One of the great things about Ottoneu is the high level of engagement by the growing community of owners. Few topics get the masses talking more than crowd-sourcing feedback on recent league trades, so today I want to highlight a few of the more interesting trades I’ve seen recently to get a pulse on how some player values are already shifting early this season.
Few players have seen their value shift as wildly as Shohei Ohtani over the past few weeks. What he’s managed to do to start the season with both the bat (1.286 OPS) and off the mound (97.8 mph fastball) has at least verified that he’s as talented as the world thought he was, but the fact that he now looks less raw than he did just a few weeks ago in spring training tells you everything you need to know about the upward trajectory of his value in fantasy baseball leagues. If you don’t happen to own Ohtani already, he’s going to be one of the hardest players in the game to acquire over the next 30 days. He’s young, exciting, and just for the cool factor of clicking between batting and pitching stats on his FanGraphs page makes him the hottest commodity in the game right now, especially if you have the flexibility of slotting him into your daily lineup or your rotation like Ottoneu provides.
If you do happen to own Ohtani, now might be the very best time to shop him. It’s never easy to trade away an exciting player, but his value is skyrocketing, so if you can get a Noah Syndergaard or Clayton Kershaw out of the deal, you may want to think about cashing in. Earlier this winter I pegged Ohtani’s pitching value to be somewhere close to Lance McCullers, and I’ll hold steady on that estimate. His real value increase is rising faster on the offensive side of his profile, but don’t get too carried away just yet.
Few players were hotter this spring than Ian Happ, but just in case you haven’t been paying attention, Happ is now also rocking a 58% strikeout rate (14 K’s in 24 PA). Obviously that rate will stabilize, but Happ landed above 30% last year too and isn’t without risk of being sent back to the minors early in the season if he doesn’t make adjustments soon. I bought in on a Happ breakout a few weeks ago but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m nervous right now.
Ironically, Cody Bellinger’s value has also suffered a bit due to small sample strikeouts (17 K’s during World Series) despite having a phenomenal debut in 2017 to set a firm foundation. My impression is that owners are a bit nervous about owning Bellinger because they don’t have a good gauge on his floor, so this could be a buying opportunity.
Brandon Belt had a great spring and it seems to have carried over (.450 wOBA in 20 PA). I’ve always been a fan of Belt and feel he’s been a bit underrated in fantasy circles. It’s hard to blame the crowds for their wariness – Belt has a checkered injury history due to several serious concussions – but injury-prone players wear that badge until they don’t, and sometimes (if the price is low enough), it’s good to get out ahead of the tide change and buy. If you can land Belt right now for a solid middle reliever, you should pull that trigger. Here’s to hoping Belt has a great, full, healthy season.
Lots of value volatility here. Eric Thames was unstoppable one year ago when he caught ? and rewarded Brewers fans and fantasy owners with a .345/.466/.810 month of April. Since that time Thames has seen his value crater in part because of his second half slide last year and the fact that he’s mostly a platoon in MIL vs. RHP this year. Again, this may represent a buying opportunity, as Thames still has plenty of thump that should continue to play up in a great ballpark when he is less exposed against same side pitching.
Unlike Thames, Joe Musgrove was a huge sleeper coming in to drafts just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, he’s now on the shelf for a shoulder issue that doesn’t sound good at all. If you currently own Musgrove your best bet may be to cut now while he still has some cache value, hoping another owner takes the risk.
Ah, a Ronald Acuna trade! Outside of Ohtani, there might not be a more coveted player in keeper leagues right now than Acuna. This trade is interesting for both it’s simplicity and it’s boldness, on both sides. Smart Acuna owners who remember the lackluster fantasy debuts of other elite prospects like Byron Buxton and Yoan Moncada and will hedge their bets and shop Acuna for a healthy return right now as his value will peak just before his (coming soon) call up. Other Acuna owners will convince themselves that “Acuna is different” and hold on no matter what.
I have no idea where Acuna will end up on the prospect spectrum, but we’ll all find out soon enough. I do know that if you happen to own Acuna right now you should at least dream on what he means for your team if you cash him in. As Brad Johnson recently told me when I inquired on Acuna in the FanGraphs Staff League, “I’m not really looking to make a fair trade if moving Acuna”. I think Brad is spot on.
Just for an interesting comparison to Acuna, here’s another top prospect trade that’s simple enough to isolate the true value. Gleyber Torres ranked prominently on my recent Top 100 prospect list and I think he will be up in May with the potential to have immediate impact. That said, snagging a top 10 closer at this point feels about right, though I expect Torres, like Acuna, to see his fantasy value rise the closer we get to his potential debut. Keep that in mind if you’re targeting Torres or happen to be shopping him for reinforcements early in the season.
Wow, what a trade. I’ve been very impressed watching some of Alex Bregman’s at bats this season, and I’ve already touched on Bellinger above. But pound for pound don’t we all still want Giancarlo Stanton and Manny Machado here? Maybe both Bregman and Bellinger have more value than I thought, and if so, it’s a great time to shop them.
Just eyeballing recent trades, it looks like Yasiel Puig is the most traded player in fantasy circles to start the season. My impression is that Puig is a human hot potato – everyone knows there’s talent and real value, but no one really knows what it will look like or when it will come together, so no one wants to hold him for too long. He is, in a word: unpredictable.
Scratch that earlier line: here’s what Puig talent really looks like.
Want feedback on your own trade? Feel free to post it in the comments and I’ll be glad to weigh in. Even if you don’t play Ottoneu you can check out this live trade feed as it may help to give you a sense of how player valuations are changing in real time this season.
Trey is a 20 year fantasy veteran and a five time Ottoneu champion, including the 2015 winner of the Ottoneu Champions League. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,000 fantasy baseball and football fans. More resources here: http://community.ottoneu.com