Please, South Florida, put the pitchforks down. Luis Arraez is awesome, one of the best pure hitters on the planet, and his quest to chase down .400 and the ghost of Ted Williams will be awesome theater all summer long. But more than three months of the 2023 MLB season, it’s time to make moves. Time to decide whether you’re in it to win it this year, and what you might need to make that happen. Time to check narrative and sentiment at the door.
Which is where our weekly trade value rankings come in. Not only do we rank the top 200 players for fantasy baseball (5x5 roto), but we also break down who’s rising, who’s falling and who we recommend targeting on the trade market. Whose hot start is fool’s gold? Who’s about to turn the corner? Read on for this week’s list, and for an explanation why Arraez tops our list of guys you should be looking to sell high, batting title or no.
- Call it the New York tax. Whenever a star player struggles, those struggles are bound to be magnified, but that goes double for a player in the biggest media market in the country. And to be clear, Lindor hasn’t been very good so far this year, with a .709 OPS, and OBP below .300 and just four stolen bases despite this year’s rule changes. But he’s still on pace for 23-25 homers, double-digit steals and excellent counting stats thanks to his place in the Mets lineup — a valuable player, in other words, and that’s assuming he doesn’t get back to being the star we know he is as the year goes along.
Lindor has especially struggled from the left side of the plate, hitting a woeful .205/.289/.361 against right-handed pitching this season. That’s 60 points of batting average below his career mark, and given his .246 BABIP, I’m betting that starts climbing soon — in fact, the All-Star’s .241 overall BABIP is 60 points below his mark last year. He’s still posting above-average exit velocities, expected slugging percentage and barrel rate, and when he gets some batted-ball luck and stops pressing quite so much, he should take off.
- Gilbert hasn’t been bad this year, with a 3.80 ERA and 79 strikeouts over 71 innings. But that mark if anything understates just how great the Seattle Mariners righty has been — Statcast has his expected ERA at 2.99, while his 28.2% K rate and minuscule 4.6% walk rate (good for a 3.14 FIP) suggest that he’s among the best in baseball at controlling the things that a pitcher can control. The righty has introduced a splitter this year, and early returns are promising, with a 32.6% whiff rate and .102 batting average against on the pitcher. If he leans into that offering even more and gets a bit better home run luck, Gilbert will take off — see if you can flip a hot hand like Atlanta Braves rookie Bryce Elder for him.
- William Contreras’ first year with the Milwaukee Brewers has likely been viewed as something of a disappointment thus far, given his stellar 136 OPS+ last season with the Braves. But the catcher has still been perfectly serviceable — especially given the state of the position overall from a fantasy perspective — and there are signs that big things are coming moving forward.
Contreras’ batted-ball numbers are actually more or less in line with what he did during his 2022 breakout, with an xwOBA and barrel rate that are still well above league average. He’s dramatically reduced his K rate and upped his walk rate, a sign that his plate discipline has improved and he’s seeing the ball well. He still hits the ball on the ground a bit too much, but even accounting for that, his .264 BABIP is way too low. In one of the premier hitter’s parks in baseball, he has top-five potential at the position for the rest of the year.
- First thing’s first: Please don’t take this to mean that you should trade Arraez for the sake of trading him. He’s a very good player, in both real life and fantasy. But even this version of Arraez — his 99th percentile outcome — is helping you in exactly one category: batting average. Granted, he’s elite-elite in that category, but that’s still just one slice of the rotisserie pie. And if he slides from elite-elite to merely just very good the rest of the way — say, his career mark of .326 — he suddenly goes back to being a bit part. Consider: Among 162 qualified batters this year, 136 have scored more runs than Arraez (22), and 62 have collected more RBI (29).
If batting average remains a real need on your squad, by all means, keep enjoying those sweet, sweet base hits. But if you’re in good shape there and need help in the other four offensive categories, now’s the time to make a deal — his value will never be higher. If you can get a power/speed bat for him, pull the trigger.
- Nick Castellanos is in the midst of a bounce-back season for a Philadelphia Phillies team that desperately needs it, hitting .316/.360/.496 with seven homers, 20 doubles, 35 RBI and 38 runs scored. But look under the hood, and the outfielder doesn’t seem so different from the fantasy bust he was last year.
Somehow, Castellanos is hitting the ball on the ground even more than he did in 2022, and his strikeout rate is up near 25%. Always a hyper-aggressive hitter, he’s still very susceptible to breaking stuff, with an expected batting average of .212 against offspeed pitches. Pitchers will eventually adjust, Castellanos will see far fewer fastballs and chase far more pitches out of the zone, and his batting average will take a serious hit. The counting stats in the middle of Philly’s lineup are nice, but players who offer nothing in the way of speed have a narrow margin for error.
- As someone who banged the drum for Thairo Estrada as an underrated fantasy asset during draft season, this one hurts, but it may be time to strike while the iron is still hot. Estrada has been very solid for the San Francisco Giants and fantasy owners, swatting his seventh homer on Thursday to go with 13 steals and a tidy .300/.346/.468 line while being triple-eligible.
He’s also been, per Statcast, among the luckiest hitters in baseball, with a 48-point gap between his wOBA (.353) and xwOBA (.305). His strikeout rate is way up, his walk rate is down and his expected batting average is just .251 — a poor contact profile for a guy whose game has always been predicated on putting the ball in play to make up for below-average exit velocities. His floor will remain pretty high given his speed and perch atop the Giants lineup, but he should be more of an MI option rather than a top-75 option the rest of the way.
Fantasy baseball trade value rankings: Week 11
As of 6/9