Selling high is ... tricky. For as much as we talk about it, I'll admit I rarely do it.
To pull it off, you not only have to believe the breakthrough you're witnessing is illegitimate, but also connect with someone who's of the opposite mind. If you're both kind of unsure and make a ham-fisted agreement built on varying degrees of confidence, well, how can you be sure that you've indeed sold high?
The emphasis in "sell high" should be on the high, not the sell. You're looking to lock in the perceived value, not just get something -- some whatever -- in return. And it's tricky, as I said.
But it's doable, particularly if you have the proper read on a player who's off to an incredible start, which is what I'm here to provide. The focus is on starting pitchers, who I think are easier to read at this point in the season than hitters are. We have more indicators of their behaviors as opposed to just the results.
As I've already implied, a sell-high recommendation isn't me saying you need to dump him before he explodes. I suspect most of these guys -- all but Steven Matz and Matthew Boyd, basically -- will remain productive for as long as they stick around. But for others, the perceived value may have reached a point where they're worth dangling just to see what they fetch.
- We talk Dinelson Lamet and Kenta Maeda concerns plus players to buy high on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 Podcast. You can follow us to make sure you get the latest episodes when they drop on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
MIL Milwaukee • #39 • Age: 26
Fully embracing the nastiness of the cutter that fueled his 2020 breakthrough is resulting in yet another breakthrough for Corbin Burnes, who has basically made it his primary pitch, replacing the fastball in both usage and velocity. That's right: He's cranking that sucker up to 96 mph and has been near-untouchable as a result, having allowed eight hits in his 24 1/3 innings. A fun side effect is that his occasional control lapses are gone, too. I still think the Brewers will have to curtail his usage at some point given that he hasn't thrown even 120 innings since 2017, but if he's the best pitcher (or close to it) until then, whatevs.
Julio Urias SP
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #7 • Age: 24
Usage also figures to be an issue for Julio Urias, who might have gotten to stretch out to 130 innings in 2020, setting him up for a more typical workload this year, if not for the pandemic. As it is, I've been surprised to see him go 6-7 innings with such consistency, which makes his starts more impactful but also means he'll make fewer, eventually ceding his spot to David Price or Tony Gonsolin. You'll enjoy him while he lasts, but since his middling strikeout ability makes him less than ace-caliber anyway, you could dangle him for something more sustainable.
TB Tampa Bay • #20 • Age: 27
Basically just a fastball/curveball guy since joining the Rays, Tyler Glasnow added a slider this spring for the purposes of making it a third time through the lineup and giving him another option when his curveball isn't working. It has done that and then some, overtaking the curveball as his go-to breaking ball and giving him another instrument for racking up Ks. The Rays have indeed let him take that third trip through the lineup more often than ever before, giving him an ace workload to match the ratios, and while the accumulation of innings could pose a problem later on, what's true for Burnes is also true for Glasnow: The impact between now and then will be too high to care.
NYM N.Y. Mets • Age: 30
Marcus Stroman has been around long enough that we should know exactly who he is, but there is a certain contingent of baseball enthusiasts that is eternally convinced his best is yet to come. I could buy it more if there were actual changes underlying this strong start, but he's still rolling with the same sinker/slider/cutter mix and relying on ground balls at the expense of whiffs. He'll have a respectable ERA and a big enough workload to hold his own in points leagues, but for Rotisserie, he'll leave you wanting in strikeouts and WHIP. He's a mid-tier pitcher if there ever was one.
Joe Musgrove SP
SD San Diego • #44 • Age: 28
Joe Musgrove was a popular breakout candidate coming into the year, and it didn't even depend on him retooling to the extent he has, de-emphasizing his fastball in favor of a slider/cutter combo that's piling up whiffs. It's almost a moot point that his fastball velocity is the best it's ever been. The 26 swinging strikes in his latest start were like something you'd see from Shane Bieber, and it wasn't even his best start this year (gestures toward the no-hitter). Musgrove shares other qualities with Bieber, being an elite strike-thrower who's efficient enough to go seven with regularity. Just cross your fingers on the health.
Aaron Civale SP
CLE Cleveland • #43 • Age: 25
Aaron Civale has long been a darling of Fantasy analysts because of the spin on his curveball or some such, but after he collapsed last year and finished with a 4.74 ERA, the hype this spring was about his shortened arm action and new split-change. Totally remade, they said, and yet everything under the hood -- namely the poor whiff rate and so-so ground-ball rate -- remains the same. Look, he should be decent, but he's still vulnerable to contact and fly balls, which could make him frustrating in the long run. Because the hype appears justified through three starts, though, you might get a haul for him.
BOS Boston • #17 • Age: 31
For most of his decade-long career, Nathan Eovaldi's blistering fastball was rendered ineffective by his pitiful secondary arsenal. But after introducing a decent enough curveball two years ago, he's brought back his slider this year and is playing the two off each other to maximum effect, giving him a swinging-strike rate and ground-ball rate that would rank among the elites. Part of the thinking here is that Eovadi wouldn't fetch quite as big of a return as most of the others on this list, given both his history and the fact his hot start hasn't risen to the level of other-worldly, but part of the thinking is, of course, that he could keep it going.
Carlos Rodon SP
CHW Chi. White Sox • #55 • Age: 28
I should stress from the get-go that I don't *want* to trade Carlos Rodon. It's clear that the tutelage of pitching coach Ethan Katz is paying off, just as it did for Lucas Giolito before Katz was even on the White Sox's payroll. The improved efficiency on Rodon's delivery has given him a livelier fastball while recapturing the bite on his slider, and it all looks pretty electric to me. But this is his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and as such, it would be managerial malpractice to let him throw 110 pitches every time out. The hoopla of his no-hitter could make for an outsized return, so it's worth dangling him to see.
MIA Miami • #28 • Age: 23
Trevor Rogers already raised eyebrows with his whiff rate during an uneven performance last September, and it was mostly on the strength of his fastball and changeup. He bulked up this offseason, raising his fastball a tick, and has gained enough confidence in his slider that it's now arguably his best pitch -- or at least in the running. The whiff rate has exploded to something that could challenge Jacob deGrom for the league lead, and the strikeout rate has followed suit. I'm not saying Rogers is that good, because I'm a realist, but I wouldn't want to risk underselling him.
Steven Matz SP
TOR Toronto • #22 • Age: 29
Steven Matz has been lumped in with Rodon and Rogers as another breakthrough left-hander to emerge off the waiver wire, but other than a slight uptick in velocity, I'm not seeing what's changed for him after all those disappointing years with the Mets. There still isn't much swing-and-miss to his game, and he remains a modest strike-thrower. I suspect he settles into a streamable option with a middling ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate, along with a heightened risk of injury, so if you can sell him like he's a must-start pitcher, go for it.
MIA Miami • #22 • Age: 25
There was a feeling for Sandy Alcantara, even dating back to his minor-league days, that if he could just find the right pitch mix, given how impressive his stuff is, he could emerge as a legitimate bat-misser. That appears to be what's happening this year. He's playing his four-seamer and changeup -- both swing-and-miss offerings -- off each other to maximum effect and not leaning so much on the weak contact generated by his sinker. But the sinker is still there, and he's still getting the ground balls you'd expect, just with a higher margin for error now. Best of all, workload shouldn't be a big concern for him seeing as he threw nearly 200 innings two years ago.
Matthew Boyd SP
DET Detroit • #48 • Age: 30
But the new pitch mix! Yes, it's true, Matthew Boyd is using his changeup more along with his fastball and slider, but the only reason Fantasy Baseballers came to care about Boyd in the first place is because he ditched his changeup (among other pitchers) and went almost exclusively fastball/slider in 2019, leading to a spike in strikeout rate. The whiff rate on his slider, still his second most-used pitch, has cratered this year, so in addition to reintroducing a lesser pitch, he doesn't even have his best one anymore. His not missing bats. He's still putting the ball in the air. His 4.80 xFIP offers a glimpse at where he's headed.