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Fantasy baseball trade value rankings: The case to buy Blake Snell, sell Bryce Harper

It’s buy or sell time as we run down our weekly batch of the top 200 players for fantasy baseball.

Blake Snell of the San Diego Padres in action against the Philadelphia Phillies during game one of a double header at Citizens Bank Park on July 15, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In a lot of ways “second half” is a bit of a misnomer. In reality, we’re already staring down the home stretch: Roto leagues may have a couple of months left to decide things, but it’s tough to make real hay in season-long categories, while the playoffs in points leagues begin in just a few weeks’ time.

If you’re in first place, it’s time to identify any weakness and shore it up as best you can. And you’re in the middle of the pack, now’s pretty much your last chance to make a move that will spark a charge up the standings. So, without further ado, let’s get to this week’s trade value rankings. As usual, not only will 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 both some individual buy/sell recommendations and broader strategy on how to approach trade season.

Buy

  • At first blush, buying Blake Snell may seem either 1) so obvious as to be not worth saying or 2) counterintuitive, given how good Snell has been over the last two months now and how high his stock has risen as a result. Since May 31, the lefty has pitched to a microscopic 0.51 ERA across nine starts — that’s three earned runs combined — with 85 strikeouts in just 53 innings. The command is still shaky — he’s walked 10 batters in three outings this month — but the stuff is electric: Snell’s slider, curveball and changeup all have whiff rates above 50%.

So why is he leading this list? Consider it a lesson in trade deadline approach. Especially for those of you in roto leagues: If you need to move the needle in a particular category, it’s going to take something drastic — you’re battling several months worth of banked stats, after all. Snell is on that kind of heater right now, the kind that can single-handedly fix your ratios or Ks.. Could Aaron Judge for Snell backfire? Of course it could, but you’re probably not going to make up four or five spots in the standings around the margins; you’re going to have to go big, and not be afraid to really shake things up. Now is not the time to get precious.

  • Of course, if you’re looking for a buy candidate who’s a bit more reasonable, you could target Cleveland Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor. Naylor’s been enjoying a career year so far: His fly ball rate, line drive rate, hard-hit rate and launch angle are all way up, and he’s got a Statcast page that’s redder than red:

The slugger enters play on Friday with 15 homers, six steals and a .311 average, with an elite batted-ball profile, and yet — whether because no one’s paid much attention to Cleveland or because he doesn’t have the gaudy power numbers typically associated with the position — he’s not typically regarded as an elite hitter. But this isn’t a fluke: Naylor was headed for a breakout last season before being derailed by injuries, and he could be becoming a top-seven first baseman in front of our eyes.

Sell

  • As one of the nation’s foremost Bryce Harper aficionados, it brings me no pleasure to put his name here. And yet, the numbers don’t lie: Harper hasn’t been bad since making his miraculous return from Tommy John surgery, but he’s hitting for almost no power, with a .422 SLG and a single homer since the start of June. Which makes sense, really, considering his injury — we’ve seen TJ sap the power of position players before, most recently with Max Muncy, who had to suffer through a dreadful 2022 season before bouncing back and looking more like himself this year. This isn’t a bet against Harper’s long-term outlook, but at this point in the fantasy season, it’s time to cut bait with anything that isn’t helping you win a championship. Let somebody else bank on Harper’s name recognition.
  • Marcus Semien is the 16th overall player so far in fantasy; why in the world would prospective contenders be looking to sell here? Because that ranking is awfully misleading regarding Semien’s actual quality this season. Thanks to leading off atop the Texas Rangers’ powerful lineup every day, the second baseman has poured on the counting stats, with a league-leading 77 runs along with 59 RBI. But those numbers mask how little Semien is offering in the power and speed departments, with just 13 homers and nine steals after going 26/25 a year ago.

Obviously, Semien won’t be changing teams or moving out of the leadoff spot any time soon. But it’s never great for a player’s value to be dependent on things totally out of their control; any sort of slump — or even just a regression to the mean in terms of the team’s ridiculous BABIP or batting average with runners in scoring position — and all of a sudden Semien’s main source of value takes a hit. If you can get another elite bat or arm for him whose underlying numbers are more promising, I’d take the plunge.

  • We’re going to focus on David Bednar here, but really, think of him as a stand-in for any reliever who figures to be dealt at the trade deadline — but who likely won’t serve as his new team’s full-time closer. Someone like Josh Hader will man the ninth wherever he is, but if the Pittsburgh Pirates deal Bednar — and they almost certainly will — he could wind up on a team like, say, the Rangers or Orioles, who already have late-inning options. It’s time to ship off guys like Bednar, Jordan Hicks, Kendall Graveman or even David Robertson, depending on what the New York Mets are going to do, and recoup as much value as you can before pivoting to the waiver wire to find their replacements once they’re gone.

Fantasy baseball trade value rankings: Week 17