By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy gamers should be seeking 2-for-1 trades right now, as those who create roster space will be better prepared to add players from the waiver wire who benefit from real-life deals between now and Wednesday afternoon. And with the fantasy trade deadlines a few weeks away in most leagues, we are heading into the final stretch where gamers can make massive changes to their roster.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals
Set to soon return from the IL, Carpenter has struggled this season to the point where he has lost all the buzz that was created during his impressive 2018 run. But he owns the necessary batted-ball data (24.5 percent line drive rate, 45.6 percent fly ball rate, 42.8 percent hard contact rate) to suggest that he should at least be a mid-level asset in mixed leagues. This is likely the time to pick him up for a song.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
Although Judge has been effective in July (.847 OPS), his fantasy stat line (4 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R, .267 BA) hardly reads like that of a superstar. But this hulking slugger is pulverizing the baseball, as his 67.9% hard-contact rate this month is far and away the best in baseball. Pair his lack of eye-popping fantasy numbers and substantial missed time this season due to injury, and Judge may be discounted by gamers who don’t see the potential for a top-10 or even top-5 overall performance down the stretch.
Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Astros
Despite producing oodles of hard contact (58.2%), Bregman has been pretty average this month (4 HR, 11 RBI, .227 BA). And his disappointing July comes on the heels of an uninspiring June when he hit .267 with five homers and 14 RBI. With a strong batted-ball profile and stellar supporting cast, Bregman is due to go on a statistical binge soon.
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, Mariners
Quietly ranking among the top-20 in homers and top-30 in RBI, Vogelbach is among the most underrated power sources. He has been crushing the ball in July (51.3% hard-contact rate) but doesn’t have enough to show for it (.752 OPS). Gamers who need power can likely add Vogelbach on the cheap, with the expectation that he will produce 10-15 homers during August and September.
Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees
There is bad, there is really bad, and then there is the depth to which Sanchez sank in July. After being a fantasy stud for three months, the slugger was impossibly bad when he hit .102 with one homer and four RBI across 59 July at-bats before landing on the IL. Gamers should expect a significant discount on Sanchez, but those who can pry him away cheaply from a disappointed competitor should be happy to stash a potential late-season impact bat.
Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies
In short, I’m skeptical that Harper will finish this season with a flourish. The high-priced slugger has been consistently mediocre this season, posting an OPS between .800 and .850 in each of the four months to date. And these aren’t luck-fueled struggles, as Harper is enjoying a .327 BABIP that is slightly higher than his career mark. This is the time for those rostering Harper to find out if one of their competitors will overpay based on name value.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians
To say that Bauer has been overworked this season would be an understatement. The right-hander has thrown 2685 pitches, which is 323 more than the second-highest total. Bauer has never thrown more than 190 innings, which means that he will be in uncharted territory for the entire month of September. With easy-to-notice bust potential, Bauer is the best sell-high ace right now.
Dakota Hudson, SP/RP, Cardinals
Fantasy gamers tend to overrate wins and ERA while underrating WHIP, which makes Hudson potentially overvalued in many leagues. The groundball specialist owns a respectable 3.88 ERA and is among just 20 hurlers with 10 wins, but his 1.54 WHIP is the second-highest among qualified hurlers, and he is not helpful in the strikeouts category. Even with his fluky win total, Hudson has barely been a top-100 pitcher this season.
Marcus Stroman, SP, Mets
Continuing on the theme of overrating ERA, Stroman is probably valued by those who see his 2.96 ERA and assume he is a stellar fantasy asset. The right-hander owns a 3.54 FIP that is nearly identical to his 3.60 career mark, which is a great sign that he is still the same pitcher who has built a lifetime 3.76 ERA. And with his groundball tendencies, Stroman never owns an impactful WHIP. His strikeout skills (career 7.2 K/9 rate) also really hold him back from having fantasy upside.
Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
Regression is coming for Verlander, and gamers won’t be able to say that I didn’t warn them. Not only is his .199 BABIP more than 30 points lower than that of any other qualified pitcher, but the right-hander is being stingy with his foes despite allowing a concerning 41.9% hard-contact rate. There is no qualified pitcher who is giving up hard contact at such a high rate with a BABIP of less than .275. Gamers need to let Verlander’s 3.93 FIP sink in before concluding that he is a top-5 starter.