won't measure up even if his ratios do. He's been *so* hot to begin the year that the totals are there, too, but over the long haul, they won't be. Cash in for a true stud now.
Alex Verdugo CF
BOS Boston • #99 • Age: 24
Though his surface numbers came out just fine, Alex Verdugo seemed to be trending the wrong direction last year, his strikeout rate swelling to a not-so-spectacular 20.4 percent and his groundball rate rising back up over 50 percent. This year, though, he has the peripherals to match his production and then some. His strikeout rate is back below 15 percent where it belongs, and the ground balls have been replaced by a line-drive rate that's like something you'd see from Freddie Freeman. It shouldn't be so surprising, then, to see Verdugo with a .351 xBA, and since he's not a zero for home runs or stolen bases, I'm content to stick with him.
SEA Seattle • #17 • Age: 30
It's not that I think Mitch Haniger is a fraud or on the verge of statistical collapse or anything like that. It's just that he's currently top 10 in both points and 5x5 formats at a position that's been lagging out of the gate, and I'm confident he won't stay there even if he's basically the same moving forward. He's not fast enough to impact the stolen base category and hasn't even attempted one yet. He topped out at 26 homers even in his prime. He's also outperforming what would be a reasonable RBI and runs pace, particularly given his .317 on-base percentage. I'll bet on him being a top-30 outfielder this year, but someone who's hurting at the position may pay up for his current ranking.
Ty France DH
SEA Seattle • #23 • Age: 26
Considering Ty France hit .399 with a 1.247 OPS in the minors two years ago, .305 with an .836 OPS as a part-timer last year and .327 with a 1.135 OPS this spring, what he's doing now really shouldn't defy the imagination. Sure, his BABIP (.407) is high, but for a second straight year, his line-drive rate (37.1 percent) is off the charts. That's how you get a high BABIP. Seems like he just has an unusual talent for getting hits on balls in play -- and with enough power for it to play up.
STL St. Louis • #3 • Age: 22
Isn't Dylan Carlson's hot start just a case of a top prospect making good? I can't discount the possibility, but it's that all-too-predictable narrative that makes it possible to cash in with a sell-high deal. The underlying numbers offer reason for skepticism. Between the low average exit velocity, the suspect line drive rate and so-so strikeout rate, Statcast has pegged Carlson for just a .230 batting average and .418 slugging percentage so far, and between this year and last, he has yet to show an inclination to run. I wouldn't hope for more than a .275 batting average and 20-25 home runs from him, and you're likely to get less than that.
Ryan McMahon 2B
COL Colorado • #24 • Age: 26
It's easy to see the glass half full for Ryan McMahon given that he plays his home games in a BABIP-inflating paradise that hasn't even begun to play like one yet because of some cold weather this month. There are two notable changes to his profile that have me hopeful he'll finally begin to take advantage of that environment: a career-best 23 percent strikeout rate and a launch angle that's twice as high as ever before. You don't get the benefits of Coors Field unless you make contact and put the ball in the air, and McMahon is doing that now. Besides, his past failures would make him a tough sell anyway.
ARI Arizona • #5 • Age: 32
Eduardo Escobar's seven homers through his first 21 games has folks recalling his 35-homer, 118-RBI 2019 that made him the sixth-best third baseman in points leagues and the eighth-best in 5x5, but the truth is he was never likely to do that again. It was an outlier for the 32-year-old's career, the product of an exorbitant home run-to-fly ball rate, and realistically, he's probably more like the 23-homer guy we saw in 2018. Valuing him on the level of a Gio Urshela or Didi Gregorius seems about right, but if someone else likes him more than that, they can have him.